From growth spurts and acne to menopause and mood swings, hormones are behind so much of what we experience as humans.
The endocrine system is the hub of all hormone functions. Another system called the endocannabinoid system (ECS) is closely linked to it. Both systems are essential in keeping the body in a state of homeostasis (a state of balance).
The ECS is where cannabis compounds known as cannabinoids interact with the body.
Which begs the question: How does the cannabinoid CBD affect hormones?
To get to the bottom of it, we’re exploring:
First, let’s make sure we’re clear on what the endocrine system does so we can understand where the ECS ties in.
The role of the endocrine system is to send messages in the form of hormones throughout the body. This helps regulate a broad range of organs and responses.
The endocrine system sends hormonal signals from one part of the body to another. Let’s take a look at the organs it’s composed of and what each of them does.
Endocrine organs secrete hormones, which makes them glands. Each endocrine gland has an assignment, secreting and sending hormones to a specific location where they do their job to keep the body healthy.
There are nine main endocrine glands:
As you can see, endocrine glands have some big responsibilities. We rely on the endocrine system to:
When a part of the endocrine system isn’t functioning properly, it can lead to a hormone imbalance. This can cause complications — such as thyroid disease, Cushing syndrome, diabetes, sleep disorders, sexual dysfunction, and other health challenges.
Hormone imbalance may also lead to complications during puberty, menopause, menstruation, and pregnancy.
The endocrine system does a lot to keep a body in balance. But what keeps the endocrine system in check?
That would be the endocannabinoid system, also known as the ECS.
Made up of receptors, enzymes, and endocannabinoids, the ECS is a network with far-reaching influence in the body.
There are two main endocannabinoid receptors:
One function of the ECS is to intercept neurological signals and control how those signals are transmitted. The research available right now suggests that CB1 receptors in the brain guide activity in the brain, directing a broad stroke of functions including:(2)
Like any system, the ECS can become unbalanced and cause health issues — this is called endocannabinoid deficiency disorder.(3) Research suggests that cannabinoids could aid in the stabilization of a flagging ECS.(4)
Scientists keep digging deeper into the ECS and its relationship with the endocrine and other systems. The ECS was discovered through cannabis research, and cannabinoids continue to be a topic of focus in the ECS research space.
Which brings us to the next piece of this puzzle: CBD….
As we learned above, when cannabinoids — like our friend CBD — come into the ECS picture, they mimic your natural endocannabinoids and mingle with receptors.
The receptors then decide what to do with their new clingy pals and what to tell the rest of the body about the cannabinoids. At the same time, the receptors are also sending word to the endocrine system. Here’s how this connection might affect these major hormones:
You might know cortisol by another name: the stress hormone.
Cortisol is indeed at the wheel of your stress response. Some cortisol here and there is a good thing — it helps your body respond to threats. But excess cortisol can result in anxiety, weight gain, high blood pressure, and other mental and physical symptoms.
A common misconception is that only women have estrogen. Not true!
Estrogen is produced in reproductive organs (ovaries or testicles) as well as adrenal glands and fat cells, which take orders from the pituitary gland. Estrogen determines susceptibility to breast cancer and other diseases while influencing sexual development and fertility and impacting mood and energy.
Estrogen levels are often behind symptoms of PMS and menopause, causing anxiety and depression by changing serotonin levels.
Because estrogen has a big scope of function in the body, there’s still a lot to learn about how CBD could change them. It could lower estrogen through several pathways, directly and indirectly.(6,7) This could explain why many women feel benefits when they use CBD oil for mood swings and other PMS symptoms.
Just as estrogen isn’t solely a female hormone, testosterone is present in all sexes.
Low testosterone can cause low sex drive, depression, fatigue, mood changes, muscle weakness, and weight gain. In women, low testosterone could lead to fertility issues. In men, it can cause erectile dysfunction.
The hypothalamus sends a message to the reproductive organs to produce testosterone. When the hormone runs its course, it gets broken down in the liver. Initial research hints that CBD might reduce certain liver enzymes that break it down, which could be helpful if testosterone levels are low.(8)
Insulin is produced by the pancreas, which responds to blood glucose levels.
When insulin is overproduced, the body has a hard time keeping blood sugar levels steady and maintaining a healthy weight, leading to diabetes and obesity.
Melatonin helps you feel sleepy when the hypothalamus says it’s time for some shuteye.
Although melatonin levels haven’t been measured alongside CBD usage in a research setting, better sleep is a commonly reported benefit of CBD oil. (Skim through our Reviews and you’ll see testimony of this!) With CBD interacting with CB1 receptors in the hypothalamus, it makes sense there would be a connection between CBD usage and better sleep.
If you struggle to feel sleepy at night, you might consider CBD oil with melatonin. It could be the helping hand your sleep hormone needs.
The endocrine system is made up of glands that circulate hormones throughout the body.
The ECS and the endocrine system are closely linked, and the ECS is the gatekeeper between CBD and the endocrine system. Through the ECS, CBD has an avenue to change hormone function, which could be useful for hormone imbalance therapies and overall wellness.
While research continues to delve into CBD’s therapeutic potential, CBD oil is a natural option for those looking for holistic hormone solutions.
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