Medically reviewed by Kristin Hall, FNP
Written by Our Editorial Team
Last updated 10/4/2020
During the last few decades, cannabis has moved from the hippie counter culture to the mainstream. In some states, it’s fully legal. And in many others, it’s readily available as medicine.
Cannabis has also gradually experienced a reinvention in the zeitgeist. Instead of just being a festival drug, it’s now a magical crop that we're learning can allegedly cure or help treat a wide-range of diseases, conditions and bodily issues.
Within the medical marijuana movement, there are many claims — some more researched than others — about the green cash-crop’s medicinal qualities.
Though healthcare professionals tend to prescribe marijuana only for pain or anxiety, some pot smokers claim that it can be an aphrodisiac and help with ED.
But are these claims completely bogus or is there perhaps, a grain of truth? Is marijuana an aphrodisiac for men?
Marijuana’s reputation as a libido booster partially comes from folklore, as well as an aggressive contemporary marketing campaign that has advertised and assigned various strains to various issues.
For instance, a 2016 ATTN article claimed the strains “Green Crack,” “Sour Dream” and “Atomic Northern Lights” can allegedly get you in the mood. Yes, these strain names are uh, interesting, but where’s the scientific evidence?
Though it may appear to be ludicrous to claim that marijuana is an aphrodisiac, there’s some scattered evidence that have found some correlation between smoking weed and having a healthy sex life.
A Stanford University study published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine conducted a survey across demographics measuring sexual activity for marijuana smokers.
The researchers found that “a positive association between marijuana use and sexual frequency is seen in men and women across all demographic groups.”
In addition, this study found that marijuana doesn’t “appear to impair sexual function.”
However, the researchers also noted more extensive research is necessary.
Other studies have been more ambiguous.
A 2003 research survey conducted in Toronto, Canada concluded that half the participants found the drug “sex-enhancing,” while the other half couldn’t find any aphrodisiac qualities.
In terms of the actual physiological effects of marijuana, the research is even more scarce.
Many articles about this subject point to a 1981 University of Texas study that showed mice given THC experienced a sudden, short-lived jump in testosterone levels. But this decades-old study has been refuted.
Other research has found that THC (the active chemical ingredient in marijuana) actually reduces testosterone levels. Although low testosterone levels doesn’t necessarily mean someone will experience ED, in some circumstances, there’s a correlation.
Low testosterone can lower sperm count, decrease sex drive and cause hair loss. But it’s not the sole culprit behind ED. Why does marijuana have a reputation as an aphrodisiac if the research is so muddled?
It could be that there’s a placebo effect at work. Someone’s experience with marijuana is pretty subjective. The “sexpert” Susie Bright told Motherboard:
“If you have a party and everybody smokes pot, there's going be a couple of people who turn inward, and don't feel sexy...others will feel flirtatious, and open to suggestion. So it's hard to identify universal truths when it comes to cannabis and pleasure."
On the other hand, the Motherboard article also points to comments from Dr. Lester Grinspoon, a Harvard Medical School psychiatric and early advocate for cannabis, who told High Times in 2001 that for some people, marijuana simply enhances their experience with sensuality and therefore, increases their libido.
These conclusions suggest that someone’s subjective relationship with cannabis will influence the drug’s impact on their sex life.
If you view marijuana as enjoyable then everyday activities like eating, watching TV or having sex are going to be more fun while you’re under the influence. And if you have a lot of anxiety about sex and smoking a joint generally alleviates stress, marijuana may technically be an aphrodisiac for you.
However, it's important to keep in mind that because these claims are based primarily on anecdotal or subjective opinions, it's important to speak with a healthcare provider about what your options are.
We're all for helping men figure out how to have better, more relaxed sex, but it's worth noting that while many of the issues men experience with bedroom performance are psychological and emotional, there are plenty of physical issues that contribute, too.
Sildenafil, the active ingredient in Viagra, offers a more viable solution by helping blood flow to the penis. It's a clinically proven and verifiable way to help you achieve and maintain an erection.
What’s another benefit of taking Sildenafil instead of smoking pot? You won’t have instantaneous munchies. Juuuuuust sayin'.
In 2017, a survey from The Washington Post found that 55 million American adults are frequent marijuana users. Regardless if you like to smoke weed or not, the drug is clearly here to stay and could very well be as legal as alcohol in the near future. This fascination with marijuana’s impact on the libido can be seen as a reflection of the misinformation that surrounds the drug.
There was a time when marijuana was grouped in with much harder drugs like heroin, cocaine and psychedelics. Even though we’ve learned that marijuana generally isn’t that severe, the drug isn’t exactly harmless. Here are a few actual symptoms of frequent marijuana use:
Mood: Marijuana has a notable impact on people’s moods. While some might feel more relaxed and cheerful after ingesting THC, others get more nervous and anxious.
Memory Loss: According to drugabuse.gov, frequent marijuana use can cause long-term memory loss and cognitive impairment.
Appetite: You’ve probably heard about the munchies — the nickname for marijuana users feeling significantly hungrier when high.
Research has found that THC enhances one’s sense of smell and causes your brain to release more dopamine when eating.
Though this might potentially help people who have a low appetite, frequently getting the munchies can lead to obvious health issues like weight gain, high cholesterol, cardiovascular disease, etc.
Breathing: In recent years, we’ve seen a rise in different ways to ingest marijuana, like edibles, THC pills and through the use of vaporizers. However, smoking is the primary way to consume weed. According to lung.org, smoking marijuana has been connected to bronchitis, a weakened immune system and an increased risk of infections.
It is also believed that the smoke inhaled from marijuana contains many of the same carcinogens, irritants and toxic chemicals in tobacco smoke.
Although it is becoming more mainstream, it seems the verdict is still out on marijuana as an aphrodisiac.
While some studies show promise, and it seems there are plenty of anecdotal articles and blogs out on the ol’ information superhighway, the research about cannabis and libido is still lacking.
This doesn’t mean marijuana definitively isn’t an aphrodisiac or does nothing for your libido — we just need more conclusive research.
If you’re experiencing ED, it's best to speak with your healthcare provider about what your options are.