CBD for Endocrine Disorders: Can CBD Oil Balance Hormones?
CBD targets a regulatory system in the brain that controls the balance of hormones.
Learn how doctors are using CBD to help patients with endocrine disorders.
The endocrine system is responsible for controlling everything from energy metabolism to reproductive health.
If there are any issues with this system, it can produce a range of uncomfortable, and often serious side effects.
CBD oil may be able to help.
It offers a wide range of supportive effects to this system and may be exactly what you need to get your body back on track.
Here, we discuss how CBD and the endocannabinoid system play a pivotal role in the endocrine system, and how it’s used for treatment.
Let’s get into it.
MEDICALLY REVIEWED BY
Carlos G. Aguirre, M.D., Pediatric Neurologist
Updated on November 15, 2021
Table of Contents
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What Are The Benefits of CBD For The Endocrine System?
CBD is just one of about 80 different cannabinoids found in the cannabis plant. There are dozens of confirmed health benefits of CBD — many of which are helpful in supporting the health of the endocrine system.
These compounds are considered cannabinoids because of their ability to interact with a system in our body known as the endocannabinoid system.
The endocannabinoid system plays an important role in the body by maintaining homeostasis. This is often referred to as the body’s balance. Interestingly, this is also what the endocrine system does.
CBD and other cannabinoids may restore balance to this system directly through the hypothalamus and pituitary but also on the endocrine organs themselves.
The benefits of CBD oil for endocrine function includes:
- Supports insulin production
- Promotes weight loss
- Regulates metabolic function & blood sugar
- Supports mitochondrial health
- Regulates energy levels
- Reduces cortisol secretion
- Promotes digestive health
What Are Endocrine Disorders?
There’s a whole bunch of disorders that can result from a dysfunctional endocrine system. Some of them may seem unrelated to each other, but it’s important to note that the endocrine system is very widespread, and involves many different organs throughout the body, all working together.
Our endocrine system is very important for maintaining balance in the body. It regulates everything from energy metabolism to red blood cell production.
In healthy people, the endocrine system is in constant feedback with itself, turning on and off to keep our various body metrics at an even plane.
When the system falls out of balance, the system falls apart, and we suffer health problems, some of which are more severe than others.
- Diabetes — poor insulin production or function leading to high blood sugar levels
- Metabolic syndrome — involves dysfunctional sugar and fat metabolism
- Fatty liver disease — a buildup of fatty acids in the liver
- Osteoporosis — poor bone metabolism leading to low bone density
- Hashimoto’s thyroiditis — an autoimmune disorder that attacks the thyroid gland
- Cushing’s syndrome — an autoimmune disorder affecting the adrenal glands
- Grave’s disease — an autoimmune disorder affecting the thyroid gland
- Addison’s disease — involves poor adrenal gland function
- Goiters — low iodine causing an enlargement of the thyroid gland
- Hyperglycemia — high blood sugar levels
- Hyperparathyroidism — excessive parathyroid function
- Hypoglycemia — low blood sugar levels
- Menopause — an age-related change in female hormone balance
- Obesity — excess storage of sugars and fats
- Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) — involves a combination of androgen and insulin dysfunction
What is The Endocrine System?
Before we start, we’ll get into a basic understanding of how the endocrine system works.
The endocrine system is made up of a team of various glands found throughout the body, working together to keep the body in balance (homeostasis).
These glands secrete hormones to communicate with the rest of the body.
You can think of the endocrine system as a company.
The CEO is the hypothalamus, found in the center of the brain. It looks at the organization as a whole and decides where to make changes in the plan to make sure the company—our body—stays on track.
Just like the CEO of a company, the hypothalamus doesn’t make any of these changes itself. Rather, it delegates the roles to different departments, made up of other executive organs such as the pancreas, adrenal glands, thyroid, and others.
Each of these glands serves as the head of a particular department—Some control energy metabolism, growth, immune function, body temperature, or bone structure.
When the hypothalamus instructs, they then turn to their own teams of various hormones and neurotransmitters. It’s these workers that actually carry through the changes initiated by the hypothalamus.
This system is in constant feedback with itself, constantly checking to see how these changes are implemented, and what their effect produces.
The Endocrine Glands 101
There are 9 main endocrine glands in the body. Each one is considered an executive, with a particular area of specialization, all of which respond directly to the hypothalamus (the CEO).
Here, we’ll go into detail for each one, highlight some of the common endocrine disorders that can result, and how CBD and other cannabinoids are used to improve the function of these organs/glands.
1. Pineal Gland
The pineal gland is responsible for controlling sleepiness.
It gathers information from other areas of the brain that measure the visible light spectrum. It’s designed to react to changes in daylight from blue-light to red-light.
