From Israel to Panama to Los Angeles, we explore the science of cannabis and sex, and some of its products
It’s just sex for goodness’ sake! We were e are all physiologically programmed by our brains to not only “want to do it” but also to “need to do it” to ensure procreation. Sex may be one of the physical functions, whether alone or with a fellow human, that is performed most frequently in a lifetime — it is certainly one of the things we think most about.
Psychologists have determined that women think about sex about 19 times per day or once every 50 minutes, while men think of sex every 28 minutes or about 27 times per day.
All this thinking about sex, but is it really contributing to action? Like the cannabis plant itself, sex is equal parts loved and stigmatized. I set out to separate the myths from facts to understand the science of cannabis and its physiological and psychological effects, if any, on sexual appetite, performance and experience.
Anxiety Is The Key
Good ol’ anxiety is and has always been the biggest sexual buzz kill. To confirm that, I asked 200 random men and women two questions: What feeling does anxiety cause, and does anxiety affect your sexuality and/or performance? Never has a “cause” had more of an effect: All questioned had experienced some of these known symptoms: panic, decrease in libido, depression, headaches, upset stomach, irritability, nausea, loss of interest, insomnia, a sense of impending doom, headaches, social isolation, fatigue and muscle tension. The physical side effects of anxiety cause the body to go into a defensive mode, which not surprisingly, adversely affects blood flow. For men, this leads to erectile dysfunction and performance issues; for women, it can cause vaginal dryness.
I turned to the professionals to assist and put some proverbial meat on the cannabis and sexuality bone.
It’s raining with nearly 100 percent humidity in Panama City when I meet with Dr. Sandra Carrillo, one of Latin America’s leading cannabis clinicians. She is also a well-respected academic and co-founder of Medicanna, a global medical cannabis advisory organization. Dr. Carrillo provided a 101 primer on the developing science surrounding cannabis and human sexuality. “Cannabinoids interact with the hypothalamic-pituitary-gonadal axis in the brain. This axis controls hormones and neurotransmitters that affect sexual behavior. Unfortunately, limited studies are with rats not humans. That said, CB1 receptors in the hypothalamus appear to cause the release of hormones and oxytocin, and activation of the CB1 receptor appears to enhance this release. This has important roles in sexual function for both men and women.”
I listened with amazement and fascination as Dr. Carrillo continued. “In males, this release affects testosterone levels. In females, hormones and neuro-transmitters such as dopamine combine. Cannabinoid receptors in other areas of the brain (including the hypothalamus, prefrontal cortex, amygdala and hippocampus) also affect sexual function. Cannabinoids themselves have been correlated with measures of arousal increase due to in part and the slowing of the perception of time, which can prolong feelings of pleasure. There is also anecdotal support that cannabinoids can lower sexual inhibitions, increase the willingness to experience, and enhance sensations of touch, smell, sight, taste and hearing.”
Dr. Lumír Hanuš is a Czech analytic chemist and leading authority in the field of cannabis research. Dr. Hanuš, along with William Devane, isolated and discovered “anandamide,” an essential cannabinoid receptor in 1992 and is now the namesake of Lumír Labs in Jerusalem.
He is presently conducting research on endometriosis, one of the most painful and common reproductive system issues, with the goal of creating a cannabinoid based solution, after discovering the female reproductive system contains the second highest source of cannabinoid receptors in the human body outside of the brain
At CannX, one of the world’s leading cannabis science and medical conferences, recently held in Tel Aviv, Dr. Hanus explained that “endo-cannabinoid receptors in the human body are there not by mistake or chance, but for a reason.” He continued, “It often takes years to find a reason, but objectively, the activation of these receptors should have many benefits. It’s logical that activating this system should by definition, enhance areas of female sexuality.”
Mara Gordon specializes in the development of cannabis extract treatment protocols for seriously ill patients and is the founder of Zelda Therapeutics and Aunt Zelda’s. She has a global reputation, which increased further as a result of her on screen involvement in Ricky Lake’s recent Netflix documentary, Weed The People. Mara’s brilliance is only exceeded by her passion.
According to BDS Analytics, 33 percent of cannabis consumers in SoCal use topical products, with 11 percent of those people using them for sexual purposes.
In a recent sit-down, I asked Mara, other than in the context of life-threatening illness, if the issue of the sex and cannabis ever arose with patients.
“Cannabis is a vasodilator which means that it increases blood flow when ingested or applied. It goes without saying the importance of healthy blood flow in human sexuality. Cannabis also relaxes soft tissues and increases vaginal lubrication. Consumption in moderate amounts prior to intercourse can relieve stress and pain that often interferes with sexual pleasure. For older women, using a topical vaginal product is often the difference between a painful experience and a pleasurable one”.
Surprisingly, there are very few studies to date on the subject. Two recent studies were published that evidenced positive findings with pre-performance cannabis use and sexuality. “The Relationship between Marijuana Use Prior to Sex and Sexual Function in Women” was published by Becky Lynn, MD., Elevier, Inc., on behalf of the Society for Sexual Medicine. It determined that sexual drive, satisfaction, orgasm and overall experience was enhanced and that cannabis doubled the likelihood of a satisfactory orgasm.
