Whether suffering from premenstrual syndrome or menopause, the hormonal shifts women experience can be incredibly unpleasant. Many women find their symptoms to extend well beyond discomfort: the sensations that accompany menstrual shifts can even be debilitating.
If you find yourself dreading that time of the month or struggling with menopausal distress, you aren’t alone. Luckily, natural solutions like CBD can provide some much-needed relief. Read on to learn more about how CBD may alleviate your menstrual issues.
What is premenstrual syndrome?
Premenstrual syndrome, or PMS, describes a wide range of symptoms that arise before or during a woman’s menstrual cycle. These symptoms involve changes in both emotional and physical health, including:
- Abdominal bloating or fluid retention
- Sore or swollen breasts
- Headaches or migraines
- Diarrhea or constipation
- Back, joint, or muscle pain
- Fatigue or changes in sleep patterns
- Anxiety or depression
- Rapid shifts in mood, including emotional outbursts
- Difficulty concentrating
- Unusual forgetfulness
PMS is extremely common, whether symptoms are mild or severe. In fact, an estimated 75% of menstruating women experience some form of PMS. Of this population of sufferers, roughly 20% undergo severe symptoms that disrupt daily functioning.
PMS results from changing levels of the hormones estrogen and progesterone, which naturally fluctuate during each menstrual cycle. These hormonal shifts typically occur a week or two before menstruation begins.
Researchers also believe chemical changes in the brain influence the symptoms of PMS. Serotonin and norepinephrine, two neurotransmitters responsible for mood regulation and behavior, shift in response to hormonal changes.
Decreasing levels of estrogen trigger the release on norepinephrine, which then causes serotonin production to decline. This results in negative shifts in emotion, mood, and behavior.
PMS treatments typically involve the use of both over-the-counter and prescription medications. These may include:
- Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (e.g., ibuprofen or naproxen sodium)
- Antidepressants (e.g., Prozac or Zoloft)
- Diuretics (e.g., spironolactone)
- Hormonal contraceptives (e.g., Nexplanon or Kyleena)
Beyond pharmaceuticals, many find some relief by taking extra self-care measures, like increasing fluid intake, reducing stressful triggers, or making healthy dietary changes.
What is menopause?
Menstrual cycles typically begin at the age of 12, though your first period may start as early as 8 or as late as 16 years old. Once a woman’s body has released its finite amount of eggs, menstrual cycles end permanently and menopause begins.
Unless medical complications prompt an early onset to menopause, the biological condition usually starts around the age of 51. When menopause begins, the ovaries stop producing the two hormones responsible for female fertility: estrogen and progesterone.
There are 3 stages of menopause:
- Perimenopause: This stage usually starts around age 47. Here, cycles become irregular, but your periods have not yet stopped entirely. Symptoms like hot flashes may arise intermittently, however, pregnancy is still possible during this stage.
- Menopause: When this stage begins, you experience your final menstrual period. Menopause is certain when menstrual cycles have ceased for at least 12 consecutive months. Symptoms become regular and more pronounced during this stage.
- Postmenopause: This stage starts a year after your last period. From this point, you are considered postmenopausal for the rest of your life. Menopausal symptoms can last anywhere from 5 to 10 years.
The symptoms of menopause can be extremely uncomfortable and disruptive. This comes to little surprise – your body is not yet accustomed to a complete drop in its fertility hormones, after all! Menopause symptoms include:
- Hot flashes, often described as a sudden warm feeling that spreads across the body
- Night sweats or cold flashes that occur during sleep
- Urgent need to urinate
- Vaginal dryness
- Breast tenderness
- Racing heartbeat
- Hair loss or thinning
- Weight gain
- Headaches or migraines
- Insomnia or fatigue
- Mood swings
- Anxiety or depression
The most common menopause treatments can be divided into two categories: hormone therapy and nonhormonal treatments.
Hormone therapy consists of estrogen therapy (ET) and estrogen progesterone/progestin therapy (EPT). Both types of therapy aim to replenish depleted hormones.
ET involves estrogen alone and is prescribed to women who still have their uterus, whereas EPT combines estrogen and progesterone or progestin, a synthetic form of progesterone. EPT is meant for women who have had their uteruses removed.
