Already, many patients prefer cannabis to prescription pain medications. But, the plant may be closing in on another pharmaceutical market: sexual dysfunction.
In recent years, a growing number of scientists have been able to broach this taboo topic, and early research is confirming that the aphrodisiac powers of weed are more than a myth.
Cannabis & sexual behavior
Viagra may have a new competitor. Cannabis has been used as a sexual aid since ancient times, yet modern day evidence is uncovering the workings behind the herb’s aphrodisiac abilities. In India, it was used as far back as the seventh century. Its use for sexual health was documented in Chinese texts, amongst Germanic tribes and by many African cultures. Maybe it’s high time to add the American bedroom to the list.
The Three Recent Studies
Researchers at St. Louis University in Missouri surveyed 133 adult women during annual gynecology check-ups. Thirty-eight (29 percent) reported having used cannabis shortly prior to partner sex. Of that group, 16 percent said it ruined sex, 68 percent said it made sex “more pleasurable,” and 16 percent expressed no opinion. Among those who called cannabis sex enhancing, almost three-quarters (72 percent) said it always increased their erotic pleasure, while 24 percent said it sometimes did. Almost two-thirds (62 percent) said it increased their libidos and the pleasure of orgasm. In addition, 16 percent of users reported consuming cannabis prior to sex specifically to relieve pain that interfered with it.
Next, the same team surveyed a larger group, 289 adult women, during gynecology check-ups. The results echoed the first study. Among the findings were that 33 percent said they’d used cannabis prior to sex. Users and abstainers were demographically similar, with no significant differences in overall health, libido, sexual function, orgasm, or sexual satisfaction. Among users, 3 percent called the herb sex-killing, 65 percent deemed it enhancing, 23 percent said it made no difference, and 9 percent expressed no opinion.
Finally, Stanford researchers conducted the largest study to date. They extracted information about sex and marijuana from three installments of the large, ongoing National Survey of Family Growth—data from 2002, 2006-2010, and 2011-2015. Their total data set included 28,176 women and 22,943 men, average age 30, who formed a reasonably representative sample of the U.S. population. Compared with cannabis abstainers, men who used it weekly reported 22 percent more sex, women 34 percent more. Among those who used marijuana more than weekly, sexual frequency increased even more. This study did not ask if participants found cannabis sex-enhancing, but to an extent, that can be inferred.
In all cases, the participants that used cannabis had more sex. It’s a remarkable finding, but one which probably doesn’t surprise regular cannabis users. The Stanford University research was published here in the Journal of Sexual medicine and discussed in deeper detail here, in Medical News: Life Science.
“Our body’s natural endocannabinoid system is key in regulating things like pleasure, pain, relaxation and homeostasis. When it is activated by the cannabinoids in cannabis, it can leave users feeling relaxed with increased pleasure and decreased pain,” explained Peter Barsoom, founder of a company called 1906, which aims to bring cannabis back to the mainstream. “This can lead to increased arousal and make sex even more enjoyable. For others, the reason is the increased pleasurable sensations that can arise with cannabis. This effect can make sex feel even more enjoyable.”
Most studie show that around two-thirds of people call cannabis sex-enhancing. This group generally says the drug increases their enjoyment of sensual pleasure and helps them focus intently on their partner. Around 20 percent call it sex-killing, saying the drug makes them withdraw from partners into themselves, which destroys their erotic connection to lovers. And around 15 percent say marijuana’s sexual effects depend on other factors: the strain (sativa or indica), their mood, and their feelings for the other person.
Indica or Sativa?
Some cannabis users feel that indica varieties offer the best body stone and physical effects, which can, in turn, lead to the best sexual pleasure. There is some logic to do this. Indica varieties are well known by medical cannabis users for the powerful physical effects, many indica fans love the physical ‘buzz’ and relaxation from an indica. And with these physical impacts, it’s easy to understand why many people feel an indica variety is the best for sex.
THC vs. CBD
The cannabis plant contains roughly 100 cannabinoids, which are its active components. The best-known of these is THC, which is believed to be mainly responsible for cannabis’ psychotropic effects, including marijuana’s high. But another cannabinoid, CBD, doesn’t contribute to euphoria and is legal when used recreationally if it’s derived from hemp. CBD derived from either hemp or marijuana is legal in 46 states when used medicinally.
Some products aimed at improving your sex life contain CBD but not THC. These are topical creams, ointments or lubricants that capitalize CBD’s apparent anti-inflammatory effects.
For example, a line of CBD-based lubricants called Privy Peach is meant to quell inflammation and increase circulation, which may in turn improve sexual function and arousal in women with problems such as endometriosis and other types of chronic pelvic pain, said its inventor, Kimberly Koehler. Another topical CBD product called Foria Awaken is targeted for women who experience pain during intercourse. Because some women find that the THC in marijuana seems to cause vaginal dryness, CBD-based lubes could also be a way to counteract that side effect.
Just a Little Bit
One of the challenges when combining sex and cannabis is finding the right dose. Too little, and you may not feel the intoxicating pleasure that comes from combining sex and marijuana. Too much, and you may feel too tired and detached.
Cannabis is a psychoactive drug and different people react differently to it. So, especially if this is your first time using the substance, it’s important to start low, go slow, and take some precautions to make sure you have the most enjoyable and safe experience possible.
[Updated, originally published 22.1.2017]
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