Having a well balanced hormone level is vital for any woman to stay fit and healthy A look into the potential effects of cannabis on women’s hormones and what it could mean for those who suffer from hormonal imbalances. This is the most frequently asked question I’ve been hit with lately, and I think its a really juicy one because it highlights the potency that CBD can act within the body.
How does CBD enhance women’s health and beauty?
Having a well balanced hormone level is vital for any woman to stay fit and healthy. However, medical conditions involving hormonal imbalances are becoming increasingly prevalent. Hence, many are beginning to turn to natural treatment options to delay their menopause or at the very least, alleviate their symptoms.
On that note, cannabidiol – more popularly known as CBD – is an emerging popular option by many women as a supplement to reduce the effects of menopausal symptoms on their daily lives. Therefore, this article seeks to explore the properties that CBD possess to help females manage their estrogen levels and menopause symptoms.
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Let’s be honest – who doesn’t want to look great and live life to the fullest?
The balance of hormones is key to the beauty and wellbeing of any woman. The problem is – due to objective and natural reasons, most women would be challenged with estrogen deficiency.
Nonetheless, no one should panic as nowadays, mild hypoestrogenism (estrogen deficiency) can be safely and effectively treated, so you will soon notice your youthful looks returning. The main thing is not to ignore the very first signs of a hormonal decline.
What do we know about hormones?
Hormones are special chemical messengers that regulate the functioning of almost all body systems. Estrogens (also called oestrogens) are the essential steroid hormones responsible for sexual development, reproductive function, skeletal system, resistance to diseases, and women’s overall health condition.
During and after puberty, the ovaries begin to secrete estrogen, with their levels changing as the menstrual cycle progresses. In the first two weeks, these hormone levels gradually increase and then begin to decline, which leads to menstrual bleeding. The amount of estrogen also changes throughout life, reaching its maximum at reproductive age and decreasing with menopause.
Some of the estrogens are also produced by other organs like the liver, breasts, and adrenal glands (but in smaller amounts). Such secondary sources are important in women, especially those who have already had their menopause in order to maintain hormonal balance.
Fat cells are another source of estrogen. They are thus also the reason why underweight or overweight women are at high risk of infertility. A delicate balance of estrogen is vital for carrying a child as the excess or deficiency of this hormone affects fertility adversely. It is crucial to health and activity, the appearance of skin, hair, and quality of life.
Estrogens are the collective name for a whole group of related hormones. Let’s get acquainted with three prominent representatives:
It is a hormone in women of childbearing age, the most active of the estrogen group. It influences female sexual characteristics (breasts during adolescence, vagina, uterus, and fallopian tubes), and is responsible for regular sex drive and successful pregnancy. An imbalance in estradiol leads to many gynecological problems, including endometriosis and various neoplasms.
It is basically the weaker version of estrogen, emerging during menopause when the estradiol level begins to decline.
Inferior in terms of activity when compared to other estrogen types, but is of great importance for the ordinary pregnancy course. The placenta synthesizes its principal amount, so more estriol is observed only during gestation.
All three estrogen representatives are essential for the body and affect a woman’s health at different periods of life. So, what are estrogen hormones responsible for in women, what organs and systems are under their “control”?
The reproductive system
Estrogens contribute to a woman’s fertility, play a crucial role in reproductive function and a regular menstrual cycle. They participate in an elaborate functional complex that allows a woman to become pregnant and carry a child: they prepare the uterine lining, stimulate the contraction of the fallopian tubes and, thereby, ensure the transport of sperm to the egg. If pregnancy does not occur, menstruation begins.
The cardiovascular system
Before menopause, estrogen’s high activity helps keep blood vessels elastic and robust, “control” cholesterol, and prevent many inflammatory processes. Then the level of these hormones drops sharply. This increases the risk of developing atherosclerosis and, with it, hypertension and cardiovascular diseases rises rapidly.
Estrogens are female hormones of beauty and youth that stimulate the production of collagen and hyaluronic acid. They help to maintain the bone matrix and skin’s health and beauty – density, tone, hydration, and skin protection from photoaging.
Estrogens are indirectly involved in forming new neural connections. Therefore, they affect concentration, memory, learning, and regular sleep.
How does the lack of hormones threaten a woman’s health?
