Here’s How CBD Can Dramatically Improve Your Sex Life
Experts say pain relief, lowered stress levels, balanced hormones, and increased blood flow are going to amp things up in the bedroom.
There’s CBD in your deodorant, your serum, and your toothpaste. Your grandma’s using it for her arthritis. Even IKEA put CBD in meatballs (ew, but OK). The “green boom” and legalization of cannabis across many states has resulted in the normalization of hemp-based supplements and with the mainstream embracing CBD. (Maybe you even have some in your medicine cabinet right now.)
Chances are, you’ve also seen an explosion of CBD topicals (lubricants, creams, gels, and suppositories) and ingestibles (capsules, gummies, and tinctures/oils) geared towards boosting your sex life and sexual wellness.
As it turns out, there are a number of applications cannabidiol can have in the bedroom, from managing your hormones to alleviating pain, and even to increase your libido (so… buckle up).
A disclaimer: After almost 100 years of everything cannabis-related being off-limits, there’s not a ton of human research to back up CBD’s medical claims. One reason? “CBD is still considered a Schedule 1 drug on the Controlled Substance Act and as such, researchers and scientists are prohibited in doing studies,” says Bonni Goldstein, M.D., medical advisor to Weedmaps, a site that connects cannabis consumers, patients, retailers, doctors, and brands. So although anecdotal evidence has swelled like a tsunami (a survey from Remedy Review reported 68 percent of people said CBD improved their sex life), we’re still (eagerly) waiting for clinical backup.
Ahead, a look at what we do know about CBD’s ability to boost libido, enhance orgasm, foster intimacy, and more.
Pain, Be Gone
One of the best-known uses of CBD is as an analgesic — it’s used to relieve pain. And this is a big deal for many women when it comes to sex. Dyspareunia (a blanket term for disorders leading to painful sex) is a barrier that keeps upwards of 40% of women from enjoying — or even experiencing — intimacy and experiencing pleasure, according to some estimates.
There are a number of ways topical CBD can help, explains Colleen Gerson, a functional medicine coach and herbalist at Foria, a CBD sexual wellness brand. Lubricants and suppositories can “enhance pleasure and libido by increasing blood flow, which increases lubrication and sensation, relaxing smooth muscle tissue, and easing tension,” Gerson explains.
This probably comes down to CBD’s well-known anti-inflammatory properties and ability to relax the muscles (less pain, inflammation, and tension would all contribute toward alleviating dyspareunia).
Citing six years of feedback from the Foria customer base, the anecdotal evidence for this use is astounding, Gerson says. (Seriously, read the reviews. Claims include it “saved my marriage”.) What’s more, in a 2019 survey conducted by Remedy Review of over 500 adults, 98 percent of those surveyed said CBD helped alleviate pain during sex.
Achieving Orgasm, Starring CBD
If the big O has been slightly out of reach (or less than satisfying), enter: cannabis. A 2019 review paper showed cannabis led to longer, more satisfying orgasms.
How? CBD can increase blood flow to tissues and improve nerve sensation, both of which can help make sex more pleasurable while intensifying an orgasm.
“There is anecdotal evidence to suggest that the direct application of CBD-infused lubricants to the genitalia increases blood flow to the area,” explains Robert Flannery, Ph.D. of Dr. Robb Farms. “An increase of blood flow to female genitalia has shown to increase sexual arousal and the intensity of orgasms. Both very good things.”
Less Stress, More Libido
When you’re stressed or anxious, sex is probably the farthest thing on your mind. Science confirms this, too — studies have shown that the stress hormone cortisol can lower your libido.
“It has been widely studied and shown that anxiety — both general and specific to sexual performance — limits a woman’s sexual arousal,” Dr. Flannery says. One of the biggest ways CBD consumption can help a woman’s sex life, especially for those suffering from sexual performance anxiety, is its ability to reduce anxiety (by triggering the serotonin receptor), he explains.
