Can CBD help with polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS)? Here's what to Know about Taking CBD for PCOS Research has shown CBD oil can help balance blood sugar, support mood, and promote weight loss. View the best CBD oils for PCOS. We take a look at whether CBD oil could help to relieve the symptoms of polycystic ovary syndrome. Here's all you need to know about CBD for PCOS.
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Can CBD help with polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS)? Here’s what you need to know about taking CBD for PCOS.
Chances are, if you haven’t tried CBD, you’ve heard about it and seen it. CBD can be found in various products such as gummies, oils, topicals, bath bombs, pet treats, skincare, edibles, and honey. You can find CBD products at multiple locations, even at your local grocery store.
The top reasons people take CBD are for pain relief, inflammation, anxiety, and to help with better sleep.
What exactly is CBD?
Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD) are the two most well-known phytocannabinoids. Both CBD and THC are naturally occurring compounds found in Cannabis sativa plants, and both provide therapeutic benefits, like calmness and help with anxiety and inflammation. The difference is that only THC is psychoactive, which means it is responsible for the “high” feeling for which cannabis is known.
CBD is not psychoactive in the way that THC is. Taking CBD will not make you feel high, nor will it increase your appetite.
Hemp vs. Marijuana
Hemp and marijuana are both types of cannabis sativa plants. What differentiates the two is their THC content. Federal law requires that hemp contain no more than 0.3% THC by weight. Legally, marijuana refers to cannabis that has more than 0.3% THC.
Both hemp and marijuana plants naturally contain many cannabinoid compounds (CBD, THC, and others) along with essential oils and terpenes. Terpenes are aromatic compounds that contribute to the distinctive smells and flavors of cannabis.
The Different Types of Hemp
- Hemp oil extracted from the hemp plant comes in three main varieties:
- Full-spectrum hempoil provides all the compounds found in hemp — CBD, terpenes, other cannabinoids, and small amounts of THC.
- Broad-spectrum hemp oil is like full-spectrum hemp oil, except it usually does not contain THC.
- CBD isolate contains only CBD and no other compounds from hemp.
Don’t confuse hemp oil with hempseed oil, which is rich in omega-3 and -6 fats but does not contain CBD.
How Does CBD work?
Our bodies have an endocannabinoid system (ECS) involving two cannabinoid receptors (CB1 and CB2). The cannabinoids bind to these specialized cannabinoid receptors on our cells as a negative feedback system of signaling the body to calm down or return to homeostasis (baseline).
CB1 receptors are involved in the brain and central nervous system.
CB2 receptors act on the immune system.
CBD is not psychoactive and does not directly bind to cannabinoid (CB1 and CB2) receptors. So, what are CBD’s mechanisms of action?
CBD binds to and desensitizes receptors, located on pain neurons, thus decreasing pain sensation. Consider inflammatory mechanisms of the body. When we sprain an ankle, that causes inflammation and swelling CBD increases tissue levels of natural endocannabinoids within the body, which indirectly activates CB1 and CB2 receptors In this way, CBD is a natural anti-inflammatory.
CBD also indirectly activates the serotonin receptor, producing an anti-anxiety effect.
What Are the Benefits of CBD For PCOS?
Currently, there is a lack of evidence that examines the use of CBD in PCOS patients. Some research suggests that women with PCOS have an endocannabinoid system (ECS) dysfunction involving CB1, resulting in higher levels of insulin being produced.
One small study, published in Fertility and Sterility, showed levels of endocannabinoids and CB1 and CB2 receptors were significantly increased in women who had PCOS, compared with women who did not. In addition, women with PCOS were found to have significantly higher levels of glucose and insulin, which correlated with elevated CB1 levels. According to the researchers, these results indicate that the ECS is closely related to insulin resistance in women with PCOS and may be a risk factor for insulin resistance in PCOS. This suggests the endocannabinoid system and CB1 receptors may play a key role in the function of insulin.
