1 Guilty Pleasure Causes PCOS (Polycystic Ovary Syndrome)

If you have only done it a few times, don’t worry!  However, if you regularly indulge in this “guilty” pleasure…keep reading!  Recently I was asked why PCOS is more common than previously. 

The answer I found surprised me, which is why I am writing this article for you.

Marijuana Causes PCOS?  Really?

A National government survey found that 14.5 million people used marijuana in 2007.  By 2013 that had increased to 19.8 million users. [1]

That is roughly one million more marijuana users every year.  The actual numbers are much more than this survey indicates, but you get the point.

So, now that we know marijuana use is going up, can I prove that marijuana really causes PCOS?

Let me remind you that THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) is what causes the marijuana “high”, and CBD (cannabidiol) doesn’t.

First, we must keep in mind that THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) and CBD (cannabidiol) each react differently within the body’s endocannabinoid system.

Thus, you will have different outcomes when using just one or the other.  Plus, you will have even more different outcomes when they are used together.

Since experimenting on humans in general, and pregnant women in particular isn’t ethical, we have to rely on animal tests for our information.

CBD and THC react differently in mice, rats, rabbits, monkeys, and humans.  So, what happens in mice may be pretty different from what happens in humans.

For example:  

  • Giving rats CBD 30 minutes to 24 hours before giving them THC, increased the effects of the THC. 
  • Whereas, giving monkeys CBD 30 minutes before giving them THC, reduced the effects of the THC. [3]
  • In a human trial, they were given smoke with THC and CBD at the same time, and the CBD reduced the “high” caused by the THC.  However, when given CBD smoke 30 minutes before the THC smoke, there was no reduction of the “high”. [4]
  • Also, there is evidence that increasing CBD vs THC by just 1.8% will increase the effects of THC.  Whereas, you may have to increase CBD vs THC by 800% to decrease the effects of THC. [3]

That’s right. Less is more, and more is less. 

Welcome to the Endocannabinoid System where THC and CBD work their “mysterious magic” on our bodies.


The Endocannabinoid System

The Endocannabinoid System is where marijuana interacts with your body.  It does so through receptors that are practically everywhere throughout the body.

There are several types of receptors, but the main THC and CBD receptors are called CB1 and CB2.

Note: My other website: BuyCBDfor.com has a detailed description of the Endocannabinoid System.

Endocannabinoid System CB1 receptor locations and functions. buycbdfor.com 2019-03-01_13-45-53

CB1 Receptor Locations

There are lots of CB1 receptors in the anterior pituitary, and hypothalamus areas of the brain, where they interact with the central nervous system. 

CB1 receptors are also located in the heart, adrenal gland, spleen and elsewhere.   [5,2]

Elsewhere CB1 receptors are also in the human endometrium lining, and the myometrium muscles in the uterus.  CB1 receptors are also in the follicles of the ovary.  [5]

CB2 Receptor Locations

The CB2 receptors interact with the peripheral nervous system, immune system, endometrium, ovary follicles, and the skin. [5]

Now we know that the CB1, CB2 receptors of the Endocannabinoid System are intimately connected to the female reproductive system.  So, we still need to know how THC and CBD (?) in marijuana causes PCOS.

PCOS and the Menstrual Cycle Starts in the Brain.

The Hypothalamus area of the brain tells the pituitary gland when to make hormones, and also when to stop.

The Pituitary Gland is another area under the brain. It takes the signal from the Hypothalamus to tell the ovaries to release the estrogen and progesterone hormones at various times.

A pregnant woman.  There is evidence that marijuana can cause infertility.
There is evidence that marijuana can cause infertility.

The Menstrual Cycle and Pregnancy

The hypothalamus tells the pituitary to release the Gonadotrophins called: Follicle Stimulating Hormone (FSH) and Luteinizing Hormone (LH).

While the egg moves along the fallopian tube, the progesterone hormone is released.  The progesterone makes the lining of the uterus to get thicker so that the egg can attach to it, which when fertilized, results in pregnancy.