The organs and systems for which estrogens are responsible are precisely the “targets” for diseases and pathological conditions and fall into the risk zone when these hormones function is reduced. Here’s what else a drop in estrogen levels in women leads to:
Increased susceptibility to pain
Studies of pain sensitivity in women in different phases of the menstrual cycle have shown that the lowest pain threshold is observed in the premenstrual phase when the estrogen level is lower.
Thermoregulation disorders are one of the most common problems during menopause. It manifests itself in the form of sharp flushes of heat and sweating.
Decreased mood, sex drive, and memory impairment
Estrogens affect the production of serotonin and the maintenance of neural connections in the brain. Lack of the hormone explains frequent emotional swings, depressed mood, loss of interest in the opposite sex, cognitive impairment, and severe premenstrual syndrome (PMS) in women over 40.
Against the background of estrogen deficiency, thinning hair and splitting of nails develop, the skin’s sensitivity to ultraviolet light increases, wrinkles appear, and other dermatological problems worsen. At the same time, dry skin, acne, and dandruff may occur.
What reduces the estrogen production in women?
Estrogens – one of the most critical compounds – regulate the expression of more than a thousand genes and are considered a marker of a woman’s health in general.
There are few factors which may influence the level of estrogens in the woman’s body. For instance, the period of menopause is one of them. It is a natural cause, but the manifestations of which can be mitigated with safe methods. Meanwhile, ovarian dysfunction, including Shereshevsky-Turner syndrome, are pathological conditions in which estrogens cannot be adequately produced. Besides that, pituitary gland dysfunction as well as eating disorders (both obesity and a lack of fatty tissue in diets) can lead to hormonal imbalances and metabolic disorders. Other than those, a stressful and unhealthy lifestyle can be a major contributing factor too.
When estrogens are produced in the female body in average amounts, they can directly and indirectly strengthen the bone matrix, benefit our heart, slow down aging, normalize metabolism and appetite, increase libido, and the level of serotonin (the “happiness hormone”).
One of the external sources of estrogen in food include:
Flaxseed is not only a leader in the content of this hormone but also a beneficial product. It also helps to cleanse the body and relieve inflammation. Meanwhile, it is recommended to be consumed in a ground form.
Peas, soybeans, lentils, chickpeas, and beans. Include these foods into your diet, and you will get rid of depression and anxiety. Legumes are also essential for the elimination of premenstrual symptoms and menopause.
Sunflower and pumpkin seeds, in particular, are a good source of estrogen. They improve brain function and sex drive.
At first glance, dried fruits are not famous for their incredible benefits because it is easier to buy fresh berries or fruits, but this is wrong. First, it’s a great snack that’s easy to take with you. Secondly, dried fruits such as dates, prunes, and dried apricots contain the most considerable amount of phytoestrogen.
The summer-autumn fruit is distinguished by its excellent taste properties and the phytoestrogen content of lignan. Research shows that a diet that includes foods rich in this component can reduce breast cancer risk in menopausal women by 15%.
A bit about CBD
It is important to say that our body naturally produces cannabinoids. Our inner cannabinoid receptors (CBRs), CB1 and CB2, can be activated by endogenous and exogenous cannabinoids, which can be of natural or synthetic origin.
Endogenous cannabinoids are substances produced by the human body. The most studied ones are N-arachidonoylethanolamine (anandamide) and 2-arachidonoylglycerol (2-AG) . Together with CBRs, the endogenous cannabinoids constitute the basis of the endocannabinoid system (ECS). If too many or not enough endocannabinoids are produced in the body, our ECS needs some reinforcement from the external sources.
CBD, or cannabidiol , is one of the leading organic compounds found in the Cannabis sativa plant. It is currently emerging as one of the most promising therapeutic agents in various conditions such as epilepsy, different anxiety disorders, migraines, cancer, and even Alzheimer’s disorder.
Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is another component of Cannabis sativa and is, therefore, an exogenous phytocannabinoid and a non-selective agonist of CB1 and CB2 receptors. In comparison with CBD, THC contains slight alterations- psychoactive THC can cause a well-known “high” effect. And compared with THC, CBD displays lower CB1 and CB2 affinity and acts as an inverse agonist at the CB2.
How CBD affects estrogen levels?
Marijuana use among women is highly prevalent, but the societal conversation on marijuana rarely focuses on how marijuana affects female reproduction and endocrinology.
