CBD Effects: Does CBD Affect Men and Women Differently?
Women and men are obviously different in many ways – from body size and shape right down to the ways our body works. And it’s these differences and our built-in endocannabinoid systems that determine how CBD will behave in our bodies.
The endocannabinoid system (ECS) is naturally occurring in the body and helps regulate things like sleep, mood and appetite. Thanks to research, we know now that the ECS has receptors throughout the body that CBD can interact with. The precise way CBD works is still being studied, but we know it’s essential!
It varies between men and women, but the ECS is essentially a map of receptors that runs through our brain, central nervous system, organs and our immune system. Hormones are crucial to how CBD interacts with the ECS and why CBD may affect women differently than men. Let’s look at what hormones CBD interacts with and what potential wellness benefits there are for women and men.
How CBD Affects Women
Surveys have found that men and women are pretty much split down the middle on their top reasons for using CBD, including; relaxation, stress relief, and improving sleep. But research also found that women were more likely to take CBD to improve their overall health and wellness, while men ranked higher in using CBD in social situations.
Alleviates PMS Symptoms
Ask just about any woman, and she’ll likely say PMS is the worst. Cramps, mood swings, bloating, nausea and anxiety are a few of many symptoms women experience each month leading up to their period.
Early evidence indicates that CBD may help improve PMS symptoms. The hormone estrogen easily breaks down and absorbs cannabinoids like CBD, enhancing its effects. CBD then taps into the body’s ECS to help regulate estrogen levels, which in turn can help tone down some of the unpleasant and erratic symptoms of PMS.
Improves Sex Drive
A major complaint from menopausal women is a decreased libido – or desire to have sex. When menopause hits your estrogen levels drop, which can lead to decreased arousal and often times painful sex for women. That’s where CBD can help. As we mentioned, CBD can give estrogen an extra boost, which in turn may improve libido. If you’re using CBD as a complementary treatment for these symptoms, make sure to do your research or speak to your doctor beforehand because while low amounts of CBD can improve your sex drive, higher doses could do the opposite.
CBD And Anxiety
Chances are you know someone dealing with an anxiety disorder. If it’s in the UK, it’s probably a woman because they’re twice as likely to be diagnosed as men. It has a tremendous impact on how you function affecting work, home life and relationships. Studies have shown that CBD can significantly help with anxiety and stress, making it easier to handle in your day-to-day life. Amphora has a Peace effect based vape cartridge, specifically formulated to help find a sense of balance.
How CBD Affects Men
While men may take CBD for similar reasons, women do, their experiences are different. If you’ve searched for any sort of CBD-related products, you’ve probably noticed a lot of it is marketed towards women. Despite that, research has found that men are more likely to try CBD than women and are more than twice as likely to use it regularly. Like women, men also turn to natural CBD products to help with things like pain relief, better sleep, and reducing stress.
Helps Regulate Blood Pressure
High blood pressure is a huge problem. More men have high blood pressure compared to women, which puts them at a higher risk for heart disease and stroke according to the Centres for Disease Control. A recent study found that even just one dose of CBD oil helped reduce the resting blood pressure of male participants after a stress test.
Researchers suggest that the antioxidants in CBD could work to reduce inflammation, which decreases anxiety and stress that causes high blood pressure.
Improves Erectile Dysfunction
Erectile dysfunction (ED) is a common issue that men deal with that increases with age. Just as CBD oil is supposed to improve a woman’s libido, it may also help with ED in men. The causes of ED are complicated, but the research so far shows that CBD may help with the psychological aspect of it.
If you’ve been told “it’s all in your head,” that’s not exactly helpful when you’re dealing with this problem. Studies have shown that THC — which possesses psychoactive properties that CBD doesn’t — may actually heighten anxiety in men. At the same time, CBD lowers anxiety, which in turn can improve performance anxiety in the bedroom.
How Do I Know Which CBD Product Is Right For Me?
The regulations around CBD are continually changing, and being a relatively new and exceedingly popular product in the UK, many companies market CBD products that aren’t compliant with UK regulations. You have to make sure that you’re getting a safe product.
At Amphora, we list all of our certificates of analysis online. These show that our products have been tested by a third-party to show that they’re safe and actually have what we’ve listed as the ingredients in there.
We also use broad-spectrum, distillate products that give you the full benefit of the cannabis plant. Our products are 100% organic, and we don’t use any dangerous additives.
Broad-spectrum or distillate CBD oil contains all the fantastic natural elements found in the cannabis plant including CBD, other cannabinoids, essential oils, terpenes and flavonoids. It also has absolutely all the THC removed, the psychoactive cannabinoid found in cannabis plants. The THC can be no more than 0.2% in full-spectrum CBD oil to be legal in the UK. People prefer broad-spectrum or distillate because it produces the entourage effect, which enhances the benefits of CBD without the psychoactive effects of THC.
