There’s currently insufficient human data to provide clear conclusions about the effects of CBD on progesterone and estrogen levels. What impact does marijuana herbal product and its oils have on sex hormones and reproductive functions, as well as on other critical health issues, such as cognition and immune health? Having a well balanced hormone level is vital for any woman to stay fit and healthy
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This study suggests that a woman may find it harder to get pregnant while using cannabis so they should consider the risks before trying to fall pregnant.
What is the role of cannabis in fertility? Find out how marijuana can affect both male and female fertility.
We don’t know about all the effects of cannabinoids like THC and CBD on the human body, but we know that cannabis affects hormones. Read on for more.
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The Endocannabinoid System and Estrogen
The trend towards the legalization of marijuana and the increasing use of this herbal product and its oils (CBD) for both recreational and therapeutic uses begs a question: What impact does it have on sex hormones and reproductive functions, as well as on other critical health issues, such as cognition and immune health? Cannabis sativa has long been a widely consumed plant recognized for its psychoactive properties and its reported impact on multiple functions, including metabolism, sexual functioning, and motivation. In the 1960’s tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) was identified as the primary active component of cannabis, but the site of action was not known until the discovery of the cannabinoid receptor.
The endocannabinoid system is a key physiological system, involved in the foundation of health maintenance. The receptors are found in the brain, in numerous organs, connective tissue, glands, and in immune cells. It has complex actions on the immune system, the nervous system, and in all the organs within the body, and can be viewed as a powerful connection between the body and the mind. The endocannabinoid system literally links the state of physicality and disease to brain functioning. The endocannabinoid system, whether through naturally made endocannabinoids or marijuana and its derivatives, or similar plant-derived cannabis, impacts humans in ways that are immensely complex and challenging.
Marijuana is commonly used and its use by women is rising. Women have been found to be more susceptible to abuse of cannabinoids and the development of dependence, and experience more severe withdrawal symptoms and relapse more often than do men. As well, when women use cannabinoids, they are more impacted, with altered functioning on tasks. In adolescents, females are more likely to be adversely affected than are male adolescents by cannabinoids. Importantly, it is now accepted that estradiol is the hormone that impacts this important sexual dimorphic effect of cannabinoids.
The cannabinoid receptors are now recognized as constituents of a neuro-modulatory system named the endocannabinoid system, which is located throughout the central nervous system and peripherally and is involved in the regulation of many bodily functions as well as behaviors. It is now understood that the gonadal hormones are equally involved in a myriad of physiological functions and behaviors and it has been found that the two systems are intimately interconnected. There are endocannabinoid components present throughout the hypothalamus-pituitary-gonadal axis (HPG axis) and the potential for there to be damage to its proper functioning exists if the endocannabinoid system is tampered with.
Research is revealing that there exists a bidirectional relationship between the endocannabinoid system and gonadal hormones. If changes to the HPG axis occur, there can be an impact on the functioning of the endocannabinoid system. And the endocannabinoid system is involved in many functions, as mentioned, including sexual behavior, which are of course regulated by gonadal hormones. Clearly there is a complex, bidirectional interaction between the two systems.
It is know recognized that the endocannabinoid system contains two types of cannabinoid receptors: CB1 and CB2 receptors. The ligands for these receptors are anandamide and 2-arachidonoylglycerol (2-AG). The CB1 receptors are in the central nervous system and in some peripheral sites. Within the CNS, they are primarily located within the neurons of the cerebral cortex, hippocampus, amygdala, hypothalamus, basal ganglia, and cerebellum. The CB2 receptors are predominantly found in peripheral tissues and in cells of the immune system.
The CB1 receptors are in the presynaptic neurons on the axon terminals. The endocannabinoids themselves are synthesized and released on demand by the postsynaptic neurons. When the receptors are bonded with the ligand endocannabinoids, the release of additional neurotransmitters by the presynaptic cell is blocked, thereby allowing regulation of neurotransmission of incoming signals. FAAH, fatty acid amide hydrolase, is an enzyme which breakdowns anandamide and monoacylglycerol lipase breakdowns 2- AG, controlling quantities. FAAH is under the control of estradiol.
