Is Cannabis an Aphrodisiac?

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If you’re reading this, you already know: pleasure is persecuted. Whether it’s the ecstasy of an orgasm or the euphoria derived from cannabis, most of us are taught that if it feels good, it must be bad. The United States' history of Puritanism has permeated every aspect of society—but why should we limit ourselves? And why only allow some types of pleasure when you can have many? Such is the relationship between cannabis and sex.

The Evangelical conservative right still has a stronghold on our government, and most states can’t grow cannabis with a higher THC ratio than 0.3 percent. However, those who are not ashamed of enjoying pleasure and seeking means to amplify it are well aware that cannabis acts as an aphrodisiac.

The ritual use of cannabis was there in the second century when Tantrism entered both Hinduism and Buddhism. And now, in 2020, during the cannabis renaissance, we have cannabis sex clubs and aphrodisiac products available over the counter in legal states. But how is cannabis an aphrodisiac, and how can you sort through the onslaught of product marketing to find what works for you?

“There’s no question that cannabis can be an effective stimulant for the libido in all genders. In addition to centuries of experience using it as such, we have a number of studies that confirm this,” says Harvard cannabis specialist Dr. Jordan Tishler. However, finding the right cannabis aphrodisiac for you is trickier than running to the dispensary and buying the strain marketed for sex.

“While aphrodisiac weed is real, what constitutes it is much more personalized than many brands will have you believe.”

“Most people's differing reactions to cannabis can be traced to different doses and methods of use. It does not appear to depend on ‘strain,’” Dr. Tishler says, adding that everyone’s endocannabinoid system, or natural biological system of neurotransmitters that bind to cannabinoid receptors and produce the effects of cannabis, is different from person to person. So, while aphrodisiac weed is real, what constitutes it is much more personalized than many brands will have you believe.

Human sexuality is extremely complicated. Some people like it rough and can benefit from a cannabis topical that’s helpful with pain. Others crave a heightened emotional connection with their partner and may find sharing a joint—even a hemp one—with their lover the best way to enhance sex. The long-lasting body high of an edible can help those seeking to be in the moment stay present while amplifying physical touch.

“It’s such an individual experience,” says traditional naturopath and registered herbalist Dr. Lakisha Jenkins. “Paranoia and anxiety can set in for some people if they’re taking a certain varietal, a genetic profile of a particular cannabis botanical. You don’t want that while you’re trying to feel relaxed. We don’t have any tests right now that says this is the number of cannabinoids or this is the specific cannabinoid profile for you. It’s a bunch of trial and error for you to find your sweet spot.”

Thankfully, with zero fatal overdoses to date, cannabis is a very safe plant to experiment with. The cannabis industry is finally starting to acknowledge that identifying types of weed is not as simple as indica versus sativa strains. Each plant has its own cannabinoid profile. Start slowly, with a hit or two from your vape or flower when exploring various cultivars. People who can get anxious need a more relaxing and sedative experience, while those who need encouragement can enhance sex by opting for something more energizing.

Finding your aphrodisiac doesn’t end there. “Don’t just focus on the cannabinoid profile but focus on the delivery methods,” Dr. Jenkins says. She suggests starting with a topical or suppository, which are absorbed through mucous membranes. They can reduce pain and inflammation without overly numbing you out, and increase blood flow, which can enhance orgasms.

“One damper to having good sex is feeling shame. You’re already halfway there if you can find products that make you feel comfortable and relaxed.”

Her Highness is one of the cannabis brands that make a THC pleasure oil created to do just that. While they work with an herbalist to create an aphrodisiac blend (don’t ask them what the secret love flower ingredient is) they also say that half the work of making such a product is it’s accessibility. “Everything we’ve done is remove the stigma of cannabis and pleasure. One real damper to having good sex is feeling shame and not being able to let go. You’re already halfway there if you can find products that make you feel comfortable and relaxed about finding your pleasure,” Allison Krongard, co-CEO and co-founder of Her Highness says.

“All of our products are designed to enhance women’s lives and bring pleasure. We’re all about female joy and euphoria. The kind of high that gets you in touch with your sensual self is an aphrodisiac.”

It’s tricky to find an aphrodisiac that works universally—perhaps impossible. However, while honest marketing is vital (Her Highness is the first to tell you that they can’t offer medical claims), it’s not all the fault of brands. After all, they operate within a government-regulated economy in which research money is tightly controlled.

And until they remove “marijuana” from the Schedule I substance list, we are extremely limited in how we can study the plant. When you couple this fact with the rampant sex negativity and persecution of pleasure our government imposes, it’s easy to understand how difficult finding money to research cannabis for sex is. Especially for women-identified pleasure.

Of course, this won’t stop humans from finding ways to enhance sex with plant medicine as we have for centuries. Your homework is to try a new type and method of delivery of cannabis to improve your sex life. Keeping a cannabis journal can help identify what works and what doesn’t. Until our culture further evolves and we better understand the individuality of the endocannabinoid system, it’s up to you to safely experiment. It’s your body, after all.

Sophie Saint Thomas is a freelance writer based in Brooklyn originally from the US Virgin Islands. Her writing is published in GQ, Playboy, VICE, Cosmopolitan, Forbes, Allure, Glamour, Marie Claire, and more.