These days, CBD—cannabidiol, a chemical derived from cannabis—has been getting a lot of buzz. It's the supplement du jour that everyone is talking about.
But don't expect CBD to give you an actual buzz. Because CBD is non-psychoactive and contains no tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, it doesn't produce the high associated with marijuana. Still, since this therapeutic agent is legal in some states, it's enticing to those who want relief minus mind-altering effects.
Countless products containing CBD have popped up, touted as natural remedies for ailments ranging from joint pain and seizures to anxiety and insomnia. CBD is thought to alleviate conditions like inflammation, migraines, nausea, sleep disorders and more. And women are getting in on it, too. (See more below on that.)
CBD is sold in various strengths and forms including oils, capsules, edibles and topicals at health food stores, smoke shops, pharmacies and more (if it's legal in your state). You might dab CBD lotion on problematic areas or drizzle CBD oil into your coffee. Or maybe you munch on CBD edibles like chocolates or gummies.
CBD is typically safe and well tolerated. It may cause side effects like sleepiness, diarrhea, rash, decreased appetite and weakness, and it may interact with some medications, like antidepressants. Like any drug, its effects vary with the dose. Typically, the higher the dose, the more unanticipated side effects. Consult with your health care professional before trying it.
CBD is thought to help alleviate some conditions unique to women.
Hormonal imbalance: CBD may provide relief for women suffering from hormonal imbalance. One study investigating the effect of CBD found that it helped regulate the secretion of the stress-activating hormone cortisol. By influencing hormone regulation, CBD can help prevent hormonal imbalance. Also, when you use hemp-based CBD products, you're getting omega fatty acids and gamma linolenic acid, an omega-6 fatty acid which is known to help regulate hormones.
Beauty: CBD beauty products like antiaging serums are all the rage in the beauty industry. CBD may offer women benefits like strengthening hair follicles, reducing the appearance of dark spots and improving the look and health of their skin. A 2014 study found that CBD helped suppress acne breakouts by regulating oil production of the sebaceous glands and lowering skin inflammation, says Anita Sadaty, MD, an obstetrician-gynecologist and founder of Redefining Health Medical, a women's health medical practice in Roslyn, New York. "In general, anti-aging skin benefits may be related to the anti-inflammatory properties of CBD," she says. Topical CBD is also great for skin rashes, eczema and psoriasis, says Dr. Sadaty.
Menopause: No evidence has been found that CBD can alleviate all menopause symptoms. But CBD may help stabilize mood changes, reduce sleep disturbances (a common menopause complaint) and decrease the rate of bone density loss that can occur during menopause. Alyssa Dweck, MD, an OB-GYN who practices in Westchester County in New York and author of The Complete A to Z for Your V, says she has seen women use CBD to help with insomnia during perimenopause and menopause.
"Sleep is interrupted during this time, impacting your day-to-day life," she says. Her patients are using CBD oil to help them stay asleep. She says it also helps them sleep when menopause-related anxiety keeps them up at night. "Women wake up with a busy mind and can't shut down their thoughts," she says.
Sex: Women are turning to CBD to help improve their sex life. Dr. Dweck says that women are trying CBD oil, lubricants and sprays to enhance sexual activity and alleviate dryness and sexual pain. They hope that these products can increase pleasure, help libido, set the mood, relax muscles and ease performance anxiety. "Many women need to feel relaxed to want sex," says Dr. Sadaty. "CBD fits the bill."
Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS): Studies have found that CBD can help alleviate PMS symptoms, which occur before or during your period. CBD may help moderate mood irregularities and overall mental health. It can help soothe bloating and cramps. It can help alleviate discomfort from swollen or tender breasts. "Anecdotally, I've seen it help PMS, particularly mood behavior," says Dr. Sadaty. "However, the combination of lowering stress hormone levels, improving liver detox capabilities and reducing inflammation will target physical PMS symptoms as well."
Just remember that CBD isn't a miracle, cure-all solution. You can't take CBD and expect all your problems to magically disappear. You may take it to help manage cholesterol for example, but if you eat fatty foods, you're doing yourself no favors. To be truly healthy, you have to stop doing what's causing your health problems.
And always check with your health care professional before taking CBD, says Dr. Dweck. You want to ensure it doesn't interact with any medications you're taking.