Hormone therapy can be dangerous and lead to serious complications such as:
- Gallstones or other gallbladder issues
- Blood clots
- Pulmonary embolism
- Deep vein thrombosis
- Endometrial cancer
Nonhormonal treatments largely pose lesser risks to women and include:
- Dietary changes
- Regular exercise, including yoga
- Birth control medications
- Antidepressants (e.g., SSRIs or SNRIs)
While risky medications may be necessary to quell severe symptoms of menopause or PMS, many women seek alternative remedies for relief. CBD has become a popular option for those who prefer a more natural treatment route without heavy side effects.
How can CBD help?
CBD, or cannabidiol, is a non-psychoactive cannabinoid derived from the legal hemp plant. Because CBD does not produce the “high” commonly associated with marijuana ingestion, it is the perfect wellness remedy for those looking to enjoy the benefits of cannabis without any psychotropic effects.
CBD has gained mainstream popularity in recent years due to its ability to treat a broad range of ailments. From restless legs syndrome to Parkinson’s disease, CBD provides notable relief. Luckily, PMS and menopause also make the list!
This study from the University of Arkansas found plenty of evidence that CBD mitigates symptoms of both PMS and menopause. More specifically, CBD relieved headaches and migraines, abdominal cramping, and emotional disruptions common to menstrual issues.
CBD may alleviate migraines and headaches
Headaches and migraines are unfortunately common to women suffering with PMS or menopause. These headaches can be incredibly painful and greatly interfere with normal daily activity.
Researchers believe that CBD may help stop painful headaches in their tracks by inhibiting serotonin receptors in the brain, regulating pain responses and quelling the inflammation that acts as a precursor to more severe headache conditions like migraine.
This study found that, in addition to other helpful cannabinoids that help induce an entourage effect of benefits, CBD may even prevent the incidence of headaches with regular consumption. Many study participants were also able to significantly lower their use of common antimigraine pharmaceuticals when treating their migraines with CBD.
CBD may mitigate pain and inflammation
CBD doesn’t only quell the pain associated with headaches: it also relieves the pain that accompanies premenstrual and menopausal abdominal cramping. In addition, CBD is known to mitigate joint, muscle, and back pain and inflammation.
This review hones in on the ways in which CBD relieves inflammatory pain by attaching to CB2 receptors in the endocannabinoid system (ECS) that regulate inflammation markers and the overall pain response.
Additionally, this review finds similar results: CBD acts as an anti-inflammatory agent by triggering CB2 receptors and subsequently decreasing levels of pro-inflammatory cytokines, inhibiting inflammatory cell proliferation, curtailing migration and adhesion of immune cells, and reducing oxidative stress.
This study concludes that CBD interacts with CB1 receptors in the ECS, suggesting that a general cannabinoid deficiency may be central to painful conditions like PMS or menopause. Researchers here find that CBD helps patients achieve overall internal stability by triggering the CB1 receptors in the brain that regulate homeostasis.
CBD may reduce emotional disturbances
Emotional disturbances such as abrupt mood swings or unusual anxiety or depression are common to women suffering from PMS or menopause. Plenty of evidence suggests that CBD can help regulate emotional ups and downs by inducing a homeostatic state.
CBD interacts directly with the endocannabinoid system by targeting receptors in the brain that regulate fear and anxiety-producing hormones. It also triggers receptors that produce serotonin and dopamine, two primary mood boosting hormones.
This study found that CBD decreases limbic and para-limbic activity in the brain, which in turn diminishes anxiety with regular consumption. Another study found that CBD decreased anxiety scores within just a month of treatment.
CBD may relieve hot flashes
For many women, hot flashes are one of the first symptoms that signal the onset of menopause. These sudden, warm, full-body sensations can be extremely uncomfortable.
Hot flashes occur when production of fertility hormones ceases suddenly, altering the normal functioning of the hypothalamus, the body’s thermoregulator, and causing it to over activate. Hot flashes are the unpleasant end result.
Researchers believe that CBD relieves hot flashes by interacting with the body’s serotonin system, which helps regulate the hypothalamus. CBD’s facilitation of serotonin neurotransmission also leads scientists to conclude that the cannabinoid relieves mood swings.
If PMS or menopause is causing you significant physical or emotional distress, CBD may just be the remedy you’re searching for. Acting as an antimigraine, antianxiety, analgesic, and anti-inflammatory agent, amongst other functions, CBD is a versatile health compound that provides significant symptom alleviation. We hope that you, too, may find relief from your menstrual troubles with this helpful cannabinoid.