Marijuana use is associated with lower levels of fasting insulin. A recent study involving more than 4600 participants diagnosed with diabetes or pre-diabetes had their self-reported use of marijuana and fasting insulin levels analyzed. Researchers found that participants using marijuana on a regular basis had 16% lower insulin than non-users.
Anti-inflammatory/Pain Relief Properties
Compared to women without PCOS, women with the condition have higher levels of inflammation. This could be due to many factors such as elevated androgens and insulin, genetics, environmental causes, and fetal programing. Inflammation can cause worsening of PCOS symptoms and can lead to other inflammatory conditions.
CBD Helps with Anxiety in PCOS
Anxiety is known to be common in people with PCOS, affecting as many as 30%. A lot of times anxiety can make falling asleep difficult or could cause waking up during the night. Sleep disturbances have in fact been shown to be common in PCOS.
Another great benefit of CBD for PCOS is its ability to indirectly activate the serotonin receptor to produce a calm, anti-anxiety effect. In fact, one of the most common reasons people take CBD is for anxiety and sleep. These factors make CBD ideal for improving PCOS symptoms, primarily sleep and anxiety issues.
A double-blind, placebo-controlled study showed that CBD was helpful in the treatment of anxiety with public speaking, compared to a placebo.
What to Know about Taking CBD for PCOS
CBD products are not well-regulated, and as a result their quality and content accuracy can vary greatly. Some may be spiked with synthetic cannabinoids or contain unacceptable levels of THC. To trust that your CBD is safe, look for the NSF®International seal. This ensures purity, accuracy of CBD content, and safety.
Oral hemp products are generally well tolerated. CBD does have the potential to cause liver toxicity in high doses.
CBD can interact with certain SSRIs and other medications. As with any dietary supplement, it is recommended you discuss with your pharmacist and/or healthcare team to clarify whether CBD can be taken along with your medications.
Do not use CBD if you are pregnant, nursing, trying to conceive, or under the age of 18
What’s the Dose of CBD for PCOS?
There’s no standard dose for CBD, but starting small, between 10-20 mg could be helpful. Keep in mind, dosage can vary from person to person.
What CBD Product is Good for PCOS?
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CBD and other cannabinoids are fat-soluble and are not well-absorbed by the GI tract. To combat this, TheraHemp is formulated with VESIsorb, a colloidal delivery system, for increased absorption and bioavailability. VESIsorb dramatically improves CBD absorption and bioavailability by mimicking the body’s natural process of fat digestion. This increased solubility improves the absorption of CBD up to 300%.
Quality you can Trust
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- Each softgel provides 20 mg of CBD, along with 8 mg of naturally occurring terpenes including beta-caryophyllene.
- Non-detectable THC content at 100 ppm (0.01%).
- Extracted from U.S.-grown, non-GMO hemp (Cannabis sativa).
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Final Thoughts on CBD for PCOS
CBD is showing promise as a potential ideal treatment for PCOS symptoms. Given a large percentage of people with PCOS suffer from anxiety and sleep disorders, CBD may help relieve anxiety and promote better sleep, in addition to anti-inflammatory benefits.
Have you tried CBD? How has it helped your PCOS?
- Chanda et al. The endocannabinoid system: overview of an emerging multi-faceted therapeutic target. Prostaglandins Leukot Essent Fatty Acids. 2019; 140:51-56.
- Clayton et al. Palmitoylethanolamide: a natural compound for health management. Int J Mol Sci. 2021; 22(10):5305.
- VanDolah et al. Clinicians’ guide to cannabidiol and hemp oils. Mayo Clin Proc. 2019; 94(9):1840-1851.
- Guida et al. A multicenter clinical study of palmitoylethanolamide in chronic neuropathic pain: compression lumboischialgia. Dolor. 2010; 25(1):35-42.