The ECS regulates stress, mood, memory, fertility, bone growth, pain, and immune function, among other things. If speaking about feminine health, carefully controlled regulation of the endocannabinoid system (ECS) is required for successful reproduction. The exogenous cannabinoids in marijuana may help to keep and regulate the ECS’ delicate balance in the female reproductive system.
Breast cancer treatment
It is estimated that one in eight women develop breast cancer. Breast cancer is difficult to treat because only a few biomarkers signal the disease’s presence, and many patients can develop resistance to modern treatments. Moreover, some specific types of breast cancer are difficult to treat. These difficulties underscore the importance of studying new therapies for this disease.
Breast cancers are often classified according to the receptors they express. The three most common breast cancer receptors respond to hormones like estrogen, progesterone, and epidermal growth factor (EGF). Two biomarkers often used to diagnose breast cancer are hormone receptors (estrogen receptor and progesterone receptor) and the HER2 oncogene (a gene that can convert a normal cell into a tumour cell). So careful identification of these receptors facilitates treatment.
How does CBD help prevent breast cancer?
Researchers are showing, step by step, how CBD can help with the elimination of breast cancer cells.
A study by scientists in Spain shows that the endocannabinoid system plays an essential role in treating HER2-positive cancers . The cannabinoid CB2 receptor binds to HER2 – forming a so-called dimer – and this dimerization results in poor treatment outcomes for the disease. When THC binds to the CB2 receptor, it cleaves the dimer. This switches the secondary messengers – the so-called G-proteins – that receptors transmit signals to the cell. The cell begins to destroy its HER2 receptors with a protein called c-CBL, which has anti-tumor effects. So it can be concluded that cannabinoid-activated receptors stimulate the endocannabinoid system and trigger it to work more efficiently.
Estrogen in breast cancer
Breast cancer, in most cases, depends on the level of the female hormone estrogen. Estrogen promotes the growth and survival of normal and cancerous breast epithelial cells by binding and activating the estrogen receptor (ER). An increase in the proportion of cells that express ER is found at both the earliest breast pre cancer stages and in approximately 70% of breast cancers. The therapy for this disease includes aromatase inhibitors – this class of drugs reduces estrogen concentration in the blood and increases testosterone levels.
Two studies have shown that tamoxifen and several other selective estrogen receptor modulators (SERM) can inverse agonists on CB1 and CB2 and interact with possible clinical consequences. When cannabinoid drugs were added to tamoxifen, the standard chemotherapy drug, the combination therapy was about 20 to 25% more effective than chemotherapy alone in the cell lamina. Unfortunately, these results have not been replicated in live animal trials. It is important to note that cannabinoids also did not adversely affect the effectiveness of chemotherapy. This suggests that using cannabis as an adjunct to treat common side effects of chemotherapy, such as nausea and loss of appetite, will not interfere with chemotherapy’s ability to kill cancer cells.
Interactions of cannabinoids with hypothalamic-pituitary-gonadal axis hormones
The research found a positive correlation between peak plasma endogenous cannabinoid anandamide with peak plasma 17β-estradiol, luteinizing hormone, and follicle-stimulating hormone levels at ovulation in healthy premenopausal women.
Another study looked at how various doses of CBD affected animals. Rhesus monkeys of both sexes took oral CBD doses of 30, 100, and 300 mg/kg for 90 days. Serum pituitary, steroid, and thyroid hormone levels were measured by radioimmunoassay method. CBD-treated monkeys responded with slight fluctuations in luteinizing hormone (LH) and follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) in males, whereas steroid hormones were essentially unchanged in both sexes. Hormone imbalance may explain cannabinoid-induced embryotoxicity and impaired gonadal function.
Tolerance to these effects has been shown in rhesus monkeys, but the impact of chronic marijuana use on human female reproduction is still mostly unknown.
CBD alleviates menopausal symptoms
Menopause has many symptoms that vary in intensity – a woman experiences few symptoms, or it interferes seriously with daily life. These symptoms usually include:
- Night sweats
- Hot flashes / cold sweats
- Insomnia or irregular sleep cycles
- Dryness and hair loss
- Anxiety, irritability, and imbalance
- Dry skin and deterioration in skin quality
- Slowed metabolism and weight gain
Better sleep quality
According to research, CBD has a positive effect on the amount and quality of sleep. It stabilizes blood pressure and relaxes muscles. According to a study conducted at the University of San Paolo, Brazil, CBD interferes with cortisol’s secretion, a “stress hormone.” This hormone is released when a body feels threatened or perceives danger. So regulated cortisol can help with sleeping deeply; hence, alleviating menopausal stress or increase the chances of conceiving the child.
