Having a well balanced hormone level is vital for any woman to stay fit and healthy. However, medical conditions involving hormonal imbalances are becoming increasingly prevalent. Hence, many are beginning to turn to natural treatment options to delay their menopause or at the very least, alleviate their symptoms.
On that note, cannabidiol – more popularly known as CBD – is an emerging popular option by many women as a supplement to reduce the effects of menopausal symptoms on their daily lives. Therefore, this article seeks to explore the properties that CBD possess to help females manage their estrogen levels and menopause symptoms.
Let’s be honest – who doesn’t want to look great and live life to the fullest?
The balance of hormones is key to the beauty and wellbeing of any woman. The problem is – due to objective and natural reasons, most women would be challenged with estrogen deficiency.
Nonetheless, no one should panic as nowadays, mild hypoestrogenism (estrogen deficiency) can be safely and effectively treated, so you will soon notice your youthful looks returning. The main thing is not to ignore the very first signs of a hormonal decline.
What do we know about hormones?
Hormones are special chemical messengers that regulate the functioning of almost all body systems. Estrogens (also called oestrogens) are the essential steroid hormones responsible for sexual development, reproductive function, skeletal system, resistance to diseases, and women’s overall health condition.
During and after puberty, the ovaries begin to secrete estrogen, with their levels changing as the menstrual cycle progresses. In the first two weeks, these hormone levels gradually increase and then begin to decline, which leads to menstrual bleeding. The amount of estrogen also changes throughout life, reaching its maximum at reproductive age and decreasing with menopause.
Some of the estrogens are also produced by other organs like the liver, breasts, and adrenal glands (but in smaller amounts). Such secondary sources are important in women, especially those who have already had their menopause in order to maintain hormonal balance.
Fat cells are another source of estrogen. They are thus also the reason why underweight or overweight women are at high risk of infertility. A delicate balance of estrogen is vital for carrying a child as the excess or deficiency of this hormone affects fertility adversely. It is crucial to health and activity, the appearance of skin, hair, and quality of life.
Estrogens are the collective name for a whole group of related hormones. Let’s get acquainted with three prominent representatives:
It is a hormone in women of childbearing age, the most active of the estrogen group. It influences female sexual characteristics (breasts during adolescence, vagina, uterus, and fallopian tubes), and is responsible for regular sex drive and successful pregnancy. An imbalance in estradiol leads to many gynecological problems, including endometriosis and various neoplasms.
It is basically the weaker version of estrogen, emerging during menopause when the estradiol level begins to decline.
Inferior in terms of activity when compared to other estrogen types, but is of great importance for the ordinary pregnancy course. The placenta synthesizes its principal amount, so more estriol is observed only during gestation.
All three estrogen representatives are essential for the body and affect a woman’s health at different periods of life. So, what are estrogen hormones responsible for in women, what organs and systems are under their “control”?
The reproductive system
Estrogens contribute to a woman’s fertility, play a crucial role in reproductive function and a regular menstrual cycle. They participate in an elaborate functional complex that allows a woman to become pregnant and carry a child: they prepare the uterine lining, stimulate the contraction of the fallopian tubes and, thereby, ensure the transport of sperm to the egg. If pregnancy does not occur, menstruation begins.
The cardiovascular system
Before menopause, estrogen’s high activity helps keep blood vessels elastic and robust, “control” cholesterol, and prevent many inflammatory processes. Then the level of these hormones drops sharply. This increases the risk of developing atherosclerosis and, with it, hypertension and cardiovascular diseases rises rapidly.
Estrogens are female hormones of beauty and youth that stimulate the production of collagen and hyaluronic acid. They help to maintain the bone matrix and skin’s health and beauty – density, tone, hydration, and skin protection from photoaging.
Estrogens are indirectly involved in forming new neural connections. Therefore, they affect concentration, memory, learning, and regular sleep.
How does the lack of hormones threaten a woman’s health?
The organs and systems for which estrogens are responsible are precisely the “targets” for diseases and pathological conditions and fall into the risk zone when these hormones function is reduced. Here’s what else a drop in estrogen levels in women leads to:
Increased susceptibility to pain
Studies of pain sensitivity in women in different phases of the menstrual cycle have shown that the lowest pain threshold is observed in the premenstrual phase when the estrogen level is lower.
