How Does CBD Affect Testosterone?
We covered CBD's effects on estrogen here but what is the other side of the coin?
Does CBD affect testosterone?
The endocannabinoid is all wrapped around our steroidal hormone complex so we need to really understand this piece.
Turns out that testosterone is not just about libido and muscle building (sorry if we disappointed some of you).
There are testosterone receptors on every cell of your body!
Heart. Bone. Brain. Immune system. All of it!
Testosterone drops about 1% a year starting in our early 20's so this is important.
We'll take a quick look at that piece before diving into CBD's effect on this powerful player in health.
We'll also touch on THC which has a completely different effect on testosterone.
Here are the topics we'll cover:
- Testosterone and health with a focus on mental health
- The decline of testosterone with age
- Does CBD increase or reduce testosterone
- Does THC affect testosterone
- What's the best CBD for testosterone support
Let's get started!
Testosterone and health with a focus on mental health
Testosterone has been given a bad rap...or maybe just the wrong one.
Everyone thinks of back acne and roid rage with testosterone.
That's largely from synthetic steroids like Anabol which mimic the chemistry of testosterone (but not identically) and at very high doses.
We can pick any system and see a powerful and direct impact of testosterone throughout life.
There's a great review here:
In general, testosterone functions much like estrogen in the female body in that it's a growth supporter.
We use the term growth in a general sense as there are many things that are constantly attacking and breaking down tissue.
Testosterone is the offset to that in order to maintain structural integrity and for lack of a better word...vitality.
The opposite of this is atrophy...or withering away.
It supports the repair and replenishment of key systems...a few examples.
Heart and cardiovascular:
Testosterone replacement therapy (TRT) has been shown to improve myocardial ischemia in men with CAD, improve exercise capacity in patients with CHF, and improve serum glucose levels, HbA1c, and insulin resistance in men with diabetes and prediabetes.
Goodness..improvement for heart attacks, better sugar balancing, and insulin response.
Testosterone directly interacts with the lining of our arterial walls to keep them pliable and robust.
What about the immune system?
A study looked at this and found a very important result:
Endogenous testosterone appears to be immunomodulatory rather than immunosuppressive.
It doesn't just boost or reduce immune response...it manages depending on the state of the system!
This is huge! In general, as we get older and lose natural testosterone production, the effects are a weakened immune response (same with estrogen).
Again, they both bolster whatever system is in play.
What about the brain? Mental health?
Let's drill down JUST into testosterone and depression as we could write for pages on mental health in general.
There's long been a connection between low testosterone and depression:
In depressive disorders with decreased libido and low testosterone, the androgen hormone replacement therapy was at least as effective as serotonin reuptake transporters
SSRIs (see CBD versus SSRIs)...the main medication for depression.
A study looked at testosterone's effect for women transitioning to males:
SERT binding increases correlated with treatment-induced increases in testosterone levels, suggesting that testosterone increases SERT expression on the cell surface.
Sert is the serotonin transport that allows more action in that pathway.
We already look at how estrogen directly supports serotonin (see estrogen and mental health).
Interestingly enough, the brain is full of aromatase which converts testosterone to estrogen...an effect that is also supportive of serotonin function.
Now...if you've read our CBD and mental health review or dozens of our studies, you'll know that the real player behind the scenes is BDNF, our brain's fertilizer. See CBD and BDNF.
This is actually why SSRIs have any effect (until they don't due to tolerance). See How SSRIs actually work.
Here's the clincher...animals were castrated and their levels of BDNF dropped off significantly.
When testosterone was replaced?
Treatment of castrated males with testosterone maintained BDNF levels at those of intact males in both sets of muscles.
And even in women…
Testosterone treatment increases the levels of BDNF protein in the female HVC, and BDNF infused into the HVC of adult females triples the number of new neurons
Okay...we could go on and on but hopefully, we've established that testosterone is critical to incredibly powerful systems throughout the body and brain.
All these systems tend to degrade with age. Hmmmmm
The decline of testosterone with age
Here's the bad news:
Total testosterone levels fall at an average of 1.6% per year whilst free and bioavailable levels fall by 2%–3% per year.
There's a balance to this:
Researchers found men with the lowest testosterone levels had the highest mortality rate, followed by men with the highest testosterone levels.
So not too low or too high!
Vitamin D is a big player in regulating our steroidal hormones and half the population is deficient (up to 80% for African Americans).
Vitamin D is also decreasing as we get older.