Another double-blinded study tested eleven relatively healthy patients with CBD and placebo to determine its effects on plasma prolactin, growth hormone, and cortisol. Although prolactin and growth hormone levels stayed mostly unchanged with CBD, cortisol levels dropped significantly.
So how does CBD help besides lowering stress hormones? One study showed that the EC system activates CB1 receptors, which affects sleep stability, how quickly you fall asleep, and even increases the level of melatonin production (a hormone responsible for sleeping patterns).
Replacement of hormonal drugs
Research shows that CBD can replace prescription hormone drugs, which have many adverse side effects. It is CBD that can be used to replace them, thus, avoiding hormonal addiction.
Mood swings are a common symptom of menopause that causes irritation and depression in women. Many studies prove CBD is an effective mood stabilizer. Anandamide, commonly named the “bliss molecule”, is responsible for feelings of happiness and motivation. CBD oil acts as an anandamide reuptake inhibitor , stopping the neurotransmitter from being reabsorbed. It increases the amount present in the brain, resulting in an improved and elevated mood.
CBD oil works similarly to the reuptake of adenosine (a neuromodulator of the central nervous system). While this process is much less understood, it is believed that the triggered adenosine receptor A2A plays a role in anxiety and depression. By inhibiting the A2A receptor, the mood is elevated, and depressive symptoms are reduced.
Anxiety is twice more common in women than in men, diagnosing the interval between childhood and middle age. There has been an elevation in stress among women, according to the American Psychological Association studies of 2007.
Estrogen is one of the hormones which takes part in developing and maintaining healthy bones. So after menopause (with aging), women are likely to have weaker bones or develop osteoporosis. Loss of muscle mass is another process that occurs due to decreased estrogen levels, and many women expect this to be a regular part of the aging process. However, much of this bone degradation and muscle loss – along with fewer chances of fractures, can be slowed down with CBD.
Other unpleasant conditions
Vaginal dryness may come as a shock to many women, but it is actually quite common. When estrogen levels reach an absolute minimum, vaginal tissue produces less lubrication, which reduces elasticity and can even lead to painful sensations during intercourse. Lubricants are well known as a practical solution, but many women find the synthetic chemical odor unpleasant when applied to the body’s most intimate parts. On the other hand, CBD oil has a pleasant scent, enhances natural lubrication, and improves well-being. For vaginal dryness, CBD oil can be mixed with other natural oils to relieve and reduce dryness in the long term.
Cannabis for Women: Does CBD Increase Estrogen?
May 9-15 is Women’s Health Week and the perfect time to discuss how cannabis can affect our bodies as women. While many focus on cannabinoids’ potential to help with pain, stomach distress, or a poor mood, some cannabinoids may assist with hormonal balance. We know that cannabis can impact our hormones, so does CBD increase estrogen levels?
Why is Estrogen Important to Women’s Health?
Estrogen is essential for a woman’s overall health and wellbeing. It helps regulate many body processes:
Regulate the menstrual cycle
Promote bone health
Protect against heart disease
Maintain healthy skin and hair
As we age, our estrogen levels naturally decline, which can cause menopause and many associated symptoms like hot flashes, night sweats, weight gain, and mood swings.
Does CBD Increase Estrogen Levels?
That’s a complex question. The endocannabinoid system (ECS) may play a role in hormonal balance, but research is still in its early stages. A study on male rats found CBD might decrease testosterone levels, but we need more research to say for sure how it affects female humans.
Studies show that the ECS plays a critical role in female reproductive health. Research demonstrates endogenous cannabinoids inhibit ovulation in female rats. The ECS may also be involved in menstrual cycle regulation by interacting with the hypothalamus, pituitary gland, and ovaries.
This isn’t enough information to make a definitive answer.
We have to leave CBD and estrogen as an open topic until we have more results.
CBD and ECS Balance
While we don’t know as much as we should about CBD, estrogen, and women’s health, there’s much more research and information from the scientific community about CBD and its ability to support endocannabinoid function. The ECS is vital to our health, and while there are many ways to encourage a healthy ECS, cannabinoids like CBD can help keep it in balance.