Red light waves are associated with early morning and late afternoon when the sun rises and sets. The angle of the sun shining through the atmosphere reflects the blue light waves, allowing the more penetrating red light waves to make it through.
This helps us recognize when we should feel sleepy at night.
Blue light only makes it through the atmosphere when the sun is directly facing us. This is the light we see during the day, which the pineal gland determines to be the time when we should be wide awake.
When the pineal gland only senses red light, it releases the sleep hormone melatonin. If this is interrupted with blue light, melatonin secretion slows down, making it difficult for us to fall asleep.
The effects of blue and red light waves are well-documented. large electronics manufacturers such as Apple have started incorporating this into their design. Many computer screens now have a blue-light filter to prevent the blue light from activating the pineal gland and affecting sleep when working into the evenings.
Side-Effects of Pineal Dysfunction:
The hypothalamus is the CEO of the endocrine system.
It’s responsible for controlling the majority of the endocrine system’s function by delegating to the organs what to do.
Functions Regulated by the Hypothalamus:
If there’s a problem with the hypothalamus, it can cause problems with any of the other parts of the endocrine systems.
Dysfunctions of the hypothalamus can result in the following conditions:
3. Pituitary Gland
If the hypothalamus is the CEO, then the pituitary gland is the vice president.
It listens to messages sent from the hypothalamus and carries this message to other endocrine glands through the secretion of hormones.
Pituitary Hormones Include:
- Thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH)
- Luteinizing hormone (LH)
- Follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH)
- Prolactin (PRL)
- Growth Hormone (GH)
- Melanocyte-stimulating hormone (MSH)
- Adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH)
If there’s an issue with the pituitary, it can cause problems at the organ level.
Side-Effects of Dysfunctional Pituitary Gland:
4. Thyroid Gland
The thyroid gland is responsible for controlling our metabolism.
The pituitary receives information from the hypothalamus, which it then forwards to the thyroid gland.
Using hormones, it directs the thyroid to either speed up or slow down.
In this way, the thyroid essentially controls how we use energy throughout the body.
The thyroid can increase metabolism to burn through more energy, generate more internal body heat, or burn excess fat.
It can also slow down to conserve energy and help us cool down in hot weather by avoiding excess heat production as a byproduct of metabolism.
There are two main issues that can arise with dysfunctional thyroid glands; hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism.
In hypothyroidism, we don’t metabolize enough, everything slows down, and we become fatigued and tired. It also becomes easier to gain excess weight than to burn it.
In hyperthyroidism, we’re metabolizing too quickly. We can develop anxiety, insomnia, diarrhea, and heart palpitations as a result. It becomes easier to lose weight than to gain it with this condition.
5. Parathyroid Glands
The parathyroids are small glands that sit behind the thyroid. They control our calcium balance in the body and therefore play a significant role in maintaining blood pH homeostasis, calcium, phosphorus, and bone metabolism.
Just like the thyroid, there are two main issues that can result from dysfunctional parathyroids; hypoparathyroidism and hyperparathyroidism.
Hypoparathyroidism shifts the balance of calcium and phosphorous and can lead to long-term problems with the cardiovascular system and the nervous system. It causes calcium levels to drop and phosphorous levels to rise above healthy levels.
Hyperparathyroidism is a serious condition. It causes calcium levels to rise, resulting in osteoporosis, joint pain, kidney stones, and low immune function.
6. Thymus Gland
The thymus is the college for the immune system. It’s where immune cells such as T-lymphocytes go to mature.
The immune and blood cells are first made in the bone marrow, before traveling to the thymus where they are conditioned as trained assassins for the immune system.
Problems with the thymus can affect our immune function and are one of the main causes of autoimmune conditions such as myasthenia gravis and rheumatoid arthritis.
In these diseases, the immune cells are taught to attack the body instead of invading pathogens, leading to targeted joint or tissue damage in the body by our own immune cells.
The adrenal glands are responsible for everything from blood pressure to heart rate. Hormones produced by these glands include cortisol or cortisone. These hormones control our stress levels through the fight-or-flight response.
The adrenals also control our energy levels throughout the day and help regulate sexual function.
Problems of the adrenal glands include:
The pancreas is responsible for controlling our blood glucose levels through the hormones insulin and glucagon.
Insulin is important for moving sugars from the blood into the cells where they are used to power the cells. Glucagon is used to break down stored sugars to ensure the body has enough energy to function.
These two hormones require careful measurement and balance by the hypothalamus, or they can result in serious problems. Too much sugar can damage organs, while not enough sugar leaves us feeling tired, confused, and dizzy.
The pancreas is also responsible for producing many of the enzymes we use to break down our food.
Dysfunctions of the pancreas can lead to problems such as:
9. Testes & Ovaries
Last, but not least, we have the gonads. These are the sex organs of the human body.