- Penner E et al. The Impact of Marijuana Use on Glucose, Insulin, and Insulin Resistance among US Adults Clinical research study| Volume 126, ISSUE 7, P583-589, July 01, 2013
- Dawson, A., Kilpatrick, E., Coady, A., Elshewehy, A., Dakroury, Y., Ahmed, L., Atkin, S. and Sathyapalan, T. (2017). Endocannabinoid receptor blockade reduces alanine aminotransferase in polycystic ovary syndrome independent of weight loss. BMC Endocrine Disorders, 17(1).
- Juan CC, Chen KH, Wang PH, Hwang JL, Seow KM. Endocannabinoid system activation may be associated with insulin resistance in women with polycystic ovary syndrome. Fertil Steril. 2015;104(1):200-6.
Angela Grassi, MS, RDN, LDN is the founder of The PCOS Nutrition Center where she provides evidence-based nutrition information and coaching to women with PCOS. Angela is the author of several books on PCOS including PCOS: The Dietitian’s Guide, The PCOS Workbook: Your Guide to Complete Physical and Emotional Health, and The PCOS Nutrition Center Cookbook Recognized by Today’s Dietitian as one of the Top 10 Incredible Dietitian’s making a difference in 2014, Angela is the past recipient for The Outstanding Nutrition Entrepreneur Award, The Award in Excellence in Practice in Women’s Health and The Award for Excellence in Graduate Research, from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Having PCOS herself, Angela has been dedicated to advocacy, education, and research of the syndrome. To learn more about one-on-one nutrition coaching or to schedule a call with Angela, click here
Can CBD Help with PCOS? Benefits, Dosage, & Side-Effects
Can CBD help with polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS)? What does the current research suggest?
We’ll explore this connection in more detail.
Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) affects roughly 10% of women in the United States. It’s one of the main causes of infertility in women in the Western world .
This chronic health condition is poorly understood by modern medicine — making it especially difficult to diagnose and treat. Pharmaceuticals used to manage this condition bring their own risk of side-effects.
This has prompted a lot of people to reach for a bottle of CBD oil instead.
Can CBD really be used to benefit PCOS?
Here’s what the research says.
MEDICALLY REVIEWED BY
Updated on June 05, 2021
Table of Contents
- Here are some important questions to keep in mind while tracking progress in a journal:
- Simplified Breakdown of Common PCOS Symptoms and Potential Causes:
- Common Tests Used to Help Diagnose PCOS:
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What Are The Benefits of CBD Oil For PCOS?
CBD primarily works by helping the body maintain homeostasis (balance).
This includes the balance of hormones, neurotransmitters, metabolism, and neurological activity — all of which are affected by PCOS.
When using CBD for PCOS, don’t expect anything to happen overnight. The changes are slow and gradual. The biggest changes happen over time the more often you use it.
It’s always wise to speak with a doctor about using CBD oil for any health condition before you start — especially if you’re using any other prescription medications.
The benefits of CBD oil for PCOS include:
- Regulates insulin & blood sugar levels
- Promotes weight loss
- Relieves anxiety & depression
1. Regulates Insulin & Blood Sugar Levels
Hyperinsulinemia is characterized by excessive insulin levels in the bloodstream — which has a lot of overlap with diabetes.
A recent study involving more than 4600 participants diagnosed with diabetes or prediabetes had their self-reported use of marijuana and fasting insulin levels compared (a marker for hyperinsulinemia). Researchers found that participants using marijuana on a regular basis had a 16% lower insulin resistance score than non-users .
Researchers in this study suggested CBD as one of the key compounds responsible for producing this effect through the modulation of CB1 receptors. Other studies have shown that by blocking CB1 receptors in animal models, insulin sensitivity was improved . This suggests the endocannabinoid system and CB1 receptors play a critical role in the function of insulin.
The idea is that if we’re more sensitive to the effects of insulin, we’ll have greater blood sugar regulation and improved negative feedback control of insulin balance. This is important because of the correlation of insulin imbalance with PCOS.