The benefits of CBD also help maintain symmetry within the body. Many people use CBD for a range of wellness needs, including:
CBD for Anxiousness
Anxiety and stress aren’t beneficial for your hormone levels. They can increase the production of cortisol, which can disrupt your menstrual cycle and make menopause more uncomfortable.
CBD may assist with relaxation and help to keep anxiety at bay. By keeping stress levels low, you may also be able to encourage a more regular menstrual cycle.
CBD for Sleep
Sleep is the best way to support your body and encourage hormonal balance. Our bodies produce growth hormones during sleep, essential for tissue repair, bone health, and regulating metabolism.
CBD may help you get a better night’s sleep by interacting with the ECS to promote relaxation. A good night’s rest can also improve your stress levels and help control weight.
CBD for Inflammation
Our research shows chronic inflammation may increase the risk of endometriosis, PCOS, and ovarian cancer. It can also worsen menopause symptoms, like hot flashes and night sweats. CBD’s anti-inflammatory effects may help to ease pain and reduce swelling.
CBD for Skin Health
The skin is our largest organ, and it’s also full of cannabinoid receptors. When your hormones are out of balance, your skin may suffer. CBD’s potential to encourage cell regeneration and reduce inflammation may help improve the look and feel of your skin.
CBD may help to improve skin health by reducing inflammation and keeping the ECS in balance. A healthy ECS can promote cell growth and keep your skin looking its best.
CBD For Hair Health
A healthy scalp is vital for hair growth. CBD is a powerful antioxidant that can help to protect the hair from damage. It may also help to reduce inflammation and keep the scalp healthy.
CBD may help to improve hair health by reducing inflammation, keeping the scalp healthy, and encouraging cell growth.
CBD for Heart Health
Heart disease is the leading cause of death for women in the United States. A healthy ECS can reduce the risk of heart disease and support heart health. CBD may help protect the heart by reducing inflammation and keeping the ECS in balance.
CBD for Bone Health
Osteoporosis is a common problem for post-menopausal women. CBD may help to reduce inflammation and encourage bone growth. A healthy ECS may support bone health and reduce the risk of osteoporosis. Overall, strong bones are essential for a healthy body.
CBD to Manage Weight
CBD may help manage weight by reducing inflammation and keeping the ECS in balance. A healthy ECS can encourage cell growth and regulate metabolism. As the body loses estrogen, weight management becomes more difficult. CBD may help offset this weight gain by supporting a healthy ECS.
CBD for Gut Health
A healthy gut is vital for a healthy ECS. A healthy gut can reduce the risk of gastrointestinal problems and support gut health. CBD may help to reduce inflammation and keep the gut healthy.
CBD for Overall Wellness
CBD may help support overall wellness by reducing inflammation and keeping the endocannabinoid system in balance. A healthy endocannabinoid system can encourage cell growth and support the body’s natural ability to heal.
CBD may encourage hormonal balance through a healthy body by supporting the ECS.
Final Thoughts on Cannabis, CBD, and Estrogen
We need more research to say for sure how cannabis affects female hormones. We know that the endocannabinoid system regulates the menstrual cycle and ovulation. CBD may also help to reduce anxiety and inflammation and promote skin health.
If you’re considering using CBD, or any cannabis product, talk to your doctor first. They can help you understand how it might interact with any medications you’re taking and offer guidance on the best dosage for your needs.
Pantry Food Co. edibles are an excellent way to add CBD to your daily routine. Our cannabis bites are available in various flavors and make a wonderful mid-day or evening treat as part of your wellness plan. Check out our list of CBD edibles today!
Does CBD Affect Hormones (and is it good or bad)?
This is the most frequently asked question I’ve been hit with lately, and I think its a really juicy one because it highlights the potency that CBD can act within the body.
Q. Does CBD affect hormones?
Hormones are special types of chemical messenger that enable one part of the body to ‘talk’ to another, so the body is constantly operating in synchronous harmony.
Collectively, the hormones and the glands they are released from are known as the endocrine system.
Glands are found throughout the body. Certain glands release specific hormones into the bloodstream so that they can travel to other organs and glands to control their function. This forms a communication network which is giving and receiving constant feedback to maintain optimal bodily function.
Some of the major roles of hormones are:
- Sex drive
Levels of hormones naturally fluctuate depending on whether it’s day or night, and what stage of life a person has reached, eg adolescence, pregnancy or menopause.
