If a yearning for fudge brownies or gummy snakes has ever blindsided you, you’ve probably skilled the ability of hormones. In addition to driving wishes for sure meals, the physique’s many hormones additionally assist hearth up the libido, regulate temper, sleep, and even physique temperature. 

Many know first-hand how cannabis exerts delicate—or not-so-subtle—results over our temper, sleep, and urge for food, so it’s clear the plant interacts with our hormones in a roundabout way. But how?

The endocannabinoid and endocrine techniques

Hormones are useful chemical messengers secreted by the endocrine system, a community of glands and organs that launch hormones into the physique. The major endocrine glands embrace the hypothalamus, pituitary, pancreas, pineal, thyroid, parathyroid, adrenal, ovaries, and testes.

“There are approximately 50 different hormones in the body,” mentioned Dr. Patricia Frye, MD, a board director for the Society of Cannabis Clinicians. “Some hormones are released to stimulate glands to release hormones, and other hormones act on target organs to modulate a number of metabolic functions.”

The endocannabinoid system is one other very important regulatory power within the physique. Sleep, temper, metabolism, urge for food, bone development, fertility—the endocannabinoid system options in all these processes. Scientists imagine the principle operate of the endocannabinoid system is to convey these features into homeostasis, or stability. 

“Overall, cannabis interacts with the endocannabinoid system, a neuro-modulating system that maintains balance or homeostasis in the body,” mentioned Frye. “Given that, it would stand to reason that the system oversees almost every neurotransmitter and hormonal system. We have studied some of the mechanisms of this oversight, particularly in preclinical, animal studies, but there is still a lot that we don’t fully understand as to how these findings translate into humans.” 

There is proof, nonetheless, that the endocannabinoid system is concerned in appetite, sexual function, and stress.

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Most of us are accustomed to the heavy-duty pizza cravings that can accompany a joint. Cannabis is already identified to elevate appetite and intensify pleasure we expertise when consuming. 

Ghrelin

In a 2020 study printed in Nature, researchers found that ghrelin hormone ranges had been increased after consuming cannabis orally moderately than smoking or vaporizing cannabis. Ghrelin is affectionately generally known as the “hunger hormone” as a result of it ignites appetite and adjusts food intake

Growing evidence additionally suggests there’s a collaborative interplay between the endocannabinoid system and ghrelin. Both drive feeding, and consultants imagine the 2 work synergistically to encourage starvation and consuming. Endocannabinoid and ghrelin receptors are additionally equally distributed in areas of the mind related to feeding, and in organs concerned in metabolism.

Leptin

Cannabis additionally influences the physique’s leptin hormone ranges. “Leptin is secreted by the fat cells and sends signals to the hypothalamus regulating food intake and energy expenditure, helping one maintain their normal body weight or set point,” mentioned Frye. 

Research has proven that cannabis people who smoke have lower leptin levels than non-smokers. This discovering may clarify why cannabis people who smoke are likely to have decrease physique fats percentages and weight problems charges.

“The more body fat you have, the more leptin circulating to maintain that fat mass by increasing appetite and decreasing metabolic rate,” mentioned Frye. “Cannabis users also tend to have lower BMIs and waist circumferences than non-users.” 

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Insulin and glucose

Cannabis additionally seems to affect insulin concentrations, the hormone accountable for regulating glucose by the physique. When the correct focus of insulin is circulating within the blood, glucose is transported into cells to grow to be gasoline to keep up power ranges.

In the case of diabetics, for instance, inadequate insulin ranges means glucose just isn’t directed into the physique’s cells however stays circulating within the blood, inflicting hyperglycemia.

In a 2020 study, members given a placebo brownie skilled a spike in blood-insulin concentrations. That’s pretty predictable—many people know the push, then the unavoidable freefall, that comes with a sugar hit. 

However, when members got a brownie infused with THC, the insulin spike was blunted. Regardless of whether or not cannabis was consumed orally, smoked or vaporized, insulin ranges remained significantly decrease than the controls. 