They release hormones that control everything from growth habits, immune function, sexual health, and mood.
Both of these organs respond to hormones released by the pituitary to control their function.
Dysfunctional testes/ovaries can lead to conditions such as:
Common Treatments for Endocrine Disorders
Endocrine disorder treatment usually involves either inhibiting or promoting hormone production. While this sounds straightforward and relatively harmless, many adverse effects come with these drugs.
Treatments vary depending on the specific issue, but medications tend to fall into the following categories.
- Pituitary and hypothalamic hormonedrugs (bromocriptine, lanreotide, somatropin, pasireotide)
- Somatostatins (octreotide, lanreotide, vapreotide)
- Dopamine and dopamine agonists (bromocriptine, cabergoline, pergolide)
- Somatropin and somatropin agonists (mecasermin, pegvisomant)
- Vasopressin and vasopressin agonists (desmopressin, tolvaptan, conivaptan)
- Thyroid and antithyroid agents (teriparatide, levothyroxine sodium, potassium perchlorate, metimazole, thiamazole)
- Insulin and noninsulin glucose lowering drugs (metformin, lispro, aspart, nateglinide)
Using CBD for Endocrine Disorders
CBD works directly through the CEO, the hypothalamus.
It acts as a business strategist, helping the hypothalamus do its job better than ever.
This has a trickle-down effect on the rest of the endocrine system organs, offering broad, but powerful benefits towards maintaining homeostasis in the body.
CBD May Be Able to Support Endocrine Disorders Such as:
Because of its ability to improve the function of the hypothalamus, rather than push it in one direction or another, it’s useful for restoring homeostasis overall.
This helps to repair conditions that involve dysfunction in both directions:
1. Metabolic Excess:
- Hyperthyroid (Excess thyroid activity)
- Hyperparathyroid (Excess parathyroid activity)
- Hyperadrenalism (Excess adrenal activity)
2. Metabolic Deficiency:
- Hypothyroidism (Deficient thyroid activity)
- Hypoparathyroidism (Deficient functioning parathyroid activity)
- Hypoadrenalism (Deficient adrenal activity)
Therefore using CBD oil for endocrine disorders is simple. Once you’ve found the right dose, you just keep taking the oil as conditions gradually improve.
Of course, as with any other medical condition, it’s important that you’re taking other measures to treat the condition. There are some medications that interact with CBD; never combine them or stop taking any medication in substitution for CBD oil without first speaking with your doctor.
Many of these conditions are chronic in nature (long-term and self-sustaining). Therefore, it’s likely that it will take a few weeks to a few months before you start to see noticeable benefits from supplementing with CBD oil.
You’re essentially toning the hypothalamus when taking CBD oil. You won’t see immediate changes from the benefits of CBD oil for these conditions. In some cases, CBD will never fully eradicate the problem.
Patience is key.
You most likely didn’t get sick overnight, so you can’t expect to get better overnight either.
Finding the Right Dose of CBD Oil for Endocrine Disorders
Whenever trying CBD oil for the first time, it’s important to start small and increase the dose gradually.
Even though hemp-derived CBD oil is non-psychoactive, it affects everybody differently.
Some people need large doses, in the realm of 40mg per day, while others need very small doses, around 2 mg per day.
Finding the right dose takes trial and error.
You should start with a small dose and add 2 or 3 mg per day.
You’ll know you found the right dose when you start to feel symptoms disappear OR after you experience some side effects. When this happens, you’ve found your upper limit and should lower the dose to the last one that didn’t produce side effects.
The effects of cannabinoids on the endocrine system
Cannabinoids are the derivatives of the cannabis plant, the most potent bioactive component of which is tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). The most commonly used drugs containing cannabinoids are marijuana, hashish, and hashish oil. These compounds exert their effects via interaction with the cannabinoid receptors CB1 and CB2. Type 1 receptors (CB1) are localised mostly in the central nervous system and in the adipose tissue and many visceral organs, including most endocrine organs. Type 2 cannabinoid receptors (CB2) are positioned in the peripheral nervous system (peripheral nerve endings) and on the surface of the immune system cells. Recently, more and more attention has been paid to the role that endogenous ligands play for these receptors, as well as to the role of the receptors themselves. So far, endogenous cannabinoids have been confirmed to participate in the regulation of food intake and energy homeostasis of the body, and have a significant impact on the endocrine system, including the activity of the pituitary gland, adrenal cortex, thyroid gland, pancreas, and gonads. Interrelations between the endocannabinoid system and the activity of the endocrine system may be a therapeutic target for a number of drugs that have been proved effective in the treatment of infertility, obesity, diabetes, and even prevention of diseases associated with the cardiovascular system.
Keywords: CB1 receptor; cannabinoid system; endocannabinoids; endocrine system.
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