The endocannabinoid system and estrogens have both direct and indirect interactions. The endocannabinoid system impacts the release of estrogens through the central down-regulation of LH and GnRH. When THC is given, there is a decrease in serum LH, and the pulsatile nature of LH is decreased. When GnRH was given to female rats, the effects of THC were reversed. This is suggestive that as the pituitary gland remains sensitive to stimulation, the impact of cannabinoids is through its effects on central neurotransmission, suppressing LH release. The suppression of LH release by THC has been demonstrated in monkeys and rats. It is complex and variable by brain region and even by synapses, but changes to the function of estrogen do influence central endocannabinoid signaling. There is clearly a complex interrelationship between endocannabinoid activity and estradiol levels. It certainly appears that the use of an exogenous cannabinoid could adversely impact the hormonal cycling and fertility of females.
Here is a summary of what is currently known about the interrelationship of endocannabinoids and estrogen. Central CB1 receptor expression is modulated by estradiol and estradiol also increases anandamide synthesis while decreasing FAAH activity. FAAH is the principle enzyme which degrades the endocannabinoid anandamide. Reductions in this degrading enzyme would, of course, increase the amount of the cannabinoid present. The higher amount of the endocannabinoid present then decreases GnRH release, and this results in less FSH and LH release. The consequence of these gonadotropin decreases is a decrease in the release of estrogen from the ovaries. Estradiol also down-regulates FAAH activity peripherally in both the uterus and in immune cells.
Endocannabinoid activity as well as CB1 receptor function fluctuates throughout the menstrual cycle. In humans, the amount of anandamide circulating is higher during the follicular phase and highest during ovulation, while being lower during the luteal phase. It appears that the endocannabinoid system is significant in the regulation of the menstrual cycle and indeed does play a role in fertility. Various components of the endocannabinoid system have been found in the ovaries and uterus, and levels vary in a set manner during the time of embryo implantation. Data suggests that low anandamide levels are a requirement for implantation and for carrying a pregnancy to term, while high levels of anandamide facilitates the labor process. In fact, it has been found that during pregnancy there are low levels of anandamide present and a surge occurs near the time of labor onset. As well, with increased levels of anandamide or if an agonist of it is given results in early pregnancy, a higher rate of miscarriages in humans is seen.
In rats which were ovariectomized and then given estradiol, there was an increase in the production of anandamide, showing that estradiol has a direct impact on its production as well as regulating its degradation. In summary, though more complex than what will follow, as the two systems have multiple pathways of interconnectivity, it appears that estradiol modulates the receptor activity, the production, and the degradation of the endocannabinoids, both in the CNS and peripherally. In turn, the endocannabinoids downregulate the production of estradiol by decreasing the release of gonadotropins.
Estradiol administration in female rats elicits anxiolytic and antidepressant-like effects. Studies show that the impact on emotions which are due to estradiol are elicited through the endocannabinoid system. Research on the emotional and behavioral effects involved in the interplay between the endocannabinoid system and estradiol show that estradiol incorporates the endocannabinoid system in its behavioral effects and can down-regulate FAAH activity in the CNS, thereby increasing the levels of anandamide. Further confirming these findings are studies showing that when a CB1 receptor antagonist was given to rats, the anxiolytic effect of estradiol was blocked, and when a blocker of FAAH (the enzyme which degrades anandamide) was given, and levels of the endocannabinoid rose, and an anxiolytic effect occurred, precisely like that produced by estradiol.
Brain endocannabinoids have been recognized as major modulators of affect, motivation, and emotions, and the emerging connection to estradiol, and the other sex hormones, is only recently emerging and must now be recognized for their great significance in the functioning of this critical body system. We live in a world of endocrine disruptors, including pharmaceuticals which in fact are endocrine disruptors themselves – such as metformin, oral contraceptives, “hormonal” IUDs and implantables – and we should additionally recognize the inevitable and universal impact of menopause on the endocannabinoid system and its impact on women’s emotional regulation.
With the recent recognition of the critical and complex bidirectional effects of the endocannabinoid system and the dominant female hormone – estradiol, and of the impact of marijuana and other cannabinoids, including the heightened susceptibility of women to their effects of dependency – we have entered a new era, a new future filled with many potential opportunities both for the benefit and for the detriment of women. We must now begin our journey with the attainment of a solid knowledge-base of the endocannabinoid system, and an understanding of its complex role in reproductive, emotional, and immune health in women. We are obligated to provide in-depth education for women, to enable them to assess their risk of both the potential for good and for harm from their contraceptive choices, pharmaceuticals used, exposures to endocrine disruptors, and equip them with the ability to make good decisions regarding their use of marijuana for recreational use, as well as appropriate use of medicinal cannabis. And for us, the medical professionals, we will always stay cognizant of the intricate bidirectional systems involving estradiol and the endocannabinoid system, recognizing the interplay of these systems and of their implications for mental wellbeing.
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.