Sex changed for Heather Huff-Bogart when she had her IUD removed. The once fun, pleasurable experience now left her “curled over in pain with cramps.” Eager to find a solution to the problem, she decided to try a personal lubricant infused with the cannabidiol (CBD) about six months ago and noticed immediate improvements.
“It helped reduce the pain and inflammation I have during intercourse. My husband noticed that I don’t complain as much about pain, and it’s been beneficial for both of us,” says Huff-Bogart.
While relatively new to the mainstream market, CBD is widely available in a variety of forms — from oils and tinctures to topical creams and beverages. Lately, CBD has also made its way into the bedroom. The substance can be found in a variety of products, all aimed at helping to improve users’ sex lives. These products include:
- personal lubricants
- massage lotions
- oral sprays
But can CBD really improve your sex life?
Here’s what you need to know about the science of CBD and sex, as well as the intimate experiences people have had with cannabidiol.
How CBD can help improve sex?
Folks look to CBD for sex for a number of reasons, including pain from chronic conditions like endometriosis.
Other reasons include:
- increasing pleasure
- easing stress and anxiety, including performance anxiety
- setting the right mood
When it comes to issues of lubrication during sex, Alex Capano, medical director for Ananda Hemp and faculty member at the Lambert Center for the Study of Medicinal Cannabis and Hemp at Thomas Jefferson University, explains that CBD may help.
“There are so many cannabinoid receptors in reproductive organs and sexual tissue. CBD increases blood flow to tissues, which increases sensitivity and promotes the body’s own natural lubrication,” says Capano.
For individuals like Allison Wallis, CBD helps foster relaxation for sex. Wallis has Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, a condition that causes joint subluxations and severe muscle spasms. She explains that she’s experienced the benefits of CBD firsthand when she tried a lubricant infused with cannabidiol.
“It relaxes my muscles and allows for much more enjoyable sex,” she says, adding that the lube induces a “feeling of warmth and relaxation.”
“I was surprised by how well it worked. It allowed me to focus on the intimacy of the act instead of my muscle spasms.”
What’s more, CBD might just put some people in the mood for romance. Research shows that CBD may be effective at reducing stress and anxiety. That relaxation can, in turn, reduce the distractions and worries that can hinder a positive sexual experience.
“There’s an important component of calming the mind and really focusing on enjoying,” says Capano.
“Especially for women in heterosexual couples, who often experience the pressure of needing to orgasm.”
While CBD doesn’t have psychoactive effects, it may boost your mood by enhancing a neurotransmitter called anandamide.
“Anandamide is our bliss neurotransmitter, and it’s also associated with oxytocin [also known as the ‘cuddle hormone’],” says Capano. “CBD helps increase the natural neurotransmitters and endorphins that we make on our own that ultimately lead to a better sexual experience.”
Some experts are skeptical about CBD’s effects due to limited research.
While early research has CBD enthusiasts excited about its potential for health and sexuality, some experts say more studies are needed before any firm conclusions can be drawn.
“There aren’t any studies on CBD for sexuality, and particularly for using it as a topical application,” says Dr. Jordan Tishler, a cannabis therapeutics specialist at InhaleMD and president of the Association of Cannabis Specialists.
“CBD is wholly ineffective for sexuality. The primary advantage is the lack of intoxication, leading to widespread acceptance [of the compound], even though it is simply a placebo.”
He believes that the focus should be on cannabis, which has “40-plus years of data” on its effect on sexuality.
“For the treatment of sexual-related issues, I tend to recommend vaporized cannabis flower, because we know the THC actually helps with the four stages of sexuality: libido, arousal, orgasm, and satisfaction,” he says.
Sarah Ratliff, a 52-year-old woman who has been using cannabis for pain relief for many years, says she didn’t perceive any benefits from trying CBD oil. But when she tried smoking and vaping cannabis — which has both CBD and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) — to improve her sex life, she noticed big improvements.
“It really helps me relax and let go of the day,” she says. “Sex was more intense after smoking, and I think it’s because it helps my inhibitions come down and allows my body to focus.”
However, doctors and health professionals who’ve seen improvements in patients’ sex lives say the anecdotal evidence has turned them into believers of CBD products, despite the lack of clinical trials.
Dr. Evan Goldstein says he’s seen firsthand the positive effect of CBD on his patients.
“These products work. They obviously need to be taken into context and used correctly, but they can enhance the experience and make things a little more pleasurable,” says Goldstein, the founder, and CEO of Bespoke Surgical, an anal surgery practice that focuses on the sexual wellness, education, and comfort of the LGBTQ+ community.
“Most of my knowledge of the benefits of CBD is coming from my patients. But as we see this become more regulated, there will be more studies done.”
What to know about using CBD in the bedroom
If you’re interested in experimenting with CBD in your sex life, there are a few things to keep in mind. Here’s what to know about getting started:
Buy a quality product
Don’t just reach for any CBD product. Read reviews and check that a product has been verified by an independent lab before buying it. You should also be aware that CBD can be derived from cannabis or hemp, and that marijuana-derived CBD (which contains THC) may be more effective than CBD derived from fiber hemp.
Moreover, while similar, the plants differ in their THC content — cannabis typically has 20 percent or more THC, while hemp must contain less than 0.3 percent THC to be sold legally.
Both plants produce molecularly identical CBD. Only CBD derived from hemp plants is legal throughout the United States, but some states may also allow the sale of cannabis products.
Find your ideal dose
When it comes to CBD dosing, everyone’s different, and there’s no conclusive evidence on exactly how much CBD someone should be taking for certain effects or health benefits.
“Start low and go slow,” says Capano. “Titrate up slowly every couple of days, and if you keep getting increased benefits, keep going. If you add more and don’t feel better or start to feel worse, go back to the previous dose.”
Use CBD before going into the bedroom
CBD doesn’t necessarily work the moment you decide to use it, whether you apply it as a lubricant or take it orally. Plan ahead and start taking it — or applying it — 30 to 60 minutes before you head into the bedroom to give it enough time to kick in.