As the people’s opinion about Cannabis is being softened, there are a plethora of researches, studies, and experiences that are coming to the surface. With its multiple medical benefits to its creativity accentuating power, there are no areas where Marijuana has not shed its light on. With better and more open research along with the newly acquired positive attitude, we are seeing a clearer picture of the beneficial effects of cannabis.
Cannabis, either ingested, smoked, or consumed orally, has some effect that is reflected for a few hours on the body. It connects and reacts with the body and brain, leaving us utterly blindsided and ‘stoned’. If you’ve ever experienced the intense effect of weed, it is likely because of your hormonal reaction. We have a brief idea about how cannabis affects the various daily aspects of our life- from sleep, hunger, mood, to even the fun side of things. But let’s take a closer look at how cannabis interacts with our hormones.
What is Endocannabinoid and Endocrine Systems?
Starting with the Endocannabinoids, these are naturally-produced molecules that work on the cannabinoid receptors and thereon, work on the vital aspects of life. The two types of cannabinoid receptors, CB1 and CB2 play a crucial role as they bind with the THC and CBD, the two main components of the cannabis plant. Together, they form the Endocannabinoid System (ECS). The Endocannabinoids act on the cannabinoid receptors and the cannabinoid receptors bind with the cannabis compound.
The ECS is a part of the decision-making factor when it comes to regulating fertility, appetite, sleep, mood, growth, energy balance, memory, etc. It is generally agreed that the main purpose of the endocannabinoid system is to keep these factors in-check or bring them into balance.
Coming to the other system, the endocrine system is largely involved in the communication bit of the body functions. Made up of all the essential glands and organs like the pancreas, sex organs, thyroid, adrenal glands, hypothalamus, etc. These glands and organs communicate with other parts of the body by making hormones, which are essentially the chemical messenger that carry the information secreted by the endocrine system. Some of the hormones include fertility hormones, insulin, cortisol, thyroid, metabolism, etc.
Here’s how both the system, Endocannabinoid system and endocrine system, have an interaction. Endocannabinoid influences the mood, hunger, appetite, stress, sexual desires, and energy by interacting with the hormones, that are secreted by the endocrine system
. Cannabis either suppressed or engages with the hormones or the glands, and therefore, indirectly interacts with the multifaceted endocrine system.
How does Cannabis affect Hunger Hormones and Metabolism?
Every Cannabis consumer is aware of the hunger-spike that is accompanied by a good smoking session. The word ‘munchies’ didn’t come out of anywhere but are the legacy of hungry stoners that would literally devour anything they can get their hands on. This is due to the fact that cannabis elevates the appetite and accentuates the pleasure we undergo while eating.
This is one of the reasons why head shops always have a munchies section!
Ghrelin Hormone Level, also known as the “hunger hormone”, is responsible for inducing hunger feelings as well as adjusting the food intake. In a 2020 study, it was concluded that a spike in Ghrelin was observed when people consumed cannabis. The effect was much higher when the consumption was orally rather than smoking or vaping. The ECS and Ghrelin work together to produce the hungry feeling, encourage a growing appetite, and also affects the organs involved in the metabolism of the body.
Leptin hormone is an essential one as they help to regulate the body weight as well the food intake and energy consumption. These are secreted by the fat cells and communicate with the hypothalamus.
As you can guess, cannabis also affects the leptin level produced by the fat cells. It has been noted that regular cannabis smokers have a lower leptin level than ordinary, which explains why stoners tend to have a lower body fat percentage.
Insulin is the hormone that assists in the regulation of glucose through the body, moving them into the cells to become fuel and manage energy levels. Surprisingly enough, Marijuana seems to have an influence on insulin production.
This was further proved with the help of a 2020 study wherein participants were presented with a placebo brownie. What followed was a predictable result with a spike in the insulin hormone, a common sugar-high we all occasionally experience. However, when the same set of participants were fed weed brownies, the insulin hormone secretion was very controlled. Regardless of the mode of consumption, the insulin levels were lower than usual.
Cannabis, Sex Drive, and Fertility
Even though we are well aware of the ability of cannabis to increase hunger appetite, but there is a prevalent debate on whether it also affects or enhances the sex drive.
Cannabinoid receptors are present in male and female hormones, and in the endocrine glands that are associated with reproduction and fertility. However, the research and study regarding the role of cannabis on fertility and sex drive are pretty conflicting.
In 2015, a study carried out presented a 29% decrease in the sperm count, but, interestingly enough, a more recent study regarding infertility presented the finding that men who smoked cannabis regularly had a higher sperm count than those who didn’t. Another conflicting conclusion is that cannabis use may lead to increased libido, but overconsumption can cause erectile dysfunction.
A similar contradictory result is true for females also. Cannabis-use is associated with a reduction in female fertility by disturbing the gonadotropin-releasing hormone. This leads to reduced estrogen and progesterone production. On the other hand, women have reported an increased sex drive and satisfying orgasm after using Marijuana.
Cannabis and Stress – Does it really work?
There have been multiple reports where people claim smoking/consuming cannabis reduces their stress and makes them more confident. The primary stress hormone, Cortisol, when activated leads to a dampening effect on all the non-essential body functions. It might also happen that a high increase in the cortisol level might even lead to blood pressure and anxiety. Now, where does Cannabis fit in all this?
Research conducted at the University of Illinois and Chicago concluded that low levels of THC, the psychoactive compound of cannabis does lead to a reduction in stress, however, if the dose increases, the same weed leads to increased anxiety and stress.
This brings us to the end of our article on Cannabis and its effect on hormones. Hope you found this informative and helpful.
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