Studies show that the endocannabinoid system activates receptors in the endocrine system, and that cannabinoids like CBD have an effect on hormones related to sleep, stress, sexual activity, energy consumption, and much more. New cannabinoid therapies for endocrine disorders such as diabetes and menopause bone diseases are expected.
CANNABINOIDS TALK TO THE ENDOCRINE SYSTEM
Just like endocannabinoids, hormones are biochemical messengers involved in many aspects of our physiology. Our growth, behaviour, sleep, sexual function, energy consumption, and mood are all affected by hormones. Even our capacity to evaluate danger and elaborate a proper response depends on these compounds.
These natural regulators are produced by the endocrine system in glands such as the thyroid, pancreas, pineal gland, pituitary gland, hypothalamus, ovaries, and testicles. The hormones released by these glands include melatonin, testosterone, insulin, cortisol, glucagon, epinephrine, and many others. As an example, cortisol is the hormone that manages our response to stress and anxiety, while melatonin indicates to our body when it’s time to go to sleep and when to wake up. Internal or external factors such as ageing, stress, nutrition, and chemicals can unbalance the production of these messengers.
Our endocannabinoid system is closely linked to the endocrine system. Studies have shown that the endocannabinoid system activates receptors in the endocrine system, and that cannabinoid receptors have been found in many different endocrine glands. Consequently, CBD too can activate endocrine receptors in the brain, as much as all over the body.
Studies have shown that this cannabinoid actually interacts with the endocrine system, affecting processes like sleep cycle, stress signals, metabolism, and sexual activity. Some studies even indicate that endocannabinoids can control the proliferation of numerous types of endocrine cancer cells, leading to antitumor effects. In particular, they are able to inhibit cell growth and metastasis in some kinds of oncologic diseases, such as thyroid, breast, and prostate tumours.
The relationship between cannabinoids and hormone production suggests that these natural compounds may have therapeutic potential for treating endocrine disorders. One of the many challenges for cannabis science today is to understand how the endocrine system can be modulated by CBD and other cannabinoids in order to regulate hormone levels.
CBD AND METABOLIC HORMONES
Diabetes is one of the most common endocrine diseases, caused by reduced insulin production in the pancreas. Insulin balances our metabolism and energy levels by regulating nutrient absorption and storage, and by turning sugars into energy. Insulin imbalances can cause obesity, heart disease, and diabetes.
A wide variety of studies have explored the effects of cannabinoids on metabolism, as well as the relationship between CBD and diabetes. Some of them have shown how CBD impacts pancreas function and insulin production, thus influencing blood sugar levels. Given this newfound role of endocannabinoids in endocrine regulation and energy balance, the development of a CBD therapy that helps maintain healthy levels of insulin might be one of the next big things for cannabis medicine.
CBD AND SEXUAL HORMONES
In both males and females, the secretion of sex hormones is directly controlled by the pituitary gland and influenced by the hypothalamus. It appears that here too cannabinoids exert an action on the hypothalamic-pituitary-gonadal axis. There is an evident connection between endocannabinoid activity and the production of the female hormone estradiol. The endocannabinoid system has been found to contribute to the regulation of the menstrual cycle. The mechanisms are not well understood, but it appears clear that the endocannabinoid system impacts the release of gonadal hormones. Unfortunately, THC altered hypothalamic-pituitary-gonadal integrity and affected reproductive function in female mice. Chronic CBD exposure promoted impairment in sexual behaviour and fertility of male mice as well.
One area of cannabis science that’s showing great promise is the treatment of bone and joint diseases with cannabinoids. During menopause, fluctuations and a general reduction in sex hormones result in weaker bones and characteristic loss of bone density in women. Excessive GPR55 receptor activity is involved in this process, leading to bone tissue loss and, eventually, osteoporosis. There’s plenty of research indicating that CBD can inhibit GPR55 receptor activity by helping heal bones and preventing bone density loss. This CBD application may also help support bone health during cross-sex hormone therapies, while also reducing anxiety.
CBD AND SLEEP HORMONES
In the space of a few years, CBD has become widely recognised for its ability to treat stress and anxiety. That’s because among its biochemical interactions with our body, cannabidiol can also influence cortisol levels. In addition, CBD may stimulate the secretion of sleep hormones like melatonin by activating receptors in the pineal gland, thus improving sleep patterns. Moreover, the adrenal insufficiency and consequent fatigue that occurs when the adrenal glands cannot release enough cortisol and aldosterone might be combated by consuming CBD.
SUPPLEMENTING A HEALTHY DIET
Based on what we know so far, CBD is possibly able to improve the symptoms of endocrine disorders and restore hormonal balance, but the healing effects of this and other cannabinoids on hormonal diseases aren’t completely clear yet. Despite the promising results, research in this area is still in the preliminary stages. Success in tailoring a cannabinoid therapy for endocrine disorders would provide patients with natural alternatives to current drugs, yet it’s already safe to say that a daily intake of CBD can be beneficial for our endocrine system. Together with eating lean proteins, leafy greens, and omega-3 fats like the ones contained in hemp seeds, CBD can support hormonal homeostasis.