Table of contents
Many aspects of cannabis’ impact on hormones, hormonal responses, and the endocrine system are still unknown, mainly due to the shortage of medical research involving cannabis with human test subjects. This can be frustrating for people who want to learn more about how cannabis impacts certain hormones like prolactin, the hormone responsible for breastfeeding, and the development of breast tissue, among other processes.
To date, there’s no conclusive evidence indicating that marijuana has an interfering impact, benefit, or risk on prolactin levels in the body. Some studies show increased levels, while others report no change or even decreased prolactin levels concurrent with cannabis use.
Here’s a comprehensive look at what the current data – lacking though it may be – says about marijuana and its interaction with prolactin and other human hormones.
What Is Prolactin?
Prolactin is a hormone secreted by the pituitary gland found in humans and other animals that’s primarily involved in lactation, the development of breast tissue, and milk production. Typically, prolactin levels are low in males and non-pregnant people and are elevated in those who are currently pregnant or breastfeeding.
High prolactin levels are associated with specific symptoms, including irregular menstrual cycles, infertility, and erectile dysfunction.
How Marijuana Impacts Prolactin Levels in the Body
Currently, minimal research on the interactions between cannabis and prolactin shows different outcomes. Some studies found that regular cannabis use results in higher-than-normal levels of prolactin in blood plasma concentration, which could be helpful in women who are seeking to regulate their period cycles. However, the data is inconclusive, with some studies showing decreased prolactin concentrations following cannabis use.
A handful of clinical studies show that chronic marijuana use had no significant effect on hormone concentrations, including prolactin, in either men or women. However, some studies have linked regular cannabis use with a reduction of prolactin in the body, which could cause an issue with breastfeeding or lactation in women seeking to become pregnant.
If cannabis increases prolactin levels, as per a few contradictory studies, this could heighten the risk of prolactin imbalance in males and reduce overall testosterone count. Low plasma prolactin levels in males can also lead to gynecomastia or increased breast gland tissue in boys or men caused by hormonal imbalance.
Again, the research is inconclusive as to whether prolactin is in any way impacted by marijuana. We need further studies to confirm one way or the other.
How Cannabis Affects Other Hormones
Cannabis interacts with our hormones differently, depending on the amount of CBD, THC, or other cannabinoids in the products we use, as well as the number of endocannabinoids produced by our own endocannabinoid systems. Sometimes, these hormonal changes can have a positive medical impact, but the changes can be harmful in other cases.
The adrenal glands release the adrenal hormones such as cortisol, adrenaline, and serotonin, which help modulate our flight-or-fight response and manage stress in the body. Too much THC can increase cortisol levels after use, leading to higher stress levels that can worsen certain medical conditions. THC also lowers adrenaline production, slowing reaction times and dampening one’s flight-or-fight response, which can help reduce anxiety in those producing too much adrenaline. Low doses of THC may reduce anxiety, whereas higher doses may induce anxiety.
Cannabis mostly has minimal effects on thyroid hormones, but THC has been shown to inhibit TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone). Low levels of circulating TSH can lead to symptoms such as fatigue, weight gain, and cold intolerance, among others associated with hyperthyroidism.
However, complementing high levels of THC with CBD and THCV can help modulate cannabis’ impact on thyroidal hormones. Weight gain and sleepiness are positive outcomes in those managing eating disorders or insomnia, so the symptoms aren’t always negative.
Human growth hormones such as somatotropin and insulin stimulate cell growth and reproduction, boost metabolism, manage blood glucose levels, and improve brain function. Cannabis, and cannabinoids like CBD, CBG, and THCV, can improve insulin sensitivity, allowing sugar to be processed more readily and boosting overall metabolic function.
THC use can affect brain development when young, but it, as well as CBD and THCV, is a beneficial neuroprotective agent and helps promote brain cell growth in older individuals.
The Bottom Line
Overall, research is sorely lacking on marijuana’s potential interaction with prolactin in the human body. If you’re concerned about hormonal levels and cannabis use, discuss your options with a licensed cannabis physician who can provide personalized medical expertise based on your unique physiology and lifestyle.
Apply for a medical marijuana card in your home state. Leafwell’s virtual clinic is open and here to serve you with valuable guidance as you move through the application process.