CBD and Polycystic Ovary Syndrome
Affecting one in 10 women of childbearing age, polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is a problem in which the ovaries or adrenal glands produce more male hormones than normal. There is no cure for the syndrome, but some lifestyle adjustments and medicines can help control symptoms. Studies indicate that cannabinoids, which are natural compounds extracted from cannabis plants like hemp, may also offer some benefits to women diagnosed with PCOS.
What is Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS)?
Women with PCOS may experience infrequent or prolonged menstrual periods. Their ovaries can develop numerous follicles, or small collections of fluid, which prevent the regular release of eggs and lead to infertility. Other symptoms commonly associated with the syndrome include pelvic pain, weight gain, acne or oily skin, patches of thickened skin, and excess hair growth.
While the exact cause of PCOS remains unknown, the syndrome is more common in women who are obese or who have a female family member with PCOS. Other factors that may play a role include excess insulin and low-grade inflammation. Early diagnosis and treatment can reduce the risk of the syndrome’s long-term complications like type 2 diabetes and heart disease.
How Cannabinoids May Be Beneficial for PCOS
There have yet to be any human studies investigating the impact of cannabinoid administration on polycystic ovary syndrome. Research does indicate, however, that cannabinoids may be beneficial for PCOS through their influence over the body’s endocannabinoid system.
The endocannabinoid system is a signaling network that keeps many of the body’s systems in homeostasis. It’s made up of endocannabinoids, which are ligands synthesized by the body on demand, and cannabinoid receptors (CB1 and CB2). Endocannabinoids are continuously acting upon the cannabinoid receptors to elicit chemical responses designed to keep our systems, including reproduction, in balance.
Researchers have suggested that a dysfunction of the endocannabinoid system may be implicated in the development of polycystic ovary syndrome. A dysfunction in the endocannabinoid system occurs when the body doesn’t generate enough endocannabinoids or have enough receptors to function properly. Several of the polycystic ovary syndrome’s underlying features – insulin resistance, androgen hypersecretion, and obesity – may also be influenced by the endocannabinoid system.
What does this suggest? That cannabinoids, derived from cannabis plants like hemp, could help in the treatment efforts of PCOS. Cannabinoids, like cannabidiol (CBD) and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), share similar chemical makeups to endocannabinoids and therefore can interact with cannabinoid receptors to assist the endocannabinoid system in its efforts to balance functions. Researchers know that cannabinoid receptors and endocannabinoids are found within human ovaries, and previous studies have suggested they can help when there’s dysfunction in the endocannabinoid system.
A small body of evidence indicates that modulating the endocannabinoid system by supplementing the body with cannabinoids could help those with PCOS. One case study investigating 20 women with PCOS and 20 healthy women as a control group found evidence that linked insulin release in women with PCOS to the activation of endocannabinoids and the overexpression of cannabinoid receptors, particularly CB1 receptors. Investigators have also found that a CB1 receptor antagonist was effective at eliciting weight loss in PCOS patients. In animal trials, the activation of CB1 receptors in pancreatic cells were found to induce insulin hypersecretion and insulin resistance. These findings suggest that endocannabinoid signaling in the pancreas may also play a role in PCOS-associated insulin resistance.
For PCOS patients suffering with pain, cannabinoids have established themselves as powerful pain-relieving compounds. While studies investigating their efficacy for PCOS-related pain are lacking, cannabinoids have shown they can reduce pain caused by an array of causes.