Men and women definitely have differences in how our bodies function and react to stressors. But as you can see, both men and women may be able to benefit from adding CBD to their wellness routine.
Written by | Infused Amphora Team
The Infused Amphora Team is dedicated to creating resources to educate and engage consumers on the growing evidence of CBD benefits and the extensive health and wellness properties of CBD Oil.
Contributor | Angus Taylor CEO
Infused Amphora “Learn” is intended for informational purposes only and is NOT a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.
How important are sex differences in cannabinoid action?
In humans as in animals, males and females are dissimilar in their genetic and hormonally driven behaviour; they process information differently, perceive experience and emotions in different ways, display diverse attitudes, language and social skills, and show sex-related differences in the brain anatomy and organization. Drug addiction is a widespread relapsing illness that affects both men and women. Sex-dependent differences have been frequently observed in the biological and behavioural effects of substances of abuse, including cannabis. Beside sex differences observed in the cannabinoid-induced effects related to cannabis abuse and dependence, cannabinoids have been shown to exert sex-dependent effects also in other physiological and behavioural aspects, such as food intake and energy balance (more evident in males), or anxiety and depression (more evident in females). Research has just begun to identify factors which could provide a neurobiological basis for gender-based differences in cannabinoid effects, among which, gonadal hormones seem to play a crucial role. Yet, cannabinoid pharmacodynamic and pharmacokinetic may also be important, as sex differences in cannabinoid effects might be due, at least in part, to differences in muscle mass and fat tissue distribution between males and females. Here, we will review both clinical and laboratory-based research evidence revealing important sex-related differences in cannabinoid effects, and put forward some suggestions for future studies to fill the gap in our knowledge of gender-specific bias in cannabinoid pharmacology.
This article is part of a themed issue on Cannabinoids. To view the editorial for this themed issue visit http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1476-5381.2010.00831.x
In contrast with the past, when females were excluded or underrepresented in both clinical and preclinical studies, attention and interest in possible sex differences is now developing in many fields of biomedical research. Indeed, both animal and human studies have revealed important sex-related differences in hormone and neurotransmitter functions. Over the last two decades, the endocannabinoid system has emerged as one of the neurotransmission systems most involved in both peripheral and central physiological processes. Intensive research on the possible roles of the endocannabinoid system has led to a great improvement in our knowledge of how this system modulates a number of central and peripheral functions, and has revealed important sex differences in the effects of cannabinoids ( Figure 1 ).
Sex-dependent differences in cannabinoid effects. Blue: cannabinoid-induced effects that are more evident in males. Pink: cannabinoid-induced effects more evident in females. Grey: fields where the effects of cannabinoids are not dependent on sex (i.e. impulsivity), are incongruent between clinical and animal studies (i.e. addiction) or data are still controversial (i.e. hypothermia).
In humans, gender differences have been frequently observed in the biological and behavioural effects of substances of abuse (Fattore et al., 2008), including cannabis. For example, men consume marijuana in greater amounts and at higher rates than do women (Perez-Reyes et al., 1981), and male high school students are more likely than female students to report problems in school and poor family relationships (Butters, 2005). Male marijuana smokers also exhibit higher circulating levels of delta9-tetrahydrocannabinol (delta9-THC) (Jones et al., 2008), show larger cardiovascular and subjective effects than female smokers (Leatherdale et al., 2007), display more evident withdrawal symptoms (Crowley et al., 1998), are less likely to be cannabis-only users (i.e. polysubstance cannabis users) and have a higher prevalence of panic disorder and personality disorders (Hasin et al., 2008). Consistent with these differences, among non-marijuana smokers, men are more sensitive to the subjective effects of delta9-THC alone than women (Haney, 2007). On the contrary, although there are no apparent gender differences in intoxication or plasma delta9-THC levels after smoking marijuana (Wall et al., 1983), women report significantly more dizziness than men and are more susceptible to cannabinoid-induced haemodynamic changes and visuospatial memory impairment (Mathew et al., 2003), smoke marijuana mainly when they feel anxious (Patton et al., 2002) and show higher sub-type 1 cannabinoid receptor (CB1) protein expression than men, as measured in blood samples (Onaivi et al., 1999). Notably, the influence of cannabis intake on sexual behaviour and arousability appear to be dose-dependent in both men and women, although only women report facilitatory effects (Gorzalka et al., 2009). No gender differences have been observed instead in the effects of delta9-THC on impulsivity (Mcdonald et al., 2003).
