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Erectile dysfunction or ED is a hot topic, and many people are confused about what the issue entails and which remedies—if any—actually work. One popular, albeit controversial, treatment strategy involves using cannabidiol, aka CBD, a molecule found in hemp and marijuana that doesn’t make you feel high but may offer other benefits.
Read on to learn whether CBD oil for erectile dysfunction or sexual performance anxiety works and how to use it.
How does CBD for erectile dysfunction work?
Unlike THC, CBD doesn’t appear to alter consciousness or cause a person to feel “high.” Currently, it is only FDA-approved to help treat seizure disorders. However, there is ongoing research into the potential benefits of CBD for anxiety, chronic pain, and other health conditions. CBD may also have anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer properties, but these are still being studied (Meissner, 2022).
Scientists don’t fully understand how CBD works, but they suspect it affects certain brain chemicals. Cannabinoids like CBD work by interacting with the body’s endocannabinoid system (ECS). This system involves the whole body and may play a role in pain, memory, movement, appetite, metabolism, and immune system function (Sheikh, 2022).
Here are four ways CBD oil may help with erectile dysfunction:
1. Could lower general anxiety and stress
Some research suggests that CBD may benefit people with anxiety disorders and brain diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s (Meissner, 2022). Anxiety can sometimes affect sexual performance and sex drive, so if CBD is beneficial for anxiety disorders, it may help with ED too.
Researchers have found that CBD works on serotonin receptors in the brain. Serotonin can affect a person’s anxiety and fear levels, which is why CBD could lower general stress and anxiety levels (Blessing, 2015).
2. May decrease performance anxiety
Sexual performance anxiety can be caused by relationship problems, a negative body image, fear of disappointing your partner, or pressure to have an orgasm. Since CBD may help lower anxiety levels, it could, in turn, decrease performance anxiety (Blessing, 2015).
According to a variety of studies and preclinical evidence, CBD shows promise to help people with:
- Panic disorder
- Generalized anxiety disorder
- Post-traumatic stress disorder
- Social anxiety disorder
- Obsessive-compulsive disorder
If a person’s performance anxiety stems from any of those issues, the studies suggest CBD could help (Blessing, 2015).
3. Could lower blood pressure
When blood pressure is lower, it can improve circulation, which may allow more blood to flow to the penis.
4. May improve sleep
Anxiety and stress can often cause sleep disturbances, which is why CBD could help you get a good night’s rest. Some studies suggest that CBD may have therapeutic potential for insomnia (Babson, 2017). In a different study of 72 adults with either anxiety, poor sleep, or both, sleep scores improved with CBD use for 66.7% of the participants (Shannon, 2019).
If a lack of sleep is causing your ED, using CBD for sleep could be helpful.
Can CBD help with ED?
While there’s not a ton of research on the topic of CBD as a treatment for ED, one study found that there are ECS receptors involved in male fertility. And while some studies suggest that cannabis may be indirectly associated with erectile dysfunction and may cause ED in young habitual cannabis users, more research on CBD is needed (du Plessis, 2015).
Some research has shown that CBD may help reduce anxiety for some people (Shannon, 2019). Because anxiety may play a significant role in erectile dysfunction or even cause erectile dysfunction, CBD oil for erectile dysfunction may be a helpful tool. However, more research is needed in this area.
How to use CBD oil for ED
How to use CBD oil will depend on the form you have. You can swallow liquid oils or put them under your tongue and let them absorb that way. You can swallow pills or capsules the same way you would other medications. You may need a special vaporizer or inhaler to use the vaporized forms.
CBD oil comes in many forms, including (Bruni, 2018):
- Liquid oils
- Pills or capsules
- Liquid oils that you swallow
- CBD gummies or edibles
- Chewing gum
- CBD inhaler
You can use CBD for ED by incorporating one or more of these CBD products into your daily routine. Keep in mind that CBD isn’t a magic fix for ED. You’ll want to experiment with different products to see what works best for you. Eating a gummy or taking a CBD capsule may produce quicker results. However, it varies from person to person and depends on the CBD dosage, type, and other factors.
The FDA doesn’t approve most CBD products, so accurate dosage guidelines are hard to come by.
The drug, Epidiolex, is a CBD-based treatment used for seizures associated with Lennox-Gastaut syndrome. It’s recommended that people start at a dose of 5 milligrams per kilogram of body weight per day (mg/kg/day). After one week, users can increase their dose to 20 mg/kg/day, depending on their reaction to the drug (DailyMed, 2022).
If you don’t know how much CBD to take, start with a low dose, and work your way up from there over time.
