Denise came to my office like many patients, nervous about seeing a medical cannabis doctor, but sincere in her search for help with her medical condition. She was in her late 40s and in pretty good health overall, but she had been struggling with insomnia, anxiety and decreased libido for a few years. She tried a prescribed sleeping pill and anti-anxiety medication, but they just made her feel like a zombie. And they certainly did not improve her sex life with her husband. About one month prior to her appointment, Denise’s close friend gave her some cannabis to try, telling her it would help with “everything.” And she found that she slept better and was less stressed. Her biggest surprise though, was that cannabis “put her in the mood.” She said her husband was thrilled and told her to get legal!
Denise is like many women that come to my office. They are working full-time, raising children and taking care of elderly parents—all of the stressors and responsibilities that come with a productive and busy lifestyle. Throw fluctuating female hormones into the mix and it becomes clear that sex falls to the bottom of the priority list. I find that when I question these patients about their sex lives, they report that they truly want intimacy with their partner and they desire an active and fulfilling sex life, but they are stuck in a rut and can’t find the solution.
Enter cannabis, a plant that has been used for thousands of years as an aphrodisiac. The ancient Ayurvedic holistic healing approach, developed over 3,000 years ago in India, recommended cannabis to enhance sexual experience. Cannabis ingested in a type of milkshake called “bhang” was used in ancient Tantric sex rituals to enhance and prolong sexual activity. In Africa, cannabis was and still is being used to treat erectile dysfunction. Anecdotal reports of the sex-enhancing effects of cannabis are abundant but what do we really know?
“Before medicating, stop for a moment and think about how enjoyable intimacy and sex have been in the past, and let yourself anticipate another enjoyable experience. Get your mind in the mood and your body is likely to follow.”
Interestingly, research on cannabis and libido is conflicting. Some studies point to THC’s ability to increase testosterone, leading to increased sexual arousal and other studies report that cannabis inhibits libido. In 1984, The Journal of Sex Research reported that over two-thirds of cannabis-using adults surveyed had increased sexual pleasure and satisfaction with cannabis use, and sensations of touch and taste were particularly enhanced. The authors reported that, “many felt marijuana was an aphrodisiac.” Other surveys have found similar results. These finding correlate closely with my clinical experience with my patients. Many report that the simple alleviation of stress allows them to feel happy and relaxed, which leads to more intimate interpersonal relationships.
There are always some patients who seem to not get the benefits that other experience. It’s important to understand that the right strain and dose is crucial to getting the desired effect. Sometimes using too much cannabis will decrease sexual interest or performance. My advice to patients who are seeking to use cannabis to enhance libido is similar to those using it for other issues: “Start low and go slow.” If you don’t get the effect you want, you can always take a little more to enhance the result. You may need to try different strains and different methods of taking it to find what works for you. Of course your mood before using cannabis can affect the experience. Before medicating, stop for a moment and think about how enjoyable intimacy and sex have been in the past, and let yourself anticipate another enjoyable experience. Get your mind in the mood and your body is likely to follow.
Recently cannabis-based lubricants have come onto the market. They are applied to the vaginal area with the goal of sexual enhancement. Some patients have reported to me that these products did not cause them to feel high but they had increased sensations “downstairs” during sex. A few reported that using cannabis the “old-fashioned way” (i.e., inhaling it before having sex) still worked better because they were able to relax and focus on their partner instead of thinking about common distractions, like work, grocery shopping and the piles of laundry waiting to be done.
Dr. Lester Grinspoon, Associate Professor Emeritus of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School and long-time cannabis advocate, was asked about the effects of cannabis on sex in an interview with High Times. He said about the subject, “Look, if you come to me and tell me that you’re having difficulty in getting turned on sexually, or that you’re experiencing premature ejaculation or erectile dysfunction, I might ask, ‘Have you ever tried marijuana before? It won’t hurt you.’ You might try it.” Listen to the guy from Harvard, he knows of what he speaks.