Cannabis & the Endocrine System
The endocrine system properly maintains the production and release of hormones that regulate growth.
Healthy organs and hundreds of biologic reaction in the human body heavily depend on how well our endocrine system is functioning. Its purpose is to keep the body synchronized and functioning optimally. Hormones excite the body into action and a disruption of hormone levels means a disrupted life. The endocrine system properly maintains the production and release of hormones that regulate growth, energy, metabolism, sexual function, sleep, and mood. Having imbalanced hormones or organs that fail to respond to these hormones greatly impacts our overall health, especially in the long-term, so finding out how cannabis can play a role in this system is vital in knowing how it can improve or decrease our quality of life.
When a gland of the endocrine system receives signals from an outside stimulus or from the brain, it can release a hormone that either signals other glands or organs to start working or to stop working. Hormones act as the communicators between the brain and body through the endocrine glands. Hormones must be released in a timely and efficient manner in order to maintain homeostasis and optimal physiologic function based.
For example, it’s been found that cannabis can either decrease of stimulate the pituitary’s production of melatonin, the hormone responsible for our sleep cycle. Animal trials suggest it depletes melatonin while some human studies have found it actually increases it. THC disrupts a neurotransmitter called norepinephrine, which is responsible for regulating the production of melatonin. This may help explain why some strains make us feel sleepy and others increase energy. More studies must be designed to investigate this effect, though it’s believed differing ratios of cannabinoids can explain the different results.
Our emotions result in various chemicals being released in our brains and bodies, especially certain stress hormones from the adrenal glands. Problems such as chronic anxiety and depression may be calmed using cannabis, reducing the stress that an imbalance of hormones neurotransmitters can cause. Studies have found that CBD activates not only CB2 receptors, but TRPV1 and 5HT1A receptors that are involved in mitigating the fight or flight response. Impact on this system depends on the dose, tolerance, strain, and terpenes that act synergistically with cannabinoids. Consuming above tolerance levels may induce the opposite effect and increases anxiety.
Data analysis has found that cannabis users are more likely to have normal levels of thyroid stimulation hormone produced by the pituitary gland compared to non-users that are seemingly more prone to either have too much or too little. More studies are still needed to investigate the plant’s effects on an over or under active thyroid gland to draw any real conclusions.
A study done at Harvard Medical School found that cannabis consumers consistently had lower fasting insulin levels as well as reduced insulin resistance. Subsequently, research done by Michigan State University, that collected data from eight other studies, indicated that cannabis consumers tend to have a 30% reduction in diabetes risk. This could prove extremely insightful and possibly lead to new medical treatments involving cannabis for diabetes. However, more studies must take place before we can understand the proper means of treating diabetic patients with cannabis.
Currently there is no evidence that leads to the conclusion cannabis affects the endocrine system negatively like an endocrine disrupting toxin would. This includes a study that found electrolytes aren’t depleted despite the plant’s ability to cause the sensation of dehydration due to side-effects like dry mouth. However, some studies have found that testosterone levels in males may fluctuate depending on recency of consumption. This is further explained in our video regarding the reproductive system.