- Fans claim that CBD oil can reduce anxiety, aid relaxation and promote sleep
- And the latest buzz is that it can alleviate menopausal symptoms, too
- So is it hype, or could CBD possibly help reduce menopausal symptoms?
Once known as Hippie’s Disappointment because it doesn’t get you high, cannabidiol (CBD) — derived from the cannabis plant but non-psychoactive — is the panacea of the moment. You can sip it in coffee, sprinkle it on porridge or bake it in brownies.
Fans claim that CBD oil can reduce anxiety, aid relaxation and promote sleep. And the latest buzz is that it can alleviate menopausal symptoms, too.
The former wife of Noel Gallagher and menopause author Meg Mathews makes big claims for it on her popular website MegsMenopause. Despite taking hormone replacement therapy (HRT), Meg said she still suffered from anxiety. However, after three weeks of putting a few drops of CBD oil under her tongue before bed every night, she noticed she felt ‘much calmer and less anxious’.
‘Three months on and I can honestly say that my anxiety levels have dropped to practically nothing,’ she writes. ‘I’ve also noticed that my joint pain has all but gone. I wake up in the morning and feel sprightly for the first time in a long time.’
Meg, 54, who wrote The New Hot: Taking On The Menopause With Attitude And Style, isn’t alone in finding CBD oil helpful. Journalist and TV presenter Andrea McLean, 51, author of Confessions Of A Menopausal Woman, says that while a low dose of the beta-blocker propranolol alleviated her anxiety, CBD oil ‘has massively taken the edge off things with the flushes and … made me less anxious’.
So what is it exactly? This CBD is derived from hemp, part of the cannabis family. Marijuana (the cannabis used as a recreational drug) remains illegal in the UK, as it contains significant levels of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) — the psychoactive component that gets you high. But hemp contains only tiny levels of THC and no quantity of it can intoxicate you.
Also, to comply with the current law, any CBD product sold over the counter or online must contain no more than 0.2 per cent THC and make no medical claims. That means CBD products can only be legally sold in the UK as food supplements or herbal remedies.
So is it hype, or could CBD possibly help reduce menopausal symptoms, and how?
Cannabinoid receptors are present in organs such as the brain and other body tissues, and it’s believed they contribute to functions including mood regulation, sleep, pain, memory and temperature modulation. The menopause seems to disrupt this system, which works by interacting with chemical messengers and can be influenced by CBD.
James Dempsey, MD of online CBD oil shop Naturally Pure, acknowledges that he cannot make claims for a CBD product, but says: ‘Some of our clients use our oil, sprays and creams, which they claim help them with symptoms of both peri-menopause and the menopause.’
According to clients, symptoms alleviated include anxiety, insomnia, low mood and joint pain.
Olivia Ferdi is co-founder of CBD oil brand Trip (stocked in Liberty, Selfridges and Fenwick) with her husband Daniel. They discovered CBD oil in 2018, when Daniel took it to minimise pain and inflammation after a knee op. Seven weeks later he walked down the aisle, crutches-free.
Olivia says: ‘It provided incredible relief for my everyday stress while working as a lawyer in the City.
‘The exciting thing about CBD is that, anecdotally, it’s being seen to really help so many of those female-centric wellness issues.’
As for the medical experts, many appear to be in two minds. ‘CBD may work on the body in a range of ways to help menopause symptoms. Of particular interest is the way it interacts with cannabinoid receptors,’ says health information website Medical News Today.
Yet it also notes that there is ‘very little reliable evidence to suggest CBD oil can treat the symptoms of the menopause’.
Indeed, GP and menopause specialist Dr Louise Newson warns: ‘There isn’t any good evidence that CBD oil products work. That doesn’t mean they don’t work, but it does mean people have to be careful about what they’re taking and how they’re taking it. They’re not regulated like medicines are, so we don’t know what they contain and each product could be slightly different.’
‘With anxiety, even placebos can have an effect, so it’s hard to know — is it the CBD oil or is it the packaging? These products are expensive as well. For me, something like doing yoga or even having aromatherapy is a lot better. When substances are ingested, you don’t know what the long-term effects are.’
The research is limited, but the symptoms that CBD seems to affect, albeit in animal studies, are commonly experienced features of the peri-menopause or menopause, such as low mood, anxiety, poor sleep and joint pain.
For instance, a 2010 study on mice, published in the British Journal of Pharmacology, found CBD operates on the brain in a similar way to antidepressants. It was also seen to reduce depressive symptoms, according to Harvard Medical School’s online magazine, Harvard Health Publishing.
CBD is also often used to address anxiety and, notes Harvard Health, ‘studies suggest that CBD may help with both falling asleep and staying asleep’.
In addition, it cites a study from the European Journal of Pain which showed — again using an animal model — ‘CBD applied on the skin could help lower pain and inflammation due to arthritis’.
But experts stress that more study in humans is needed in order to substantiate these claims. Dr Newson refers to the British Medical Journal, which noted that in CBD products sold as herbal remedies, ‘the amount of CBD … is typically far lower than in clinical trials (eg 25mg in a non-medicinal product versus 150-1,500mg/day in clinical trials).’
It’s also vital, adds menopause coach Julie Dennis, to first check with a doctor that it won’t interact with medication you’re taking.
However, for those who’d nevertheless like to try it, James Dempsey says that while his CBD Muscle Relief Spray is, obviously, for aching muscles and applied topically, ‘the majority of people take gummy bears or CBD oil’.
Rather than target a specific symptom, he says clients take it in a form they find most palatable.
‘Some vape it, some like to take it topically and rub it into their skin, as with the muscle spray. Some like to take it sublingually (administering drops under the tongue), or eat it in edibles.’
He adds: ‘The majority of people who come to us are looking to improve quality of life in conditions such as anxiety, pain management and sleep.’
And as some of the most distressing symptoms of the peri-menopause and menopause include wakefulness, increased worry and achy joints, it’s no wonder that some women are prepared to give CBD oil a try.