“By reducing cortisol and activating the PNS (parasympathetic nervous system), we’re going to drop into a more restful, receptive, sensually supportive capacity of the body,” adds Gerson. So if anxiety is getting in the way of your eh… extracurricular activities, consider CBD’s anxiolytic benefits as a potential solution.
Of note: this may just apply to women. One study showed that cannabinoids could potentially lower a man’s sex drive, though this particular study looked at marijuana (aka, all the cannabinoids, including THC), not just isolated CBD.
Balancing Hormone Levels = Higher Drive
CBD could potentially help your body balance hormone levels, which can increase sex drive. “The Endocannabinoid System (ECS) works overall to maintain homeostasis in the body, to regulate systems and organ function towards balance and harmony,” said Gerson. “So CBD’s relationship with our hormones and reproductive health is likely multifaceted, as ultimately a balanced body is fertile and vital (in it’s reproductive years).” She called hemp an “ally to hormone balance.”
This also comes down to how it (purportedly) helps the body deal with stress. In theory, if you manage bodily stress, your hormones will recalibrate as well. “While CBD can support some of the symptoms of hormone imbalance like pain, anxiety, or insomnia, it can also support via a key underlying root, stress,” says Gerson.
And FYI, if you’re open to it (and in a state where it’s legal), you might want to try THC, too, which may have an even greater impact than CBD to turn up the heat, Gerson adds.
Emotional Intimacy, Initiated
There’s another way CBD can improve your sex life: It can provide for a deeper emotional connection during intimacy.
Here’s how: “CBD increases the serum concentration of an endocannabinoid neurotransmitter called anandamide, which is closely associated with oxytocin, known as the ‘cuddle chemical,’ ‘hug hormone,’ ‘love hormone,’ or ‘moral molecule,’” Dr. Flannery explains. “Research has shown that an increase in anandamide during social contact, including a sexual experience, increases the pleasure of said contact.”
“The etymology of the word ‘anandamide’ is derived from the Sanskrit word ‘ananda,’ which translates to ‘joy, bliss, delight,’” he adds (sounds very kama sutra-esque). “This might give some insight as to what it can do.”
While they might seem almost quaint in comparison to all the vibrating, high-tech, action-packed toys available now, dildos remain a classic that plenty of women and even more men are super into. “I’ve seen people move from secrecy, silence, and shame into an open, cool, and trendy attitude toward sex toys of all kinds, from dildos to anal beads,” says clinical sexologist Marlene Wasserman, DHS. “I like when people stretch their sexual boundaries to leave their comfort zones, which can turn into a wonderful feeling of personal success and newly discovered pleasures—or dislikes. Either way, you’re learning something about your body and your partner.”
If you’re looking for the feeling of penetration that’s closest to a real penis, dildos are the way to go. They come in a variety of shapes, lengths, and widths, so take those into account when you’re shopping (some women may find that slightly curved ones are better at getting them off, since they’ll give your clit and G-spot more direct action), and consider using them both vaginally and anally. “My ex liked to dabble with a dildo—for him, not me!” says Audrey, age 30, of Los Angeles. “I wasn’t that into it; I prefer real D or a vibrator while we’re going at it, but he seemed to like the novelty and forbidden feeling of the dildo.”
2. Butt Plugs
Consider butt plugs your introduction to anal play. “Anal toys are popular with women even though they have no prostate or nerves to directly cause orgasm within the anus, they can be a huge mental turn-on,” says Wasserman. “If you’re a beginner, start with a shower and get clean beforehand, and then have your partner stimulate you with his fingers—or tongue, if he’s adventurous—before inserting a plug, vibrator, or beads.” She also suggests using latex gloves or condoms on fingers for cleanliness and anal lube for comfort and glide.
“I’ve found the key to introducing toys, whether anal ones, clamps, or otherwise, is all about expectation-setting and preparation,” says Katie, age 30, of New York City. “I mean, butt plugs are honestly a bit scary looking—even if they’re pastel pink—and if your partner’s only knowledge about using them is from porn, the night probably won’t end well. I like to get in teacher mode to walk them through how it feels for me as we’re doing it. And it never hurts to get comfortable with the toy solo beforehand, to explore how your body reacts.”
