Chronic exposure to cannabidiol induces reproductive toxicity in male Swiss mice

J Appl Toxicol. 2018 Sep;38(9):1215-1223. doi: 10.1002/jat.3631. Epub 2018 May 16.


Children and adults with frequent and severe episodes of epilepsy that do not respond to standard treatments (such as carbamazepine, phenytoin and valproate) have long been prescribed cannabidiol (CBD) as an anticonvulsant drug. However, the safety of its chronic use in relation to reproduction has not been fully examined. This study aimed to assess the effects of chronic CBD exposure on the male reproductive system. CBD was orally administered to 21-day-old male Swiss mice at doses of 15 and 30 mg kg-1 daily (CBD 15 and 30 groups, respectively), with a control group receiving sunflower oil, for 34 consecutive days. After a 35 day recovery period, the following parameters were evaluated: weight of reproductive organs, testosterone concentration, spermatogenesis, histomorphometry, daily sperm production and its morphology. The CBD 30 group had a 76% decrease in total circulating testosterone, but it remained within the physiological normal range (240-1100 ng dl-1 ). CBD treatment induced a significant increase in the frequency of stages I-IV and V-VI of spermatogenesis, and a decrease in the frequency of stages VII-VIII and XII. A significant decrease in the number of Sertoli cells was observed only in the CBD 30 group. In both CBD groups the number of spermatozoa in the epididymis tail was reduced by 38%, sperm had head abnormalities, and cytoplasmic droplets were observed in the medial region of flagellum. These results indicated that chronic CBD exposure was associated with changes in the male reproductive system, suggesting its reproductive toxicity.

Keywords: cannabinoids; endocannabinoids; spermatogenesis; spermatozoa; testosterone.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cannabidiol / toxicity*
  • Epididymis / drug effects*
  • Epididymis / metabolism
  • Epididymis / pathology
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Organ Size / drug effects
  • Reproduction / drug effects*
  • Risk Assessment
  • Sertoli Cells / drug effects
  • Sertoli Cells / metabolism
  • Sertoli Cells / pathology
  • Sperm Count
  • Spermatogenesis / drug effects*
  • Spermatozoa / drug effects*
  • Spermatozoa / pathology
  • Testis / drug effects*
  • Testis / metabolism
  • Testis / pathology
  • Testosterone / blood
  • Time Factors
  • Toxicity Tests, Chronic


  • Cannabidiol
  • Testosterone