Thermoregulation disorders are one of the most common problems during menopause. It manifests itself in the form of sharp flushes of heat and sweating.
Decreased mood, sex drive, and memory impairment
Estrogens affect the production of serotonin and the maintenance of neural connections in the brain. Lack of the hormone explains frequent emotional swings, depressed mood, loss of interest in the opposite sex, cognitive impairment, and severe premenstrual syndrome (PMS) in women over 40.
Against the background of estrogen deficiency, thinning hair and splitting of nails develop, the skin’s sensitivity to ultraviolet light increases, wrinkles appear, and other dermatological problems worsen. At the same time, dry skin, acne, and dandruff may occur.
What reduces the estrogen production in women?
Estrogens – one of the most critical compounds – regulate the expression of more than a thousand genes and are considered a marker of a woman’s health in general.
There are few factors which may influence the level of estrogens in the woman’s body. For instance, the period of menopause is one of them. It is a natural cause, but the manifestations of which can be mitigated with safe methods. Meanwhile, ovarian dysfunction, including Shereshevsky-Turner syndrome, are pathological conditions in which estrogens cannot be adequately produced. Besides that, pituitary gland dysfunction as well as eating disorders (both obesity and a lack of fatty tissue in diets) can lead to hormonal imbalances and metabolic disorders. Other than those, a stressful and unhealthy lifestyle can be a major contributing factor too.
When estrogens are produced in the female body in average amounts, they can directly and indirectly strengthen the bone matrix, benefit our heart, slow down aging, normalize metabolism and appetite, increase libido, and the level of serotonin (the “happiness hormone”).
One of the external sources of estrogen in food include:
Flaxseed is not only a leader in the content of this hormone but also a beneficial product. It also helps to cleanse the body and relieve inflammation. Meanwhile, it is recommended to be consumed in a ground form.
Peas, soybeans, lentils, chickpeas, and beans. Include these foods into your diet, and you will get rid of depression and anxiety. Legumes are also essential for the elimination of premenstrual symptoms and menopause.
- Nuts and seeds
Sunflower and pumpkin seeds, in particular, are a good source of estrogen. They improve brain function and sex drive.
- Dried fruits
At first glance, dried fruits are not famous for their incredible benefits because it is easier to buy fresh berries or fruits, but this is wrong. First, it’s a great snack that’s easy to take with you. Secondly, dried fruits such as dates, prunes, and dried apricots contain the most considerable amount of phytoestrogen.
The summer-autumn fruit is distinguished by its excellent taste properties and the phytoestrogen content of lignan. Research shows that a diet that includes foods rich in this component can reduce breast cancer risk in menopausal women by 15%.
A bit about CBD
It is important to say that our body naturally produces cannabinoids. Our inner cannabinoid receptors (CBRs), CB1 and CB2, can be activated by endogenous and exogenous cannabinoids, which can be of natural or synthetic origin.
Endogenous cannabinoids are substances produced by the human body. The most studied ones are N-arachidonoylethanolamine (anandamide) and 2-arachidonoylglycerol (2-AG). Together with CBRs, the endogenous cannabinoids constitute the basis of the endocannabinoid system (ECS). If too many or not enough endocannabinoids are produced in the body, our ECS needs some reinforcement from the external sources.
CBD, or cannabidiol, is one of the leading organic compounds found in the Cannabis sativa plant. It is currently emerging as one of the most promising therapeutic agents in various conditions such as epilepsy, different anxiety disorders, migraines, cancer, and even Alzheimer’s disorder.
Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is another component of Cannabis sativa and is, therefore, an exogenous phytocannabinoid and a non-selective agonist of CB1 and CB2 receptors. In comparison with CBD, THC contains slight alterations- psychoactive THC can cause a well-known “high” effect. And compared with THC, CBD displays lower CB1 and CB2 affinity and acts as an inverse agonist at the CB2.
How CBD affects estrogen levels?
Marijuana use among women is highly prevalent, but the societal conversation on marijuana rarely focuses on how marijuana affects female reproduction and endocrinology.
The ECS regulates stress, mood, memory, fertility, bone growth, pain, and immune function, among other things. If speaking about feminine health, carefully controlled regulation of the endocannabinoid system (ECS) is required for successful reproduction. The exogenous cannabinoids in marijuana may help to keep and regulate the ECS’ delicate balance in the female reproductive system.
