It’s no secret that many people believe cannabis improves their sex lives. You can see evidence of this all around. From Dianne Keaton’s character in Annie Hall lighting up to set the mood to Carl Sagan claiming that cannabis “enhances the enjoyment of sex” and “gives an exquisite sensitivity,” popular culture reflects what many already know .
One of the great pleasures of life, sex is an activity that all too often carries with it a host of conundrums ranging from anxiety to pain to other perceived limitations. That’s why there’s no shortage of products that promise a better sex life. But we forget that some of the best sexual medicine can be found right on the shelves of our local cannabis dispensary. Read on to discover how cannabis consumption might lead to improved satisfaction with sex.
Cannabis and sex through the ages
Cannabis has a long history of increasing sexual pleasure, improving sexual function, and boosting sexual performance. For example, dating back to seventh-century India, cannabis was used in the tantric sex rituals explored in the Kama Sutra. Likewise, in pre-Christian Scandinavia, cannabis seeds were used in rituals to honor the love goddess Freya. Archaeologists have found evidence that inhabitants believed cannabis possessed erotic powers and that those who consumed it would be endowed with the seductive traits of the love goddess .
According to Cannabis and Culture, Victorian Europeans believed that the plant promoted happy marriages . In the US, cannabis was lauded as an aphrodisiac in The Pharmacopeia from the late 1850s to 1940s. This publication promoted cannabis pills and extracts made by pharmaceutical companies like Ely Lilly and Upjohn. The cannabis concoctions were recommended by doctors for “stimulating the sexual appetite” and the lack of sexual desire, a condition they referred to as “sexual torpor .”
But the era of “Reefer Madness” in the late 1930s prompted the US Federal Bureau of Narcotics commissioner Harry Anslinger to make the sexist and racist claims that cannabis turned women into nymphomaniacs who sought “relations with Negros and entertainers. ” This fear-based rhetoric quickly advanced the agenda of cannabis criminalization, resulting in its designation as a Schedule I controlled substance.
Thanks to the activism of cannabis proponents and scientists over the decades, many forms of cannabis have now been legalized, and certain cannabis-derived products are now available for medicinal, therapeutic, and recreational use, including to enhance sexual pleasure .
Cannabis and libido
Though there is not a massive amount of clinical research on cannabis and the libido, most of the research that does exist relies on data from questionnaires. However, despite the limited evidence, these surveys indicate that cannabis does enhance the sexual experience of many women and men who use cannabis .
However, it’s difficult to say with certainty that cannabis will increase arousal or lead to increased sexual satisfaction, but these surveys, as well as other anecdotal evidence, suggest that the right dose may yield more intense orgasms and increased sexual pleasure and drive. This may be, in part, because certain cannabinoids are known to enhance the senses and may also mitigate some of the feelings that inhibit desire, like worry, restlessness, or discomfort.
Medical experts describe how their patients’ sexual health benefits from the use of cannabis. For instance, Dr. Becky K. Lynn, a sexual medicine expert, recently told the New York Times, “I’ve had several patients come to me and say, ‘I have low libido. Can you help me? And, oh, by the way, if I use marijuana, I can orgasm, no problem.’ They also tell me that low libido improves with marijuana. ”
Dr. Lynn conducted a 2019 study at an obstetrics and gynecology clinic in Missouri that surveyed 373 women about cannabis. 34 percent of the women surveyed reported an increased sex drive, improved orgasm, and decreased discomfort after using cannabis .
Can cannabis ease anxiety around sex?
Sexual arousal and functioning are complicated and multilayered issues. Thus, the discussion around cannabis and sexuality sometimes has less to do with cannabis and more to do with psychology. Of course, good sex means different things to different people. Yet, it may be safe to say that most people need to achieve a level of relaxation and comfort to be able to enjoy sex fully. The fact that cannabis is often purported to help with worry and discomfort makes the plant a believable asset to a sexual experience. In other words, by helping to reduce a person’s worries, it makes sense that it might affect people’s experience of sex indirectly .