2. Supports Weight Loss
Roughly 80 percent of PCOS sufferers are considered overweight . There are a few reasons for this:
- Fatigue leading to less exercise
- Hyperinsulinemia and diabetes leading to excess fat production
- Genetic predispositions to increased weight
This suggests excess weight gain as a potential contributing factor to the underlying cause of PCOS. One of the key goals of treatment in overweight PCOS patients is to cut excess weight.
CBD may be useful for supporting weight loss in a few ways:
- Regulation of mitochondrial function to improve the burning of excess sugar and fat as energy .
- Reducing insulin resistance to improve blood sugar regulation and support beta-oxidation of fat 
- Reducing appetite to help lower calorie intake 
3. Relieves Anxiety & Depression
One of the main side-effects of PCOS is anxiety. This can result from stress caused by the discomfort of the condition itself, or issues involving the adrenal glands where stress hormones like cortisol are produced.
Anxiety is one of the most common reasons people are taking CBD supplements — and there’s a lot of research to back this up.
A double-blind, placebo-controlled study comparing the anti-anxiety effects of CBD to benzodiazepine anxiety medications concluded that “CBD [has] anxiolytic properties in human volunteers submitted to a stressful situation” .
Other studies investigating the immediate effects of CBD in the treatment of anxiety used a public speaking model to induce an anxious state in study participants. The study noted a dramatic improvement in anxiety scores compared to placebo control .
There are a few ways CBD provides relief from anxiety symptoms, with the most important being a potentiation of GABA in the brain [9,10], which is the primary inhibitory neurotransmitter.
When the brain becomes hyperactive it’s GABA that slows it back down again — preferably before reaching levels high enough to cause an anxiety attack.
What’s The Dose of CBD Oil For PCOS?
The correct dose of CBD will vary from one person to the next. Some people find they need a large dose to achieve the desired effects, while others may need a much smaller dose for the same results.
Although factors such as weight, age, and muscle to fat ratio are important, other factors like genetics, liver enzyme activity, underlying health conditions, digestive function, and medication use can all affect CBD supplementation.
The best way to find the right dose of CBD for your body is to start low and increase slowly over time until you achieve a dose that works for you.
Most people will start at a very low dose around 2.5 mg of CBD and increase by 2.5 mg every day until they receive the level of benefit they’re looking for. As you become familiar with how CBD works for your body, you’ll be able to adjust this dose as needed.
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Tracking Your Progress
PCOS is a chronic health condition — meaning that it doesn’t appear overnight, and won’t go away overnight either. It can take months or years to improve symptoms of PCOS, so you need to be patient.
It’s difficult to see improvement in the short term for conditions like PCOS that move slowly — so it helps to keep notes of your symptoms. This way you can compare your notes over longer periods of time to spot any changes — for good or for worse.
Think of it like this — when you’re growing up, you don’t notice that you’re a little bit taller every day, yet when you compare height measurements from a year ago you may notice a big difference. It’s the same with chronic health conditions.
If you were to be asked how you feel every day, you may have the same answer — “same as yesterday”. Yet if you were to compare how you feel now, to 3 months ago, there may be a significant change — you just didn’t notice.
The best way to track your progress is to keep a journal of your symptoms. You can choose to do this every day, every few days, or even once per week.
Here are some important questions to keep in mind while tracking progress in a journal:
- What are your current symptoms?
- How would you rate each symptom on a scale of 1–10? (10 being the most severe)
- Did you have your period this month? If so, when did it start and stop?
- What foods did you eat today?
- What was your dose of CBD? Was there any noticeable improvement?
- What was your temperature upon rising in the morning? (Helpful if thyroid issues are thought to be an issue, or if you’re no longer menstruating)
What is PCOS?
PCOS stands for polycystic ovarian syndrome. It’s a collection of symptoms (syndrome), that mimics a related syndrome called poly cystic ovarian disease (PCOD). With PCOD, visible cysts form on the ovaries — interrupting their ability to function properly.
With PCOS, these cysts aren’t visible — hence the term syndrome (set of symtpoms, but not a specific disease).
PCOS is an endocrine disorder — which means it causes a problem with hormone levels.
