With medical marijuana now legal in 9 states (and counting), it does make you wonder how it will impact on your health.
After all, it has already got a strong reputation for lowering testosterone and contributing towards conditions such as gynecomastia. If it is more readily accessible, then it is likely to be more heavily used. And if that is the case – well, you seriously need to consider the connection between marijuana and testosterone. What danger does it pose to your sexual health?
In this article, we shall examine the impact marijuana can have on your testosterone levels.
- Smoking marijuana and male health
- Does Marijuana Lower Testosterone Levels?
- Smoking weed and gynecomastia
- Can cannabis usage lower your sperm count?
- Overeating and smoking marijuana
Studies do seem to point the finger at weed being able to decrease your testosterone levels. From triggering gynecomastia to lowering your sperm count (and quality) to causing weight gain; it appears that there are a number of ways that marijuana can affect your health.
But what is fact and what is fiction? Which of these claims are true?
In the following sections we shall delve deep into the world of cannabis and testosterone, and see exactly what studies have to say about it.
Herein lies the problem, as there are many mixed messages about weed and testosterone, and their influence on each other. Some believe it has no effect, whilst others swear blind that smoking marijuana can cause man boobs, testosterone drops and make you infertile.
So, who is right? Does smoking weed really lower your testosterone levels? Can it actually harm muscle growth, bone health, your metabolic rate and the processes that turn you into a man e.g. balls dropping, your voice breaking and beard growth?
Let’s take a look…
A lot of the theory behind this belief comes from weed disrupting your hormone balance, namely your testosterone to estrogen ratio:
- Study One
When male rats were fed cannabis for 36 days, they experienced dose dependent falls in testosterone e.g. for every 3mg of weed per kg of bodyweight they consumed; their testosterone levels halved.
- Study Two
When examining rat cell-cultures, researchers noted that infusing cannabinoids caused massive cuts in testosterone levels, as it inhibited the activity of enzymes which are involved in the creation of testosterone.Now something we need to highlight here is that all of these studies involved rats – NOT humans. True, rats have similar reproductive systems to us, meaning there is a strong possibility that we could experience the same testosterone drops. However, this is not always the case.
- Study One
Luckily, some human studies on marijuana and testosterone do exist, and what is interesting about them is that they seem to – in most cases, but not all – have witnessed similar declines in testosterone.
Studies where testosterone dropped:
- Study One
When male participants were intravenously given 10mg of THC (the active ingredient in marijuana) over 50 minutes, they saw a time dependent fall in testosterone of 36%. In the same experiment, when participants were given weed to smoke, their testosterone levels dropped to 66% of their baseline value.
- Study Two
When 4 healthy males were asked to smoke cigarettes containing 2.8% THC; researchers saw drops in LH (which is a precursor to testosterone) and a slight suppression in testosterone and FSH (another precursor to testosterone).
- Study Three
Researchers assessed 20 male subjects (aged 18-28) who smoked weed at least 4 days per week for at least 6 months. On average their testosterone levels were 44% lower than those who’d never smoked cannabis.
Studies where testosterone stayed the same/remained unaffected:
- Study One
When participants were given isolated THC for 4 days, they saw no changes in cortisol, LH or testosterone.
- Study Two
Researchers assessed 25 male university students who smoked weed at least once a week (average of 5.1 joints a week). When compared to subjects who didn’t smoke, their testosterone levels were roughly the same.
How smoking marijuana can inhibit testosterone
We know you’re probably feeling a little confused by now. After all, even amongst human studies there doesn’t appear to be a definitive answer to the question of does weed lower testosterone.
Well, part of this confusion stems from the fact that testosterone is not just a number.
Like all hormones, it varies from person to person and is prone to fluctuating throughout the day due to what you’ve eaten, exercise/physical activity, how much sleep you’ve had, etc. Smoking weed is just one element that can have a profound impact on your testosterone levels, hence these varying results.
Yet despite what appears to be contradictory results; it is clear that marijuana DOES have the power to influence this all important sex hormone. It is all a matter of dosage, regularity and how long you have smoked if for…
So how does it do it? How does smoking weed lower testosterone?
Theory One: a 1984 study theorized that weed is able to decrease testosterone thanks to the GnRH-blocking effects of THC – weeds active ingredient.
GnRH (gonadotropin releasing hormone) helps to trigger testosterone production as it stimulates the creation of LH and FSH (which are precursors to testosterone). By limiting their production, this will cause falls in testosterone.
This theory is further supported by a study done on marijuana smokers who were given hCG (human choronic gonadotropin). Participants saw rises in testosterone, suggesting that GnRH is necessary for testosterone levels to remain healthy.
