Marijuana can help regulate many things in the body from mood to pain management due to its interaction with the endocannabinoid system. This has many cannabis consumers wondering: Does cannabis affect hormone levels? And if so, how?
In this article you will learn how your brain and hormone levels are affected by marijuana, and how certain hormones can alter the effect marijuana has on your body.
Turns out, THC and your hormones interact quite a bit. Recent research has found that estrogen makes women more sensitive to cannabis. Men, however, may lose out on some of the herb’s key benefits.
Many adults who use marijuana claim it helps them in relationships, enhances behavior, and expands their sense of awareness. Cannabis work so efficiently because of the endocannabinoid system, present in all humans and many animals as well. This system consists of a series of receptors that are configured only to accept cannabinoids, especially tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD). The human body’s endocrine system consists of glands throughout the body which regulate everything from energy levels to metabolism to sex drive. CB1 receptors can be found throughout this system and influence the release of many hormones. The fact that there is a system in our body that produces cannabinoids, and is specifically designed to accept just them, should be overwhelming proof of cannabis’ efficacy as a medicine.
Dopamine, Serotonin, Oxytocin, and Endorphins are the brains quartet responsible for your happiness. Many situations can trigger these neurotransmitters, but instead of being in the passenger seat, there are ways you can intentionally cause them to flow with cannabis.
Women have a particularly interesting reaction to cannabis due to estrogen levels. A Washington State University research team found that women experience the most effects from THC when estrogen has peaked and is beginning to fall. Estrogen levels play a role in how receptive your brain is to external cannabinoids, as researchers propose that estrogen receptors are along the pathway for THC intake. The highest levels of the body’s natural endocannabinoids tend to be during ovulation, and there is evidence that endocannabinoid action can assist fertility in women.
The Washington State research also found something interesting about pain. The interaction between estrogen and THC makes women more sensitive to the compound in general, which gave the cannabis greater pain-relieving effects for females providing 30% more pain relief than men with THC treatment.
In a small 2010 study, women reported more severe cannabis withdrawal symptoms than their male counterparts. These withdrawal symptoms were mostly physical. Women tend to experience more sleep disruption, lack of appetite, and irritability.
In low doses, cannabis causes an increase in female libido. High doses, however, seem to have the opposite effect. Estrogen is once again the culprit behind this effect. Estrogen levels are major contributors to female sex drive.
Men tend to consume cannabis in greater amounts and at higher rates than women do which creates higher rates of delta9-tetrahydrocannabinol (delta9-THC) in their bloodstream. Men are less sensitive to cannabis, so the herb’s pain-relieving qualities are a bit blunted by comparison. Back in 2013, Craft and her team tested THC’s effect against chronic pain in rats. Female rats fared much better than males when it came to symptom relief. Men will have to consume more to get similar results.
For some men, smoking and vaporizing cannabis can decrease sexual appetite and sperm production. As weird as it is, some studies have shown that cannabis does not lower testosterone levels, despite the fact that a pile of studies has already shown that it does. Albeit, these studies do contain research which shows cannabis to suppress testosterone, the abstracts still cleverly state that “chronic marijuana use showed no significant effect on hormone concentrations in men”.
Cannabis is more likely to spur hunger in men than in women. So, when you’re smoking with a lady friend, there’s a reason why you eat 3/4s of a pizza and your companion is satisfied after a couple of slices. In fact, according to Rebecca Craft’s work with Washington State University, increased appetite was one of the only cannabis side effects increased in men.
Though we need to further study cannabis’ effects on all genders, preliminary research shows that the answer to “does cannabis affect hormone levels?” is yes. Studies show that consuming cannabis does indeed have hormonal consequences.
These effects are largely on reproductive hormones like testosterone and estrogen, and on growth hormone. This information, while relevant to everyone, is especially useful for those going through or seeking hormone replacement therapy.
As cannabis use increases, we’ll have more time, and a larger sample pool, to study its impacts on a grand scale.