This May Sound Crazy But Maybe You Can’t Get Pregnant Because You Need Cannabis
Studies show that the endocannabinoid system is tightly tied to reproduction and a deficiency causes improper sperm formation, poor quality eggs, ectopic pregnancy, and loss of pregnancy.
The use of cannabinoid-based therapies for couples and individuals with reproductive struggles has attracted much attention lately because the endocannabinoid system has been shown to regulate virtually all aspects of female and male fertility. The intricate balance between endocannabinoid components, including CB1 and CB2 receptors, is crucial at various stages of reproductive events and dysregulation of such balance may lead to detrimental outcomes, such as loss of pregnancy.
What Receptor-Deficient Mice Are Teaching Us About Infertility
Since the best way to determine the role of any molecular factor is to take it out of the picture and assess the outcome, scientists have created CB1- and CB2-lacking mice and demonstrated that they suffer from pregnancy loss. Those mice with only CB1 deficiency had improper embryo implantation, leading to ectopic pregnancy and reduced fertility. Therefore, it seems that cannabinoid based signaling is crucial for female fertility and proper development of the embryo.
Endocannabinoid System Helps Prep Healthy Follicle at Ovulation
Aspects of female fertility, including folliculogenesis, ovulation and oocyte (egg) maturation have been shown to be dependent on cannabinoid signaling. Scientists have determined that anandamide (self-made cannabinoid) presence in the follicular fluid was predictive of mature oocytes ready to be released, suggesting that in female infertility cases, the lack of anandamide may be partially to blame. This suggests that exogenous cannabinoids, THC and CBD, may execute this role in the follicles assisting in proper egg development and release.
It has also been suggested that CB2 receptor activation may be more relevant in this process. Although studies so far have been conducted in animals only, regulation of follicular maturation and development by cannabinoids in humans is also likely, as scientists suggest.
Cannabinoid Receptors Play Key Role in Sperm Formation
On the male side, activation of cannabinoid receptors and cannabinoid-based signaling using other receptors, such as TRPV1, plays key roles in generation of sperm (spermatogenesis) as well as sperm viability and motility. Recently, a very intricate regulation of several aspects of sperm function by endocannabinoids have been found to affect sperm plasma membrane dynamics and epigenetic control, molecular processes that affect the quality of sperm.
Interestingly, sperm express CB1, CB2 and TRPV1 receptors differentially, with CB1 present throughout the sperm, in the tail , middle piece and head, whereas CB2 is present only in the head, while TRPV1 only in the tip of the head. Activation of CB1 and CB2 receptors is required for acquisition of sperm fertilizing ability, which has been shown both for animals and humans.
Furthermore, TRPV1 receptors have been shown to affect calcium-dependent functions of mammalian sperm cells, and could also be involved in regulating the fusion between the egg and the sperm. Since these aspects of male fertility: spermatogenesis, motility and fertilizing capacity are affected by cannabinoid signaling, it suggests that male infertility can caused by inadequate cannabinoid signaling and that the use of exogenous cannabinoids could be therapeutic.
Seems That Cannabis Helps Your Sperm
Since the 1970’s, studies have been published describing the detrimental effects of cannabis, or THC administration on sperm motility, number, or anatomy. However, neither of these studies actually tested the fertility of the subjects: the ability to produce a healthy embryo.
One recent study set out to solve this mystery. They tested the ability of mice given THC chronically at 10mg/kg for 30 days to conceive an embryo as well as the viability of this embryo that was subsequently implanted into female mice.
The scientists found that both the control and THC mice showed no difference in sperm motility, or concentration and were able to fertilize an oocyte that was implanted into female mice with equal success. This study contradicts the belief that THC negatively impacts male reproductive process.
Indeed, fertility aspects of both males and females seem to be very tightly regulated by cannabinoid signaling, and perhaps we could start by examining the levels of endogenous cannabinoids in infertile humans in the clinic. Inadequate levels could potentially become the therapeutic that could be supplemented with exogenous cannabinoids to restore the reproductive physiology back into balance in affected men and women.