All too often, the topic of sex centers around bodily gratification, from arousal to climax, and remains focused on physical goals. In reality, sex and masturbation affect the body, mind, and spirit, and the effects of cannabis can enhance all three. However, these effects can be unpredictable, from enhancing to inhibiting, because plant medicine is personal. For some, cannabis boosts libidos, increases sensitivity, and enhances pleasure and satisfaction. For others, cannabis pulls people so deep inside themselves that they may miss the moment and too much THC can cause sleepiness or limpness.
Your personal sexual journey with cannabis is determined by the plant’s combination of cannabinoids, terpenes, and flavonoids and how it reacts with your body, as well as your intake method. So whenever considering cannabis to enhance sex or self-pleasure, take the time to consider strains, dosage, intake choice, and timing.
Cannabis interacts with receptors in the brain and body, which can help you to shift gears, relax and ease into the mood. Cannabis can also decrease anxiety, stress and pain and get you out of your everyday mindset. This can create a sexual experience that is uplifting, expansive and climatic.
Women vs men
The most important thing to remember is that there are many cannabinoid receptors throughout a woman’s pelvic organs. “A lot,” says Dr. Junella Chin, who has been practicing integrative cannabinoid medicine for more than 20 years. “They are most dense in the uterus but are also found in the vagina, which has a mucous membrane that can readily absorb cannabis. Cannabis can relax the sacral plexus where all the nerve roots are located; increase blood flow to the area, and stimulate libido. All of this elevates the moment.”
There is research to suggest that women who use cannabis are more sexually satisfied. In a survey of 373 women, those who used cannabis were more than twice as likely to experience a satisfying orgasm during sex. And while this survey looked at sex and not masturbation, there is reason to believe anecdotally that women (and maybe men, too) experience more pleasurable orgasms with some THC on board. 1
Additionally, as women age, they often have reduced estrogen levels, which can cause vaginal discomfort during sex, including dryness and even microtears in the vaginal lining. “Lubrication with CBD takes away inflammation on a localized level and ingesting CBD takes away inflammation on a systemic level, so you can relax and have a better experience,” says Dr. Chin. Her tip: Stay away from products with polyethylene glycol (PEG) or petroleum as it will leave the vagina even drier. And you don’t want those chemicals in your body and so close to an absorbent mucosal membrane. Chin advises staying away from bath bombs as they are made with Epsom salt and fragrances that can disrupt your body’s own natural pH.
Recently, as women continue to feel more comfortable with cannabis and sex, Dr. Chin has been hearing talk about cannabis and aftercare, a topic rarely discussed before. She notes that essential oils with small amounts of menthol, like eucalyptus, lavender or bergamot blend, may work well to relieve vaginal itching post-climax, commonly known as vaginitis, or vulva swelling due to friction (attributed to the use of toys during masturbation).
Women are not the only sex that can benefit from cannabis. Dr. Chin sees a lot of male patients who take Viagra and notices that when they consume too much cannabis and especially THC, they have trouble getting or maintaining an erection. Considering that the causes of Erectile Dysfunction (ED) can be caused by a mix of psychological, hormonal, physiological reasons, there are different hypotheses that can explain this less than ideal outcome.
One reason THC can sometimes cause erectile dysfunction is that CB1 receptors of the ECS are also densely located in the same part of the brain responsible for controlling erection and sexual arousal. This could also explain why cannabis can improve sexual function in some men who suffer from depression, anxiety disorder, and pain. It’s also possible that THC influences erections directly, interacting with cannabinoid receptors located within certain tissues of the penis. 2, 3
For both women and men, negative feelings of shame and indecency associated with masturbation can make some people uncomfortable with the idea of personal pleasure. Cannabis and especially CBD, is known to hold promise as an antidepressant and anti-anxiety therapy. It’s no surprise that some cannabis consumers find that cannabis reduces some of these social-norm induced anxieties, allows people to let go and be in the moment, even if just a little bit more. But again, dosing is everything, and at the wrong dose of cannabis, particularly THC, may sometimes result in the inability to become aroused or the ability to orgasm.4, 5
The endocannabinoid system
Both cannabinoids and endocannabinoids interact with hormones and neurotransmitters that mediate sexual behavior. Endocannabinoids are important to the rewarding effects of activities like eating, physical exercise, social interaction, and even masturbation. We still do not fully understand the connection between the ECS and sexual reward, but scientists have uncovered a key connection between sexuality and the ECS, whether it be with a partner or solo.
Masturbation to orgasm stimulates the release of the endocannabinoid 2-arachidonoylglycerol, a potent activator of the cannabinoid receptors and an important part of the ECS. Masturbation has been found to boost plasma levels of 2-AG, and could also have an impact on levels of anandamide, the endocannabinoid-like lipids – oleoyl ethanolamide, palmitoylethanolamide, and even cortisol. The release of 2-AG and other endocannabinoids likely plays a role in the rewarding feelings of sexual arousal and orgasm. Previous studies have found that levels of anandamide actually may go down during the time of sexual arousal for women.6
Cannabis is a great aphrodisiac and can support your pleasure at each stage and from multiple angles. It gets to work with the anticipation phase. Cannabis interacts with the skin’s cannabinoid receptors and nerve pathways that perceive tactile sensations and prepares your body for the physical experience. Cannabis also plays a role in the next stage of arousal, excitement. It can alter blood flow to areas important for sex like the genitals, breasts and lips. It also helps when you hit a plateau.
Cannabis heightens the feelings of excitement and can increase focus on sensations. Many consumers report feeling relaxed and in the moment while masturbating high. Finally, the herb can enhance an orgasm, particularly in women. Cannabis releases sexual tension as your mind becomes wholly focused on the experience. Thus, by interacting with the endocannabinoid system, cannabis can help form a complete merger of the body, mind, and spirit–allowing for the most optimal self-pleasure session
- Lynn BK, López JD, Miller C, Thompson J, Campian EC. The Relationship between Marijuana Use Prior to Sex and Sexual Function in Women. Sex Med. 2019;7(2):192-197. doi:10.1016/j.esxm.2019.01.003
- Argiolas A, Melis MR. Central control of penile erection: role of the paraventricular nucleus of the hypothalamus. Prog Neurobiol. 2005;76(1):1-21. doi:10.1016/j.pneurobio.2005.06.002
- Pizzol D, Demurtas J, Stubbs B, et al. Relationship Between Cannabis Use and Erectile Dysfunction: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Am J Mens Health. 2019;13(6):1557988319892464. doi:10.1177/1557988319892464
- de Mello Schier AR, de Oliveira Ribeiro NP, Coutinho DS, et al. Antidepressant-like and anxiolytic-like effects of cannabidiol: a chemical compound of Cannabis sativa. CNS Neurol Disord Drug Targets. 2014;13(6):953-960. doi:10.2174/1871527313666140612114838
- Blessing EM, Steenkamp MM, Manzanares J, Marmar CR. Cannabidiol as a Potential Treatment for Anxiety Disorders. Neurotherapeutics. 2015;12(4):825-836. doi:10.1007/s13311-015-0387-1
- Klein C, Hill MN, Chang SCH, Hillard CJ, and Gorzalka BB. Circulating endocannabinoid concentrations and sexual arousal in women. J Sex Med 2012;9:1588–1601.
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