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Does CBD Work For Sex And Make You Last Longer In Bed?

The internet contains numerous claims about the benefits of CBD for a person's sex life, and CBD products for libido, erectile dysfunction, and sexual enhancement are flooding the market. A lack of regulation makes these products confusing and potentially dangerous. This article will provide an overview of the research on CBD and sexual health, as well as perspectives from experts in the fields of cannabis and sexuality.

What is CBD?

Cannabidiol, commonly known as CBD, is a type of cannabinoid and the second most common active ingredient in marijuana (cannabis) after tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). CBD can also be derived from the hemp plant. Unlike THC, CBD is not psychoactive, meaning it will not produce a 'high.' CBD is legal in the United States and comes in a wide variety of forms, including extracts, oils, topical lotions, and gummies. The medication Epidiolex, which treats seizures, is the only prescription medication containing CBD that has been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

The effects of cannabinoids can vary depending on their chemical structure and how they interact with the body's cannabinoid receptors. Factors like genetics, tolerance, and the specific product used also affect an individual's experience with cannabinoids. There has been a growing demand for CBD products in recent years, but high-quality scientific research on the potential benefits of CBD lags far behind this demand.

How CBD works

The endocannabinoid system (ECS) is a complex network of chemical signals and cellular receptors throughout the brain and body. The ECS controls and regulates many of the body’s critical functions, including sleep, memory, emotional processing, temperature control, and inflammatory responses. The cannabinoid receptors in the brain, known as CB1 receptors, control the activity of many of the chemical messengers, influencing functions like pain regulation and memory processing. CB2 receptors, on the other hand, are primarily found in immune tissues and are critical to the functioning of the immune system.

While the method by which CBD interacts with the ECS is not fully understood, researchers know that CBD does not bind to the CB1 and CB2 receptors in the same manner that THC does.

“It [CBD] actually binds to a secondary slot that changes the way the receptor reacts to the THC,” explained Jordan Tishler, M.D., founder and president of the Association of Cannabinoid Specialists and a faculty member at Harvard Medical School. “So, it’s not a direct activator; it’s a modulator.”

Does CBD work for sex?

The research and data on the effect CBD has on sexual function and health is limited. “The studies are inconclusive,” said David Wahl, Ph.D., a social psychologist and sex researcher based in Abilene, Texas. Wahl also points out that one study will state that CBD causes an increase in sexual performativity, and another study will report a decrease in sexual performativity. “It’s kind of all over the board,” he reported.

Tishlers says CBD does not cause intoxication like THC, the scientific community has been more willing to accept CBD as “a medically valid concept, even though, in fact, the evidence isn’t there to support that.”

Many claims have been made about CBD, such as it's effect on reducing pain and anxiety and promoting sleep.

“There’s almost no valid or good human evidence to support those claims,” Tishler said. “If you look at the preclinical stuff, meaning research being done either in test tubes of cell cultures, or in mouse models, CBD seems to have some very interesting possibilities.”

Tishler believes it is possible that in the future, CBD will be found to have utility for humans, but “we haven’t found it yet.”

“Based on the understanding of the way in which CBD works, and what we’ve seen so far, in human beings, there’s really not a lot of reason to think that CBD would be helpful for sex,” Tishler said. “On the other hand, there have been 70 years’ worth of research on the benefits of THC for sex.”

While THC has been studied for decades, more research is needed as the chemical’s effects are not fully understood. Studies have shown that THC may have anxiogenic effects, meaning it increases anxiety. Habitual cannabis use has been associated with anxiety disorders.

Are there science-based benefits of CBD for sex?

CBD for sex has not been widely studied. Some animal studies found that chronic CBD use reduced the size of testicles, inhibited fertilization rates, and impaired sexual behavior. Such studies have not been replicated on humans. It’s important to note that CBD interacts with each person differently, and what may work for one individual may not work for another.

Based on the current studies, Tishler does not believe CBD has any sexual benefits for humans. “So far, it hasn’t panned out in the science,” he said.

