Cannabis and Relief From Hot Flashes

More than two-thirds of women heading into menopause experience hot flashes.  Debilitating hot flashes and night sweats are also common in female cancer patients on anti-estrogen chemotherapies, as well as in men with prostate cancer on androgen deprivation therapy. Night sweats can wake you from sleep and, over time, cause chronic insomnia. There is some association with hot flashes and increased risk of heart disease and bone loss.  However, there may be some relief on the horizon - a new study suggests that THC may help those suffering from night sweats.

 In a recent report in the Journal of Palliative Medicine, investigators found that administration of dronabinol, a synthetic form of THC, decreased or completely eliminated night sweats in cancer patients suffering from severe and persistent symptoms (PMID:30759037). The study concluded that once the patients’ night sweats were resolved, other symptoms such as anxiety and fatigue also improved, leading to an improvement in their overall quality of life.  This may be good news for anyone suffering from night sweats.

 What causes hot flashes and night sweats?

There are many contributing factors to night sweats including what we eat, as well as our lifestyle and genetics.  As mentioned above, estrogen plays an important role.  When estrogen levels fall, the hypothalamus in the brain, which regulates body temperature, detects too much body heat. The brain then releases hormones to help lower body heat, which causes the heart rate to rise and blood vessels to dilate so more blood can flow and dissipate the heat. The increased blood flow causes the body to sweat and ultimately cool off.

 Interestingly, recent studies also have found that post-menopausal women who experience hot flashes have higher levels of circulating pro-inflammatory molecules and low-grade systemic inflammation compared to women who do not experience hot flashes (PMID:28846735).  This adds to the evidence that post-menopausal women with a more “inflammatory” diet and lifestyle are more susceptible to having hot flashes.

 Can CBD also help with hot flashes?

 Both THC and CBD are immune-modulating cannabinoids that can reduce pro-inflammatory molecules and increase anti-inflammatory molecules produced in our bodies.  THC and CBD have also been shown to reduce body temperature in animal studies. Co-administration of CBD with THC, in a 4:1 ratio, significantly decreased body temperature in rats in an approximately additive manner (PMID:29907926).  So by reducing inflammation and lowering body temperature, it would seem feasible that by incorporating THC and CBD in one’s daily regimen would help to alleviate hot flashes and night sweats in susceptible populations.