Cannabis affects many hormones in the body in different ways. The effect depends on the components in the cannabis that was consumed and their respective dosage. One of the hormones that cannabis can affect is testosterone. Cannabidiol (CBD) is a major component of cannabis that researchers believe may play a role in affecting the production of testosterone.
CBD and the endocannabinoid system
CBD is one of the active components found in the cannabis plant. It is non-psychoactive and has several effects on the body due to its action on the endocannabinoid system.
What is testosterone?
Testosterone is a reproductive hormone that is produced by the Leydig cells within the testes of males. Additionally, a smaller amount is produced in the ovaries, adrenal glands, and fat tissue of females.
The production of testosterone involves the secretion of various signals. First, a hormone called gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH) is sent from the hypothalamus to the pituitary gland. From here, the luteinizing hormone (LH) and the follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) are released, with LH being sent to the testes to produce testosterone.
Testosterone is important for male sexual development, muscle growth, sex drive, fertility, and bone growth, among other functions. It is essential to have adequate levels of testosterone to optimize reproductive health. Because of this, if you are currently using cannabis or are considering using it, it is important to consider the effects that CBD may have on your testosterone production.
How do the cannabinoids in cannabis affect testosterone production?
Cannabinoids, including THC, exert their effects through the endocannabinoid system. This is a cell-signaling network that plays a part in many body processes, including reproductive functioning. In particular, it is known that the endocannabinoid system is associated with testosterone production.
The endocannabinoid system consists of cannabinoid receptors, the endocannabinoids that are produced naturally, and other signaling molecules called neurotransmitters. The cannabinoid receptors can be found throughout the body. This includes within the hypothalamus and pituitary gland (where the signals for producing testosterone are released), and in the Leydig cells within the testes (where testosterone is produced).
Although CBD does not directly bind to these cannabinoid receptors, it is thought that it exerts its function in different ways through signaling mechanisms to ultimately affect testosterone production.
Research has shown that moderate consumption of cannabis does affect the production and release of testosterone, although the results from these studies are mixed. While some studies suggest that long-term use of cannabis increases testosterone production, others report that it reduces testosterone production.
For example, one study showed that testosterone levels were slightly higher in men who currently use marijuana and in those who use it frequently, compared to men who have never used it.
However, it is important to recognize that cannabis is made up of many cannabinoids in addition to CBD. Many studies suggest that THC is the cannabinoid that is more likely to directly suppress testosterone production. In addition, some studies have shown that THC and other cannabinoid agonists suppress testosterone production. This is likely because the binding of THC onto these receptors results in a reduction in the release of the hormone that triggers the production of testosterone.
Although the effects of the whole cannabis plant and THC on testosterone production have been researched, the evidence supporting any direct effects of CBD itself on testosterone production is limited, especially concerning human-based studies.
However, researchers still support the idea that CBD is responsible for influencing the production of testosterone through other mechanisms. It’s already been shown to slow down testosterone breakdown in the liver of rats. It is believed that CBD inhibits the enzyme that breaks testosterone down, which leads to higher circulating testosterone levels. This is a promising finding, although a larger than normal dose was used and it has not yet been replicated in humans.
Can CBD increase testosterone levels?
Currently, there is little evidence to suggest that CBD directly increases testosterone levels.
Despite this, it is thought that CBD could indirectly increase testosterone levels. This is because CBD has anti-inflammatory and anti-anxiety properties, which in turn could help influence some of the factors that alter testosterone production and levels in the body. Doing so is believed to help naturally increase or maintain testosterone levels.
CBD is a well-known anti-inflammatory agent. It has been shown to interact with cytokines, which are small proteins that are partially responsible for increasing inflammation in the body.
This interaction likely occurs when CBD indirectly stimulates the cannabinoid type 2 (CB2) receptors in the endocannabinoid system. It is thought that this ultimately leads to a reduction in inflammatory cytokines, which in turn may reduce inflammation.
Also, inflammation has been associated with low testosterone levels. This is thought to occur due to a range of acute and chronic inflammatory conditions, including sepsis, burns, or autoimmune diseases, in addition to obesity-related inflammation.
This means that the anti-inflammatory effects of CBD could subsequently enhance natural testosterone production.
Anti-anxiety and stress-relieving effects
Cortisol is sometimes known as the ‘stress hormone’ because it is secreted into the blood when your brain perceives a stressful situation. It has various effects on the body which helps it cope with these situations. According to human research, there is an association between having high levels of cortisol and low levels of testosterone.
Another known function of CBD is its role as an anxiolytic agent. This means that it can relieve stress and provide anti-anxiety effects, which have been demonstrated in animal and human studies. This is because CBD interacts with some of the receptors that regulate fear and anxiety, such as the CB1 and serotonin receptors. Activation or modulation of these receptors by CBD can protect against the effects of chronic stress.
CBD has also been shown to have the potential to reduce cortisol levels.
This could help ensure that adequate amounts of testosterone are produced in people who may have higher cortisol levels.
Can CBD decrease testosterone levels?
More human-based research is needed to fully determine the effects of CBD on testosterone production.
A lot of the research done on how CBD could directly reduce testosterone is animal-based. However, some of these animal studies have shown that CBD could reduce testosterone production by inhibiting an enzyme called cytochrome p450, which is important for the production of testosterone in the testes.
It has also been found that CBD (and THC) lead to changes in the functioning of the gonads, which then lead to hormonal imbalances and a subsequent decrease in testosterone in rats.
A further early study also found that prenatal exposure to CBD in maternal mice may lead to reduced testosterone production and overall levels in male mice.
Again, these findings have not yet been replicated in humans, so researchers are currently unsure whether CBD also reduces testosterone production through these mechanisms in humans.
How to use CBD to support testosterone production
Since there haven’t been many human-based studies, scientists haven’t determined which method of using CBD is best for testosterone production. You can smoke CBD or use edibles, oils, topicals, or isolate extracts.
If you are currently on a specific treatment plan for regulating your testosterone levels, you should always speak with a medical professional before making any changes to ensure it will be safe for you to do so.
There are many cannabis strains that have a high proportion of CBD compared to THC, which you may want to look into. Some examples are ACDC, Ringo’s Gift, and Harle-Tsu.
You could also consider the differences between different types of CBD extracts. For example, broad-spectrum CBD does not contain THC, and CBD isolate is purely CBD, without any other components of cannabis.
The bottom line
Currently, there is not enough evidence to determine any direct effects CBD may have on the production of testosterone. This is because these studies have been animal-based and have had mixed results on the effect that they have on the production of testosterone. Also, even though chronic use of cannabis as a whole has been suggested to reduce testosterone production, it is not known if this applies to CBD or if it is only due to THC.
Despite this, CBD likely plays an indirect role in affecting the production of testosterone. This is because of the connections between the endocannabinoid system and the reproductive system. The anti-inflammatory and anti-anxiety/stress-relieving properties of CBD also contribute to the influence that it has on the production of testosterone.
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