Why People Are Using Cannabis for Better Sex
A Conversation with Ally Schott, Founder & CEO of EIR Womxn’s Cannabis Club
The relationship between cannabis and sex is a steamy one. A generous partner in bed, research is showing cannabis may support sexual health and improve sex for both men and womxn. Like anything with cannabis right now, more research needs to be done, but what we’ve learned so far certainly makes cannabis a bit more... tempting.
I dove into the research in a recent blog post, but I wanted to know more. Research is based almost entirely on cannabinoids—only CBD and THC, of course—but cannabis has hundreds of other compounds. Could they also potentially increase libido? What about consumption methods—is there a “best” way to invite cannabis into bed with you? How are others using cannabis in their sex lives? Curious, I reached out to Ally Schott, Founder & CEO of EIR Womxn’s Cannabis Club.
EIR focuses on womxn’s pleasure and pain, recognizing that the two often overlap in womxn’s lives, and the belief that cannabis is a medium through which to enhance joy and mitigate suffering. They support womxn of all ages in their everyday lives, whether someone’s seeking pleasure, relaxation, and enjoyment or looking to manage things like chronic illness, painful periods, or sex.
The acknowledgment of the overlap between pleasure and pain for womxn is what drew me to EIR. It’s 2021, 40-60% of womxn experience painful sex in their lifetime, and yet, as Schott points out in our discussion, sex is still a taboo subject. Womxn are still dealing with painful sex and feeling shame about it. I admired that EIR was not only talking about this but also offering a solution, one that’s faced its fair share of taboo and shame as well: cannabis.
Cannabis and Sexuality: How Does It Work?
Cannabis interacts with our endocannabinoid system (ECS), a communication system in the body that maintains internal balance. Through enzymes, receptors, and endocannabinoids, the ECS plays a part in many bodily functions including sleep, mood, appetite and digestion, reproductive system functions, inflammation, pain, and stress.
Cannabis’s phytocannabinoids play similar roles as our endocannabinoids within the ECS, which is how and why we experience the plant’s benefits and effects. More research needs to be done to determine the ECS’s role in sexuality and how cannabis might play a part, but Schott shared one study with me that found a significant relationship between endocannabinoid concentrations and female sexual arousal, both on a psychological and subjective level.1
“Scientists suspect the ECS is linked in some capacity to sexual health and wellness because many of the receptors in the ECS live in areas of the brain that deal with sexual function—like the amygdala and hypothalamus—as well as in areas of the body associated with reproduction and sexual pleasure, including the ovaries, testes, and other parts of the reproductive system,” Schott explained.
Another way cannabis may affect sexuality is through hormone regulation. While conclusive research is still needed, Schott pointed to one study that suggests CBD might slow the breakdown of testosterone and aid in testosterone production, an added benefit for men.2 Other research has shown cannabis may decrease normal sperm development in men and can decrease levels of follicle-stimulating hormones in men and womxn, so it’s still a bit of a mixed bag at this point.3
CBD vs. THC: What’s Better for Sex?
Knowing where cannabinoids get to work, I then wanted to know which cannabinoids worked best when it came to using cannabis for sex.
“When determining if CBD or THC is right for your sexual escapades, I recommend identifying your needs first, then matching it with the cannabinoid that promotes the effects you’re wanting and needed,” Schott told me. “Sometimes that means reaching for just CBD or just THC. Other times, it means reaching for both.”
She offered some advice she shares with EIR members when they’re deciding between a CBD or THC strain for the bedroom:
CBD for Sex
- Awesome for newbies as CBD has no intoxicating effects
- Easily accessible and available to those in non-legalized states
- Studies suggest CBD may improve libido by reducing anxiety, making it a potential resource for those who have generalized anxiety or anxiety about sex and/or sexual performance4
- Promotes vasodilation, sending blood flow to the genitals, boosting sensitivity, enhancing natural lubrication and arousal5
- Might make sex more comfortable due to its ability to facilitate relaxation while obstructing the production of enzymes that cause inflammation
- May enhance a neurotransmitter called anandamide (AKA the “bliss neurotransmitter”), which is associated with oxytocin (AKA the “cuddle hormone”)—a winning combination4
- Counteracts the psychoactive effects of inhaled or ingested THC, keeping effects mild and you in charge of your body and sexual experience
- Advice: If THC has caused you to feel paranoid, anxious, or less confident in the past, stick with CBD to minimize undesirable psychoactive effects
THC for Sex
- When applied topically, THC is non-intoxicating
- Appears to target a part of our brain associated with sexual arousal, at least in females
- Also a vasodilator6
- Alters sense perception by interacting with brain receptors that manage all five senses and receptors in places like the skin and mouth. Sex is an all-five-sense experience, and THC helps to elevate our response to stimuli7
- In low-to-moderate doses, THC is known to act as a natural pain management alternative to narcotics that also reduces stress and inflammation—a great option for womxn experiencing endometriosis, vulvodynia, vaginismus, or other chronic pelvic conditions that cause pain during and after sex
- When smoked or ingested, and used solo or with a trusted partner, THC’s ability to impact short-term memory might ease fear and anxiety stemming from PTSD and sexual trauma. It’s important to work with a certified trauma specialist who can 1) help assess whether cannabis-enhanced sex of any kind is appropriate for you and 2) provide tools to help you remain present in your body and mind
- THC can alter your sense of time, which could play a role in “losing” yourself in a pleasurable moment8
- Advice: Start low and slow. Using too much THC can backfire and take the pleasure out of any experience
Terpenes: Do They Offer Sexual Benefits?
