CBD for Sex: Can It Help?

CBD for Sex: Can It Help?

Sex is a key part of a happy life. Couples share their intimacy through sex when they bond physically and mentally. Although “normal” is a very ambiguous work, several studies have linked a good sex life with the couple’s overall happiness [1].

When researchers look at sex, it’s less about the quantity and more about the quality and special connection a couple shares. Of course, sex quality can be precarious. People get busy with their work and life evolves. Children, work, and stressful events like a pandemic can dampen one’s libido. Almost one-fourth of people suffer from common mental health problems like anxiety and depression in the UK [2], which takes its toll and limits sexual desire.

When quantity and quality lack in sex, couples try to find an answer to their problems. Might CBD help support a healthy sex drive?

CBD and sex

It is almost impossible these days to ignore CBD since it’s all around us. With a steady stream of novel CBD products, an increasing number of people are considering taking it to improve their lives and achieve the feeling of wellbeing they crave. Part of this interest in CBD involves sex.

Given the relationship between sex and a healthy mental state, many people assume that CBD may help improve their sex life by helping them relax. Indeed, several studies and research [4] suggest that CBD may help fend off anxiety and depression. This may help couples that are overwhelmed by everyday burdens and worries, as a more relaxed approach to life may improve their sex life.

Research is also directed towards CBD and physical impediments to sex, such as erectile dysfunction.

Finally, studies suggest that CBD may help support sex activity and increase sexual satisfaction.

The Endocannabinoid System (ECS)

The human body is a complicated entity that contains several systems like the Central Nervous System, the Peripheral Nervous System, the Endogenous Opioid System, the Endocannabinoid System, and more.

The endocannabinoid system (ECS) was only discovered in 1988, just a few years after the 1964 discovery of tetrahydrocannabinol and cannabidiol. Research shows that the ECS is responsible for many bodily functions such as mood, appetite, memory, learning ability, motor perception, inflammation, pain perception, temperature perception, and interestingly enough, reproduction.

The ECS’s function is to keep our body in balance, where all systems work in harmony with each other. When something goes awry, the ECS is alerted to fix the problem.

For example, when you run in the sun, your temperature rises. Temperature perception is a bodily function regulated by the ECS, which starts the process of sweating to cool you down. However, losing water and electrolytes may lead to dehydration. Your ECS kicks in again, this time to prevent dehydration, and sends your brain a message that creates a feeling of thirst. This sends you to get a glass of water or juice. Your brain also alerts you to stay in the shade to recover from the heat. The ECS’s goal throughout all this is to maintain your homeostasis—the body’s natural balance.

The ECS works by releasing endocannabinoids—cannabinoids produced by the body that act as messengers. These travel across the body and attach to their respective cannabinoid receptors. Think of these two as lock and key: endocannabinoids are the key and the respective receptors the lock. Once the cannabinoids have attached to the receptors, the receptors pass messages to the brain.

Endocannabinoid receptors are spread throughout the body. Among other places, they can be found in the brain, immune system, gut, liver, thymus, and reproductive organs. That’s where CBD may help with sex quality.

CBD, sex, and the ECS

CBD is a phytocannabinoid—a cannabinoid produced by hemp—that bears a striking chemical similarity to one of our endocannabinoids, 2-AG. It is this similarity that lets it have such a profound impact on the body. 2-AG attaches to a cannabinoid receptor called CB2.

It was first thought that CBD interacted with CB2 directly, attaching to it the way 2-AG does. However, researchers [5] looking into CBD’s interplay with the cannabinoid receptors soon realized this is not the case. While CBD appears to have an affinity to the CB2 receptors, it doesn’t seem to attach to them directly.

Instead, CBD seems to help our ECS better utilize the body’s endocannabinoids. In a sense, CBD interacts gently with the body by supporting the ECS, thus making it more effective and productive.

We know that there are CB2 cannabinoid receptors on our reproductive organs. So, might CBD help the ECS fix a problem in the reproductive system?

CBD and the reproductive organs

While there is still little research regarding the connection between CBD and the health of the reproductive organs, we do know that the ECS is actively involved in their health and plays a big role in fertility. External cannabinoids may impede its normal functions, which is why a recent literature review [6] on mice found that repeated and chronic doses of CBD “had negative effects on the reproductive system of males.”

At the same time, another study [7] concluded that cannabinoids may “represent a new promising therapeutical approach” to improve infertility and reproductive health.

These contradictory findings may be explained by the fact that CBD seems to be biphasic, i.e. have one effect at a low dose and its opposite at a high one. Obviously, determining the right CBD dosage for you is crucial.

CBD for stress and anxiety

The main area where CBD may affect our sex life is by helping support a healthy mood.

CBD can indirectly impact sex by helping us feel more relaxed and less anxious. A stressed mind will rarely be enthusiastic about sex. An anxious couple won’t be able to focus on sex if a million worries are crossing their minds. This is especially true of women, who suffer from anxiety at a rate of two to one compared to men.

