Mood swings, anxiety, depression—women approaching or over 40 often find that hormonal changes can wreak havoc on their mental and emotional state. And you thought PMS was bad.
While our moodiness isn’t always related to hormones, there’s a scientific reason behind a woman’s typical hormonal mood swings. Science can also show us why cannabis can be helpful in bringing those hormones into check.
I recently learned from Dr. Lakisha Jenkins, a naturopathic doctor and founding member of the California Cannabis Industry Association, that as we age, our endocrine system—like all of our internal systems—doesn’t work as well as it should. Technically speaking, the hypothalamus and pituitary glands, which are responsible for hormone production, can get out of whack. The result is an unpleasant rage of hormones.
Dr. Jenkins explains that our endocannabinoid system (ECS) affects our endocrine system as it does other systems throughout our bodies. Cannabis and its cannabinoids and terpenes can positively affect our ECS, bringing it into homeostasis or balance. When our ECS is more balanced, our endocrine system can be, too.
Whether or not they know the science of the endocrine system and the ECS, women are finding that cannabis can help alleviate their negative emotional state, the kind that stems from unbalanced hormones.
“Cannabis has been a huge help in my sometimes pretty severe depression,” says Laurie Wolf, founder of gourmet cannabis edibles company Laurie + MaryJane. “No matter how bad my day or dark mood, eating or smoking cannabis has always improved my mood.”
At 52, Carolynn King in Colorado says she’s dealing with general irritability. “I’m irritable at everything and everybody for no reason. I can feel it coming down on me, and I hate everybody,” she says, attributing her moods to peri-menopause.
Jill Trinchero, founder of SDK Snacks, a cannabis edibles company in Oregon, says she was motivated to create her line of cookies, vegan raw coconut bites and savory crackers to help with her own anxiety as well as the stress of parenting.
“As a stay-at-home mom, I didn’t want to smoke and knew that consuming cannabis helped me be more present with my kids and deal with OCD and anxiety,” Jill says. “I didn’t want to be in that state, because it stresses people around me out; it stresses my kids.”
Women’s marijuana consumption preferences vary depending on the elevated mood they seek.
For Laurie, edibles are her favorite intake method, but she says smoking a joint is fun and a better option when she wants immediate results.
Carolyn says vaping and edibles both help with her irritability.
Jill usually has a 5 mg edible. “I’m not laid out on the couch. I can still function for my kids and work and everything—with just a low-dose cookie,” she says.
Marie P. in Wyoming has been dealing with hormonal issues since having a hysterectomy at 27. Now at 57, she smokes and consumes marijuana edibles to relax. “It’s helped my moods and also helps me sleep,” she says. “I have been dealing with this for years, but cannabis helps better than anything.”
According to Dr. Jenkins, sublingual or oral forms of cannabis can provide more instantaneous results. “When you ingest an edible, it goes through your entire digestive system, so you’d have to be pretty precise with the number of milligrams you consume,” she explains. “And you’d need to know what your metabolism is like that day, even if your digestive system is sluggish, because hormones affect digestion. Edibles are not as specialized or dialed in.”
Tinctures, on the other hand, come with a dropper so you can titrate your dose, measuring out the number of drops to find your “personal sweet spot,” as Dr. Jenkins puts it. That personal sweet spot can also vary not just from woman to woman, but from time of day to the period of the month. Even in full menopause, Dr. Jenkins says, our bodies still follow a cycle.
In terms of marijuana strains, every woman has her own preferences similar to having a preferred form of consumption.
“I tend to go towards indica-dominant or pure indica strains,” Laurie says. “There are times when certain sativas make me feel uncomfortably racy, occasionally paranoid. There are plenty of sativas I love. It's really only an occasional unpleasant experience.”
Jill says she goes with an indica because of her anxiety. Some sativas can exacerbate her anxious feelings, making her even more hyper alert.
Carolynn says that her favorite strain is Grape Ape. “That just makes me happy. I’ve not found another strain that makes me as happy as Grape Ape,” she says.
Strains may be a common way to pick your cannabis, but don’t limit your exploration based on strains, says Dr. Jenkins. “Unfortunately, strains can’t always run as true as they should,” she explains. “Look at cannabinoid and terpene profiles as well.”
Dr. Jenkins’ advice for picking the right cannabis product includes:
Looking for cannabidiol (CBD)-rich strains as CBD plays a strong role in balancing hormones
Making sure that the CBD-rich strain you choose also has tetrahydrocannabolic acid (THCA) to activate the CBD
Looking for terpenes that are uplifting, like limonene
Knowing that if you have ADD or ADHD, indicas that are normally body relaxing could affect you more like a sativa that’s more cerebral and stimulating—meaning an indica’s effects could be reversed, so be aware
“Do a lot of research and know yourself, know your body, know what you need,” Dr. Jenkins advises. “Then take the research, and go on your road of self-discovery to find what’s right for you. Individuality takes precedence over any traditional medicine you take, especially cannabis.”
What do you consume when your moods are darker or edgier than you’d like? What lifts your moods? Let us know in the comments below.
Photo credit: Nicklas Hamann