CBD may offer postmenopausal health benefits, research suggests

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A recent study examining the effects of CBD in estrogen-deficient mice found that CBD improved several symptoms and conditions associated with menopause. Trinette Reed/Stokey
  • Menopause is a natural process and not a disease or disorder, but it can cause many unpleasant physical and emotional symptoms.
  • Declining estrogen in the years before, during, and after menopause can also contribute to several health conditions.
  • Treatment options for menopause symptoms are limited, and some may come with health risks.
  • However, a recent study examining the effects of CBD in estrogen-deficient mice found that CBD improved several symptoms and conditions associated with menopause.
  • Still, scientists say more research is needed to determine whether CBD could be a therapeutic option for postmenopausal health disorders.

Although menopause is a natural transition, it can often cause numerous unpleasant symptoms in women – mainly due to the decrease in female hormone levels.

According to National Institute of Aging(nIA), these symptoms may include hot flashes, sleep disturbances, and pain during sex. What’s more, menopause can also cause moodiness, irritability, depression, or a combination of physical and mental health symptoms.

In addition, research shows that the natural drop in estrogen that occurs with menopause can also increase the risk of cardiovascular diseases, osteoporosisand gastrointestinal conditions. A 2020 Research Overview also suggests that estrogen reduction is associated with systemic inflammation.

Treatment of menopause-related symptoms and denial of disease risk in postmenopausal women usually involves hormone replacement therapy (HRT). However, a 2021 study suggests that HRT may increase the risk of heart disease, stroke, and certain cancers in some women.

others FDA approved treatments for menopausal symptoms include specific low-dose selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) and a non-hormonal drug that mimics estrogen.

Some reports also suggest that alternatives such as medical cannabis may be useful for treating menopausal symptoms. However, the safety and effectiveness of cannabis use in menopause is not fully understood.

Because menopause therapies are limited and may carry unwanted health risks, better options are needed for those seeking relief from their symptoms.

A mouse study from Rutgers University recently published in the journal Frontiers in Pharmacology, found evidence that cannabidiol (CBD) may have therapeutic potential to alleviate symptoms of estrogen deficiency and potentially offer benefits to menopausal and postmenopausal individuals. Although the evidence looks promising, more human research is needed before CBD can be considered a safe and effective treatment.

To assess CBD’s effect on menopause-related symptoms and disease risk, scientists at Rutgers University divided estrogen-deficient mice into two groups.

Over 18 weeks, the researchers fed one group a diet containing CBD isolate (96–99% pure) from Bluebird Botanical (Louisville, Colorado). Mice in the other group were fed the same diet without CBD.

After the end of the treatment period, the mice underwent several tests, including metabolic tests, gene expression tests, bone density assessments, and gut microbiota analysis.

The scientists found that mice in the group not treated with CBD developed symptoms similar to those of postmenopausal women. According to a press release, they include:

  • metabolic dysfunction
  • evidence of inflammation
  • lower bone density
  • lower levels of beneficial gut bacteria

However, mice treated with CBD showed significant improvements in several areas. According to the study, mice treated with CBD had:

  • better tolerance to oral glucose (blood sugar).
  • improved energy metabolism
  • reduced intestinal inflammation
  • improvements in whole-body bone mineral density and bone mineral content
  • increased femoral volume fraction, trabecular thickness and bulk bone mineral density
  • increased abundance of Lactobacillusbeneficial gut bacteria

The scientists said these results show that CBD has a positive effect on the immune system and gut microbiota. And these effects may offer protection against menopause-related inflammation, bone loss, impaired energy metabolism, and glucose intolerance.

“In agreement with other studies that have documented the anti-inflammatory effect of CBD, we found that CBD treatment of estrogen-deficient mice resulted in reduced expression of inflammatory mediators in bone and intestinal tissues. We also observed that CBD altered the fecal gut microbiota,” senior study author Diana Roopchand, PhD, assistant professor in the Department of Nutritional Sciences at Rutgers School of Environmental and Biological Sciences (SEBS), told Healthline.

“Notably, estrogen-deficient mice treated with CBD showed an increased relative abundance of Lactobacillus species compared to untreated controls. Other studies have reported this Lactobacillusa well-known probiotic, can protect against bone loss and reduce markers of inflammation in the gut, bones and circulation,” she added.

Roopchand also explained how CBD might have caused these effects.

“CBD is known to interact with several receptors or targets in multiple tissues,” she said.

“In this first study, we analyzed the gene expression of only four CBD receptors in femur tissue and found that compared to untreated animals, estrogen-deficient mice treated with CBD had an increase in the endocannabinoid receptor CB2. CB2 receptor stimulation is associated with less bone resorption. Ours is the first study of CBD in a mouse model of postmenopause – therefore, more research is needed to better define the mechanisms of action.

CBD or cannabidiol is a derivative of the cannabis plant that does not contain the psychoactive compound tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). It is a non-high alternative to medical cannabis.

“Cannabidiol (CBD) and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) are natural compounds in cannabis that are known to affect the body’s endocannabinoid system, but in different ways,” said Dr. Amir Marashi, board certified cosmetic gynecologist and pelvic pain specialist and founder of Cerē, told Healthline.

“As an extract, CBD can be added to edibles, topical creams [or] gels used as medicinal tincture etc.,” he said. “A lot [people] I appreciate that it provides some of the calming, pain-relieving benefits of cannabis without the THC-related ‘high’ feeling.”

Dr. Louis Jassi, DO, medical director at Leafwell, told Healthline that CBD’s effectiveness in managing menopausal symptoms is difficult to prove, but “it has broad effects on a number of receptor systems that can help address pain, inflammation, and spasms, including serotonin receptors, dopamine receptors, and opioid receptors.

“CBD also inhibits the breakdown of anandamide, which can help improve mood and relieve pain and anxiety. CBD can also help relieve headaches,” Jassi explained.

According to Jassey, side effects of CBD can include:

  • dry mouth
  • diarrhea
  • decreased appetite
  • drowsiness
  • fatigue

“But they are not common at low to moderate doses and can be milder than the side effects of antidepressants and NSAIDs such as ibuprofen,” he said.

Although menopause is a natural process, it can cause unpleasant physical symptoms and can negatively affect mental health. In addition, the drop in estrogen associated with menopause can also increase the risk of certain health conditions.

Treatment of menopausal symptoms is usually limited to HRT or non-hormone prescription drugs. But these options can carry health risks and may not be right for everyone.

However, this latest mouse study from Rutgers University highlights several potential health benefits that CBD may have for postmenopausal women. However, more research is needed to determine whether CBD has a therapeutic role in the treatment of postmenopausal conditions in humans.

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