If I had wanted to spend my Friday date night stoned out of my mind, craving junk food with a mad case of the munchies and lazily curled up on the couch with a movie, I could have spent 10 minutes inside any local, Los Angeles dispensary and walked away dazed and happy.
But I didn’t. I wanted an evening for two with my long-term partner, and sex-focused CBD products lured me into a purchase of 800mg, coconut oil-based suppositories.
A week earlier, I had spent hours online, poring over CBD products made especially for sexual wellness. All of them promised medical – not recreational – benefits to one’s sensual experience, including a relaxed state of mind, superior sensitivity to pleasurable touch, and increased lubrication and arousal. However one preferred to enjoy partner play, these products claimed to enhance everything, from foreplay through the big finish.
Similarly, without the presence of THC, a psychoactive chemical in the cannabis plant, CBD brands claimed their sensual wellness suppositories wouldn’t cause any of the brain fog or head-in-the-clouds side effects associated with recreational marijuana use.
And boy, were they wrong. Those 800 milligram, supposedly CBD-only suppositories, knocked me out like a bong rip straight from a scene in Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle. Sex was suddenly the furthest thing from my mind.
My experience could not have differed more from literally every piece of CBD marketing literature I’d ever read, so I decided it was time to call in the experts to help decipher what happened – and where everything went so horribly and inexplicably wrong.
I enlisted the advice of Dr. Jordan Tishler, MD, a cannabis therapeutics specialist with over 23 years of experience, and Chelsea Cebara, a personal cannabis consultant and product developer.
Dr. Jordan Tishler, MD, is a faculty member at Harvard Medical School, President of the Association of Cannabinoid Specialists, and CEO/CMO at inhaleMD, a patient focused clinical practice.
Chelsea Cebara has been helping humans love cannabis since 2010 as a medically-certified cannabis consultant, product developer, and owner of Cebara Consulting at ChelseaCebara.com. Cebara proudly formulated the world’s first water-based THC lubricant, Velvet Swing, and co-founded the Sex & Cannabis Professional Alliance.
Let’s begin by walking through each step of my rather odd experience. For starters, I was genuinely stoned after anally inserting a single suppository. Rather than the light, relaxed, and sensual feeling I was promised in the product’s marketing, I felt clumsy, dazed, and heavy. My partner said I looked and acted like I had just eaten a pot brownie, and based on his observation, I completely agreed. I indeed felt like I’d eaten a recreational cannabis edible, not a product designed for medicinal purposes.
How did this happen? Aren’t CBD products not supposed to leave you feeling ‘high?’
Dr. Jordan Tishler, MD: I’m sorry that you’ve had such an unexpected and odd experience. However, it really points out a whole bunch of problems with CBD and the industry.
CBD should not get you high. The fact that you were so far gone tells us that this product was simply poorly made and tested. It had to be full of THC, whether by accident or design. CBD products are entirely unregulated (unless from a state-legal dispensary) and can have all sorts of things in them that shouldn’t be there, from THC to heavy metals to pesticides and even opioids or benzos.
Worse, CBD can be converted into other cannabinoids (like d8-THC) intentionally or inadvertently. That conversion process requires some careful chemistry and can lead to unexpected results if not done right, including potentially toxic by-products. This is a just-emerging area of concern and there’s going to be more and more about this in the near future.
If the CBD suppository I tried had been properly manufactured, what would have been the outcome?
Dr. Jordan Tishler, MD: As for what CBD should have done for you, there are no data to support the claims that people are making. CBD has been shown in the lab to cause smooth muscle relaxation in the vagina, but nowhere near as well as THC.
Chelsea Cebara: The hype around CBD has tipped from exaggeration to outright falsehood in many cases. Much of the trouble comes, as Jordan says, from the transposition of expectations from THC onto CBD. Sadly, marketers either take advantage of the confusion or directly encourage it. While useful (at sufficient dosages and in conjunction with other cannabinoids) for inflammation, pain, or spasticity, CBD does not have the fundamental oomph that THC does. Oomph here meaning the ability to dilate blood vessels, which is the largest portion of the arousal-enhancing effect THC provides.
And now for another supposed CBD anomaly. Instead of the promised, increased lubrication, I now had a severe case of cotton mouth, as if I’d just smoked a joint. Even worse, my vagina was also as dry as a desert after using the suppository anally – which I’ve now humorously deemed ‘cotton crotch.’
