I am often asked if we can use cannabidiol for PCOS. While it is not something that I use or have much experience with, many women with PCOS report positive results, so I did a little research. As always, I encourage you to explore new ideas and educate yourself about possible treatments, then evaluate and discuss options with your medical provider.
What is Cannabidiol?
Cannabidiol is a chemical compound in the Cannabis sativa plant which is more commonly known as marijuana. The plant itself has over 80 chemicals known as cannabinoids, and cannabidiol is just one of them. No, it won’t make you feel high. A compound called Tetrahydrocannabinol or THC is the major active ingredient and the one responsible for the psychoactive property of marijuana. Cannabidiol, on the other hand, is a separate compound altogether and has none of the psychoactive properties THC possesses.
How do you get Cannabidiol?
Cannabidiol makes up about 40% of cannabis extracts and is currently the subject of curiosity for many types of therapeutic applications. Cannabidiol is produced in two ways:
- Natural. Cannabidiol is abundant in the cannabis plant. Cannabidiol can be found in both marijuana and hemp varieties of cannabis, the difference being the level of THC with the former being grown specifically for its THC. Hemp only has trace amounts of THC which makes hemp legal in the United States while marijuana is federally illegal.
- Synthetic. Synthetic cannabidiol has been produced successfully, but it is a strictly regulated substance and possession of it is illegal outside of a few specialized circumstances.
Known effects of cannabidiol
Pain relief and inflammation
Taking cannabidiol for pain and inflammation is one of the biggest reasons why people are taking it both orally and topically. 
“Transdermal cannabidiol (CBD) gel application has therapeutic potential for relief of arthritic pain-related behaviours and exerts an anti-inflammation property without evident high brain centre psychoactive effects.“
Cannabidiol is known to significantly suppress chronic inflammatory and neuropathic pain in rat subjects without promoting analgesic (pain reliever) tolerance. Because of this, many scientists believe cannabidiol has potential for the treatment of chronic pain. 
“Collectively, we have provided evidence to suggest that glycinergic cannabinoids are ideal therapeutic agents in the treatment of inflammatory and neuropathic pain. They can effectively attenuate pathological pain without significantly causing major psychoactive side effect and analgesic tolerance.”
Helps with anxiety
Cannabidiol has been shown to possess anxiolytic (anti-anxiety) properties in patients diagnosed with social anxiety disorder and scientists even consider its potential for panic disorder, OCD, and PTSD. 
“Studies using animal models of anxiety and involving healthy volunteers clearly suggest an anxiolytic-like effect of CBD. Moreover, CBD was shown to reduce anxiety in patients with social anxiety disorder.“
For more about CBD and anxiety, read Dr. David Brady’s article on the subject.
Potential use for PCOS
Many are considering cannabidiol to help them cope with the symptoms of PCOS, mainly with anxiety, pain, PMS, and sleep issues. Because of cannabidiol’s anxiolytic properties without the “high,” PCOS patients could potentially see some benefits and help them feel calmer and sleep better. More than to just help women feel less stressed and pained, cannabidiol might actually directly improve PCOS treatment by means of the endocannabinoid system.
The endocannabinoid system (ECS) is a signaling network that is generally responsible in maintaining balance or homeostasis in the body. The ECS is named as such due to it being composed of endocannabinoids, ligands created by the body on demand, and two cannabinoid receptors (CB1, CB2). These receptors are always striving to make sure everything in our body, including the processes involved in reproduction, are balanced.
So what happens when things go haywire? Current literature suggests ECS dysfunction, whether too little or too much, could be one of the few reasons why women develop PCOS, with some of the symptoms of PCOS such as insulin resistance and obesity possibly influenced by the ECS. [5, 6]
“In conclusion, our results clearly demonstrate that activation of endocannabinoids and overexpression of cannabinoid receptors, especially CB1, may be associated with insulin resistance in women with PCOS.“
How does something like cannabidiol help with maintaining a healthy ECS? Well, cannabidiol happens to share identical chemical makeup to endocannabinoids which allows them to interact with cannabinoid receptors to help keep the system running smoothly. This means supplementing with cannabidiol might actually have a direct effect on PCOS patients when it comes to treatment.
While these studies are promising, I encourage you to conduct further research on your own and consult your medical provider before using this or any supplement, compound, or treatment.
- Hammell DC, Zhang LP, Ma F, et al. Transdermal cannabidiol reduces inflammation and pain-related behaviours in a rat model of arthritis. European journal of pain (London, England). 2016;20(6):936-948. doi:10.1002/ejp.818.
- Xiong W, Cui T, Cheng K, et al. Cannabinoids suppress inflammatory and neuropathic pain by targeting α3 glycine receptors. The Journal of Experimental Medicine. 2012;209(6):1121-1134. doi:10.1084/jem.20120242.
- Penner EA, Buettner H, Mittleman MA. The impact of marijuana use on glucose, insulin, and insulin resistance among US adults. Am J Med. 2013;126(7):583-9.
- Schier AR, Ribeiro NP, Silva AC, et al. Cannabidiol, a Cannabis sativa constituent, as an anxiolytic drug. Rev Bras Psiquiatr. 2012;34 Suppl 1:S104-10.
- Juan CC, Chen KH, Wang PH, Hwang JL, Seow KM. Endocannabinoid system activation may be associated with insulin resistance in women with polycystic ovary syndrome. Fertil Steril. 2015;104(1):200-6.
- Di blasio AM, Vignali M, Gentilini D. The endocannabinoid pathway and the female reproductive organs. J Mol Endocrinol. 2013;50(1):R1-9.