Additionally, cannabinoids like Delta-9 THC and CBD can work synergistically in what is known as the entourage effect to alter certain physical and emotional responses such as restlessness and anxiety . The entourage effect is a process whereby the compounds of the cannabis plant work together in the body, enhancing the effects of the plant.
The endocannabinoid system and sexual responses
Critical for almost every aspect of our functioning, the endocannabinoid system (ECS) has a unique relationship with cannabis. It is a network of chemical signals and receptors that operates throughout the human brain and body as part of the central and peripheral nervous systems, which in turn are connected to sexual organs.
CB1 and CB2 cannabinoid receptors are stimulated by cannabinoids: either endocannabinoids (made by our body) or phytocannabinoids (made from plants). Each of these receptors influences our bodily functions by turning up or down neural activity and adjusting responses related to hunger, sexual desire, temperature, or alertness. CB1 receptors mediate most of the psychoactive effects of certain cannabinoids, whereas CB2 receptors are principally involved in anti-inflammatory and immunosuppressive responses .
Our natural receptors get stimulated by our body’s own endocannabinoids: molecules that have a structural similarity to molecules in the cannabis plant. These tiny cannabis-like molecules float through our bodies, affecting our sensations and perceptions. Similarly, the effects of the cannabis plant occur when cannabis molecules (cannabinoids or phytocannabinoids) essentially work with our bodies’ ancient cellular machinery and engage with the cannabinoid receptors. CBD, THC, and CBN are only three of the hundreds of cannabinoids in the cannabis plant that interact with the ECS .
CBD’s influence on sexual experience
There are myriad cannibinoid receptors in our reproductive organs and sexual tissue that respond to cannabidiol (CBD). CBD is thought to increase sensitivity and promote the body’s natural lubrication by increasing blood flow to these tissues , though more research will tell the whole story.
People look to CBD products for improved sexual experiences for a variety of reasons. While the cannabinoid doesn’t yield psychoactive effects, CBD may boost your mood by activating a neurotransmitter called anandamide, an endocannabinoid that may play a role in pain modulation, working memory, identification of novelty, hunger, sleep, and interpretation of your environment . Some have coined anandamide the “bliss neurotransmitter” and associate it with oxytocin, the “cuddle hormone.”
Some reasons people anecdotally report CBD helps them achieve better sex include:
- Reduction of worry, including performance anxiety
- Relieving discomfort
- Increasing pleasurable sensations
Learn more in the Guide to CBD
Does CBG influence sex drive?
Though it has not been substantiated by conclusive research, many people anecdotally report that cannabigerol (CBG) gives them extra energy and, sometimes more specifically, sexual energy. Some users liken the effects of CBG to a caffeine rush, elevating their creativity, vitality, and mood. Additionally, some users also anecdotally report that CBG helps them manage daily stresses. Because sex drive is often spurred on by these energy-affirming characteristics, it follows that CBG might elevate sexual desire and stamina .
Is Delta-9 THC linked to increased sexual pleasure?
Sex therapist Lawrence Siegel reported to CNN that Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol – the cannabinoid Delta-9 THC – may target a part of our brain associated with sexual arousal, at least in females. He’s not alone in this interpretation of the cannabinoid .
Peter Barsoom, the founder of the company 1906, believes that cannabis with Delta-9 THC can lead to increased arousal and sexual enjoyment. He maintains that “our body’s natural endocannabinoid system is key in regulating things like pleasure, pain, relaxation, and homeostasis.” Increased sexual arousal, he argues, can occur because Delta-9 THC can “leave users feeling relaxed with increased pleasure and decreased pain .”
The best cannabis strains for sex
Good sex requires the involvement of both body and mind. Thus, the question of which strains are better for sex is complex. For example, Indica strains are rumored to offer a hefty dose of bodily sensitivity and tactile sensations. On the other hand, Sativa strains are associated with increased energy and creativity. Few could argue that you don’t need both energy and sensitivity for a satisfying sexual experience. Therefore, there is not just one answer to the question of which strains are better for sex. It ultimately boils down to what an individual most wants to feel during a sexual encounter.
