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Can CBD help with polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS)? Here's what to Know about Taking CBD for PCOS Can Cannabidiol be used as a PCOS supplement? People are talking about the potential benefits of this compound for anxiety, blood sugar control & more.

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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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    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

    Cannabidiol/CBD Oil for PCOS?

    I am often asked if we can use cannabidiol for PCOS. While it is not something that I use or have much experience with, many women with PCOS report positive results, so I did a little research. As always, I encourage you to explore new ideas and educate yourself about possible treatments, then evaluate and discuss options with your medical provider.

    What is Cannabidiol?

    Cannabidiol is a chemical compound in the Cannabis sativa plant which is more commonly known as marijuana. The plant itself has over 80 chemicals known as cannabinoids, and cannabidiol is just one of them. No, it won’t make you feel high. A compound called Tetrahydrocannabinol or THC is the major active ingredient and the one responsible for the psychoactive property of marijuana. Cannabidiol, on the other hand, is a separate compound altogether and has none of the psychoactive properties THC possesses.

    How do you get Cannabidiol?

    Cannabidiol makes up about 40% of cannabis extracts and is currently the subject of curiosity for many types of therapeutic applications. Cannabidiol is produced in two ways:

    1. Natural . Cannabidiol is abundant in the cannabis plant. Cannabidiol can be found in both marijuana and hemp varieties of cannabis, the difference being the level of THC with the former being grown specifically for its THC. Hemp only has trace amounts of THC which makes hemp legal in the United States while marijuana is federally illegal.
    2. Synthetic. Synthetic cannabidiol has been produced successfully, but it is a strictly regulated substance and possession of it is illegal outside of a few specialized circumstances.

    Known effects of cannabidiol

    Pain relief and inflammation

    Taking cannabidiol for pain and inflammation is one of the biggest reasons why people are taking it both orally and topically. [1]

    Transdermal cannabidiol (CBD) gel application has therapeutic potential for relief of arthritic pain-related behaviours and exerts an anti-inflammation property without evident high brain centre psychoactive effects.

    Cannabidiol is known to significantly suppress chronic inflammatory and neuropathic pain in rat subjects without promoting analgesic (pain reliever) tolerance. Because of this, many scientists believe cannabidiol has potential for the treatment of chronic pain. [2]

    Collectively, we have provided evidence to suggest that glycinergic cannabinoids are ideal therapeutic agents in the treatment of inflammatory and neuropathic pain. They can effectively attenuate pathological pain without significantly causing major psychoactive side effect and analgesic tolerance.”

    Helps with anxiety

    Cannabidiol has been shown to possess anxiolytic (anti-anxiety) properties in patients diagnosed with social anxiety disorder and scientists even consider its potential for panic disorder, OCD, and PTSD. [4]

    Studies using animal models of anxiety and involving healthy volunteers clearly suggest an anxiolytic-like effect of CBD. Moreover, CBD was shown to reduce anxiety in patients with social anxiety disorder.

    For more about CBD and anxiety, read Dr. David Brady’s article on the subject.

    Potential use for PCOS

    Many are considering cannabidiol to help them cope with the symptoms of PCOS, mainly with anxiety, pain, PMS, and sleep issues. Because of cannabidiol’s anxiolytic properties without the “high,” PCOS patients could potentially see some benefits and help them feel calmer and sleep better. More than to just help women feel less stressed and pained, cannabidiol might actually directly improve PCOS treatment by means of the endocannabinoid system.

    The endocannabinoid system (ECS) is a signaling network that is generally responsible in maintaining balance or homeostasis in the body. The ECS is named as such due to it being composed of endocannabinoids, ligands created by the body on demand, and two cannabinoid receptors (CB1, CB2). These receptors are always striving to make sure everything in our body, including the processes involved in reproduction , are balanced.

    So what happens when things go haywire? Current literature suggests ECS dysfunction, whether too little or too much, could be one of the few reasons why women develop PCOS, with some of the symptoms of PCOS such as insulin resistance and obesity possibly influenced by the ECS. [5, 6]

    In conclusion, our results clearly demonstrate that activation of endocannabinoids and overexpression of cannabinoid receptors, especially CB1, may be associated with insulin resistance in women with PCOS.

    How does something like cannabidiol help with maintaining a healthy ECS? Well, cannabidiol happens to share identical chemical makeup to endocannabinoids which allows them to interact with cannabinoid receptors to help keep the system running smoothly. This means supplementing with cannabidiol might actually have a direct effect on PCOS patients when it comes to treatment.

    While these studies are promising, I encourage you to conduct further research on your own and consult your medical provider before using this or any supplement, compound, or treatment.

    For more about CBD for PCOS, listen to (or read the transcript) of my podcast with Mary Clifton, “CBD for PCOS- Is It Right for You? [Podcast]“

    Amy Medling, best-selling author of Healing PCOS and certified health coach, specializes in working with women with Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS), who are frustrated and have lost all hope when the only solution their doctors offer is to lose weight, take a pill, and live with their symptoms. In response, Amy founded PCOS Diva and developed a proven protocol of supplements, diet, and lifestyle programs that offer women tools to help gain control of their PCOS and regain their fertility, femininity, health, and happiness.

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