Similar sex differences in responses to cannabinoids have been found in preclinical studies. For example, males are more sensitive to the hyperphagic and hypophagic effects of the CB1 receptor agonists and antagonists, respectively (Diaz et al., 2009), as well as to their hypothermic and hyperthermic effects (Farhang et al., 2009). Conversely, cannabinoids elicit comparatively greater catalepsy, antinociception and locomotor effects in females than in males (Tseng and Craft, 2004), and decrease both exploratory behaviour and emotionality/anxiety levels in female, but not male, rodents (Biscaia et al., 2003). More consistent are animal studies showing that the endocannabinoid system may be differentially sensitive in its modulation of appetitive behaviour in females versus males. That is, intravenous self-administration of the CB1 receptor agonist WIN 55,212-2 in female Long Evans and Lister Hooded rats is more rapidly acquired, more robustly maintained and more slowly extinguished than in their male counterparts (Fattore et al., 2007). Moreover, after both drug and cue priming, intact female rats reinstate responding for the cannabinoid at higher level than males and ovariectomized females (Fattore et al., 2010). Importantly, perinatal exposure to delta9-THC decreases proenkephalin gene expression in the caudate-putamen of female but not male rats (Corchero et al., 1998), while female but not male rats that have been perinatally exposed to delta9-THC self-administer more morphine once they are adults (Vela et al., 1998).
Sex-dependent differences in mammalian behaviour, and in drug effects on behaviour, generally have been found to rely on activational effects of gonadal steroid hormones. For example, sex differences in cannabinoid-induced behavioural effects in rats have been attributed to activational effects of testosterone in males and/or oestradiol in females, as cycling females result more sensible to delta9-THC-induced effects when tested in oestrous (i.e. in a high-oestradiol state) than in dioestrous (i.e. in a low-oestradiol state) (Craft and Leitl, 2008). Consistent with this, gonadal hormones such as oestradiol are known to regulate cannabinoid receptor density (Busch et al., 2006), transcription (González et al., 2000) and signal transduction (Mize and Alper, 2000) in some areas of the adult rodent brain, suggesting that CB1 receptor function may be sexually dimorphic. That is, in some regions of the brain, the endocannabinoid levels (Bradshaw et al., 2006) and the CB1 receptor density and affinity (Rodríguez de Fonseca et al., 1994) fluctuate as a function of sex and hormonal cycle, supporting the hypothesis of possible sex hormone-dependent differences in the sensitivity of certain neuronal processes triggered by cannabinoid treatment. Oestrogen exerts profound effects on mood, mental state and memory by acting on both monoamine and neuropeptide transmitter mechanisms in the brain. Low levels of oestrogen in women are, in fact, associated with the premenstrual syndrome, post-natal depression and post-menopausal depression (Fink et al., 1996). However, one cannot exclude the possibility that sex differences in the behavioural effects of cannabinoids are related to sex differences in drug disposition and body fat distribution. Cannabinoids are lipophilic, and a high concentration is sequestered in fat tissue. Women have a higher percentage of body fat than men, suggesting that women experience weaker effects because more delta9-THC is retained by fat cells. Moreover, cannabinoids may be differentially metabolized to active and inactive metabolites in men and women. In contrast to human males, male rodents have a higher percentage of body fat, which could account, at least partly, for the different results reported from human and animal studies. For example, female rodents express greater amounts of hepatic cytochrome P-450 isozymes and aldehyde oxygenase activity that may facilitate conversion of delta9-THC to potent bioactive metabolites such as 11-hydroxy-THC (Narimatsu et al., 1991). In line with this, levels of delta9-THC metabolites in brain tissue, including 11-hydroxy-delta9-THC, are higher in females than in males, likely contributing to the greater behavioural effects of delta9-THC in female compared to male rats (Tseng et al., 2004).
In the human population, a gender difference in cannabis use has been identified in several clinical studies and in anecdotal observations, although the nature of the differences have not been well explored. The most consistent finding arising from the surveys conducted so far on this topic is that boys are more likely to be ‘heavy users’ than girls (Kohn et al., 2004). For example, according to the Ontario Student Drug Use Survey conducted between 1999 and 2003, daily marijuana smoking appears to be more common among boys (6.2%) rather than girls (2.2%) (Adlaf and Paglia, 2003). Population-based surveys of adolescents in Belgium have also found a gender difference in the prevalence rate of marijuana smoking, with males being higher frequency users than females (Kohn et al., 2004). Yet, the factors associated with marijuana smoking by boys and girls use are not well described, and it is not known whether the risk factors differ by gender. It is possible that cannabis smoking is associated with different emotional or mental states in males versus females, some anxiety disorders being more frequent in women than in men. Moreover, some possible bias in the results coming from epidemiological studies may occur because women appear to receive more health care information than men, possibly due to women’s superior general communication skills. A recent survey has also revealed interesting gender differences in correlates of both frequent and heavy cannabis use. In particular, girls appear to be less influenced by the cannabis use of their peers or the social milieu established in school. Second, girls reporting relatively poor mental health are more at risk than boys for frequent and heavy cannabis use (Tu et al., 2008). Thus, mental health status is correlated with girls’ cannabis use but not boys’ cannabis use, suggesting that the use of cannabis may be very different for the two sexes. In addition, it should be considered that for girls, the drug is typically obtained through their social relationships with boys, supporting the conclusion that girls smoke marijuana to impress boys, whereas boys ‘get high’ for the sake of the experience.
