CBD Oil and Testosterone: Does It Affect Hormones?

Illustration of CBD and Testosterone
Written by Nina Julia | Last updated: October 13, 2021

The question about CBD and testosterone (and other hormones, for that matter) is one of the most frequently asked questions that we’re being hit lately — and we believe this is the right moment to elaborate on this subject.

After all, hormones play an important role in influencing and regulating a wide range of physiological and psychological processes.

So, does CBD affect testosterone?

Studies suggest that CBD, indeed, impacts testosterone levels — but we don’t know yet to what extent.

Here we explain the relationship between CBD and testosterone based on the cannabinoids’ interaction with the endocannabinoid system (ECS) — the most important regulatory network in all mammals.

Does CBD Affect Hormones?

Before we discuss the topic of CBD and testosterone, it’s important to understand how hormones work in the first place.

Hormones are specific chemical messengers that enable one part of the body to communicate with another, so the body is constantly working in a state of equilibrium.

As a whole, the hormones and the glands they’re produced in are known as the endocrine system.

Glands occur throughout the body, releasing specific hormones into the bloodstream so they can travel to different systems and organs in your body.

This, in turn, builds a communication network that provides your body with biological feedback.

The most important functions of hormones are:

  • Appetite
  • Energy
  • Fertility
  • Metabolism
  • Mood
  • Sex drive

Hormone levels naturally fluctuate depending on the time of the day, a person’s stage of life (e.g. pregnancy, adolescence, or menopause).

Hormones are also prone to imbalances throughout different stages of life. These imbalances can trigger different disorders, which can turn into chronic illnesses.

One of the major difficulties faced today is the impact of environmental toxins on our hormones. These include industrial chemicals, plastics, and pesticides that mess with the endocrine system.

How CBD Affects Hormones

CBD uses three different mechanisms to regulate hormonal functions.

1. Synthesis

Cannabinoid receptors occur throughout the body and respond to our naturally-produced endocannabinoids. When the endocannabinoids bind to these receptors, this can change the way hormones are secreted, altering their impact on target organs.

Since CBD indirectly modulates the endocannabinoid system (ECS), it has the potential to alter the synthetic and secretion of hormones in a similar way to endocannabinoids.

Hypothalamus is the brain’s region where most changes in hormone synthesis take place upon the activation of CB1 receptors. This triggers a series of hormonal reactions that send their messages to other glands, which then release and secrete their own hormones as a natural course of action.

2. Response

CBD can impact the ‘volume’ of signals received at a target organ from a hormone. The reaction of a cell receptor for specific hormones can be either amplified or dampened by cannabinoids — increasing or decreasing the strength of the message.

3. Breakdown

Hormones need to be broken down and flushed from the system once they have performed their function so that homeostasis can be maintained in the body. CBD can alter the pace at which enzymes break hormones down.

What is Testosterone?

Testosterone is a naturally-produced hormone that occurs in the primary sex organs of the human body. It is usually first produced during puberty and continues throughout life, eventually slowing after a person breaches the age of 30.

Testosterone plays an important role in many of the body’s functions. To begin with, it regulates your sex drive and is responsible for the production of sperm in men. It also helps in the development, growth, and maintenance of muscles and bones.

Other functions of testosterone include fat storage and the production of blood cells. The pituitary gland is where testosterone in your body is produced and distributed.

Low testosterone levels have been associated with:

  • Mood swings
  • Increased weight gain
  • Thinning body hair
  • Feelings of tiredness
  • Loss of muscle
  • More fragile bones

CBD And Testosterone: What’s the Role of the ECS?

The ECS is a system in the mammalian body that regulates all biological functions in the body through its receptors and chemical messengers known as endocannabinoids.

Among the many critical functions of the ECS is reproduction — the major reason why we’re discussing the relationship between CBD and testosterone.

The ECS is also used to provide the primary regulatory feedback to the hypothalamic-pituitary-gonadal (HPG) axis. Upon the activation of CB1 and CB2 receptors, the reproductive hormones are also stimulated.

But, unlike THC, CBD doesn’t have a direct affinity to the CB1 and CB2 receptors. Instead, it indirectly influences the ECS through gentle signaling and inhibiting the enzyme that breaks down endocannabinoids.

If CBD had the ability to bind to CB1 receptors, it could produce adverse effects on testosterone levels and the male reproductive system.

Research suggests that CBD could play a role in balancing testosterone levels. One early study on CBD and testosterone found that the male reproductive function in animal subjects could be influenced by both THC and CBD.

Another study published in Molecular and Cellular Endocrinology concluded that CBD might reduce the production of testosterone, but not to such an extent as THC.

What CBD cannot do, however, is lower the already-circulating serum testosterone levels in the blood, as indicated by a study posted by Drug Metabolism and Disposition that was performed on rats.

When you stop taking CBD, testosterone production should revert to its normal levels.

How Does CBD Affect Testosterone Levels?

The American Psychological Association outlines ongoing stress over an extended period of time as one of the main causes of lowered testosterone production, resulting in a reduction of sex drive and libido. Sometimes, chronic stress can even lead to erectile dysfunction or impotence.

Studies have shown that CBD can help increase the body’s testosterone levels by signaling the ECS to produce more of the hormones.

In a study released in the Journal of Psychopharmacology, CBD demonstrated anxiolytic (anti-anxiety) qualities.

The authors reported that CBD could be a natural way to treat social anxiety and general anxiety disorders along with cognitive behavioral therapy.

By reducing the amount of psychological stress a person experiences, CBD can help their body produce more testosterone and thus help to boost sperm’s ability to fertilize an egg.