Potential risks or considerations of taking CBD
If you’re considering taking CBD in an attempt to treat erectile dysfunction or any other medical condition or health issue, it’s important to understand the potential risks involved. The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved one cannabis-derived and three cannabis-related drug products, all of which require a prescription (FDA-a, 2020):
- Epidiolex for the treatment of seizures associated with Lennox-Gastaut syndrome, Dravet syndrome, or tuberous sclerosis complex (DailyMed, 2022)
- Syndros and Marinol for the treatment of anorexia associated with weight loss in people with AIDS and nausea/vomiting in people receiving cancer chemotherapy (FDA, 2017; DailyMed-a, 2021)
- Cesamet for the treatment of nausea/vomiting in people receiving cancer chemotherapy (DailyMed-b, 2021)
Because the FDA doesn’t generally regulate CBD products, it can be difficult to determine the quality of the products you’re getting. It can also be difficult to know what form of CBD (i.e., CBD oil, gummies, CBD capsules, etc.) may work best for you.
Using any drug without this knowledge can cause a host of unwanted side effects that are difficult to predict without guidance or regulation.
Potential CBD side effects
CBD side effects may vary from person to person. A few possible side effects include (FDA-b, 2020):
- Social anxiety
- Dry mouth
- Decreased appetite
- Liver injury
- Drug interactions
Other benefits of CBD
CBD has plenty of potential benefits, and they’re not all specifically for ED. Some of these benefits include:
- Pain relief
- Mental health and wellness assistance
- Performance anxiety
- Improved sleep
- Anti-inflammatory properties
- Antioxidant properties
While there are no studies explicitly demonstrating the benefits of CBD on ED, there are studies that indicate CBD may be helpful in the treatment of other conditions. Evidence suggests CBD could be a beneficial treatment for multiple anxiety disorders, but additional research is needed (Shannon, 2019).
Researchers also believe CBD may help slow down messages sent to the brain, change calcium levels in brain cells, and decrease brain inflammation, all of which may help prevent seizures (Maroon, 2018).
Animal studies indicate other potential benefits of CBD, such as its anti-inflammatory potential to treat arthritis pain. But more research is necessary to understand how these benefits could translate to humans (Hammell, 2016).
What causes erectile dysfunction?
Erectile dysfunction can have many causes. Some of these include (NIH, 2017):
- High blood pressure
- Heart disease
- Type 2 diabetes
- Kidney disease
- Prostate cancer
- Bladder, spinal cord, pelvis, and penis injury
- Certain medications
- Drinking too much alcohol
- Using recreational drugs
- A lack of physical activity
Other treatment options for ED
CBD may not be an approved treatment for ED, but there are several other treatment options available.
After lifestyle modifications, the first line of treatment for ED is usually oral medications taken before sexual intercourse. These drugs are known as PDE-5 inhibitors, and the most common one is sildenafil (brand name Viagra; see Important Safety Information). Other PDE-5 inhibitors include (Krzastek, 2019):
- Tadalafil (brand name Cialis; see Important Safety Information)
- Vardenafil (brand name Levitra)
- Avanafil (brand name Stendra)
Certain lifestyle changes and improvements can also have a positive effect on ED. The following lifestyle habits have all been shown to contribute to ED (NIH, 2017):
- Lack of physical activity
- An unhealthy, unbalanced diet
- Cigarette smoking
Taking actions to modify these behaviors and health conditions may have a major impact.
Managing underlying health conditions
Certain health conditions could cause ED. Some of these include (Krzastek, 2019):
- Cardiovascular disease
- High blood pressure
- Certain psychiatric and mental issues, such as depression and anxiety
There are also some natural supplements, herbs, and vitamins that may or may not benefit ED. Some of these include:
- Horny goat weed: A traditional Chinese medicinal herb often used to treat fatigue and low sex drive. Animal and lab studies have shown that horny goat weed contains a substance called icariin, a mild PDE-5 inhibitor, but it’s unclear if these benefits translate to humans (Anand Ganapathy, 2021).
- Yohimbine: Some research suggests that Yohimbine, the active ingredient in yohimbe bark, may work better than a placebo to treat ED (NIH, 2020).
- Vitamin D: Vitamin D deficiency may contribute to problems with erections.
- Vitamin B3: Some research has shown vitamin B3 supplementation may help increase penile blood flow (Crafa, 2020).
What is CBD?
CBD, or cannabidiol, is a natural substance called a cannabinoid. It comes from the cannabis plant, which is part of the Cannabaceae family. CBD is one of two main cannabinoids; the other one is delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).
Cannabis plants with higher levels of THC are classified as marijuana and are controlled substances (FDA-b, 2020). Cannabis plants with very low THC are classified as hemp. CBD can be found in both marijuana and hemp.
What is erectile dysfunction?
ED is when a person cannot get or sustain an erection long enough to have sex.
Can you naturally cure erectile dysfunction?
There are natural remedies for ED such as CBD, horny goat weed, vitamin D, and vitamin B3. However, there is not enough evidence to say that these natural methods will cure ED.
How do you use CBD for sex?
You can take CBD in a variety of forms, such as tinctures, gummies, and liquids. Taking CBD before sex could help reduce anxiety, which may be causing your ED. CBD could also help increase blood flow to the penis by potentially lowering blood pressure.
Does CBD help with arousal?
CBD could help with arousal by lowering anxiety and stress levels, which can help you relax.
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Dr. Chimene Richa is a board-certified Ophthalmologist and Senior Medical Writer/Reviewer at Ro.