The most common hormones affected by PCOS is insulin, testosterone, and female reproductive hormones like estrogen, luteinizing hormone (LH), and follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH).
Related Endocrine-Related Health Conditions CBD Has Benefit Towards:
PCOS is Not a Disease, It’s a Syndrome — What Does This Mean?
A syndrome is a collection of symptoms that occur simultaneously — often without a known cause and aren’t connected to each other. There are many different types of syndromes. An example of a syndrome you may have heard of is premenstrual syndrome — which is not a disease, but a set of symptoms.
Conversely, a disease is a specific abnormal condition that negatively affects the function of an organ or body system.
As a syndrome, there are no defining lines that group PCOS sufferers together to understand its cause and treatment. The only thing grouping them together is an overlap in the symptoms — which can vary quite a bit from one PCOS sufferer to the next.
This condition should not be confused with PCOD (polycystic ovarian disease) which has a clear cause. We’ll cover the differences between the two in more detail below.
What’s The Difference Between PCOS & PCOD?
PCOS and PCOD have similar symptoms but are very different from each other when you take a closer look.
PCOD (polycystic ovarian disease) is characterized by enlarged ovaries, usually caused by problems ejecting immature eggs from the ovaries during the menstrual cycle. This can cause the ovaries to enlarge and may begin producing excess testosterone, estrogen, or both. Many cases of PCOD have no noticeable symptoms and are only discovered by routine examination. This condition can usually be controlled by diet and lifestyle changes.
PCOS (polycystic ovarian syndrome) affects the entire body, and has a strong metabolic component and is much more severe than PCOD. With this condition, a dozen or more new cysts form in the ovaries each month. The cause of these cysts remains unknown. As cysts form, the ovaries produce more testosterone and other androgens (male hormones), which can cause dramatic changes to the body over time.
Although both conditions involve the formation of cysts in the ovaries, and changes in hormone levels — the changes involved with PCOS are much more severe. Both conditions can have a negative impact on fertility.
What Are The Symptoms of PCOS?
Only women can experience PCOS as it’s a disorder characterized by cyst formation on the ovaries (female reproductive organ). This condition can bring many symptoms, some of which seem unrelated.
Additionally, PCOS symptoms can vary a lot from one woman to the next. This makes it incredibly difficult for researchers to study the condition. PCOS in one woman could be completely different than PCOS in another woman — and likely involves a completely separate underlying cause.
Symptoms of PCOS May Include:
What Causes PCOS?
There’s a lot of debate about the true cause of PCOS — and the truth is that there are likely to be many different causes.
What we do know is that this condition is predominantly an endocrine disorder. Some symptoms relying on a dysfunction of the female reproductive hormones (HPO-axis), others focus more on the metabolic system (thyroid and pancreatic hormones).
All of these hormone systems rely on complex feedback loops to remain in balance. Even mild shifts in this balance can result in significant side-effects.
How does the body keep hormones in balance?
The answer is in something called a negative feedback loop — the brain tells other organs to release hormones, and only stops when it detects adequate levels of these hormones in the bloodstream (feedback).
This works in a similar way to the heating system in your house. When temperatures drop too low, the thermostat kicks the furnace on. Once it detects temperatures are within the set range, it tells the furnace to turn off again to avoid overheating the house.
If anything goes wrong during this negative feedback loop with the brain and endocrine organs (there are a lot of things that can go wrong), hormone levels can fall out of balance. This is what causes the symptoms of PCOS.
The symptoms involved with PCOS will largely rely on the endocrine organs affected.
Simplified Breakdown of Common PCOS Symptoms and Potential Causes:
Symptom Adrenal Glands Pancreas Ovaries Thyroid Gland Male-pattern hair growth ✔ ✔ Acne ✔ ✔ ✔ Fatigue ✔ ✔ ✔ Headaches ✔ ✔ Infertility ✔ ✔ Mood disorders ✔ ✔ ✔ ✔ Pelvic pain ✔ Sleeping disorders ✔ ✔ ✔ ✔ Thinning of the hair on the head ✔ ✔ ✔ Weight gain ✔ ✔ ✔
PCOS & Male Hormones (Androgens)
One of the key drivers of PCOS symptoms is an excess of male hormones known as androgens.