But an excessive dance with any cannabis strain, whether Sativa- or Indica-dominant, can do the opposite of what you might hope to feel, that is if you take too much of it. Too much of a Sativa strain might turn into something entirely intellectual or introspective, not a great recipe for sexual ecstasy. Or, after a megadose of an Indica-dominant strain, you could find yourself feeling clumsy or lacking in motivation, also not optimal for sexual enjoyment .
Experimentation to find the best products for you will be the key to better sex with cannabis. That said, a few good cannabis strains for sex include:
Bubba 77—this premium high-CBD, low-THC cannabis strain produces a range of effects, from clear-headed alertness and energy to calm and relaxation. Bubba 77 brings a unique Indica-dominant profile and flavors of licorice, pine, and dark sweetness.
Sour Suver—this high-CBD, low-THC Sativa-dominant cannabis strain is pungent with hints of sour apple, bitter pine, and mild cheese. The effects range from creativity and energy to intense focus.
Forbidden V—this premium high-CBD, low-THC cannabis strain offers a potent terpene profile with effects that range from energetic creativity to sultry confidence. It boasts a rich tropical aroma of guava, mango, and coconut with berry notes.
Can cannabis improve orgasm?
Some cannabis users say using cannabis in the bedroom improves their orgasms, arousal, intimacy, and overall sex drive . Sounds great. But is there any evidence? Several small studies do support these anecdotal reports. For example, a study from the University of Almeria in Spain found that those who consumed cannabis before sex reported that their experience was more satisfying .
Another study found that pre-sex cannabis consumption helped gay men feel calmer when engaged in sexual intimacy. Additionally, women reported more satisfying orgasms and feeling more emotionally present during sex when they consumed cannabis. One 2017 study claimed people who use cannabis regularly tend to have more sex than their non-cannabis-using counterparts . These studies need further research to be conclusive, yet they offer hope to people who struggle with sexual dysfunction, anxiety, or sexual reticence .
Cannabis and erectile dysfunction
There have long been rumors that cannabis contributes to erectile dysfunction (ED), but is this true? Regarding the relationship between cannabis and ED, it’s important to consider which parts of the plant might have negative effects. Is it the chemicals in the smoke that might do this damage? Or, rather, do the psychoactive ingredients or cannabinoids affect ED?
To understand this issue better, we’ll examine the effects of smoking (tobacco cigarettes) on ED. The medical community strongly associates smoking cigarettes with ED because it negatively affects the cardiovascular system. Though carcinogens may be partially to blame, nicotine is also a factor .
Studies show that the risk for ED is elevated with more exposure to smoke. That is, the more a person smokes per day and the longer duration of time (months/years), the worse the symptoms of ED .
So, does smoking cannabis affect ED? The current research is conflicting. Some studies suggest cannabis use is linked to ED, while others show that people who use cannabis have fewer ED issues than non-cannabis users. Ultimately, the association between cannabis and ED may be more a result of the toxic chemicals in the smoke itself than the cannabis compounds, as many of the chemicals in tobacco smoke are the same in cannabis smoke .
Menopause, cannabis, and sex
When women reach perimenopause (pre-menopause), their natural estrogen begins to wane, finally disappearing altogether at menopause. Since estrogen is part of what fuels a woman’s libido and sex drive, sometimes, when reaching this point in her life, a woman’s sex life can take a nosedive. But many women find hope in cannabis products.
Cannabinoids like CBD and Delta-9 THC are vasodilators. That is, they can serve to relax and can work wonders in the bedroom for perimenopausal and post-menopausal women. Additionally, some cannabinoids may enhance sensitivity or promote relaxation. All of these things can help reverse some of the difficulties of estrogen loss. Menopausal women have anecdotally reported more pleasurable orgasms after using cannabis, while others report a boost in their overall sexual sensations and satisfaction .
How much cannabis should I take to improve a sexual experience?
Serving size matters, and of course, how much cannabis you take depends upon the strength of the strain and the cannabinoids present. Since the effects of different cannabinoids and strains vary, it isn’t easy to recommend a specific amount to use across the board.
While products generally have a suggested serving listed on each package, the strength of its effects on a particular person will differ depending on a few things: the amount consumed, body weight, food or other substances in the system, personal body chemistry, and experience with cannabis. Generally speaking, it is recommended that you start with a small amount and gradually increase it until you reach satisfactory results.
