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Progesterone and estrogen are the primary female sex hormones. Both hormones play a critical role in regulating female reproductive systems and contribute to general wellbeing.
Emerging research suggests that cannabidiol (CBD) may modulate the expression of certain hormones, such as progesterone and estrogen. However, research exploring the effects of CBD on these hormones is still at a nascent stage, and findings are mixed.
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What Are Progesterone and Estrogen?
More than fifty hormones have been identified in the human body. Hormones are chemical messengers released by endocrine glands into the bloodstream, where they travel to receptor sites in the organs and tissues to trigger change. The master gland controls the function of most glands in the body, called the pituitary gland.
Men and women generally have the same hormones, although they occur in different quantities, are produced at various sites, and interact with organs and bodily systems differently.
Progesterone and estrogen are the most dominant hormones in women, while testosterone is the most prevalent hormone in men. However, men also produce progesterone and estrogen, albeit at lower levels. Progesterone and estrogen both play essential roles in men’s and women’s reproductive health.
Progesterone is a “precursor” or building block hormone that helps manufacture sex hormones, such as estrogen and testosterone. The ovaries secrete this essential hormone in women and the testes in men. In women, progesterone has the specific role of regulating menstruation and supporting female reproduction. In men, progesterone has the critical function of helping to produce testosterone and influences the production of sperm (spermiogenesis).
However, progesterone also contributes to some other vital physiological functions in both women and men, such as:
- Regulating blood sugar.
- Building bone mass.
- Regulating brain activity.
- Converting fat into energy.
- Regulating thyroid production.
- Sparking libido.
- Balancing mood.
- Helping support sleep.
There are three major forms of estrogen: estradiol, estrone, and estriol. Estradiol, the most predominant form of estrogen in men, influences erectile function, libido, and the production of sperm. In men, estrogens are primarily produced in the testes, adrenal glands, and the brain.
Estradiol is the most common form of estrogen in women during the reproductive years, contributing to the growth of the egg follicle in preparation for conception/menstruation, the thickness and health of the uterus, and the formation of breast tissue. Estrone becomes more prominent after menopause, while estriol is predominant during pregnancy. In women, estrogens are largely produced in the ovaries and adrenal glands.
In both men and women, estrogens can also help contribute to the following bodily processes:
- Building bone density.
- Facilitating physical changes during puberty.
- Maintenance of mood and emotional state.
- Healthy skin.
- Cognitive function.
- Muscle mass.
CBD and Progesterone and Estrogen: What the Science Says
At present, insights into the effects of CBD on progesterone and estrogen are still very much in a nascent phase. Most existing research explores the effects of whole-plant cannabis (THC, CBD, other minor cannabinoids, terpenes, flavonoids, and other plant compounds) on hormones.
The interaction of these diverse compounds in cannabis with hormone production and expression is nuanced due to the entourage effect. It’s therefore difficult to conclude the effects of CBD from research that investigates the effects of whole-plant cannabis on progesterone and estrogen.
Nonetheless, it’s clear that cannabis can modulate our hormones through its effects on the endocannabinoid system (ECS) and the cannabinoid receptors (which consist of the CB1 and CB2 receptors). The ECS plays a critical role in our immune system and contributes to the body’s homeostasis (balance and equilibrium). This critical bodily system also influences hormonal function.
Of the few studies that exist exploring the effects of CBD on estrogen.
A 1980 study found that moderate to high doses of CBD did not change the estrogen levels of female rhesus monkeys. However, a 2020 test-tube study found that CBD suppressed estrogen production by inhibiting the production of an enzyme called aromatase. Aromatase plays a vital role in the body’s production of estrogens. CBD was also found to deregulate decidualization, a process that plays a role in healthy pregnancies. The authors suggested that CBD could lead to infertility problems. However, large-scale clinical studies, including human participants, are needed before drawing any conclusion.
Findings on progesterone are also inconclusive. In a 2018 study, mice that received CBD for 34 consecutive days experienced no change in their circulating progesterone levels. In a 2005 study on rats, however, CBD inhibited the expression of progesterone in rat testes. The researchers suggested that the outcome may be caused by a metabolic interaction between the cannabinoid and the enzyme that converts progesterone into other hormones.
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How to Use CBD to Balance Progesterone and Estrogen
Despite the ambiguous data concerning the effects of CBD on progesterone and estrogen, there is some research suggesting that CBD may counter hormone imbalance.
A 2022 study in an animal model of rat epilepsy showed that seizures are more frequent when estrogen levels are high, and progesterone levels are low – a period known as the proestrus-estrus transition. The researchers found that a single dose of CBD offered partial protection against the severity of seizures and inflammation that can occur due to high levels of estrogen. They also concluded that CBD could be used to support hormone balance when estrogen/progesterone levels are fluctuating.
In human populations, anecdotes abound about the hormone-balancing properties of CBD, even if clinical data is sometimes scarce. For example, CBD may yield benefits for women experiencing the fluctuations of menopause. Beyond CBD, there’s evidence that marijuana, in general, may help with menstrual cramps.
If you’re thinking about experimenting with CBD to balance estrogen and progesterone, it can be helpful to consult with a doctor experienced in cannabis medicine before beginning a new regime. For example, finding out if CBD may affect certain medications, such as birth control, is vital.
If you try CBD oil or other CBD products, check out our list of helpful dosing tips, and always remember to start low and slow.
The Bottom Line: Can CBD Help Balance Progesterone and Estrogen?
At this stage, there’s simply not enough robust data to suggest that CBD can support the hormonal balance of estrogen and progesterone.
The research has primarily been confined to test tube and animal studies or simply isn’t specific enough. For example, most of the available data explores the effects of the cannabis plant, THC, or marijuana use on hormonal imbalances, hormone levels, or the endocrine system in general, not on the effects of CBD on estrogen or progesterone specifically.
It’s likely, however, that the coming years will see more studies involving human participants, hopefully casting more light on how CBD influences the expression or production of estrogen and progesterone.
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Frequently Asked Questions
Does CBD affect any female hormones?
There’s definitely evidence to suggest that CBD can affect female-dominant hormones. However, at this stage, it’s unclear what the effects are on progesterone and estrogen, as the research findings have been mixed. There is data that suggests CBD affects other hormones, such as cortisol, stress, thyroid, or growth hormones.
Does CBD help with menstrual cramps?
Some emerging evidence suggests CBD (and weed in general) may help ease menstrual cramps and influence the menstrual cycle in general. CBD may also help manage symptoms associated with conditions such as endometriosis and polycystic ovarian syndrome.
Does CBD help with menopause symptoms?
CBD may also help soothe symptoms associated with menopause by potentially alleviating disrupted sleep, promoting a sense of calm and relaxation to overcome mood swings and hot flashes, regulating weight gain, stabilizing blood pressure, easing joint pain, and regulating blood sugar levels, elevating sex drive and promoting bone density.