Apart from cannabinoids, one of the other main compounds of cannabis is terpenes. Unlike cannabinoids, which are cannabis-specific, terpenes are ubiquitous in nature. They give plants their taste and smell, like the skunkiness of cannabis. Since they’re found in other plants, terpenes have some research behind them, though not much when it comes to using them for sexual benefits.
Schott mentioned it was once believed terpenes were solely responsible for the flavor and aroma of cannabis, but more recent research has suggested terpenes may carry their own unique characteristics and benefits, affecting brain processing by modulating the behavior of brain cells.
“Scientists haven’t discovered ‘sex’ terpenes or libido-enhancing terpenes; however, understanding the effects of these compounds, coupled with awareness of your personal barriers to sex, can help you identify solutions that may break down physical and emotional roadblocks,” she said. “Common barriers to sex include stress, anxiety, pain, and depression, so it’s best to pick terpenes that are known for counteracting these things.” She offered some suggestions:
Terpenes for Sex
- For anxiety and stress, reach for a strain with the terpene linalool, which is known to produce calming, relaxing effects—a great compliment to intimate, low-key partnered or solo play. Linalool also shows promising anti-inflammatory, antidepressant, and pain-reducing properties.9
- If you need a pick me up, try the terpene limonene, which not only relieves stress and anxiety but also induces an elevated mood—perfect for a more energetic experience.10
- To ease pain associated with sex, look towards beta-caryophyllene, humulene, myrcene, and caryophyllene. It’s believed these terpenes communicate with ECS receptors to lessen pain in unique ways.11
What’s the Best Way to Consume Cannabis for Sex?
In today’s market, you can pretty much find any cannabis consumption method you want, so I wanted to know—which one do I want to bring into my bedroom?
Schott said for those who’ve never paired cannabis and sex before, she usually recommends starting with a topical. “I often get asked, ‘you want me to put cannabis where?,’” she joked. “Encouragingly, I say, ‘Yes, I want you to put cannabis on and in your vagina and anywhere else you want extra sensitivity or pain relief.’ If I worked more closely with men, I’d give the same advice.”
She points to both lubes and suppositories as great options for using cannabis for sex. Topicals won’t get you high, so they’re a great way to experiment without any psychoactive effects interfering with sensations. Plus, she notes, you can integrate infused lube throughout sex to keep delivering cannabinoids directly to areas that need special attention.
“For those experienced with cannabis, I recommend a layered approach,” she said. “This can entail using a topical in addition to an edible or inhalant to take advantage of both delivery methods’ effects.”
One of her favorite methods to recommend for both men and womxn? Cannabis suppositories. Since vaginal and rectal tissues are highly permeable, cannabinoids are absorbed quickly, soothing pain, inflammation, and pain-perceiving nerves. Plus, suppositories can easily be made at home with the LEVO II, so you can control the ingredients you’re putting in your body.
“In general, keep your DIY cannabis extract lube and suppository ingredients as minimal as possible to avoid any infections or adverse reactions,” she recommends. “Your LEVO, fractionated (liquid) coconut oil or MCT oil, and cannabis flower are really all you need!”
Using Cannabis for Better Sex: Summary
There’s still a lot of research that needs to be done, and what works for some may not work for others, but when it comes to using cannabis for sex, these tips may help:
- Start by identifying your sexual needs and roadblocks. This will help you determine if you need a strain that’s high in CBD (maybe you’re experiencing pain), high in THC (maybe you’re anxious), or somewhere in between.
- Consider a strain’s other compounds as well, like its terpenes. Research has shown terpenes can offer health benefits that may impact your sexual experience.
- Choose a consumption method that works for you. If you’re new to cannabis or pairing cannabis with sex, consider starting with a topical so your sensations aren’t interfered with by psychoactive effects. If you’re more experienced with cannabis, consider a layered approach with an edible or inhalable option combined with a topical.
If you’re curious to learn more about cannabis and sex or other ways cannabis can benefit you, check out EIR Womxn’s Cannabis Club. A safe and inclusive community, they connect you with cannabis products, education, and resources that can help you live a more satisfying, balanced life. Because cannabis can help you outside the bedroom, too!