Theory Two: another theory has been linked to weeds impact on cortisol. Now cortisol is usually released when you’re stressed, and is created from the same raw materials that make up testosterone.
This means if your cortisol levels rise, your testosterone levels will likely drop (as a result of there being fewer raw materials available to make it).
During a study where participants were given 2 joints, they saw elevations in cortisol. A similar effect was seen in a separate study, where participants were intravenously given THC. By the end their cortisol levels had risen.
NOTE: long term use of cannabis doesn’t appear to affect cortisol levels, with users and non-users having the same amount of cortisol in their bodies.
With the majority of studies – both animal and human alike – suggesting that marijuana and testosterone falls are a real thing; it is little wonder that there have been fears that weed can trigger gynecomastia too.
The concern surrounding weed and man boobs stems down to several studies – that have found cannabis to cause male breast tissue enlargement – and the theory that it is estrogenic.
And this theory makes sense in a way, as marijuana does appear to have the power to disrupt the balance of male hormones.
Yet is it entirely accurate?
Well, this is up to debate as it depends on whether the subjects were test-tube, animal or human.
Take the following:
Study One: a test-tube study revealed that the compounds in marijuana will compete with estradiol (estrogen) to bind with estrogen receptors. Now, what is interesting about these findings is that it only applies to test-tube scenarios.
When the same doses were used in their animal model; there was no estrogenic or anti-estrogenic effect. This suggests that weed doesn’t affect estrogen – in people – and shouldn’t cause gynecomastia.
Study two: the point that weed and gynecomastia aren’t linked is further emphasized by a human study performed on US soldiers. They saw no connection between the two.
Looking at these 2 studies, it would seem that marijuana use won’t lead to man boobs. Yet it is important to note that: 1) there are very few human studies to verify this point, and 2) this particular human study was only done on 11 men – far too little to come to an accurate conclusion.
This means, until more human studies are performed; we can’t entirely rule out the possibility of you developing man boobs if you smoke weed regularly.
Interestingly, whilst marijuana’s impact on testosterone can’t be entirely determined; its effect on sperm can.
During a 4 year study in Denmark, 1,215 men (aged 18-28 years old) volunteered to undergo medical exams to see if they were fit for military service. This included freely giving semen and blood samples.
This group was then split into 3 smaller ones based on their marijuana usage 1) being none, 2) used once a week or less, and 3) used more than once a week. NOTE: 45% of the men in this study had smoked weed within the last 0-3 months.
Upon examining the groups, those who smoked it more than once a week (during those prior 3 months) were found to have 28% smaller sperm concentrations as well as 29% lower sperm counts compared to everyone else.
This implies weed has the ability to damage your sperm count and quality.
In fact, there are numerous studies which suggest that cannabis can negatively affect your reproductive health, namely your fertility. For instance, if your counts are low and your quality is poor, then this will diminish your partner’s chance of conceiving. Ouch.
Luckily, if you completely cut down or even better stop using weed, then it is possible to reverse this damage and give your swimmers a fighting chance. Why? Because sperm is generally used and replaced very quickly. Meaning – give it time and your sperm CAN become top quality again.
You’re probably well aware of how smoking marijuana can give you the munchies – and we aren’t talking about the healthy kind of snacks either, but those filled with sugary goodness. But what you probably didn’t know, is that these very same munchies can harm testosterone production.
Take sugar. This bad boy has got a strong reputation for causing testosterone declines, whilst adding unwanted body fat. And the more body fat you carry, the more estrogen will be released.
Again, there are ways to get around this…
Sure, you won’t be able to curb your desire to eat, BUT get rid of all these bad foods (crisps, soda, cakes, pizza etc.) and trade them for healthier snacks, and you CAN minimize this weight gain.
More importantly, snacking on whole foods and healthy greens will give your body the tools it needs to function. Which is vital given the reputation stoneovers have for causing your brain and body to shut down and become lethargic.
By eating right during these munchie moments, you can boost your energy and lift your testosterone levels (ever so slightly).
Summing marijuana and testosterone up is a hard one. On the one hand, there are enough studies to suggest that smoking weed CAN impact negatively on your sexual health.
Yet on the other hand, for every claim that exists – falling testosterone and sperm levels, weight gain, man boobs, etc. – there is evidence that implies it won’t do you any harm.
So what should you do?
Well, the real question is – do you want to take the risk? After all, there is obviously SOMETHING to these claims. They haven’t come out of nowhere.
For that reason, whilst marijuana shouldn’t pose a problem if you only smoke a joint occasionally (as its effects appear to be mild and reversible – if you stop); we recommend steering clear – especially if you’re interested in bolstering your testosterone levels in order to pack on muscle and strength, or prevent erectile dysfunction.
Check out TestoGen for more information on natural ways to elevate testosterone production.