Newer users can easily achieve a lighter effect by taking less than the recommended dosage. On the other hand, more experienced users can take more for stronger results. Personal preference is the key. However, a good rule of thumb is to go easy on your pre-sex cannabis intake, especially if it contains THC.
Starting with higher doses may mean you’ll sabotage the effects that you’re after. It’s good to experiment with minor increases. Soon, you’ll find the perfect dose to take before your romantic adventures.
Drawbacks to using cannabis for sex
While some people experience increased anxiety when using cannabis with THC, others find it does just the opposite. Nick Karras, the author of “The Passionate High: A Guide to Using Cannabis For Better Sex and Creativity, says: “Every person has a unique makeup both psychologically and physically, and for cannabis to help improve sexuality, you must find the type that works for you.” He recommends experimenting with some Indica strains, some Sativa strains, and a hybrid of both to see what works best .
If you find that the cannabis you are taking is not helping you because you feel increased anxiety, you should stop taking it. That said, there may be another cannabis product that is better suited to your needs. One of the main drawbacks of taking cannabis for sex is that it may take some time to find the optimal product and dosage for you.
Relief, sex, and cannabis
Pain is often a non-starter when it comes to sexual desire. But many people report that taking cannabis before sex can alleviate some of their discomfort, making sex more enjoyable.
Internal medicine physician Dr. Jordan Tishler told Insider magazine that his patients regularly ask him if cannabis might help resolve their issues with painful, uncomfortable sex difficulties. Before he prescribed cannabis to some of these patients, they cited issues like painful sex, difficulty with arousal, anxiety, and difficulty achieving orgasm. But after their cannabis use, many reported that their experience dramatically improved .
Legality of cannabis
The commercial resurgence of cannabis occurred after the 2014 Farm Bill removed hemp from the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) list of Schedule 1 substances. The Bill made hemp (designated as cannabis with 0.3 percent or less Delta-9 THC) federally compliant and allowed long-forbidden research to commence at last.
The 2018 Farm Bill expanded on the first Bill, allowing for the production, sale, and consumption of hemp-derived products, making it clear to legal experts that all plant materials and substances derived from legally-defined hemp are federally-compliant .
Currently, federal legislation defines cannabis plants with less than 0.3% Delta-9 THC per dry weight as hemp and allows hemp production and consumption in all 50 states. On the other hand, a plant with more than 0.3 percent Delta-9 THC per dry weight is defined as marijuana, which federal law still treats as a controlled substance on the DEA’s Schedule 1 list. Nonetheless, some states allow medical use and/or adult recreational use of cannabis containing much more than 0.3% Delta-9 THC.
Thanks to the Farm Bills, a wide range of hemp-derived cannabis products are legally available even in states that do not have medical or recreational marijuana programs.
Combining cannabis and sex is all about finding the perfect balance. If you go overboard, hoping to channel a Hindu love god, you may freeze up from the sheer intensity of the effects. If you’re taking cannabis to improve your sex, better too little than too much. Then, you can slowly increase until you hit the magic.
But before you stock up on cannabis products for your imminent sexual liberation, it’s important to differentiate between whether you want to use it to enhance your sexual experience or to manage a diagnosable dysfunction. If you are experiencing symptoms of sexual dysfunction or pain, for instance, you might be wise to discuss your situation with your doctor or therapist to see if medication might be needed.
That said, if the light of your libido doesn’t burn quite as bright as you wish it did, cannabis might be the perfect kind of spark to rekindle it.
Medical Disclaimer / Legal Disclaimer – Information is provided for educational purposes. It does not and is not intended to constitute legal advice or medical advice. We attempt to be accurate and up-to-date, but the legality of cannabinoids and the science of cannabis are evolving. The author is neither a legal professional nor a medical expert. Before buying or using any products, you should check with your local authorities and medical providers
- Rubin, V. (1973). Cannabis and culture. Mouton and Company
- Clarke, R., & Merlin, M. (2016). Cannabis: Evolution and Ethnobotany. University of California Press