The studies outlined above describe differences in a variety of cannabinoid effects between sexes; yet, most data come from studies with rodents and systematic comparisons of cannabinoid effects in humans are needed.
The knowledge that cannabinoid action is regulated differently between the sexes and that the majority of these differences are dependent on changes across the oestrous cycle sets the stage for future experiments aimed at elucidating the relationships between endocannabinoids and hormonal milieu. Brain imaging represents another methodology that holds promise for facilitating mechanistic and translational advancements. Unfortunately, although neuroimaging studies have frequently examined brain activations elicited by emotional stimuli in either men or women, they have seldom directly compared men and women within the same study, often because the sample sizes for each sex were insufficient.
Although research regarding gender and the endocannabinoid system has continued to expand and generate novel findings, to date, there has been limited clinical impact of this new knowledge. In this era of translational research, an important goal for scientists is to gain information that may improve clinical treatment of patients of both sexes. For example, as the endocannabinoid signalling pathways affect the multifaceted process of reproduction and may impact both male and female fertility, researchers are working with the hope of designing and developing endocannabinoid-oriented next-generation therapeutics for the treatment of infertility (Wang et al., 2006). An opportunity that could help translation comes from animal models with well-established face and predictive validities, which could serve as a translational link between laboratory findings from animals and human patients. Genetic research may also be useful for this translational continuum, by determining, for example, whether sex-related associations between genetic variants and common diseases described in animal studies may help us to understand why men and women often differ in their susceptibility to the development of diseases and in their response to medicines (pharmacogenetics).
Since the motivations for smoking cannabis are different between sexes especially in adolescents, a higher consideration of the gender differences in smoking marijuana may be important in the design and implementation of prevention or treatment programs for young users. Empirical attention to these issues will further advance knowledge regarding sex and behaviour, and could lead to sex-specific enhancements in clinical management in the not too distant future.
On the other hand, given the remarkable therapeutic potential of cannabinoid agonists or antagonists for the treatment of neuropathic pain, glaucoma, multiple sclerosis, migraine, movement disorders and eating/appetite disorders, some of which occur disproportionately in women, further examination of possible gender differences in cannabinoid pharmacological effects is warranted. Gathering in-depth information on how endocannabinoid signalling is differentially regulated in men and women is essential for developing endocannabinoid system-oriented drugs for selectively targeting central or peripheral tissues thus avoiding adverse effects in unrelated tissue types.
In conclusion, although few important insights into the neurobiological bases of individual differences in cannabinoid effects have been achieved, investigation of such differences is still at an early stage ( Figure 2 ). We would like to emphasize important issues that we feel are worth noting and demand future consideration and investigation. First, mainly in the last decade, clinical research has paid more attention to female patients although, similarly to preclinical research, females are still underrepresented: there is no longer a justification for limiting research to only one sex. Besides cannabis use, a considerable part of the clinical disorders focused on by preclinical research are female predominant (think of anxiety-related disorders or eating disorders), so that preclinical researches that exclude females appear necessarily incomplete and biased. Second, studies specifically aimed at investigating sex-dependent differences in cannabinoid action are now emerging: if both preclinical and human studies routinely included subjects of both sexes, greater progress in the field would be reached in a shorter time. Clinical studies should also report all findings, whether positive or negative, in order to quantitatively define the issues related to the gender differences in cannabis consumption.
Number of clinical (top) and preclinical (bottom) studies using either male (blue) or female (pink) subjects, or specifically focused on the study of sex differences in cannabinoid effects (grey) published during 5 year time intervals. Source: Pub-Medical. Searching for human studies was conducted using ‘cannabinoid + male + men’ (blue), ‘cannabinoid + female + women’ (pink), and ‘cannabinoid + sex differences’ (grey) as keywords, and limiting the search to the following types of studies: Clinical Trial, Randomized Controlled Trial, Case Reports, Clinical Conference, Clinical Trial, Phase I, Clinical Trial, Phase II, Clinical Trial, Phase III, Clinical Trial, Phase IV, Comparative Study, Controlled Clinical Trial. Searching for animal studies was conducted using ‘cannabinoid + male’ (blue) or ‘cannabinoid + female’ (pink) or ‘cannabinoid + sex differences’ as keywords, and limiting the search to the following types of studies: Classical Article, Journal Article.