It’s 2022, and CBD has officially arrived. Beyond the standard line-up of CBD oils, topicals, and gummies, it’s increasingly popping up in soft drinks, lotions, beauty and hair products, candy, chips, toothpaste, sexual wellness products, and more. What does that level of ubiquity mean for couples, and specifically men, trying to conceive? Does CBD have an impact on male fertility? Here’s what the most current research says, and what you should keep in mind about CBD products if a baby is the plan.
What is CBD?
CBD, or cannabidiol, is one of the most well-known cannabinoids in hemp and cannabis plants. Unlike THC, CBD has no intoxicating effect — it doesn’t make you feel high. Instead, there’s evidence that CBD has therapeutic benefits for a pretty wide range of conditions. That includes inflammation, chronic pain, anxiety, depression, addiction, certain types of seizures, and even insomnia.
Noticeably absent from that list? Fertility. But a quick online search for CBD and fertility makes it clear that there is some speculation, much of which boils down to structural similarities between CBD and endocannabinoid hormones produced in the human body, plus specific endocannabinoid receptors in the reproductive tract.
Whether you use cannabis or not, your body has what’s known as an endocannabinoid system, or ECS. Researchers are still puzzling through this complex cell-signaling system, which was first identified in the 1990s, but they know it plays a role in all sorts of bodily functions and systems. That includes regulating sleep, mood, appetite, memory, and yep, reproduction and fertility.
Essentially, it’s a three-part system involving endocannabinoids, receptors, and enzymes.
- Endocannabinoids are molecules produced in the body that are very similar to the cannabinoids found in cannabis and hemp, including THC and CBD.
- Receptors are found at various points throughout the body. Endocannabinoids bind to these receptors to signal that some sort of action needs to take place.
- Enzymes break down endocannabinoids after they’ve served their purpose.
Both CBD and THC, along with a number of minor cannabinoids found in cannabis and hemp, interact with the ECS. While researchers are clear that THC binds to specific receptors, they still don’t understand the precise level of interaction between CBD and the ECS. And this point, it’s a mystery! And that’s precisely why no one knows for sure whether CBD helps or hinders fertility.
CBD and Fertility
Theories being floated about CBD and fertility relate to whether endocannabinoids might actually boost ovarian function and follicle maturation, and in men, perhaps improve sperm’s fertilizing ability. Both ideas are based on CBD’s similarity to those endocannabinoid hormones. But again, at this point, it’s entirely theoretical. There is currently zero evidence that CBD positively influences fertility in men or women.
There is clear evidence, however, that cannabis as a whole negatively affects male fertility, and it’s pretty significant. Sperm parameters drop across the board, reducing count and concentration, motility and viability, limiting fertilization capacity, and inducing morphology abnormalities. What isn’t clear is whether the culprit is the consumption method or a specific cannabinoid, like THC.
There’s another important consideration when it comes to CBD. It’s classified as a supplement, which means minimal FDA oversight. As an exploding industry, there are new CBD brands and products being rushed to the market just about every day, and it’s foolish to assume they’re all safe. Quality and production methods vary wildly, and no one should be using CBD for anything without a little due diligence. Any brands making specific health claims should be avoided, and transparency about the source of a company’s hemp, its manufacturing process, and third-party testing — evidenced by accessible and current certificates of analysis from verified labs — is key. The potential for contaminants and residual solvents is really high in the CBD industry, and potencies can vary wildly. And keep in mind that full-spectrum CBD products contain up to 0.3% THC — a compound you should avoid if you’re trying for a baby.
The bottom line? Don’t assume that CBD-spiked soda is safe just because it’s on the shelf.
The Safest Course
There are best practices for boosting fertility, and we’ve covered them all. At this point, CBD just isn’t one of them. Aside from shoring up nutritional gaps with high-quality prenatal vitamins for men and women, experts advise a healthy lifestyle. And we all know what that means — a good diet, consistent exercise, minimal stress, high quality sleep, and, of course, knocking off bad habits like excessive drinking, smoking, and — you guessed it — recreational drugs.
It’s true that CBD shows a lot of exciting potential, but there are still so many questions and logistical hurdles. Speak with your doctor if you’re seriously considering CBD to boost fertility. Spend some time researching what’s out there. Trusting the experts and staying informed can help you feel like you’re doing everything in your power to leave no stone unturned on your path to parenthood.