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cbd oil and estrogen

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:

  • Fertility
  • Sex drive
  • Appetite
  • Metabolism
  • Mood
  • Energy

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.

Major Hormones

  • Thyroid Hormones
  • Testosterone
  • Estrogen
  • Growth Hormone
  • Insulin
  • Cortisol

How does CBD affect hormones?

There are three main ways that CBD can change how hormones work in the body.

Synthesis

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.

Response

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.

Breakdown

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.

Thyroid Hormones

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

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

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

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

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.

Summary

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.

Effects of CBD on hormones:

  • Insulin – likely positive
  • Cortisol – likely positive
  • Thyroid – too soon to say although likely positive
  • Testosterone – likely negative if used at high doses for a long time without exercise
  • Growth Hormone – too soon to say
  • Estrogen – too soon to say

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 oil and menopause

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Contents

  1. Research overview
  2. Patient perspective

A normal and inevitable part of aging, menopause is a transitional period when menstruation ceases. Menopause can cause a wide range of symptoms, many of which vary from one woman to the next. Most often occurring between the ages of 45 and 55, this transition typically lasts around seven years.

During menopause, estrogen levels significantly drop, causing numerous symptoms. However, research is beginning to suggest that cannabis and the body’s endocannabinoid system (ECS) may be able to help counteract some of these effects without the possible dangers of hormone replacement therapy (HRT). Notably, combination HRT and estrogen-only therapy have shown to increase the risk of breast and ovarian cancers, according to Breastcancer.org. Even short-term combination HRT may increase the risk of breast cancer at an alarming rate of 75 percent.

CBD, as well as THC, have become key areas of interest, offering potential low-risk treatment options for menopause symptoms. Photo by: Gina Coleman/Weedmaps

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Cannabidiol (CBD) and THC have become key areas of interest, offering potential low-risk treatment options for menopause symptoms. Women of all ages have experienced CBD-related relief in relation to other female-specific hormone-related conditions and symptoms, including premenstrual syndrome (PMS), as reported in an article published in 2017 in the journal Addiction Research & Theory.

Research overview

While studies on CBD and menopause are limited, there is evidence that high-quality CBD products may help combat associated symptoms. This is particularly true when CBD is combined with other treatment options.

According to a literature review published in 2019 in the Journal of Ovarian Research, the ECS impacts female reproductive tissues and processes, playing a vital role in temperature regulation, sleep, pain, mood, memory, and immune function.

Several studies have reported the positive effects of CBD and CBD-rich cannabis oil on mood changes, joint pain, and sleep problems, all commonly associated with hormonal changes during menopause. Though the studies didn’t look specifically at menopause, the results indicate that CBD could provide relief for these symptoms regardless of their cause.

In addition, numerous studies have identified the potential impact of CBD on mood, including its inherent anti-anxiety and antidepressant effects. A 2018 study published in the Journal of Affective Disorders found that cannabis significantly reduced perceptions of depression, anxiety, and stress in both women and men. Researchers also reported that women experienced greater reductions in anxiety compared to men and that low-THC/high-CBD strains were best for reducing symptoms of depression.

Aches and joint pain frequently occur post-menopause, as reduced estrogen levels tend to produce higher levels of inflammation. Luckily, CBD has been shown to offer relief from pain and inflammation, as reported in a 2015 literature review published in the journal Bioorganic & Medicinal Chemistry

Aches and joint pain are also often reported post-menopause, as reduced estrogen levels tend to produce higher levels of inflammation. Photo by: Gina Coleman/Weedmaps

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In addition, a 2016 study published in the European Journal of Pain examined the efficiency of transdermal CBD for pain and inflammation in rats. Researchers found that topical CBD can help reduce swelling as well as other signs of inflammation. The study concluded that CBD provides potential therapeutic relief when aiming to treat arthritis pain, as well as inflammation, without any apparent side effects.