During a 2nd attempt at using the suppository vaginally, again, there was no increased lubrication except from the melting of the suppository itself. Why didn’t I experience the increased natural lubrication everyone else raves about?
Dr. Jordan Tishler, MD: Similarly, increased vaginal lubrication is a THC phenomenon – and incidentally, “cotton-crotch” is not related to THC like cotton mouth is – the mechanisms are entirely different. If you had poor lubrication during these events, it was likely due to being too stoned, and not a direct effect on your vagina.
Now let’s circle back my original reasons for trying a CBD suppository in the first place. These suppositories promised to relax the muscles in and around the vagina and anus, leading to more pleasurable and comfortable penetration. I was also led to believe that my entire body would feel more positively receptive to sensual touch, and my mind would feel at ease.
Again, the CBD suppository did exactly the opposite. I became hyper sensitive to any kind of touch or sexual act, and not in a good way. The slightest of teasing pinches felt painful, and even the most vanilla types of sex felt starkly, disturbingly intense. I wanted to curl up in a ball and be coddled, not copulated with.
What happened to make my experience so different from what I’d read about CBD and sex?
Dr. Jordan Tishler, MD: All the unpleasantness you describe is also THC related. Too much of a good thing is, well, too much. I’ve treated many women for the issues you describe quite successfully, but at WAY lower doses. Typically about 10mg of THC. While Chelsea and I have differing points of view on this, I find that local administration of cannabinoids (vaginal or anal) is less effective than systemic. I often say: most of sexuality occurs between the ears, not the legs.
What would you instead recommend for consumers seeking the properties usually associated with CBD, like muscle relaxation, increased pleasurable sensations, and a calm mind?
Dr. Jordan Tishler, MD: I don’t expect that CBD would help with these issues to begin with, so I would be recommending THC based products. Further, as I mentioned, I don’t find local administration to be very useful. So, I would typically advise low dose THC by flower vaporization.
As for what low dose means and why flower vaporization – low dose means 5-15mg with 10mg as average. If you use a flower vaporizer and put 15-20% THC cannabis flower into it, you get about 5mg THC per puff (defined as a full deep inhalation). So 1-3 puffs should do it for most people.
Obviously for those who have driven their tolerances up, this dose might not be effective, but rather than use more THC, I would work to decrease their tolerance because that’s safer.
Smoking produces sig toxins and, interestingly, so do the current oil vape pens – so I advise against them. Oral options are just too slow and unpredictable for routine use in partnered sexual situations.
Chelsea Cebara: I am an evangelist for topical applications for sex specifically because they do not, in most cases, cause intoxication. The vagina is a mucous membrane and does absorb some cannabinoids into the bloodstream, but typically not enough that the user notices any changes in their mental state. The vagina is not part of the digestive system. The rectum, however, very much is. Anal applications are going to have a much, much higher bioavailability than vaginal ones, regardless of which cannabinoids you’re using. (Though if folks want to get high, too, great! Por que no los dos!)
Is there any way consumers can test their CBD products to ensure efficacy and rule out the presence of potentially unwanted chemicals?
Dr. Jordan Tishler, MD: Unfortunately, there is no way to test products yourself. In fact, part of the problem is that even when testing is mandated, some of these toxic chemicals aren’t detected. It’s frankly quite hard to find things you don’t know might be there. The chemistry isn’t impossible, but this industry is moving with such lightening stupidity that serious scientists are having trouble keeping up. It’s easier to produce something than it is to do so safely. While I’m not a big fan of government, this is where I do believe regulation has its rightful role – only the government can require and assure that these products are properly manufactured and tested.
To conclude, is there any real evidence for CBD’s usefulness as a sexual health product, or are consumers being fooled by marketing hype? Could CBD products be more effective if developed and manufactured by large pharmaceutical companies like Pfizer?
Dr. Jordan Tishler, MD: There is some evidence for CBD, but it’s all in rats. Since we’re not rats, I don’t think it’s applicable to us. Rats are a good start, but humans have to be tested. So, yes, it’s all marketing hype.
The interesting thing is that drug companies, like Pfizer you mentioned, spend millions because they’re required to prove that their products are safe and truly work. While the cost is high, this is because that’s what it takes to do the necessary research. Cannabis companies don’t even have to prove safety. We need a better system.