Evidence [8] suggests that CBD may be effective in fending off anxiety and mood disorders. A recent paper [9] concluded that CBD could have “anxiolytic, antistress, anticompulsive, and panicolytic-like effects.”

If future findings confirm that CBD can help with anxiety and stress, this would be a big step towards helping couples improve their sex life. A relaxed frame of mind is more conducive to sex, as intimacy requires relaxation and calmness—which CBD may enhance.

CBD for libido

A more direct question concerns the effects of CBD on libido.

Couples often find they are too tired or uninterested in having sex. Their decreased libido stops them from sharing the intimate moments that bring a couple closer together.

The culprit for decreased libido is usually cortisol, a human hormone that is secreted when we are faced with danger and get stressed. Cortisol increases our heart rate to pump more blood in our arteries and helps our muscles if we need to run or fight a foe.

Research [10] suggests that elevated levels of cortisol are linked with lower levels of sexual drive. There are various health issues that cause cortisol levels to remain elevated, one of which is chronic stress.

A study [11] on the connection between CBD and cortisol levels concluded that “CBD interferes with cortisol secretion.” If CBD can help lower cortisol levels, it may be able to help couples experience less stress and more relaxed conditions, thus supporting their sexual lives.

CBD for erectile dysfunction (ED)

More than 4 million Britons aged 40 to 70 years old appear to suffer from erectile dysfunction. Almost half of them believe that stress is behind their physical problems. This leaves around 2 million Britons whose erectile dysfunction seems to stem from physiological problems rather than psychological ones.

One study [12] studying the possible effects of CBD on men suffering from erectile dysfunction found a positive “association between the increased frequency of cannabis use and increased male sexual function.” Furthermore, cannabis users reported increased intercourse and orgasm satisfaction. Interestingly enough, the primary method of consumption was not associated with sexual function.

These findings may be explained by research [13] suggesting that CBD may help with blood flow around heart arteries. Likewise, another research [14] shows that CBD increases the blood flow to the brain. Researchers are wondering whether the same can be true about blood flow across the body, including the penis. By having more blood pumped into the penis, CBD may help fend off erectile dysfunction and support a healthy sexual life—or so the theory goes.

While more studies are required to evaluate the potential benefits of CBD on erectile dysfunction, the findings so far seem promising.

CBD for mental health

Sex is about one’s mental state. A relaxed and positive frame of mind is favourable to a healthy sex life.

Besides 2-AG, the brain uses another cannabinoid called anandamide. Anandamide takes its name after the Sanskrit word for ‘joy’ and it is the cannabinoid that binds to the brain receptors and helps us feel happiness and joy.

It would appear [15] that CBD stops the enzyme that breaks down anandamide.  Further studies [16] show similar effects of CBD on the FAHH enzyme. As a result, anandamide stays longer in the brain and helps us feel happiness and joy for longer before being metabolized and broken down by its respective enzyme.

A feeling of bliss and joy may lead to a heightened libido and satisfying sex life.

CBD for sex: there is potential

While no trials have been conducted on the subject of CBD and erectile dysfunction or other sex-related health conditions, research suggests that the potential is there.

First, CBD may indirectly benefit sex life by improving the mental state and lowering anxiety levels to more manageable levels. Stress is the most common reason couples state for not having sex. If CBD could help couples lower their stress levels, this may help support a happier and more active sex life.

Second, and thanks to CBD’s interaction with brain neurotransmitter receptors as well as endocannabinoids, CBD could be a potential tool in improving libido.

Finally, CBD may help fend off erectile dysfunction and increase sexual satisfaction by improving the blood flow around the reproductive organs.

More studies should offer more clues and indications about CBD’s potential and any possible side effects. Research so far is promising and an increasing number of couples are experimenting with CBD to feel more connected and support a healthy sex life.


[1] https://www.researchgate.net/publication/284175688_Sexual_Frequency_Predicts_Greater_Well-Being_But_More_is_Not_Always_Better

[2] https://www.mind.org.uk/information-support/types-of-mental-health-problems/statistics-and-facts-about-mental-health/how-common-are-mental-health-problems/#HowCommonAreMentalHealthProblems

[4] Research on CBD and mental health studies:

  • https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2697769/
  • https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20512271
  • https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23298518
  • https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24923339
  • https://www.nature.com/articles/ncomms7395
  • https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24923339
  • https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4543605/
  • https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28754373
  • https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5938896/
  • https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6326553/
[5] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2219532/

[6] https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/31313338/

[7] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4034092/

[8] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4604171/

[9] https://www.liebertpub.com/doi/10.1089/can.2019.0052

[10] https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/18624961/

[11] https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/8257923/

[12] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7471121/

[13] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3579247/

[14] https://www.nature.com/articles/1300340

[15] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3316151/

[16] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6486906/


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