CBD, or cannabidiol, is one of the main compounds found in hemp and cannabis plants. It has received a lot of attention recently for its wide array of beneficial properties.
But how exactly does CBD work? Unfortunately, the answer to this question is very complex. CBD impacts receptors all over the body, producing a variety of outcomes, including those affecting hormone production.
In this article, we explore how CBD affects the endocrine system and the production of hormones like cortisol, insulin, and melatonin.
UNDERSTANDING HORMONES AND THE ENDOCRINE SYSTEM
Before we look at the specific effects of CBD on hormones, it’s important to have a basic understanding of hormones themselves, the endocrine system, and the relationship between the two.
Hormones are essentially chemical messengers. They are involved in numerous bodily processes, including growth and development, metabolism and appetite, sexual function, reproduction, and mood.
The endocrine system is made up of a variety of glands that produce hormones, such as the thyroid, pancreas, pineal gland, and others. The hormones produced by these glands are particularly powerful chemicals that can sustain major effects on the body, even in small amounts.
HOW CBD AFFECTS HORMONES
When we ingest cannabinoids like CBD, they interact with our body’s natural endocannabinoid system, or ECS. This is a complex system involved in managing bodily processes, including appetite, mood, and many more.
Studies have shown that the endocannabinoid system is also involved in managing endocrine processes. It does so by activating receptors in the brain and body, which directly influence activity in endocrine glands like the thyroid, pineal, and pituitary glands.
Hence, by stimulating the endocannabinoid system, CBD and other cannabinoids can directly affect hormone levels in the body. Below are examples of how CBD affects the levels of major hormones.
CBD AND CORTISOL
One of the major roles of the endocrine system is to manage our response to stress. It does so via hormones like epinephrine (also known as adrenaline) and cortisol.
Cortisol is one of the main hormones involved in managing stress response. It is also involved in managing metabolism, memory, and even the healing of wounds. The human body naturally produces cortisol in the adrenal gland.
Cortisol is vital to human survival and is responsible for mediating our natural “fight or flight” response. However, increased levels of cortisol are problematic, producing symptoms that can range from weight gain and mood swings to increased anxiety.
Numerous studies have already argued that CBD can directly affect hormone levels. More specifically, studies have found that CBD lowers cortisol levels in the brain by interfering with the excretion of the hormone in the adrenal gland. This is extremely important in managing the balance of healthy cortisol levels and reducing symptoms of stress.
CBD AND INSULIN
Another important role of the endocrine system is managing metabolism. One of the many ways it does so is by producing vital hormones in the pancreas. These hormones include glucagon, somatostatin, and insulin, among others.
Insulin is an important hormone that helps the body absorb and store nutrients from food. Without insulin, sugar from food would not be able to pass from your bloodstream into individual cells.
Much like with cortisol (and most other hormones), insulin imbalances can have detrimental effects on one’s health. A lack of insulin, for example, leads to an increase in blood sugar levels (hyperglycemia), while too much insulin leads to low blood sugar (hypoglycemia).
One of the most common conditions arising from insulin problems is diabetes. People with diabetes suffer from constantly high blood sugar levels because their bodies struggle to produce or use insulin properly.
A wide variety of studies have explored the effects of cannabinoids on metabolism, as well as the relationship between cannabinoids and diabetes. Some studies have shown that CBD can directly impact the functioning of the pancreas, ultimately affecting insulin production, blood sugar levels, and more.
CBD AND MELATONIN
It goes without saying that sleep is extremely important for good health. Our endocrine system is heavily involved in managing sleep by using hormones like melatonin to induce sleep or manage energy levels. Melatonin is produced in the pineal gland of the brain.
Melatonin is one of the most important hormones involved in our sleep cycle. For example, melatonin levels change based on our circadian rhythm and tend to spike in the evening. Environmental factors such as darkness also impact melatonin levels.
The endocannabinoid system has been shown to be very involved in the management of sleep. In fact, a study published in the Public Library Of Science’s journal PLoS One found that the endocannabinoid system directly regulates sleep stability via activation of CB1 receptors.
Cannabinoid receptors have been found in many different glands of the endocrine system. By activating receptors in the pineal gland, CBD may help stimulate the secretion of sleep hormones like melatonin, ultimately affecting sleep and energy levels.
CBD AND HOMEOSTASIS
Studies have shown that cannabinoids like CBD can have direct influences on the production and secretion of hormones like cortisol, insulin, melatonin, and others. Therefore, cannabinoids and the endocannabinoid system sustain a direct influence on homeostasis.
Homeostasis refers to the internal balance needed for organisms to function properly. In humans, homeostasis basically ensures we are in working order. Some examples of the variables that maintain this balance include:
• Body temperature
• Heart rate
• Blood pressure
• Sleep cycle
One of the key areas responsible for regulating these variables is the hypothalamus, a region of the brain made up of nerve cell clusters located just above the brainstem. The hypothalamus is one of the main parts of the body’s endocrine system.
Just like other regions of the brain, the hypothalamus contains cannabinoid receptors. Research suggests that targeting these receptors and stimulating them with cannabinoids like CBD, for example, can help manage the many processes required for homeostasis.
SUPPLEMENTING WITH CBD
As we’ve seen, CBD and the endocannabinoid system have very clear effects on hormone levels in the body. If you suffer from hormonal imbalances, CBD may help you bring homeostasis back to your body.