When your body is chronically stressed, it takes a toll on your immune system, making you more vulnerable to infections as a result. In males, infections to the testes, prostate gland, and urethra can impact their reproductive functioning, including the concentrations of testosterone.

Research has shown that CBD also interferes with the release of cytokines, which are proteins involved in acute and chronic inflammation.

How Other Compounds In CBD Oil Can Help Regulate Testosterone Levels?

The essential fatty acids found in hemp extracts, such as CBD oil, have been shown to boost testosterone production.

A 2020 study published in the Asian Journal of Andrology investigated the association between fat intake and reproductive hormone levels among healthy human participants.

The study found that ingestion of polyunsaturated fats, such as omega-3 and 6, can increase hormone concentrations.

Ultimately, the research team showed that people who consume more essential fatty acids experienced enhanced testicular function, directly translating into higher levels of testosterone.

Should You Use CBD to Support Testosterone?

It’s important to note that all cannabinoids are going to affect your testosterone levels because of their relationship with the ECS.

Research is still being fueled into CBD and testosterone. The majority of evidence suggests that using CBD daily won’t increase your testosterone levels, but it’s not going to decrease them either.

However, by influencing certain processes in the brain, CBD can ease stress, reduce pain and tension, help us achieve more restful sleep, and regulate other functions that contribute to higher testosterone concentrations.

So, while CBD oil alone won’t directly affect your testosterone levels, its balancing effects on the endocannabinoid system can make it a desired side effect.

Other Hormones Affected by CBD

Testosterone isn’t the only hormone affected by CBD. Here’s how the cannabinoid may interact with other hormones in your body.

Thyroid Hormones

Although no study has directly analyzed the effects of CBD on thyroid hormones, the ECS is engaged in regulating their levels.

Endocannabinoids encourage the sparing and storage of energy, partially by lowering thyroid hormone levels.

CBD could theoretically act on thyroid hormones both ways, as it can both dampen and amplify the activity of endocannabinoids. Whether CBD may decrease or increase thyroid hormones depends on your thyroid’s overall health.

Researchers found that anandamide suppresses TSH only in normal and in hypothyroid conditions (high TSH), and not in hyperthyroid conditions, where TSH is low.

The above suggests that CBD, as well as endocannabinoids, have adaptogenic properties, helping to balance individuals according to their own needs.

Estradiol E2 (Estrogen)

Estrogen levels influence sexual development, fertility, and susceptibility of females to certain diseases such as breast cancer.

Studies using CBD in cell cultures found that it suppressed estrogen production directly by blocking an enzyme that converts testosterone into it (aromatase).

Aromatase blockers are used to lower estrogen levels in cases of post-menopause and breast cancer. CBD can also speed up the breakdown of estrogen by acting on p450 enzymes in the liver.

However, these antiestrogenic effects of CBD haven’t been replicated on animal or human models so far.

Moderate to high amounts of CBD were not linked to changes in estrogen after 90 days in female monkeys.

Growth Hormone

Growth hormone signals the regeneration and reproduction of cells, aiding the body in healthy growth and development.

Increased growth hormone contributes to :

  • Enhanced ability to burn fat
  • High energy levels
  • Increased muscle muss
  • Improved exercise capacity
  • Stronger bones

CBD hasn’t been shown to affect growth hormones, unlike THC, which has been shown by observational studies to lower the growth hormone levels in adults.

Insulin

Insulin is a key hormone in regulating your metabolic health. It has a great impact on energy levels and body weight.

In a recent study, CBD was able to help those with diabetes by reducing high levels of insulin while maintaining correct blood sugar levels. In other words, CBD sensitizes muscles and liver cells to absorb more sugar, helping to maintain its stable concentrations.

CBD also reduced body weight gain in rats by reducing insulin.

Low doses of CBD haven’t been shown to affect the insulin level of patients.

That being said, a 2018 study showed that frequent cannabis users have 16% lower fasting insulin levels than non-users, and since CBD is the second major cannabinoid in the plant, it can either enhance such effects in THC or provide these benefits on its own (which may not be experienced with lower THC levels).

Cortisol

Also known as the stress hormone, it signals the body of an upcoming danger. Short-term cortisol spikes are beneficial and mean that we’re actually aware of potentially dangerous things in our environment.

CBD has remarkable stress-relieving properties. It acts as a braking system on the stress response by influencing the GABA neurotransmitter, which slows down the nervous system. It can also affect cannabinoid receptors in the hypothalamus — the brain’s region that is connected to adrenal glands. This interaction slows down the release of cortisol and allows us to relax.

Human studies have proved that CBD modulates cortisol release, pointing to it as the major reason why people use CBD for stress and anxiety.

Key Takeaways on How CBD Affects Testosterone

Although CBD doesn’t directly affect testosterone levels, in the long run, it can facilitate certain processes in the body that help it maintain high levels of this hormone. This is possible thanks to the modulatory actions of CBD on the endocannabinoid system, which is engaged in reproductive functions.

CBD can reduce stress, improve your sleep, lower anxiety, ease pain and inflammation, and improve your metabolic health — all of which contribute to proper testosterone levels.

If you’re not used to cannabinoids such as CBD and THC, you may experience some initial changes in your hormones. However, as your endocannabinoid system gets accustomed to CBD, these hormones will eventually return to their normal levels.

To wrap it up, we recommend consulting a doctor experienced in cannabis use before embarking on a CBD regimen or using it as an adjunct treatment.

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Nina created CFAH.org following the birth of her second child. She was a science and math teacher for 6 years prior to becoming a parent — teaching in schools in White Plains, New York and later in Paterson, New Jersey.

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