Sep 01, 2016 I Brett Tingley

Good News, Stoners: THC Can Increase Fertility, Sperm Health

Cannabis has been used widely by civilizations around the world throughout all of recorded history. Recent research has shown that even primitive humans used and traded cannabis, and some historians have even speculated that cannabis traders were integral to the development of Western civilization as we know it.

THC has been used both recreationally and medicinally throughout human history.

The medical benefits of THC and other cannabinoids, alleged or scientifically proven, have been widely studied and documented. However, a new study by a team of German pharmacology and biochemistry researchers shows that cannabinoids might have positive health effects on some rather surprising parts of the body. According to the team’s recently published study in Nature journal Scientific Reports, human reproductive organs contain their own cannabinoid receptors which help regulate and initiate the reactions necessary for conception.

The human body is full of cannabinoid receptors, which mostly bind to internally-produced cannabinoids.

Wait, wait - don’t go injecting THC oil ‘down there’ just yet. These receptors are mainly used in the uptake of endogenous cannabinoids, which are produced within the human body itself. These receptors are used to trigger what’s known as the acrosome reaction. This reaction alters the chemistry and structure of the heads of sperm cells, allowing them to bind to and penetrate the cell membrane of egg cells.

The acrosome reaction allows sperm to penetrate egg membranes.

According to the research, a newly discovered cannabinoid receptor called GPR18 is a key factor in sperm’s ability to initiate conception:

To date, the expression of GPR18 was completely unknown in human spermatozoa. [...] Our results indicate that GPR18 might be involved in physiological processes of human spermatozoa, suggesting GPR18 to be a potential player in sperm physiology.

The researchers speculate that that GPR18 has a profound effect on sperm motility and catalyzing the acrosome reaction, as well as regulating the hormone cycles in female reproductive systems. The research did not go so far as to recommend self-medicating with THC for increased reproductive health or fertility, but recommended further research could build on their data to study this hypothesis:

[...] we and others could show that GPR18 can be activated by the phytocannabinoid THC. A previous study showed that THC attenuates mouse sperm motility. Further studies should investigate if the use of marijuana influences reproduction via GPR18 in males as well as in females.

Whether or not THC becomes the next fertility drug, it’s safe to say that this research is one more reason to get the blacklight posters and Pink Floyd records out of the attic.  

Brett Tingley

Brett Tingley is a writer and musician living in the ancient Appalachian mountains.

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