Hormones can also become imbalanced throughout any stage of life. These imbalances can be part of the driving force behind chronic illnesses. One of the major challenges we face today is the impact of environmental toxicity on our hormones – plastics, industrial chemicals and pesticides all mess with the endocrine system.
Aside from reducing our exposure to toxicity, we can look for ways to support healthy hormones through the foods, herbs and exercise we engage with.
- Thyroid Hormones
- Growth Hormone
How does CBD affect hormones?
There are three main ways that CBD can change how hormones work in the body.
Cannabinoid receptors are found on major glands throughout the body. When these receptors are activated by our bodies endocannabinoids, this can alter the secretion of hormones, and change their impact on target organs.
Since CBD can also (indirectly) interact with cannabinoid receptors, it has the power to alter the synthesis and secretion of hormones as well.
Most changes in hormone synthesis and secretion start in the hypothalamus, when cannabinoid receptor 1 is activated. This starts a series of hormonal messages that trickle down to other glands, which then secrete their own hormones in response.
Cannabinoid receptor 1 is also found on most other glands and organs, so can control hormonal balance directly as well.
Cannabinoids like CBD can influence the ‘volume’ of message received at a target organ from a hormone. The sensitivity of a cell receptor for a certain hormone can either be increased or decreased by cannabinoids – increasing or decreasing the volume / strength of the message.
Hormones need to be cleared and disposed of after they have done their jobs, so continual balance can be maintained in the body. Cannabinoids like CBD can alter the speed of enzymes that break hormones down.
Although there’s no studies looking directly at CBD on thyroid hormones, there have been some which have looked at the effect of endocannabinoids on them.
Since CBD affects endocannabinoids, we can only speculate as to the effects.
Thyroid hormones TSH, T4 and T3 are all designed to rev up cellular metabolism, helping us mobilise energy to use it.
Endocannabinoids on the other hand encourage the sparing and storage of energy, in part by reducing thyroid hormones (1) .
Blocking endocannabinoids increases TSH, T4 and T3, which may help raise thyroid function (2) .
The effect of CBD could theoretically go both ways, since it can both dampen and stimulate endocannabinoids. Whether CBD may increase or decrease thyroid hormones might depend on someone being hypothyroid, hyperthyroid or having a normal thyroid.
Anandamide was found to suppress TSH only in hypothyroid and normal thyroid conditions (high TSH), and not in hyperthyroid conditions (low TSH) (2) .
This is potential evidence of an adaptogenic effect of (endo)cannabinoids, helping to balance individuals to their own needs. CBD may help endocannabinoids support individual balance.
Testosterone is an important hormone involved mainly in reproduction and sex drive, but also has other roles in regulating mood and energy.
Its mainly synthesised in the testes and ovaries, and is made in repose to hormonal signals from the hypothalamus (LH and FSH).
CBD has been shown to effect LH and FSH levels in monkeys, albeit at doses much higher than we would realistically use. After 90 days, LH and FSH were increased, but no changes were seen in testosterone, except a decrease at the highest dose (3) .
In rats and mice, higher doses (higher than most of us would take) reduced testosterone after 10 – 34 days (4) .
CBD has been suggested to reduce testosterone production by inhibiting the enzyme 17α‐hydroxylase, which makes Testosterone in leydig cells of the testes (4) .
However, CBD also inhibits specific cytochrome p450 enzymes in the liver which break testosterone down (4) .
So theoretically, reducing the breakdown of testosterone may offset reductions in synthesis. But thats just speculation at this point. Also, these studies show a decrease in testosterone at high doses used mid term.
We need to see trials in humans before we can say anything concrete. But for men who want to take a cautious approach:
- Use moderate doses (5 – 100mg/day)
- Cyclical use: take a break every few months to washout accumulated CBD – sweating through sauna and exercise.
- Exercise regularly to promote natural testosterone production whilst using CBD.
Estradiol E 2 ( Estrogen)
Estrogen levels are important because they influence sexual development, fertility, and susceptibility to female diseases such as breast cancer.
Estrogen is made in the ovaries, in repose to hormones LH and FSH released from the pituitary gland. Its levels in the body are also controlled by enzymes that make it and break it down.
Studies using CBD in cells found that it suppresses estrogen production directly, by inhibiting an enzyme that makes it from testosterone, called aromatase (5) .