Both men and women produce androgens like testosterone naturally. The difference is that women convert testosterone into estrogen. The most important factor is the ratio of estrogen to testosterone. In women, the ratio is heavily weighted in favor of estrogen, while men have much higher concentrations of testosterone.
With PCOS, there could be one of two problems:
- Excessive production of testosterone
- Lack of conversion into estrogen
Both result in the same thing — high testosterone levels in comparison to estrogen.
Excess androgen levels can inhibit menstruation (leading to a lack of menstruation and infertility), resulting in excess hair growth on the upper lip and back, trigger the formation of acne, and lead to changes in mood .
The only reliable way to find out what may be causing your symptoms is to visit a doctor.
How is PCOS Diagnosed?
If you think you may have PCOS and have not been diagnosed by a doctor, it’s important that you schedule an appointment right away.
PCOS is difficult to diagnose and is usually done through a process of elimination using advanced medical diagnostic equipment. It’s nearly impossible for someone to accurately diagnose PCOS at home.
Doctors will start with a blood test, and perform other diagnostic testing before coming to a diagnosis.
Common Tests Used to Help Diagnose PCOS:
- Fasting insulin — PCOS patients often experience hyperinsulinemia (too much insulin in the blood)
- Luteinizing hormone (LH): Follicle Stimulating Hormone (FSH) ratio — These hormones are key regulators of the female menstrual cycle. PCOS patients may have a ratio greater than 1:1 (usually around 2:1).
- SHBG levels — Sex hormone-binding globulin is often low with PCOS
- Ultrasound — This is to look for cysts on the ovaries. Cysts on the ovaries are not a confirmed diagnosis of PCOS. There are other causes for this as well.
- Thyroid Stimulating Hormone (TSH) and thyroid hormones — This is done to rule out other causes for the symptoms like hypo or hyperthyroidism.
- CRP — C-reactive protein is a good indicator of inflammation in the body, which can be used to identify other causes for the symptoms
- Full blood count — By taking a look at the concentration and size of red and white blood cells, doctors may identify other causes for the condition.
- Liver function test — In some cases, similar symptoms can be explained by problems with the liver, such as fatty liver disease.
Once the doctor has explored other options and taken family history and the patients symptoms into consideration, they’ll consider a set of criteria used to diagnose PCOS known as the Rotterdam Criteria (2003).
PCOS Diagnostic Criteria (Rotterdam Criteria)
In order to diagnose PCOS, two of the following must be identified:
- Oligoovulation and/or anovulation — ovulating less than normal or not at all
- Excess androgen activity — high concentration of male hormones in the blood
- Polycystic ovaries — multiple cysts found on the ovaries
Other endocrine disorders must be ruled out before a doctor will make a PCOS diagnosis.
Key Takeaways: Can CBD Help With PCOS?
PCOS is an endocrine disorder involving fluctuations in testosterone, estrogen, FSH, LH, and more. It can significantly affect the quality of life of those affected and remains one of the leading causes of infertility in women.
This condition has a lot of overlap with diabetes, characterized by heightened insulin levels in the blood and higher than normal male hormone production.
There are no direct studies on the effects of CBD for PCOS — but there are some speculative effects we can make from other areas of research.
The most relevant effects of CBD for PCOS involve its regulating effect on insulin levels, as well as its potential to promote weight loss and support other side-effects of the condition like anxiety.
If you’re interested in trying CBD to help manage symptoms, we highly recommend visiting your doctor first. This is important to make sure the use of CBD (or any supplement) won’t interact with any of your other medications and to assess any other factors that may interfere — such as other underlying health conditions.
More research is needed to assess the specific effects of CBD for PCOS. Stay up to date with any updates in this field of study by signing up for our newsletter below.