When a patient tells him they have a sexual problem and asks about CBD, Tishler recommends THC-dominant cannabis instead. “Generally speaking, they’re amenable to at least try it,” Tishler said. “And I would say about 75% of the time, it’s successful.”

It is best to always seek the advice of a healthcare professional if you are considering trying CBD or THC products. More clinical studies are required to fully understand the benefits of CBD and THC for sex.

Can CBD improve libido?

Some research has suggested that CBD has the potential to help with the symptoms of anxiety disorders. Anxiety can lead to elevated levels of the hormone cortisol, which may suppress the sex hormones that impact libido (sexual desire). “There’s not a direct cause and effect, a straight line, with any of this,” Wahl said. “There’s a mediating variable at play here.”

Wahl commented that by having a relaxing effect, CBD may decrease anxiety, which may, in turn, lead to improved sexual desire or performance.

A 2022 paper reported that people with moderate to severe anxiety saw a reduction in symptoms following four weeks of treatment with a product containing high levels of CBD. A 2021 study found that individuals with moderate to severe anxiety experienced improvement, but those with milder anxiety became slightly more anxious.

Ashley Manta, a sex and relationship coach, founder of CannaSexual, and author of The CBD Solution: Sex, said that if CBD makes someone feel more relaxed, it may help them access their libido. Both Manta and Wahl pointed out that the perceived benefits of CBD could be a placebo effect at play. Manta added that CBD has been erroneously marketed as a magic bullet that will solve all desire struggles.

“It would be so nice if that was the case, but it [libido] really is a multifaceted issue that requires a multifaceted approach to solving it,” she said. “CBD is certainly a valuable tool to have in your toolbox, among others.”

Can CBD enhance pleasure and sensation?

Studies on CBD’s impact on pleasure and sensation are limited and mostly anecdotal. CBD is, however, reported to improve blood flow, which can theoretically increase sexual pleasure and make sensations and orgasms more pleasurable. A 2020 study found that CBD increased blood flow to the hippocampus, a region of the brain responsible for memory processing. CBD also caused a significant increase in blood flow in the orbitofrontal cortex (the region in the frontal lobes involved in decision-making).

CBD-infused oils that are used on the genitals have been reported to decrease discomfort and inflammation, according to Manta. “That’s a really positive thing for people who either have pain with penetration or just want to feel additional pleasurable sensations in their bodies,” Manta said. “Having something that they can apply topically is a really useful avenue.”

While there is anecdotal evidence to suggest that CBD oils may be beneficial for the vulva and enhancing pleasure, there is not enough scientific evidence to support its use. Applying CBD oil to the vulva may even lead to skin irritation, allergic reactions, and yeast infections for some women.

Manta pointed out that, in general, not much research funding is allocated to women’s pleasure. “Studies cost money, and so somebody has to fund it, and they would rather fund research on you know, cancer, than women’s orgasms, which I get that, but that leaves us with a lot more anecdata than hard data.”

Some research has suggested that CBD may help reduce pain and inflammation, which could potentially be beneficial in lowering pain during sex. A 2020 study of patients with peripheral neuropathy (numbness and pain from nerve damage) in the lower extremities given a topical CBD oil experienced a significant reduction in pain compared to those who were given a placebo. A 2016 animal study suggested that CBD applied to the skin could help reduce pain and inflammation related to arthritis.

Different types of CBD and how they work

Because CBD for sex is understudied, the most effective forms and doses of CBD are not well established. Speaking from personal experience and anecdotal evidence, Manta said that when applying a topical oil to the external part of female genitalia, it could take some time to feel its effects. “That’s the biggest timing thing for topicals,” Manta said. “For anything else, it does vary a bit from person to person.”

Manta encourages anyone who is new to CBD products for sex to first use them during solo sex practice to get a sense of how it’s affecting them and be able to pay attention to their bodies without being distracted by anyone else.

