Lead illustration by Heather Benjamin
Welcome back to Stoned Sex, the column where I’ll be exploring the intersection of sex and sativas, intercourse and indicas, often through first-hand experience and interviews with experts.
For this week’s edition, we’ll be discussing CBD and its relationship with intimacy. 'Stoned Sex' will be running every other week, so make sure to stay tuned for the next dose.
Stoners agree: Having sex while high is fun. Just the smell of weed turns me on because it reminds me of how much fun high sex is — and yes, I include my college boyfriend and all his tapestries in that sentiment.
But the phrase “high sex is fun” is far more complicated when broken down. Cannabis can lower inhibitions and heighten senses (including touch), and it can increase emotional connection with your partner. So, if you’ve ever felt the urge to blurt out, “I love you” after sex, be careful after your next stoned orgasm.
But since marijuana isn’t legal in all states, and our government considers it a Schedule I substance, not everyone has access to reliable and quality cannabis. And who wants to wait around for legalization?
The economy’s solution to the growing demand? CBD.
Cannabidiol’s medicinal value, popularity, and availability has launched it to the forefront of health and wellness, allowing the plant to tap into a whole different industry separate from the cannabis space. In fact, THC is kind of like a high school football player a year after graduation: it’s been pushed out of the spotlight by CBD.
Alongside sexual wellness products made with THC, hemp-CBD options are also available — even in non-legal states. From products like gummies to tinctures to suppositories, CBD claims to reduce pain, lower anxiety, and increase blood flow — all things conducive to more enjoyable sex. But does CBD alone really do anything to enhance pleasure, or are we all experiencing a placebo effect? For this edition of Stoned Sex, I spoke to a medical marijuana MD, and cannabis and pleasure experts from Foria to find out.
Here’s How CBD Can Improve Sex
There’s nothing like a panic attack or body insecurity to get in the way of good sex. Or perhaps you want to ask your partner to spit in your mouth and call you names, a form of erotic humiliation, but you are feeling too anxious to do it. That’s where CBD can come in.
CBD products are sold as an anti-anxiety remedy and business is booming pretty much on that claim alone. Putting aside the desire for sexual tension, CBD can calm you down, which is ideal for getting out of your head and into your body. I mean, chill sex is good sex. But one thing to keep in mind is the fact that we are severely lacking in sexuality and cannabis research. So much of what you’ll find on the Internet — including what’s in this article — are small-scale studies and anecdotal evidence.
That said, much of the CBD sexual wellness products are topicals, such as Foria’s Awaken Arousal Oil. One of their biggest claims to fame is reducing pain during sexual intercourse when applied to the vulva and vagina.
“We’re seeing a real decrease in pain and tension on the pelvic floor with Awaken,” said Kiana Reeves, chief brand educator at Foria and a certified sexological bodyworker. CBD is said to lower inflammation, too, which also makes sex more comfortable. That’s why these CBD topical products can make intercourse less painful for people with vaginas (three out of four women will experience pain during intercourse), and, thus, also increase pleasure. “CBD and THC have some things in common,” Reeves said. “They’re both vasodilators, so they’re enhancing the blood flow so the genitals.”
Cannabis suppositories are also used to make anal sex more comfortable without numbing the receptive partner out. CBD “Boofs” are a thing now, too, thanks to Foria. So, it’s safe to say that CBD is definitely being marketed to everyone as a pleasure enhancer.
Here’s Why Some Are Suspicious
As Reeves noted, much of what makes CBD the new cool kid on the block (increased blood flow and reduced inflammation, remember?) is because of its relationship to THC. Furthermore, beyond either of those spotlight-loving cannabinoids, research suggests that terpenoids also reduce inflammation, scoring points (once again) for the entourage effect.
For those who don’t know, the entourage effect (sometimes called "the ensemble effect") is a theory that says cannabis works most effectively when all of its parts — cannabinoids, terpenes, and flavonoids — come to battle together, as opposed to being isolated into individual compounds. In other words, CBD and THC aren't going to be as impactful alone as they are when working in unison.
“CBD came along and everybody took the benefits of cannabis and pinned it on CBD, but it's not the same thing,” said Jordan Tishler, MD, a cannabis expert and instructor of medicine at Harvard Medical School.
As cannabis becomes more socially acceptable, everyone wants a piece of the green rush. Overall, the growing acceptance of weed is a great thing. But because the market is still largely unregulated, a lot of companies have started making claims they can’t back up. So, if you see a CBD brand marketing their product as if it’s straight-up marijuana, don’t trust it. However, if a brand is honest about CBD’s benefits while acknowledging the differences between marijauana with THC and CBD (which is probably extracted from hemp), it’s likely they make a decent product.
For those who don’t enjoy the high of THC, live in non-legal states, or can’t consume for professional reasons, the fact that CBD is non-psychoactive is a selling point. CBD allows these folks to have a cannabis experience without getting them into trouble. While weed isn’t a gateway drug, CBD can act as a gateway into cannabis, easing-in reluctant users who aren’t ready to get high but are curious about cannabis.
Gallery — We Love (Weed) Porn, How About You?
“I like the grounding effect CBD has on me with these capsules I take,” says Maggie, who uses CBD to alleviate anxiety and improve sex. “I can take four or five at a time and within the hour I feel less anxious. Anxiety and sex are NOT friends! So having the CBD bring my heartbeat to a calmer pace. THC would make me feel a bit more out of my body.”
After enjoying CBD products and becoming more comfortable with weed, the horny canna-curious can then graduate to THC products so they can experience the mental benefits of psychoactivity during sex. “Most of sexuality happens between the ears, not between the legs,” Dr. Tishler said.
But, while increased blood flow is lovely, CBD oil won’t spike my confidence to speak dirty nothings into my partner's ear. That’s why THC is different. It can help lower inhibitions and stay in the moment, allowing a lot of users to enjoy sex more on a mental level.
But since CBD is non-psychoactive, are CBD sexual wellness products even worth it? Based on the lack of research and evidence, it’s hard to know for sure. But Tishler believes they’re probably not.
“I think what we’re seeing in the CBD world is a placebo effect,” he said. “If you tell someone that it is going to make their sex life better, there’s a fair chance that at least for the first few times it will because we’re all somewhat suggestible. A placebo effect might help you but it’s not going to be reliable.”
But remember that the placebo effect is a form of psychoactivity itself. Does it matter how something is working if it is, in fact, working? It’s true that we need more research on both cannabis and CBD, but when you ingest cannabis with THC, you can tell when it hits. CBD is more subtle. You may not feel an urge to share spoken word poetry about how your partner’s body hair makes you feel at home. But if sex is more comfortable for you with CBD, why fight it?
The verdict? Regular pot products — with THC and all — are likely better for sex due to the psychoactivity and aforementioned entourage effect. So if you can get full spectrum cannabis as opposed to a CBD isolate, go for the green. Full spectrum cannabis offers mental, emotional, and physical benefits. CBD isolate, which is CBD in its purest (or isolated) form, offers a non-psychoactive experience that may or may not make sex more comfortable and pleasurable — it’s nearly impossible to know if it does anything at all.
But the most important thing is to make sure you get CBD from a reputable brand because it’s still unregulated and there’s some nasty stuff on the market right now. However, if you live in a non-legal state, or simply swear by CBD, more power to you. Until the feds get their shit together and allow more research into both sexuality and CBD, we’re all somewhat in the Wild West. So if CBD makes sex better for you — keep at it, babe.
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