Frye additionally factors out that CBD has been linked to improved glucose metabolism. “Human trials are lacking but in my clinical experience, it is not uncommon to see patients with Type 2 diabetes whose glucose-lowering medication doses come down after starting CBD. This might be a function of CBD’s anti-inflammatory or stress-relieving effects, or a direct effect on glucose metabolism and/or insulin sensitivity,” she mentioned.

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Let’s speak about intercourse, child… and cannabis

What in regards to the affect of cannabis on different appetites? Hormones are a crucial think about intercourse drive and fertility. Regular cannabis customers usually debate whether or not weed boosts or stifles intercourse drive. 

Cannabinoid receptors have been present in each male and feminine hormones and within the endocrine glands concerned in replica and fertility, together with the hypothalamus, pituitary gland, ovaries, and testes

“Cannabis stimulates the release of oxytocin, which is also called the ‘hugging hormone.’ It is responsible for reproductive functions like uterine contractions during labor and breastfeeding,” defined Frye. “Oxytocin is also responsible for the satisfaction people experience from social interaction, and promotes emotional bonding.” 

Frye factors on the market’s conflicting proof in regards to the results of cannabis on male fertility. “A 2015 study in humans showed a 29% decrease in sperm count, as have numerous preclinical studies,” she mentioned. “However, a 2019 study of men evaluated for infertility found that men who self-reported smoking cannabis regularly had a higher sperm count than men who had never smoked cannabis.” 

Short-term cannabis use could enhance libido, however persistent use may additionally trigger erectile dysfunction. “While low to moderate doses of THC can promote bonding, heighten arousal, and stimulate an erection, too much THC can cause anxiety or impede ejaculation which may negatively impact the sexual encounter,” mentioned Frye.

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When it involves girls, the findings are related. According to at least one 2019 review, cannabis can scale back feminine fertility by disrupting the gonadotropin-releasing hormone, resulting in lowered estrogen and progesterone manufacturing. Female cannabis customers may additionally expertise a dose-dependent impairment in ovarian operate and a lower within the crucial reproductive hormone estradiol. 

“I do not recommend cannabis use for women actively trying to conceive and/or sustain a pregnancy, except when the benefit of cannabis therapy far outweighs the risk of impaired fertility,” suggested Frye.

On the opposite hand, cannabis seems to spice up the feminine intercourse drive. In a study of ladies who reported utilizing marijuana earlier than intercourse, 68.5% divulged that their total sexual expertise was extra pleasurable, 60.6% reported a rise in intercourse drive, and 52.8% shared that that they had  skilled a rise in satisfying orgasms. 

Stop stressing: weed and cortisol ranges

Cortisol is the physique’s major stress hormone. Once cortisol kicks in, non-essential bodily features are curbed so the physique can enter battle or flight mode. While THC in cannabis usually elevates cortisol levels, particular person experiences of results will fluctuate primarily based on frequency of use.

For occasional customers, a rise in cortisol can improve blood stress and provoke anxiousness. Long-term customers can grow to be habituated to this common cortisol spike, dulling a response to acute stress

Cortisol isn’t simply accountable for stimulating stress, nonetheless. A morning dose of cortisol can be crucial for getting off the bed within the morning—cortisol peaks within the morning and slowly declines all through the day. This morning spike is blunted in persistent cannabis customers, rendering it more difficult to shake off sleepiness and dive into the day. 

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Less is extra

“The best advice I can give is to use the least amount of cannabis needed to achieve the desired effects,” mentioned Frye. “Excesses in the levels of circulating cannabinoids has the potential to lead to undesirable consequences.” 

That mentioned, Frye additionally acknowledged that cannabis has been acknowledged to enhance numerous signs related to endocannabinoid imbalance, leading to enhanced well being and well-being. “These benefits may also be a function of hormonal adjustments that would ordinarily be modulated by adequate levels of circulating endocannabinoids,” she mentioned.

Emma Stone

Emma Stone is a journalist primarily based in New Zealand specializing in cannabis, well being, and well-being. She has a Ph.D. in sociology and has labored as a researcher and lecturer, however loves being a author most of all. She would fortunately spend her days writing, studying, wandering open air, consuming and swimming.

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