Ok….we just touched lightly on the role of testosterone in the body.
On to CBD.
Does CBD increase or reduce testosterone?
There is one study on mice that round reduced testosterone but the doses were ridiculously high (approx 2000mg daily for a 160 pound or 70 kg person).
On one hand, CBD may reduce testosterone production in the testes, but it consequently slows its breakdown in the liver.
Again, these were at very high levels not used by people.
Studies up to 1500mg daily had no adverse effects.
We see that neurogenesis (key to the BDNF pathway above) peaks at 300 mg daily so beyond an initial more severe period (drug withdrawals, psychosis, etc) or acute use (public speaking, panic attack, etc), there's no reason to go higher.
whereas 100 μM CBD did not in an in vitro experiment with primary testis microsomes.
And the liver breakdown piece:
Rats treated with 10 mg/kg i.p. b.w. CBD showed inhibition of testosterone oxidation in the liver.
This is about 700 mg for a 160-pound person.
Basically, this says at higher levels, the liver isn't able to break down testosterone as quickly.
This makes sense since the same liver pathway P450 breaks down both.
Here's the linchpin...production of testosterone and estrogen are actually controlled further upstream with LH and GnRH:
CBD had no significant effect on any of these parameters and none of these cannabinoids had any effect on plasma follicle-stimulating hormone levels or median eminence LH-releasing hormone (LHRH) content.
This isn't surprising to us.
In general, CBD functions as a feedback mechanism on certain pathways.
Serotonin, GABA, Glycine, Opioid, Inflammation, and others are directly balanced in this way.
In fact, CBD can have very different responses depending on the state of the system.
- Healthy cell with high inflammation - CBD reduces inflammation
- Healthy cell with low inflammation - CBD has no effect
- Cancerous or virally infected cell - CBD INCREASES inflammation
What gives with the third effect?
The immune system normally deals with wayward cells by jacking up inflammation (via oxidative stress) to kill them off.
Radiation and chemo are giant doses of oxidative stress!
CBD doesn't push pathways in one direction! That's its greatest strength.
In terms of steroidal hormones, whatever effect it does have comes from its impact on CB1 activity and anandamide (its primary player).
CBD supports anandamide when low but not when high.
Anandamide is all over the reproductive system and hormone function.
What about CBD's cousin...THC?
Does THC affect testosterone?
THC is very different than CBD and can have opposing effects.
In general, THC boosts CB1 activity (as if anandamide) but in one direction.
CB1 receptors are all over our steroidal hormone complex.
In general, THC acts like a big wet blanket across the steroidal hormone complex:
In men, THC has been shown to decrease sperm count, reduce serum testosterone and LH levels, reduce sperm motility, and inhibit the processes needed to facilitate sperms’ ability to achieve conception
It can be a pretty big effect as shown from animal studies:
With 0.15 microM (0.05 micrograms/ml) 8-beta-OH-delta 9-THC the inhibition was about 50% of stimulated testosterone synthesis.
Interestingly, consuming cannabis can boost estrogen when smoked.
It's something about the combustion itself:
MSC stimulated the estrogenicity related to the ER-mediated pathway, while neither THC, CBD, nor CBN did
Okay...some practical questions.
What's the best CBD for testosterone support
First, any CBD product needs the following:
- Organically grown in the US at FDA registered farms
- CO2 processed
- 3rd party testing
- No THC (which does affect testosterone and builds tolerance)
- No pesticides
- No solvents
- No heavy metals
- No bacteria
- No mold
You can find our 3rd party testing at the top of every page.
Then, there's the question of CBD isolate versus full spectrum.
Roughly 40-60% of the population has histamine issues and this number goes up as we get older and for women.
CBD isolate actually calms the histamine response (see CBD and histamine) and we see many of the side effects from full spectrum go away with isolate.
Plus, all the research is on CBD by itself (isolate).
In the raw hemp plant material, you can also have different chemicals that boost estrogen, called phytoestrogens.
This is true across a range of different foods with soy being front and center.
Then there's the question of cost.
The key here is the cost per mg of CBD. We price our 6000 mg bottles at 2-3 cents per mg before discounts up to 50%.
With research pointing to levels of 300mg for neurogenesis (a powerful pathway for mental health and addiction), we need to be able to afford the levels found in actual research.
Learn all about CBD and estrogen here.
Always work with a doctor or naturopath with any supplement!
The information provided here is not intended to treat an illness or substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment from a qualified healthcare provider.