CBD Oil for PCOS
Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is a widespread gynecological condition. Figures suggest that it affects as many as 1 in 10 women of childbearing age. It is a major cause of female infertility, and also causes a range of other symptoms.
In this article, we take a closer look at PCOS and whether CBD oil could help.
PCOS: What Is It?
PCOS causes many tiny cysts to form in the ovaries. These cysts form when the follicle fails to release an egg during ovulation due to a hormonal imbalance.
PCOS can vary significantly in its severity. Some women never know they have the condition until they experience fertility issues. Others are afflicted by a variety of symptoms that plague their daily lives.
Symptoms of PCOS
The symptoms of PCOS vary from woman to woman. Some of the most common include:
- Irregular or absent periods
- Weight gain
- Excess body hair (hirsutism)
- Thinning head hair
- Dark, velvety skin in areas like the neck, armpits, and groin (acanthosis nigricans)
- Skin tags
- Fertility issues
- High risk of complications during pregnancy
Women with PCOS are at risk of diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, sleep apnea, and endometrial cancer. They may also suffer from mood disorders like anxiety and depression.
An imbalance in the sex hormones causes PCOS. All women produce some androgens (male sex hormones) in addition to their female sex hormones. However, women with PCOS produce more androgens than usual. This leads to symptoms such as acne and hirsutism. Further hormonal imbalances prevent ovulation from occurring as it should. This causes missing periods and cyst formation around the ovaries.
Further hormonal imbalances prevent ovulation from occurring as it should. This causes missing periods and cyst formation around the ovaries.
Finally, women with PCOS often suffer from insulin resistance. This causes weight gain and other metabolic problems. It also increases the risk of diabetes and heart disease later in life.
These hormonal imbalances are extremely complex, and scientists are still trying to understand precisely why they occur. It appears that they are the result of dysfunction in the hypothalamic-pituitary-ovarian (HPO) axis, which is how the hypothalamus, pituitary gland, and ovaries use hormones to communicate and regulate the menstrual cycle.
The most common PCOS treatments include medication to regulate the menstrual cycle or trigger ovulation in women who are trying to conceive. Doctors may also prescribe metformin (an anti-diabetic drug) for women with insulin resistance. Also, anti-androgenic medications may help manage symptoms such as acne and hirsutism.
For some women, especially those trying to become pregnant, surgery may be necessary. A procedure known as ovarian drilling can help to trigger ovulation if medication has failed.
Other women might find that lifestyle changes, such as exercising regularly and eating well, are enough to manage their symptoms.
Does CBD (Cannabidiol) Have the Potential to Help PCOS?
CBD has become extraordinarily popular in recent years, but could it help women with PCOS?
Unfortunately, the answer is not straightforward.
CBD works by interacting with the body’s endocannabinoid system (ECS). The ECS is responsible for maintaining homeostasis (balance) within the body. It plays a role in controlling mood, movement, appetite, immunity, and blood pressure, among other things. It also appears to help regulate the reproductive system.
The ECS is a combination of cannabinoid receptors and chemicals called endocannabinoids. These chemicals and receptors bind together to trigger a variety of responses throughout the body.
Two of the most well-studied cannabinoid receptors in the ECS are CB1 and CB2. Researchers have discovered these receptors in most of the body’s tissues, including the ovaries. They believe that the ECS plays a role in egg development, ovulation, and the secretion of sex hormones. It probably does this by influencing the HPO axis.
CBD has a powerful effect on the ECS. It can alter the way endocannabinoids bind with CB1 and CB2 receptors. Therefore, it may have a significant impact on reproductive function. But is this good news for PCOS?
The Endocannabinoid System and PCOS
A 2015 study for Fertility and Sterility compared fatty tissue from 20 women with PCOS and 20 healthy women. The authors found that women with PCOS had higher levels of the endocannabinoids anandamide (AEA) and 2-arachidonoylglycerol (2-AG). They also had a higher expression of CB1 and CB2 receptors in their cells.