Breast cancer treatment
It is estimated that one in eight women develop breast cancer. Breast cancer is difficult to treat because only a few biomarkers signal the disease’s presence, and many patients can develop resistance to modern treatments. Moreover, some specific types of breast cancer are difficult to treat. These difficulties underscore the importance of studying new therapies for this disease.
Breast cancers are often classified according to the receptors they express. The three most common breast cancer receptors respond to hormones like estrogen, progesterone, and epidermal growth factor (EGF). Two biomarkers often used to diagnose breast cancer are hormone receptors (estrogen receptor and progesterone receptor) and the HER2 oncogene (a gene that can convert a normal cell into a tumour cell). So careful identification of these receptors facilitates treatment.
How does CBD help prevent breast cancer?
Researchers are showing, step by step, how CBD can help with the elimination of breast cancer cells.
A study by scientists in Spain shows that the endocannabinoid system plays an essential role in treating HER2-positive cancers. The cannabinoid CB2 receptor binds to HER2 – forming a so-called dimer – and this dimerization results in poor treatment outcomes for the disease. When THC binds to the CB2 receptor, it cleaves the dimer. This switches the secondary messengers – the so-called G-proteins – that receptors transmit signals to the cell. The cell begins to destroy its HER2 receptors with a protein called c-CBL, which has anti-tumor effects. So it can be concluded that cannabinoid-activated receptors stimulate the endocannabinoid system and trigger it to work more efficiently.
Estrogen in breast cancer
Breast cancer, in most cases, depends on the level of the female hormone estrogen. Estrogen promotes the growth and survival of normal and cancerous breast epithelial cells by binding and activating the estrogen receptor (ER). An increase in the proportion of cells that express ER is found at both the earliest breast pre cancer stages and in approximately 70% of breast cancers. The therapy for this disease includes aromatase inhibitors – this class of drugs reduces estrogen concentration in the blood and increases testosterone levels.
Two studies have shown that tamoxifen and several other selective estrogen receptor modulators (SERM) can inverse agonists on CB1 and CB2 and interact with possible clinical consequences. When cannabinoid drugs were added to tamoxifen, the standard chemotherapy drug, the combination therapy was about 20 to 25% more effective than chemotherapy alone in the cell lamina. Unfortunately, these results have not been replicated in live animal trials. It is important to note that cannabinoids also did not adversely affect the effectiveness of chemotherapy. This suggests that using cannabis as an adjunct to treat common side effects of chemotherapy, such as nausea and loss of appetite, will not interfere with chemotherapy’s ability to kill cancer cells.
Interactions of cannabinoids with hypothalamic-pituitary-gonadal axis hormones
The research found a positive correlation between peak plasma endogenous cannabinoid anandamide with peak plasma 17β-estradiol, luteinizing hormone, and follicle-stimulating hormone levels at ovulation in healthy premenopausal women.
Another study looked at how various doses of CBD affected animals. Rhesus monkeys of both sexes took oral CBD doses of 30, 100, and 300 mg/kg for 90 days. Serum pituitary, steroid, and thyroid hormone levels were measured by radioimmunoassay method. CBD-treated monkeys responded with slight fluctuations in luteinizing hormone (LH) and follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) in males, whereas steroid hormones were essentially unchanged in both sexes. Hormone imbalance may explain cannabinoid-induced embryotoxicity and impaired gonadal function.
Tolerance to these effects has been shown in rhesus monkeys, but the impact of chronic marijuana use on human female reproduction is still mostly unknown.
CBD alleviates menopausal symptoms
Menopause has many symptoms that vary in intensity – a woman experiences few symptoms, or it interferes seriously with daily life. These symptoms usually include:
- Night sweats
- Hot flashes / cold sweats
- Insomnia or irregular sleep cycles
- Dryness and hair loss
- Anxiety, irritability, and imbalance
- Dry skin and deterioration in skin quality
- Slowed metabolism and weight gain
Better sleep quality
According to research, CBD has a positive effect on the amount and quality of sleep. It stabilizes blood pressure and relaxes muscles. According to a study conducted at the University of San Paolo, Brazil, CBD interferes with cortisol’s secretion, a “stress hormone.” This hormone is released when a body feels threatened or perceives danger. So regulated cortisol can help with sleeping deeply; hence, alleviating menopausal stress or increase the chances of conceiving the child.
