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CBD and Testosterone: Does CBD Oil Lower Testosterone
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Today’s article is going to cover the research and biology around CBD and testosterone. I’ve gotten a lot of questions regarding CBD and testosterone, and it turns out this is quite the interesting subject (and pretty confusing to be honest).
Note: I want to make it very clear that CBD and THC are very different compounds in the context of this system I am about to describe. In fact, they appear to act almost opposite of one another, as you will see. Therefore, it’s important to understand that research on THC on the subject of testosterone and reproduction is going to yield entirely different results from CBD, as they act massively different on the biochemical level.
So in this post on CBD testosterone and all manner of related information, I’m going to first look at why you want to preserve your testosterone, then what the research says about CBD and testosterone.
The Endocannabinoid System And Testosterone
To understand this topic properly I think it’s pertinent to understand the interplay between the endocannabinoid system in the human body and the hypothalamic-pituitary axis, which is chiefly responsible for all testosterone production.
The endocannabinoid system (ECS) is made up of the endogenous cannabinoid ligands, their congeners, and the enzymes needed for the metabolism of these ligands, as well as their transporter proteins and receptors.12 The ECS appears to be an evolutionarily preserved master system within both mammals and invertebrates. Cannabinoids are dispersed all over the body from the central nervous system to testicles, peripheral nerves, the spleen and uterus.3 The ECS plays a key role in reproduction,4 an understanding of which5 will help us truly understand the impact CBD oil may have on your testosterone levels.
Four major endocannabinoids have been discovered and classified: arachidonoylglycerol ether, virodhamine, N-arachidonoylethanolamine or anandamide (AEA), and 2-arachidonoylglycerol (2-AG).6
AEA and 2-AG are considered the two chief endocannabinoids in the human body.7
These endocannabinoids act on the CB1 and CB2 receptors.8 Direct stimulation of the CB1 and CB2 receptors appears to lead to a decrease in cAMP production.9
The Endocannabinoid System and Male Reproduction
The ECS maintains a presence in many integral tissues related to male reproduction. Endocannabinoids and cannabinoid receptors can be found in testicular tissue, including Sertoli and Leydig cells, as well as in sperm.
The ECS was also discovered in areas of the hypothalamus responsible for the release of GnRH, or gonadotropin releasing hormone, which is responsible for triggering the release of pro-reproductive pituitary hormones such as LH and FSH. So it’s pretty obvious that the ECS is intricately tied to the human reproductive system… but exactly what type of role does it play?
Let’s take a closer look.
The ECS and The HPG Axis
The ECS is closely linked to the HPG axis since CB1 receptors are expressed in the anterior pituitary, leydig cells, and sertoli cells. CB2 receptors can be found in Sertoli cells as well.10
To make a long story short, it would appear as though the ECS is one of the main regulatory feedback mechanisms in the HPG axis, meaning when CB1 and CB2 receptors are activated, reproductive hormones and signaling are antagonized. However it is not completely binary like we may want (I wish it was, it’d be easier to understand), as studies have also shown that when the ECS is not healthy, or when cannabinoid receptors are blocked, humans also suffer from reproductive function issues.11
The ECS is also found in sperm cells, and would appear as though it plays a modulatory function as well.12
THC, CBD, Phytocannabinoids and Male Reproductive Function
As you might have expected by this point in the analysis, it would appear as though any cannabinoid that binds directly to the CB1 and CB2 receptors – such as THC – will have a negative impact (at least while it is in the blood stream) – on male reproductive function, since the ECS plays a modulatory role in the HPG axis.
THC has been shown repeatedly to lower testosterone synthesis via suppressed leydig cell enzymatic activity, basically acting as an endocrine disruptor (study, study, study, study, study, study). However, these two studies showed no significant change in plasma testosterone levels when smoking marijuana (study, study), so I suppose we need to look at everything in context here.
This is obviously not entirely good news for heavy marijuana smokers, since marijuana is so high in THC. However, marijuana is relatively low in CBD content, so what about the role of CBD in this system, since I mentioned in another article recently how CBD actually does NOT directly bind to the CB1 and CB2 receptors, it actually tends to work indirectly in the ECS as well as through other neurotransmitter systems in the body.
Let’s take a look…
Long story short: CBD, cannabidiol appears to – while it’s in your system – slow down the production of testosterone, however at the same time it also suppresses the breakdown (oxidation) of testosterone in the liver, and it does not lower circulating serum testosterone levels in the blood. It also appears to reduce acne.
CBD also lowers prolactin and cortisol levels, which is positive.
Conclusion on CBD and Testosterone
The interplay between the ECS and the HPG axis actually seems like a quiet complicated topic – more complicated than I made it out to be here in this article. I wanted to keep things as simple and easy to digest as possible for the readers here.
The things that we can take away from this basic understanding are as follows:
- THC in high amounts does not appear to help your male reproductive health at all, since the THC binds directly to CB1 and CB2 receptors, causing a modulatory response in the tissues (testis, hypothalamus, etc).
- However… studies have also shown that marijuana use does not effect testosterone levels. While other studies have shown that it does.
- CBD does not bind directly to CB1 and CB2 receptors, therefore its effects are more favorable to the male reproductive system than THC, and the findings are more consistent.
- CBD exerts a protective effect for testosterone in the liver
- CBD does appear to slow T synthesis in the Leydig cells, however at the same time it does not lower serum testosterone levels. It seems to just slow down this production process while it’s in the blood stream, but then T production returns to normal when the CBD is gone. No long term damage is done – it seems like the body is using some kind of prioritization while CBD is present.
- CBD also lowers prolactin and lowers cortisol levels in the body. This is favorable. Men want lower prolactin and lower cortisol, as both of them are inversely correlated with testosterone levels in research.