Aromatase inhibitors are used to reduce estrogen levels in cases of breast cancer and post menopause (6) .
CBD also encourages the breakdown of estrogen by speeding up cytochrome p450 enzymes that break it down (7) .
Theoretically, this points to an anti-estrogenic effect of CBD, lowering levels of estrogen. But this has not been shown in animal or human research so far.
Moderate to high doses of CBD were not associated with changes in LH, FSH and estrogen after 90 days in female monkeys (3) .
More research is needed before any conclusions can be made on how CBD affects estrogen.
Growth hormone (GH), as the name suggests, signals for the reproduction and regeneration of cells, stimulating growth and development in the body.
A few benefits of increased growth hormone output are:
- Strong bones
- Increased muscle mass
- More energy
- Enhanced ability to burn fat
- Improved exercise capacity
A single dose of CBD had no effect on Growth Hormone levels in 11 healthy volunteers (8) .
However other cannabinoids like THC, especially when used long term have been shown to reduce GH. THC reduced GH secretion from the pituitary gland via cannabinoid receptor 1 (9) , and reduced circulating GH levels in adults (10) .
Since CBD also interacts with CB1, long term use could affect GH levels. We need more studies to assess whether there’s a positive or negative effect of CBD on GH levels.
Insulin is a major hormone involved in the use and storage of energy. It has a great impact on body weight and energy levels, via regulating metabolism.
We need insulin to tell our cells when to take in sugar from the bloodstream. Healthy insulin levels mean we use sugar effectively in our muscles and liver, and don’t store too much in fat tissue.
Too much insulin is a driving force of weight gain and diabetes, and its often raised in repose to high sugar consumption.
In diabetic rats, CBD has been shown to reduce excessively high levels of insulin, whilst maintaining blood sugar levels (11) . This means CBD may help sensitise muscles and liver cells to take up sugar more efficiently, helping to maintain stable blood sugar.
CBD also reduces body weight gain in rats (12) . By reducing insulin, CBD may discourage fat cells from storing excessive sugar, which could reduce weight gain.
Unfortunately the only study in humans looking at insulin levels with CBD used a low dose, which did not affect insulin levels in the diabetic patients. However, CBD did increase the levels of another hormone gastric inhibitory polypeptide (GIP) which controls the release on insulin, hinting at a possible effect on insulin with higher doses (13) .
Cortisol’s major role is as a stress hormone, and tells the rest of body that a stressful event is happening. Its produced in the adrenals, in response to sensory inputs to the hypothalamus from our experience of the world around us.
Short term spikes in cortisol are beneficial, as they allow us to be aware of potentially dangerous things in our environment that threaten our survival.
Unfortunately staying on top of bills, work and relationships can also be perceived as a threat to survival, and lead to chronic cortisol output and unresolved stress.
CBD is quite incredible at resolving stress, though. It essentially acts as a breaking system on the stress response, by acting (indirectly) through cannabinoid receptors in the hypothalamus. Effectively, CBD tells the adrenals to chill out on cortisol production.
Human and studies have shown CBD can modulate cortisol output (7) , (14) , (15) , and its one of the major reasons why so many people may find it soothing.
CBD and HRT
We’re still in the early days of research with CBD in general, even less so when it comes to its impact on hormonal regulation. Currently we are reduced to speculating based on the mechanisms of action from animal studies, without much idea of real world effects in humans.
CBD may be able to help ‘normalise’ bodily systems to a certain extent, including some degree of hormonal balance. But this may depend on the severity of the underlying imbalance in the first place, which in more severe cases CBD is unlikely to have a meaningful effect.
The reason for this relates to the fact that CBD does not have a powerful stimulatory effect on hormonal production, but more so in maintaining the balance between various different hormones. In light of this, CBD would not be a viable alternative to HRT, but may be complimentary to helping regulate the balance of hormones that are given in a supplementary way.
Its unclear what the benefits of HRT and CBD would be combined, and may be different between individuals. Its often the case that combining different therapies has a complementary and synergistic effect. If you are interested, its worth discussing this first with your Doctor or Endocrinologist.
Although there are (initial) changes in hormone levels with CBD, other studies suggest a tolerance can be developed to cannabinoids (16). Initial hormone changes may correct overtime, or are compensated for by other mechanisms (ie hormone receptor sensitivity). So basically, its too early to say with much certainty just how CBD affects hormones long term and what that translates to health wise.