The pregnancy somehow creates more estrogen and progesterone to be released.  Which stops any other eggs from developing.

At the end of the pregnancy, the high levels of estrogen tell the pituitary to release oxytocin.  [17]

Oxytocin is what causes the uterine to start contractions.  Then the hormone

Relaxin is released by the ovaries, which loosens the pelvic ligaments so that labor can begin.

What Causes an Ovary Cyst?

The actual cause or causes of PCOS is unknown, but everyone assumes that the menstrual cycle isn’t working perfectly. [15] So, I need to show you how marijuana use could mess things up and cause PCOS.

When you are born you have an estimated 300,000-400,000 follicles in the ovaries, and you lose some, every month. [10]   By the time you get to be 40 something years old, you have practically run out of them. [10]   Averaged out, you are using up about 700 follicles per month.

During the menstrual cycle only one follicle fully matures and produces a sac that contains an egg.  If the egg is fertilized, pregnancy begins, if not pregnant, the egg is flushed out during menses.

What Happens to The Follicle After the Egg is Released?

Normally, after the egg is released from the follicle sac, the sac disappears.  However, the sac could close up and contain fluid.  That is what is called a luteal cyst. [14]

If the egg isn’t released, and the sac fills with fluid, it is called a follicular cyst.

Both the follicular cyst and the luteal cyst are called Functional Ovarian Cysts. [14]

Functional ovarian cysts usually disappear all by themselves.  They are not considered to be a problem, unless they don’t go away on their own.

However, a cyst can grow larger than normal (over 2 inches).  That sized cyst is much bigger than the grape sized ovary, which is why some cysts will twist.  A twisted cyst (Torsion cyst) is very dangerous, because it can cut off the blood supply to the ovary, and needs immediate medical attention. [13]

Again, in my non-medical opinion, before the cyst twists, you are likely to be in so much pain that you have already seen a doctor.

The Unused Ovary Follicles Cause PCOS?

The other approximately 700 follicles disappear every month, and I haven’t seen any info on how that happens.

Since an ovarian cyst requires a follicle to develop within it, and you have 700 of them available, it’s obvious to me that something happens to them, which results in PCOS.

As a reminder, PCOS stands for POLY (many) Cysts in the ovaries.

Also, the experts all assume that the cause of PCOS is that something happens to cause the menstrual system to act abnormally. [15]

Basically, that means that something upsets the proper quantity of hormones from being produced and used at the proper times.

That could be lots of things.  It could be the foods you eat, air and water pollution, chemicals added to your food, and medicines or drugs.  Marijuana for instance.

Since I have already shown that marijuana use is increasing every year, all I have to do now, is show how marijuana affects the menstrual system.

Marijuana Upsets the Hormonal System Which Causes PCOS

All of the research that I have found only concerns THC (tetrahydrocannabinol).  The research doesn’t mention CBD (cannabidiol), which is to be expected, since CBD is known to have many beneficial healing qualities.

In a study using rats, THC reduces the amount of luteinizing hormone that is released which restrains the process of ovulation.  [11]   In other words, a big surge of luteinizing hormone (called Preovulatory LH Surge) is supposed to be released, but the “surge” is reduced by the THC.

This means that it could take longer for the egg to develop and be released. [11] Which, in my non-doctor opinion, increases the chance of creating a follicular cyst.

Note: Reducing the “surge” of Luteinizing Hormone is exactly how Oral Contraceptive Pills work. [8] That’s also why doctors will prescribe Contraceptive Pills to prevent you from growing new ovarian cysts.

What is supposed to happen, is that many follicles compete to become the one to actually produce an egg.  However, if the luteinizing hormone surge is restrained, I am guessing that one of them doesn’t become dominant, and doesn’t produce an egg. [10]

The end result (I’m guessing) is that all of those follicles continue to develop sacs, with or without eggs.  Again, I’m guessing, that either a dominant follicle never occurs and/or does not release a healthy egg.  Which would be one cause of infertility. 

Note: I am saying (in my non-doctor opinion) that THC can cause infertility.