Another double-blinded study tested eleven relatively healthy patients with CBD and placebo to determine its effects on plasma prolactin, growth hormone, and cortisol. Although prolactin and growth hormone levels stayed mostly unchanged with CBD, cortisol levels dropped significantly.
So how does CBD help besides lowering stress hormones? One study showed that the EC system activates CB1 receptors, which affects sleep stability, how quickly you fall asleep, and even increases the level of melatonin production (a hormone responsible for sleeping patterns).
Replacement of hormonal drugs
Research shows that CBD can replace prescription hormone drugs, which have many adverse side effects. It is CBD that can be used to replace them, thus, avoiding hormonal addiction.
Mood swings are a common symptom of menopause that causes irritation and depression in women. Many studies prove CBD is an effective mood stabilizer. Anandamide, commonly named the “bliss molecule”, is responsible for feelings of happiness and motivation. CBD oil acts as an anandamide reuptake inhibitor, stopping the neurotransmitter from being reabsorbed. It increases the amount present in the brain, resulting in an improved and elevated mood.
CBD oil works similarly to the reuptake of adenosine (a neuromodulator of the central nervous system). While this process is much less understood, it is believed that the triggered adenosine receptor A2A plays a role in anxiety and depression. By inhibiting the A2A receptor, the mood is elevated, and depressive symptoms are reduced.
Anxiety is twice more common in women than in men, diagnosing the interval between childhood and middle age. There has been an elevation in stress among women, according to the American Psychological Association studies of 2007.
Estrogen is one of the hormones which takes part in developing and maintaining healthy bones. So after menopause (with aging), women are likely to have weaker bones or develop osteoporosis. Loss of muscle mass is another process that occurs due to decreased estrogen levels, and many women expect this to be a regular part of the aging process. However, much of this bone degradation and muscle loss – along with fewer chances of fractures, can be slowed down with CBD.
Other unpleasant conditions
Vaginal dryness may come as a shock to many women, but it is actually quite common. When estrogen levels reach an absolute minimum, vaginal tissue produces less lubrication, which reduces elasticity and can even lead to painful sensations during intercourse. Lubricants are well known as a practical solution, but many women find the synthetic chemical odor unpleasant when applied to the body’s most intimate parts. On the other hand, CBD oil has a pleasant scent, enhances natural lubrication, and improves well-being. For vaginal dryness, CBD oil can be mixed with other natural oils to relieve and reduce dryness in the long term.
What else can CBD do for women?
Hemp and CBD are becoming an increasingly popular remedy for menstrual pain. He is mainly approached by women who seek help but do not want to take over-the-counter medications such as paralen. There are many endocannabinoid receptors in the genital area that respond to the presence of CBD and other cannabinoids. The American company Foria offers basic suppositories for women with severe menstrual pain. Tampons look like regular feminine hygiene products but additionally contain 60 mg of THC and 10 mg of CBD, which reduce pain, relax muscles, and stimulate the release of “happiness hormones” into the brain.
Research has shown that CBD may help treat digestive issues, causing bloating during premenstrual symptoms. CBD’s ability to regulate bowel movements and minimize inflammation in the digestive tract may explain the cannabinoid’s effect on bloating from PMS.
Again, CBD’s ability to reduce pain thanks to its interaction with the endocannabinoid system’s receptors can help reduce breast tenderness discomfort during a woman’s menstrual cycle.
The leading cause of acne is the body’s overproduction of an oil known as sebum, a waxy, oily substance. Since 2014, CBD has been proven to inhibit the production of this oil that covers our faces. CBD has also effectively treated skin conditions because it treats so many other conditions: its magical anti-inflammatory properties. Plus, it is suggested that CBD possesses antioxidant properties that combat free radicals, reducing visible signs of aging, and promoting skin recovery.
Promote healthy cholesterol levels
High cholesterol level is one of the most common causes of heart diseases, affecting every woman out of five. Building up cholesterol (fatty diet, overweight, lack of physical exercises, and low estrogen) in the arterial blood walls can eventually lead to atherosclerosis. Besides correcting all the previously mentioned factors, CBD can also help. Some studies suggest that CBD can affect specific genes and manage the level of cholesterol in cells.
Why is estrogen an excellent target for CBD?