3. Nipple Clamps
Attaching these guys to your nips hurts—but it’s supposed to. So much of BDSM play is about the hurts-so-good kind of pain that can be a super-hot sensation for many people, if for no reason other than the fact that it’s so different from what we feel on an everyday basis.
Says Sarah, 27, of London, “It’s when my boyfriend takes the clamps off that it hurts the most—and I love it. The blood comes racing back into my nipples after being cut off, and it feels incredible. But don’t leave them on for too long, or you can cut off circulation to your nipples!” Many clamps come with fancy features like adjustable pressure, a vibrating option, and waterproof coating, but Sarah says she’s heard that clothespins can be just as effective, if you don’t want to buy real ones.
These should be your go-to sex toy, for solo and couple’s play, says Wasserman. “I suggest that women have a variety of vibrators—different shapes, sizes, and types of stimulators to match their mood and whatever sensation they’re looking for at that moment. Sometimes you might want a big, vibrating dildo that you can thrust at your own tempo, and other times you might want to use a vibrating butt plug.” Don’t worry that using a vibrator regularly will overstimulate your clit or mess with your ability to come with a good, old-fashioned penis—“that’s a myth,” says Wasserman. “It’s women’s responsibility to find what does it for them and be sexually vulnerable. Sex toys tend to predictably bring women to orgasm, so go ahead and use them!”
“My boyfriend and I had a perfectly good sex life, but bringing my vibrator into the mix stepped things up a notch,” says Amy, 29, of New York City. “Sometimes it takes me a really long time to come from regular sex, whereas that’s rarely the case for him. When we don’t have the time or energy for an hours-long sesh, the vibrator comes to the rescue by getting me off faster and with less work on both our parts.”
Handcuffs are more about the mental and emotional turn-on than the physical sensation, says Wasserman. “It can be very arousing to discuss the scene you’ll set up and get the necessary consent,” she says. “It’s fabulous fantasy play and gaining more popularity because of recent exposure and normalization in the media.”
Just be careful—if you’re going for a super-authentic prisoner fantasy that involves real metal cuffs, they can hurt. “Soft, cushy ones are a must,” says Jen, 30, of Rutland, Vermont. “I love feeling a little out of control when my partner cuffs me up—especially when every other part of my life requires effort and attention.”
6. Clitoral Massagers
For women who have a tough time coming from other sex toys (or partners, even) a vibrator that focuses purely on stimulating the most sensitive part of your vagina could be the silver bullet. Wasserman is a big fan of women advocating for their clits. “Distressingly, men don’t spend enough time on clitoral play, and women remain silent about their clitoral needs,” she says. “Use your clitoral massager while being thrusted; use it afterward when you’re swollen and he’s fallen asleep; let him or her see you using it so it becomes a couple activity,” she suggests.
“I used to think I wasn’t able to orgasm, because nothing seemed to work on my clit,” says Emily, 30, of Boston. “A clitoral stimulator—which I now own several of—changed that. They rock my world every time, and the rest of my sex toy collection goes pretty much unused now.” Sold yet?
7. Anal Beads
Slightly different from butt plugs in that they insert one individual bead at a time, rather than smoothly and gradually like a plug, anal beads provide a pop feeling with each larger size that goes in. And while any sort of anal toy and play will help prep you for actual anal sex, butt plugs might be a bit more similar to how that will feel.
“I’ve used both plugs and beads, and I like both, but I think it’s more important to invest in a high-quality set of beads if that’s what you’re into,” says Alyssa, age 26, of New York City. “The last thing you want is a cheap pair of beads breaking when they’re inside you! Oh, and with either one, make sure to use a ton of lube, otherwise it’ll be more pain than pleasure.” Good to know.
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