Estrogen hormones (estrone, estradiol and estrilol) play a very important part in the health of a woman. They are the main female sex hormones and are in charge of developing and regulating the female reproductive system. When a woman reaches a certain age, normally between 40 and 50 years old however it can happen earlier or later, her ovaries stop releasing eggs and the production of these hormones is reduced.

This period of change, menopause, is completely natural and unstoppable, however the symptoms can be painful and uncomfortable. The only existing treatment so far is Hormone Replacement Therapy or HRT. This process involves administering high doses of estrogens hormones which can increase the risk of breast (breast cancer cells depend on estrogen to grow) and ovarian cancer, as well as heart disease and stroke

[1].

Cannabinoids to treat the symptoms of menopause

One potential alternative is a treatment with cannabinoids. It has been discovered that the endocannabinoid system (ECS) within our bodies has a role in menopause. The ECS is in charge of regulating our mood, appetite, pain, memory, reproductive organs, and much more[2]. All of these are areas that are effected by the process of menopause.

There has not been enough research done on the effects of cannabinoids on the symptoms of menopause, however there has been extensive research done on cannabinoid treatment for other diseases that affect the female reproductive organs, such as Endometriosis. Individual clinical studies do suggest and show that the symptoms of menopause can be remedied separately.

Symptoms of menopause

Hot flashes are most commonly associated with menopause however not much is known as to the cause of them. What is known is that at the right dose tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) can reduce body temperature[3].

Another common symptom of menopause is mood swings. Estrogenic hormones directly affect a woman’s mood and when estrogen levels fluctuate this can cause severe mood swings[4]. It was also found that women are at higher risk of developing depression during the process of menopause. Cannabidiol (CBD), one of the two most common chemical compounds found within Cannabis Sativa, has shown to have anti-depressant properties[5]. This means it could be a potential remedy to regulate mood swings.

Pain is another symptom associated with menopause. As hormones fluctuate so does the menstruation cycle. With this come irregular periods and, in hand, migraines and cramps. One of CBD’s more potent qualities is that it is a incredible effective analgesic[6]. As it is not psychoactive, not toxic and has a very low risk for addiction this is a perfect potential alternative to pharmaceutical painkillers.

A further symptom of a decrease in estrogen hormone production is bone loss. Estrogen plays a key role in bone growth and repair. A deficiency of this hormone results in bone loss and erosion[7]. In 2009 a study found that the cannabinoid receptors within our bodies directly effect bone formation[8]. This means a treatment with cannabinoids could prove successful in reversing bone loss and preventing things like osteoporosis.

Insomnia can also stem from the obstructive nature of the other symptoms of menopause. If the woman is feeling severe pain, hot flashes or chills during the night it can prevent her from resting properly. THC has been studied and it was revealed that even though it can decrease the time taken to sleep it could have a negative effect on the quality of sleep. However CBD has been found to be a potential treatment for insomnia[9].

These are only a few of the symptoms of menopause that can be remedied with cannabinoid therapy. As there is limited research in this field there is still a long way to go in studying the relationship between the endocannabinoid system and estrogen hormones, but there is definitely potential.

[1] Shah, N. and Wong, T. (2006). Current breast cancer risks of hormone replacement therapy in postmenopausal womenExpert Opinion on Pharmacotherapy.

[2] Fine, P. and Rosenfeld, M. (2013). The Endocannabinoid System, Cannabinoids, and PainRambam Maimonides Medical Journal, [online] 4(4).

[3] Wenger, T. and Moldrich, G. (2002). The role of endocannabinoids in the hypothalamic regulation of visceral functionProstaglandins, Leukotrienes and Essential Fatty Acids (PLEFA), [online] 66(2-3).

[4] Wharton, W., E. Gleason, C., Sandra, O., M. Carlsson, C. and Asthana, S. (2012). Neurobiological Underpinnings of the Estrogen – Mood RelationshipCurrent Psychiatry Reviews, [online] 8(3).

[5] Schier, A., Ribeiro, N., Coutinho, D., Machado, S., Arias-Carrion, O., Crippa, J., Zuardi, A., Nardi, A. and Silva, A. (2014). Antidepressant-Like and Anxiolytic-Like Effects of Cannabidiol: A Chemical Compound of Cannabis sativaCNS & Neurological Disorders – Drug Targets, [online] 13(6), pp.953-960.

[6] Russo, E. (2008). Cannabinoids in the management of difficult to treat painTherapeutics and Clinical Risk Management, [online] Volume 4.

[7] Weitzmann, M. (2006). Estrogen deficiency and bone loss: an inflammatory taleJournal of Clinical Investigation, [online] 116(5).

[8] Bab, I., Zimmer, A. and Melamed, E. (2009). Cannabinoids and the skeleton: From marijuana to reversal of bone lossAnnals of Medicine, [online] 41(8).

[9] Babson, K., Sottile, J. and Morabito, D. (2017). Cannabis, Cannabinoids, and Sleep: a Review of the LiteratureCurrent Psychiatry Reports, [online] 19(4).