So the actual story had started in the early brain development when the sex hormones (testosterone in males and estrogen in females) modified and determined how brain cells communicate with one another. Such communications promoted “male-like” and “female-like” brains, hence, influencing emotions, behavior, way of thinking, and even reward-related processing. In adolescent and mature women, estrogen activates these brain circuits, altering the strength of cannabis influence. Besides an adequate amount of sex hormones, the endocannabinoid system must be tightly regulated for normal brain functioning.
Does CBD affect men and women differently?
It is still too early to say, but the answer seems to be yes. Women have higher estrogen levels than men, and these levels change throughout the cycle of reproduction, reaching its peak a few days before ovulation. In many brain regions, the number of CB1 receptors also fluctuates with the amount of estrogen in the brain. Estrogen also increases the amount of the endocannabinoid anandamide, thereby elevating the strength of the endocannabinoid system. So due to an elevated estrogen level in women’s bodies, it makes them more vulnerable to CBD’s higher impact. Estrogens absorb and break down cannabinoids faster in women, which makes them more sensitive. It makes CBD an excellent remedy for someone who wants to relieve menstrual cramps or other menstruation unpleasant symptoms.
A study from the University of Washington suggests that women build up a tolerance to cannabinoids faster than men after frequent consumption.
So what about men?
It was suggested that for a similar level of pain, men seemed to experience relief not as quickly as women. However, it should not be a problem, as an increased CBD dosage can be used. The reasons for that are still unknown, but one possible explanation could be again that women and men vary in levels of sex hormones. These hormones interfere with the endocannabinoid system, influencing the strength of cannabis’ kick. Also, it was shown that using cannabis products increases men’s testosterone in the short term and decreases it in the long term. This means that reduced testosterone in the long term can produce similar effects as a high dose of CBD on women- lowered libido and sex drive.
If talking about THC, another constituent of cannabis, it produces various effects on both sexes. It is known that THC can stimulate hunger or so-called “munchies,” and it seems that men are more susceptible to overeating than women under the influence of THC.
How to start using CBD?
While CBD oil is typically considered very safe, the World Health Organization (WHO) states that CBD oil is generally well-tolerated. However, more research on the effects of CBD oil on fertility rates in humans is needed.
Every person is unique, and the response to CBD depends on several factors. The recommended dosage also varies depending on the product chosen. But, before you get started with CBD oil, ask your doctor to make sure it’s the right choice for you and CBD oil does not interact with certain medications.
Once you have decided that CBD oil is a viable option for you, there are many different ways you can consume it, including capsules, sublingual drops, edibles, and vape oils. No matter what form of delivery you choose, give yourself a little bit of time to experiment to find what works best for you- a single CBD tincture or a combination of products.
In general, it is recommended to start with lower doses and increase gradually, depending on your individual health and feelings. The CBD Oil Review suggests a serving of 25 mg of CBD taken twice a day, increasing every 3-4 weeks until you achieve your desired effects (there is no risk for overdose), but safe levels can reach 1500 mg per day.
The possible side effects of taking CBD
Although CBD is safe and well-tolerated in most cases, it is essential to know that CBD can have a few individual side effects like:
- Having a dry mouth
- Altered appetite
- Sleepiness and drowsiness
- Interaction with certain medications (blood thinners and antiseizure drugs)
If you are pregnant
As pregnancy is a wonderful period in any woman’s life, still, there are some minor difficulties that every woman has to face: morning sickness, sleeplessness, stress, and joint pain.
An early review by the WHO suggests that CBD oil use is generally safe and effective for certain conditions, but conclusive research into the efficacy and safety during pregnancy hasn’t been done. So far, it is just known that marijuana use is unrecommended. Even a small amount of THC (in some CBD products) can pass through the placenta and cause developmental problems. So if you are still not confident, talk to your doctor and remember that it is always better to stick to the mindset of “better to be safe than sorry”!
Verified by a health professional
Anastasiia Myronenko is a Medical Physicist actively practicing in one of the leading cancer centers in Kyiv, Ukraine. She received her master’s degree in Medical Physics at Karazin Kharkiv National University and completed Biological Physics internship at GSI Helmholtz Centre for Heavy Ion Research, Germany. Anastasiia Myronenko specializes in radiation therapy and is a fellow of Ukrainian Association of Medical Physicists.