Menopause may cause painful sex. There, I said it. Sex often hurts once your body changes due to the hormone fluctuations brought about by menopause. But painful sex isn’t the only symptom or result of the menopause process.
Since I’m not a doctor or an expert on menopause, I turned to a trusted advisor of mine: Dr. Elaine Burns, founder and medical director of Southwest Medical Marijuana Evaluation Center and founder of DrBurns’ ReLeaf tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD) products. Dr. Burns was working with bio-identical hormones for women before she entered the cannabis industry seven years ago. I asked her about cannabis and specifically CBD for women’s sexual health during peri-menopause and post-menopause.
First, Dr. Burns wanted to get across that menopause is a “multifactorial issue,” meaning no woman can expect that what worked for someone else will work for them, too. She also emphasized that cannabis can be part of an overall health-care plan that could include botanicals (such as black cohosh, evening primrose and chamomile) for women before menopause or bio-identicals—non-synthetic, all-natural hormone replacements—for women no longer experiencing menses. She would never solely recommend cannabis or CBD to relieve menopausal symptoms.
Some of the main complaints women have during menopause that could adversely affect sexual activity and sexual pleasure include:
Painful sex, usually stemming from vaginal dryness and thinning of vaginal walls, both signs of depleted estrogen
Low libido that could be caused by changing hormones, but also from lack of restful sleep
Mental and emotional aspects of menopause including depression and anxiety, also exacerbated by sleeplessness
When I look at this list, I realize how I’ve experienced some of these symptoms myself. Previously, I wrote about my own sleep issues and how cannabis helped me get a good night’s sleep, which in turn reduced my depression. Being well rested and feeling good mentally can do wonders for your sex life.
Depending on your health goals, marijuana—and specifically CBD—can be integrated into your overall care plan to alleviate specific menopause symptoms and also help with general good health as you age.
According to Dr. Burns, there are two parts of support during menopause. First, women look for relief from unpleasant symptoms ranging from vaginal dryness to hot flashes to painful sex. After those symptoms recede, the longer-term conversation with a health-care provider should be about the prevention of diseases such as osteoporosis.
Looking more closely at some of the symptoms of menopause that can affect your sex life, here’s how cannabis might help:
Lubricants: THC and CBD in a lubricating carrier like coconut oil can not only help with vaginal dryness to address painful sex, but the THC in particular can also be absorbed quickly into the bloodstream to produce relaxation, heightened sexual arousal, and greater sensitivity and sensation.
Vaping: Vaporizing whole plant extracts or marijuana flower can help ease anxiety, lift mood and improve sleep. Good sleep means more energy for good sex, right?
Tinctures: When taken sublingually, cannabis tinctures using the whole plant can produce similar effects to that of vaping over a longer period of time. Note that some sexual lubricants are actually produced as edibles, so they can be introduced vaginally, topically and orally.
Indica strains: These types of marijuana strains are ideal for relaxation and relieving some of the sleep and emotional issues that could be barriers to sexual pleasure. But when you’re choosing your indica strain or indica cannabis product, choose a whole plant product when you can, for better results. Dr. Burns calls extracts that isolate THC or CBD “neutral strains”—not fully indica or indica hybrids—because they lack the complete profile of terpenes and cannabinoids that work well with our bodies.
I sought out a woman who could speak about her own experiences with cannabis for sexual health and connected with Cyo Ray Nystrom, the founder and CEO of QuimRock, a cannabis-infused self-care line for women’s intimate care. Cyo says cannabis can be “powerful sex-medicine for anyone using it intentionally and with her own personal needs in mind.”
“I personally faced quite the battle with my vagina the minute I started having sex,” Cyo recalls. “I've had years of awful UTIs, forcing me to take intense rounds of antibiotics that, in turn, killed off all the natural vaginal flora and caused yeast infections. It affected my life and sex life greatly as vaginal health is such an important part of intimacy and sex for so many people.”
Cyo also notes that the shame that's historically associated with vaginal health issues, including those related to menopause, can be “particularly scarring.”
“Personally, cannabis has always been a great tool for getting me into my body, which is essential for me to really show up in my sex life,” Cyo explains, adding, “Cannabis has helped me in many ways—from cramp relief after getting a UTI to pain relief-focused topicals to the amazing benefits of cannabis-infused lubricants.”
When it comes to cannabis, there’s no “one strain and consumption method fits all.” How you address menopausal symptoms and sexual health is as individual as each woman is.
As Cyo reminds us, “It’s hugely important to figure out what turns you on and what turns you off.” And that takes time and trying different things. Just as menopause is a journey, so is naturally addressing your sexual health with botanicals like cannabis.
What has your sexual health journey through menopause been like so far? Have you used cannabis to help with any of the symptoms of menopause? Let us know in the comments below.
Photo credit: Maru Lombardo