by Tamir Bresler, Assistant Editor for Terpenes and Testing Magazine
A lot of self-reported evidence has accumulated over the past several decades that correlates cannabis use with all sorts of positive sexual benefits.  For example, a recent study by the Stanford School of Medicine involved over 50,000 participants. The results “unambiguously” showed that compared with cannabis abstainers, men who used it weekly reported having 22% more sex, while women reported having 34% more sex.
Part of the evidence that suggests a potential role of the endocannabinoid system (ECS) in sexual functioning includes the location of cannabinoid receptors (CBs). Cannabinoid receptors are densely expressed in the central nervous system brain structures such as the hypothalamus, hippocampus, cerebellum, amygdala, striatum, and throughout the cortex and basal ganglia.  This positions the ECS in regions that have already been shown to play a strong role in modulating sexual behavior.  In addition, they are present in peripheral tissues implicated in sexual function, including the adrenal glands, which are a source of androgen hormones, and in reproductive tissue such as the ovaries. 
To test this hypothesis, Klein et al measured the serum levels of the endocannabinoids arachidonoylethanolamide (AEA) and 2-arachidonoylglycerol (2-AG) in 21 subjects immediately prior to and following exposure to sexually-themed visual material.  Arousal was confirmed by “photoplethysmography,” or measurement with a device of changing blood volume in microvasculature. An increased volume represents the physiological changes that accompany physical arousal. In a qualitative study conducted via anonymous survey, women who reported using cannabis or cannabinoid products before sexual activity were more than twice as likely to report “satisfactory orgasms”, and generally reported increases in sex drive. 
It does seem that cannabis use has different effects on men. While the high concentration of CBs in the ovaries and in the perineum seem to lead to increased pleasure and associated positive effects when it comes to sex, the opposite seems to be the case in men. It appears that cannabis may actually have peripheral antagonizing effects on erectile function.  By stimulating specific receptors in the vasculature of cavernous tissue, cannabis may lead to increased incidence of erectile dysfunction. However, there may be an element of dose response going on; a small amount of cannabis can enhance sexual activity, while larger, more chronic quantities may inhibit sexual motivation.
So, one might ask, what is an appropriate THC dose? According to Luminous Botanicals, while special care should be taken in determining the appropriate dosage for edible (oral) consumption of cannabis, topical and sensual use requires less sensitivity than that. Skin and mucosa absorb less cannabinoids and at a much slower rate. Their product, Universal Cannabis Tonic, is reputed to create a pleasant, therapeutic response in localized areas without the euphoric intensity that can come from higher levels of oral consumption.
“It would take several bottles of Universal Cannabis Tonic to get to an uncomfortable level of stimulation when being used topically or sensually. You’re more likely to make an oily mess before creating any overwhelming sensations, so feel free to use as much as you’re comfortable with,” says Luminous Botanicals on the product’s FAQ.
However, though these products represent a new wave of interest in the cannabis consumer world, do take note that they are not always compatible with your standard intimate routine. CannaBliss, a THC-infused coconut oil lubricant made by Hawaiian extract company Honu™, warns on its label that their coconut oil infused products are incompatible with standard latex condoms due to the potential for tearing “at the risk of any micro sharp edges from the nut shells.” We’re a little concerned about a manufacturing process that might leave nut shells left over in lube of any kind, so we’ll be sure and take their word for it.
Another important facet of this branch of cannabis research is to assess whether cannabis use is associated with an increase in sexually “risky” behaviors. Rather than judging one’s sexual habits, this instead studies whether cannabis use is correlated to increasing susceptibility for unprotected sex.  Some qualitative studies were able to demonstrate such a relationship among men, and they attribute this correlation to what they call “sex-related [cannabis] expectancies.” In other words, the risky behavior is, in part, claimed to be caused by the expectation in the mind of the user of what doing cannabis might do; not as a consequence of the actual effects of taking it. A sex-related cannabis expectancy that can modulate risk behavior might go something like, “After I smoke cannabis, I am less likely to ask a partner to use a condom.”
In another example, a study of college-age subjects discovered that people placed in the control arm of the study, believing that cannabis was administered when in fact it was not, were more likely to provide a socially acceptable justification for cannabis use.  They also showed a strong disinhibiting effect for desired, but socially frowned-upon, acts (e.g., having unprotected sex with an acquaintance at a college party). 
There will always be people wanting to meld the psychological and physical effects of cannabis products to increase their sexual pleasure. According to budtenders we have spoken with, intimacy enhancers are the best-selling, non-psychoactive cannabis products. We’re excited to see that the scientific community is researching what cannabis can and can’t do for us in the bedroom.
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- Slavin, Melissa N., et al. “Marijuana Use, Marijuana Expectancies, and Hypersexuality among College Students”. Sex Addict Compulsivity. 2017; 24(4): 248-256 [Times cited = 0, Journal impact factor = 1.930]
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