What happens to all those unused, and partially developed follicles?  I’m sure (my opinion) that the body will try to get rid of them.

However, because the menstrual cycle has been interfered with, that could take some weeks.  Which would coincide with the doctors taking a “wait and see” attitude to see if these “functional cysts” will disappear on their own. [12] Normally, that is exactly what happens.

Woman with PCOS (polycystic ovary syndrome)
Marijuana causes PCOS?

Why Don’t the Ovary Cysts Disappear on Their Own?

Well, if something (diet, pollution, marijuana for instance) has disrupted the menstrual cycle, and that something hasn’t been removed, you should expect to have a continuing problem.

How Many Ways Does THC (Tetrahydrocannabinol) Affect the Menstrual System?

  • The THC in marijuana attaches to the CB1 and CB2 receptors in the ovary follicles, endometrium lining of the uterus, and the myometrium muscles in the uterus.  This could be good or bad, we don’t know yet.
  • I have already mentioned that THC prevents the release of the necessary amount of luteinizing hormone (LH) for an ovary follicle to develop an egg.  It only takes low amounts of THC to interfere with that.  Additionally, CBD actually increases the interference that THC produces. [16] That doesn’t mean that CBD would cause any problem all by itself.
  • Most street marijuana has high amounts of THC and low amounts of CBD, but any ratio of THC/CBD could cause infertility and PCOS.
  • That also means that Medical Marijuana, which often times is a 50/50 mix of THC and CBD, will have the same negative results.
  • THC primarily attaches to the CB1 receptors which are found in the hypothalamus part of the brain and the pituitary gland.  Which we have seen are essential to a properly working menstrual cycle, and the prevention of PCOS.
  • THC interacts with the signaling pathways of the progesterone hormone and dopamine neurotransmitters in the brain, which is probably not a good thing.  [11]
  • The mitochondria in our body cells produce practically all of the energy used by our body.  That includes the energy needed for the brain to function.  So, if the hypothalamus and pituitary are starved of energy, chances are pretty good they won’t be signaling the ovaries properly.
  • One study [7] showed that THC harms the functioning of the mitochondria in the brain.
  • You also have mitochondria in the ovaries.  So, THC is directly affecting the health of the ovaries by weakening the mitochondria in the ovaries.  That includes the follicles in the ovaries, that could develop cysts if not properly nourished by the mitochondria.

Conclusions on Marijuana and PCOS (Polycystic Ovary Syndrome)

There are probably multiple causes of PCOS, and I have shown that the THC in marijuana is probably one of them. 

My non-doctor opinion is based on the fact that THC directly and indirectly interferes with the menstrual cycle.  There isn’t any direct proof that marijuana causes PCOS, but there is evidence that it could.

Dare I say, “Where there is Marijuana smoke, there is PCOS.”

References and Sources

[1] National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH)

[2] The role of the endocannabinoid system in female reproductive tissues.

[3] Clinical and Preclinical Evidence for Functional Interactions of Cannabidiol and Δ9-Tetrahydrocannabinol.

[4] Influence of cannabidiol on delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol effects.

[5] Marijuana, the Endocannabinoid System and the Female Reproductive System.

[6] Cannabidiol inhibits cancer cell invasion via upregulation of tissue inhibitor of matrix metalloproteinases-1.

[7] Tetrahydrocannabinol Induces Brain Mitochondrial Respiratory Chain Dysfunction and Increases Oxidative Stress: A Potential Mechanism Involved in Cannabis-Related Stroke.

[8] Gonadotropins: Luteinizing and Follicle Stimulating Hormones

[9] Ovary and Follicle Development

[10] Ovary Development.

[11] How might cannabinoids influence sexual behavior?

[12] Ovarian Cysts Summary

[13] A review of ovary torsion.

[14] Functional Ovarian Cysts.

[15] What causes PCOS?

[16] Effects of delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol, cannabinol and cannabidiol, alone and in combinations, on luteinizing hormone and prolactin release and on hypothalamic neurotransmitters in the male rat.

[17] Ovaries Essentials.

Return to the home page of Full Stride Health

Leave a Comment