Sleep disturbances are also an area of concern among menopausal and postmenopausal women, with 61% reporting insomnia symptoms. In a 2019 study published in the Permanente Journal, researchers were interested in whether CBD would improve sleep and anxiety among a clinical population. After providing CBD treatment to 72 adults, the researchers found that anxiety scores decreased in 79% of patients within the first month and sleep scores improved in 67% of patients within the first month.

Patient perspective

Dr. Melanie Bone, a board-certified OB-GYN and cannabis specialist, shared the stories of two of her patients who are going through menopause and using CBD as a treatment option. Names have been redacted in accordance with patient privacy laws.

J.A. is a 52-year-old woman who has had one period in the last six months. She has trouble sleeping because she is awakened with hot flashes and sweats. This makes her tired during the day and she feels depressed because she can’t get a good night’s sleep. J.A.’s sister had breast cancer at age 54 and she is worried about being diagnosed herself. She is scared to use hormones due to the history of breast cancer in her family.

Dr. Bone said, “The patient wanted a consult because she is having so much trouble concentrating at work that she is afraid she will lose her job. After I explained to her that she could opt to try hormones, she decided to try cannabinoids first, with hormones as a fallback. Currently, she is doing exceedingly well with excellent management of most of her complaints. Just a few daytime hot flashes remain as a reminder of her menopause.”

cbd and menopause

Using both cannabis and bioidentical hormones may be helpful to some menopausal patients. Photo by: Gina Coleman/Weedmaps

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cbd and menopause

C.T. is a postmenopausal patient who uses both cannabis and bioidentical hormones. She told Weedmaps, “I was using bioidentical hormones to help with hot flashes, mood changes, and dryness. After discussing my situation with Dr. Bone, we agreed that I might benefit from the addition of cannabis.

“Now that I have been using both, I feel great. I have no more symptoms of menopause and my husband is delighted to have me back to my old self.”

It is important to note that these are individual testimonials and results will vary among patients. Be sure to consult with your physician before beginning a CBD regimen to address the symptoms of menopause.

What the experts say

Researchers are only just beginning to understand how the ECS works in relation to menopause and other health-related conditions. However, for those looking for an alternative therapy option, CBD may show great promise, according to some physicians.

“There are more issues at stake in menopause: sexual dysfunction, dryness, urinary complaints, and weight changes,” Dr. Bone said. “While some of these complaints are best managed with hormones, in women who have contraindications to using estrogen, such as a history of breast cancer, there is a definite role for cannabinoids to help as well.”

Bone continued, “There is a wealth of history and tradition pointing to the efficacy of cannabis for a variety of women’s conditions, from menstrual cramps to postpartum hemorrhage. The THC of cannabis helps with aches and pains associated with arthritis that sets in with menopause. It also helps with some of the mood swings that can herald the onset of menopause. CBD is important to manage anxiety that is almost universal during menopause. The combination of CBD and THC is essential to help with sleep problems, which are all too common in menopausal women. The ratio that works depends on which complaints are most prominent, but I find that a 1:1 is the sweet spot for a lot of women. In addition, local cannabinoids can be added for vulvovaginal-vaginal complaints and painful sex.”

Dr. Adie Rae, a neuroscientist and scientific adviser to Weedmaps, added, “Although cannabis does not address vaginal dryness, it has been shown to increase libido, decrease pain, and enhance orgasm.”

In fact, certain cannabis strains and products have been designed with women’s sexual pleasure in mind. CBD topicals like Night Moves, Happy Clam Oil, and Smooth Operator are all touted to enhance women’s sexual wellness.

Bottom line

CBD oil and CBD-rich cannabis oil may combat some of the most problematic symptoms associated with menopause, including sleep disturbances, mood changes, and aches. Anecdotal evidence and animal model studies suggest that combined cannabinoids, rather than the more readily available CBD isolate, may be better at alleviating some of the more severe symptoms associated with menopause. When high-quality CBD oil is combined with positive lifestyle changes, there may be a greater synergistic effect, though further research is necessary.

While studies on CBD and menopause are limited, there is evidence that high-quality CBD products may help combat associated symptoms. This is particularly true when CBD is combined with other treatment options.