A survey organized by Eaze and Lioness, a maker of vibrators, focused primarily on orgasms and determined that the time to reach orgasm was 25 percent less for up to 71 percent of respondents; more satisfying orgasms were reported by up to 79 percent; more orgasms were experienced for up to 79 percent; and duration of orgasm increased for up to 46 percent.
Finally, a study released on September 19 in Scientific Reports, entitled “Characterization and Localization of the Endocannabinoid System Components in the Adult Human Testes,” demonstrated that endocannabinoid receptors are also found in the human testes and sperm, suggesting that cannabinoids could also play a significant role in male sexuality.
L.A. Weekly Survey With the assistance of Potguide, L.A. Weekly conducted its own survey last month in an attempt to obtain additional evidentiary data. Results were consistent with and expanded upon recent findings:
- Use: 54 percent of respondents consumed prior to any type of intimacy;
- Timing: 89 percent consumed prior to sexual intercourse;
- Satisfied: 47 percent had a more rewarding experience;
- Relaxed: 61 percent came to the bedroom more relaxed;
- Intensity: 47 percent expressed greater intensity during the session;
- Better performance: 34 percent perceived that they performed better;
- Orgasm: 40 percent had a better and/or longer orgasm.
While the medical establishment jury is still out due to the dearth of clinical studies and data, the available anecdotal, empirical and evidentiary data are promising. However one deals with anxiety and other human conditions, cannabis has shown to have extraordinary positive physical and psychological effects.
Big pharma, watch your back. Mother Nature may have an even better little blue pill.
A Little Help From The Market
There are a number of established and new products on the market that use THC and/or CBD as an ingredient. These include:
Foria: Although only a few years old, a few years in cannabis is a lifetime. Foria is the grandmother of cannabis-based intimacy products. A pioneer in offering both THC- and CBD-based products for pleasure enhancement, pain relief and overall wellness, they’re is most known for “Pleasure,” their natural arousal line of products. Foria information states that it “enhances tactile sensations while decreasing tension, discomfort and dry- ness,” with their plant-based products using only sun-grown, sustainable cannabis and hemp.
Quim: Ray Nystrom, Quim’s co-founder and CEO created a self-care line for “humans with vaginas and humans without vaginas who love vaginas.” She partnered with co-founder Ra- chel Washtien to de-stigmatize vagina wellness and create a plant-based intimate wellness company after experiencing years of recurrent vaginal health issues and finding limited options. “We want people to start thinking in a vagina–forward way” she told me, adding, “We want to provide tools for daily self-care rituals.” The Quim THC/CBD product line (with fantastically creative names) increases blood flow, promotes pelvic relaxation, decreases inflammation and pain, intensifies sensation and libido, and increases natural lubrication; it includes, among others: Happy Clam Everyday Oil, an “eye cream for the vagina” and Smooth Operator Intimate Serum (coming soon).
Her Highness: The new lifestyle female brand, available October 1, is designed to make women’s lives better, help reduce stigma and enhance cannabis and sexual empowerment. Co-founders and fellow New Yorkers, Laura Eisman and Allison Krongard created “Highly Orgasmic” as a cannabis on-ramp for both new and experienced female users. Her Highness offers a CBD and THC intimacy product, which Krongard described as “addressing the most common pleasure and pain points of a woman, including lack of sleep, joy and sexual grat- ification.” Together with an herbalist and guidance from gynecologists, after four years of development they created a product with a unique and proprietary combination of natural ingredients suspended in organic California olive oil. Ingredients include, an ancient South American herb known to cause salivation and pulsation on the tongue, which was considered beneficial to the uterine environment and, in Krongard’s words, “gifts a woman everything from a tiny tingle to a thunderous orgasm.”
Ignite: The brainchild of Kush Queen founder Olivia Alexander “created the Ignite line of products because at the time there [were] no water-based, latex-safe lubricants on the market. Other lubricants that were available took an hour to work. When it comes to sex, who has that kind of time to wait?” Alexander stated that “the Ignite products are not just infused oils but actual lubricants.” She explained that the Ignite products are based on hard science — nanotechnology — which allows small particles to be absorbed into the bloodstream faster and more effectively. An additional benefit compared to an oil-based substance (which is an absolute no-no when using a latex condom) is that it creates a water-based lubricant. Ignite is paraben- and petrochemical-free and non-staining.
CanBeDone: Thanks to the four members of the co-founding team: Raja Agani (previously Facebook), marine veterans Rich Shope and Robert Seo, and adult film performer Spencer Barrick, we have a new unique product combination. Shope and Seo used CBD, which helped them with PTSD and chronic pain suffered after years of military service. Barrick had heard about multiple sexually-related physical and emotional issues during his time in the adult in- dustry. CanBeDone products are available at Saks 5th Avenue and online. The supplement line includes a full spectrum CBD organic hemp oil in two flavors. CanBeDone is also the producer of the very first vegan condom called, “P.S.” The “P.S.” name is symbolic of the final note in a personal letter. “This embodies the personal touch of our company and brand,” Barrick stated. The condom is clear, ultra-thin, made of the highest-grade latex and silicone lubricant, and has no rubber smell due to the company’s proprietary purification process. All condoms are tested with electric current to exceed FDA safety requirements.
Lead photo courtesy of L.A. Weekly.
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