CBD comes in many different forms, including edibles, capsules, oils, and lubricants. These can be broadly grouped into three main types:

  • Full-spectrum: Includes all parts of the cannabis plant, including some THC (usually up to 0.3%)
  • Broad-spectrum: Contains most of the cannabis plant compounds, including trace amounts of THC
  • Isolates: These contain only CBD with no THC or other cannabinoids

Common ways to consume CBD include sublingually (under the tongue) with an oil tincture, topical application of an ointment, cream, or lotion, or oral ingestion via edibles, such as gummies, snacks, beverages, and capsules.

  1. Edibles and gummies. CBD edibles come in different flavors and potencies. Gummies are a popular form of edible. It’s advisable to start at lower doses of edibles and work your way up to larger doses.
  2. Capsules. As with edibles, CBD capsules have a delay in the onset of effects since they must first be processed through the digestive system.
  3. Oil. CBD oil manufacturers typically direct users to place the product under the tongue and then swallow. The dose and potency can vary depending on the brand.
  4. Lubricant. A lubricant works by decreasing friction during sex. CBD lubes are lubes infused with CBD. The amount of CBD in the lube varies by product.

How to choose CBD products for sex

Choosing the best CBD products depends on various factors and mainly revolves around personal preference. Manta prefers tinctures (highly concentrated herbal extracts) that are full-spectrum. A full-spectrum CBD product contains all the natural compounds in the cannabis plant, including THC.

Choosing a convenient method of administration may be a priority for some, which can range from using a few drops under the tongue to inserting suppositories. While anecdotal reports on CBD suppositories have been generally positive, research in humans is lacking.

Manta said consumers should keep in mind that when buying CBD products at drugstores, gas stations, or online, there are no guarantees that what’s on the bottle is what’s actually contained.

“When it comes to gummies and oils, the consumer does not know what else is in there,” Manta said. “You don’t know what the extraction process was like. There's a lot of questions. And for the average consumer who doesn’t know what questions to ask, they could end up with snake oil.”

Manta urges customers to be skeptical and look for CBD products that have test results. Seek out reputable companies by researching who people in the cannabis industry are recommending. Cannabis media outlets keep an eye out for what’s good and what’s not on the market, she said.

A 2017 study found that many CBD products sold online were not accurately labeled. Of the 84 CBD products tested in the study, 31% were accurately labeled, 43% contained more CBD than labeled, and 26% contained less CBD than labeled.

“It’s really important to know your sourcing and make sure that you are getting what you think you’re getting,” Manta said.

Potential risks and side effects

Although CBD is generally considered safe, the chemical may cause lightheadedness, fatigue, nausea, diarrhea, dry mouth, and, in some cases of high doses, liver damage. CBD also carries a risk of interacting with certain medications. Because of CBD’s effect on the liver, CBD can interfere with drugs, either increasing their levels in the blood to potentially toxic levels or decreasing levels and reducing their effectiveness.

CBD has been reported to interact with anti-epileptic drugs, antidepressants, antihistamines, and opioid analgesics. Talk to your doctor if you’re taking medications to see if it’s safe for you to take CBD.

Can you use CBD together with THC?

CBD can be used together with THC. However, it’s important to talk with your doctor and note that THC is not legal for medical use in all states. Broad-spectrum or full-spectrum extracts of the plant tend to be better than just isolated CBD, according to Manta. Many women have shared with Manta their positive experiences with using CBD topical oils on their genitals prior to sex.

“CBD works better in the presence of THC, so those folks that have both in their oil tend to have better results than those who are dealing with CBD in isolation,” Manta said. “CBD lube is better than nothing, but not by that much.”

Some research has suggested that using CBD and THC in combination renders them more effective for therapeutic use.

Women have told Manta that CBD and THC made sex more comfortable when they were experiencing pain, from past sexual trauma or after childbirth or women in perimenopause who are experiencing vaginal dryness. “That’s been helpful for them in kind of rejuvenating the area,” she said.

If you’re considering using CBD for sexual purposes or any other reason, make sure you first discuss it with your doctor. Due to the lack of clinical research, there are more questions than answers regarding CBD’s impact on sexual health. Bring all your questions to your physician before you try to self-diagnose and treat with CBD. While CBD is considered safe, it could interfere with other medications and high doses of CBD may carry adverse side effects.


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