These results suggest that the ECS plays a role in the development of PCOS and insulin resistance. A 2019 paper for the Journal of Ovarian Research supports this theory. The authors of this piece suggest that the influence of the ECS on PCOS may be as follows:
- High AEA levels affect the insulin-producing cells in the pancreas.
- This leads to insulin resistance and thus high levels of circulating insulin.
- High insulin levels increase androgen production.
- High androgen levels prevent ovulation.
- Progesterone levels decrease, while estrogen levels increase.
- This imbalance reduces levels of FAAH, the enzyme responsible for breaking down AEA.
- AEA activity increases at CB1 receptors in the ovaries.
- PCOS occurs, as AEA activity needs to fluctuate within normal ranges for proper ovulation.
It is important to note this is currently just a theory. However, it may be useful to consider this theory when it comes to the action of CBD.
One of CBD’s effects on the ECS is slowing the breakdown of AEA and raising its levels in the body. If the above theory is correct, this could mean that CBD has a negative impact on PCOS.
However, CBD also acts as a ‘negative allosteric modulator’ at CB1 receptors. This means that it changes the shape of the receptors, making it harder for molecules to bind with them. It could, therefore, potentially block some of the activity of AEA at CB1 receptors.
Until more research is conducted, it is difficult to know for sure whether CBD helps or hinders PCOS. However, it could potentially relieve some of its symptoms.
CBD for PCOS: Potential Benefits
Although the exact effects of CBD on the development of PCOS are unclear, it could benefit some of its symptoms.
Women with PCOS may suffer from lower abdominal pain. This could be due to menstruation, ovulation, or ruptured cysts. Pain is one of the primary reasons why people use CBD, and it could potentially help PCOS pain, too.
Learn more about how CBD relieves pain in our related article: CBD Oil for Pain Management
Another common reason why people use CBD is to ease anxiety, depression, and mood swings. It is especially well-known for its anti-anxiety properties. Many women with PCOS suffer from anxiety.
For more on CBD for anxiety, see our article: Will CBD Cure Anxiety [Myths vs Facts]
Research has shown that CBD can help to reduce sebum production and inflammation in acne. It may be best to use CBD topically for acne, applying it directly to the skin. Many CBD topicals also contain other soothing ingredients to enhance its effects further.
Here’s more on how CBD could benefit acne symptoms: CBD for Acne [Things to Know Before You Try]
Weight and Metabolism
Numerous scientists have studied how CBD and other cannabinoids like THC and THCV affect body weight and insulin sensitivity. According to the research, THCV appears to have an especially positive effect. You may be able to find this cannabinoid in some brands of full-spectrum CBD oil and other cannabis products.
This is perhaps one of the most significant benefits of CBD for PCOS. Increased body weight and insulin resistance play a large part in the development of the condition. Therefore, anything which helps to manage these issues could potentially be of value.
You can find more information on how cannabinoids affect body weight in our article: CBD for Weight Loss: Is it a Scam?
Final Thoughts on CBD Oil for PCOS
It seems that the ECS plays a large part in the development of PCOS and its symptoms. Therefore, cannabinoids like CBD are likely to have a significant impact on the condition. However, until further evidence emerges, it remains unclear whether this impact is positive or negative. Research does suggest that CBD could help with some of the symptoms of PCOS.
Research does suggest that CBD could help with some of the symptoms of PCOS.
However, if you suffer from PCOS and want to try CBD, we recommend consulting your physician or gynecologist first. This is especially important if you take any medication, as CBD has the potential to interact with many different drugs.
You should also consult a medical professional if you want to take CBD and are trying to become pregnant. The effects of CBD on the developing fetus are still largely unknown. Therefore, the Food and Drug Administration strongly advises against its use during pregnancy.
Although many people state that CBD is safe, like any medicine, it is not entirely free from risks. Therefore, CBD oil for PCOS should not be seen as a substitute for regular medical care.