table of contents
If you have any medical questions or concerns, please talk to your healthcare provider. The articles on Health Guide are underpinned by peer-reviewed research and information drawn from medical societies and governmental agencies. However, they are not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.
The phrase erectile dysfunction or ED is a hot topic, and many people are confused about what the condition actually 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. Read on to learn whether CBD oil for erectile dysfunction works and how to use it.
What is erectile dysfunction (ED)?
Before diving into if and how CBD may impact ED, it’s important to understand erectile dysfunction. ED is a common type of male sexual dysfunction that involves the inability to get or keep an erection satisfying enough for sex.
Although ED does become more common in men as they age, it’s not considered a natural part of aging, and it can hurt a person’s confidence and sex life. In fact, ED can signify that something is wrong with a man’s health, like high blood pressure, diabetes, or heart disease.
ED is a common sexual dysfunction—30 to 50 million men in the United States have ED. While it’s not always an indication of something serious, ED can sometimes signal other health problems like clogged blood vessels or nerve damage. That’s why it’s always essential to discuss ED with a doctor, even if sexual topics can be uncomfortable to talk about (Sooriyamoorthy, 2021).
Foods for erectile dysfunction: what the science says
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, 2021). Cannabis plants with very low THC are classified as hemp. CBD can be found in both marijuana and hemp.
How does CBD 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 conditions. CBD may also have anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer properties, but these are still being studied (Meissner, 2021).
Scientists don’t yet 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 affects the whole body and may play a role in pain, memory, movement, appetite, metabolism, and immune system function (Sheikh, 2021).
CBD for anxiety: dosage, benefits and side effects
Some research suggests that CBD may benefit people with anxiety disorders and brain diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s (Meissner, 2021).
Forms of CBD oil
CBD oil comes in many forms, including (Bruni, 2018):
- Liquid oils
- Pills or capsules
- Liquid oils that you swallow
- Chewing gum
- A vaporized form that you inhale
How to use CBD oil?
How to use CBD oil will depend on the form you have. Liquid oils can be swallowed, or you can put them under your tongue and let them absorb that way. You can swallow pills/capsules the same way you would other medications. You may need a special vaporizer or inhaler to use the vaporized forms.
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 research has found that cannabis was indirectly associated with erectile dysfunction and may cause ED in young habitual cannabis users, others believe CBD is a unique exception (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.
6 best CBD gummies for anxiety
Potential risks/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 U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved one cannabis-derived and three cannabis-related drug products, all of which require a prescription (FDA, 2021):
- Epidiolex for the treatment of seizures associated with Lennox-Gastaut syndrome or Dravet syndrome
- Marinol and Syndros for the treatment of anorexia associated with weight loss in AIDS patients
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.
Other benefits of CBD
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).
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, oral medications taken before sexual intercourse are often considered the first line of treatment for ED. These drugs are known as PDE5 inhibitors, and the most common one is sildenafil (brand name Viagra). Other PDE5 inhibitors include tadalafil (brand name Cialis), vardenafil (brand name Levitra), and avanafil (brand name Stendra) (Krzastek, 2019).
Certain lifestyle changes and improvements can also have a positive effect on ED. Lack of physical activity, obesity, an unhealthy diet, and cigarette smoking have all been shown to contribute to ED, so taking actions to modify these behaviors and health conditions may have a major impact.
Health conditions like diabetes, cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, and certain psychiatric and mental disorders can also contribute to ED, so working with a health professional to manage these conditions may be helpful (Krzastek, 2019).
There are also some natural supplements, herbs, and vitamins that may or may not benefit ED. Horny goat weed is 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 PDE5 inhibitor, but it’s unclear if these benefits translate to humans (He, 2021).
Horny goat weed side effects: what to expect
Vitamin D deficiency may contribute to problems with erections, and some research has shown vitamin B3 supplementation may help increase penile blood flow (Crafa, 2020; Ng, 2011). In general, research on vitamins and natural supplements is limited, so it’s best to work with your healthcare professional to treat ED.
- Bruni, N., Della Pepa, C., Oliaro-Bosso, S., Pessione, E., Gastaldi, D., & Dosio, F. (2018). Cannabinoid delivery systems for pain and inflammation treatment. Molecules (Basel, Switzerland), 23(10), 2478. doi: 10.3390/molecules23102478. Retrieved from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30262735/
- Crafa, A., Cannarella, R., Condorelli, R. A., La Vignera, S., & Calogero, A. E. (2020). Is there an association between vitamin d deficiency and erectile dysfunction? A systematic review and meta-analysis. Nutrients, 12(5), 1411. doi: 10.3390/nu12051411. Retrieved from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/32422943/
- du Plessis, S. S., Agarwal, A., & Syriac, A. (2015). Marijuana, phytocannabinoids, the endocannabinoid system, and male fertility. Journal of Assisted Reproduction and Genetics, 32(11), 1575–1588. doi: 10.1007/s10815-015-0553-8. Retrieved from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26277482/
- Hammell, D. C., Zhang, L. P., Ma, F., Abshire, S. M., McIlwrath, S. L., Stinchcomb, A. L., & Westlund, K. N. (2016). Transdermal cannabidiol reduces inflammation and pain-related behaviours in a rat model of arthritis. European Journal of Pain (London, England), 20(6), 936–948. doi: 10.1002/ejp.818. Retrieved from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26517407/
- He, C., Wang, Z., & Shi, J. (2020). Pharmacological effects of icariin. Advances in Pharmacology (San Diego, Calif.), 87, 179–203. doi: 10.1016/bs.apha.2019.10.004. Retrieved from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/32089233/
- Krzastek, S. C., Bopp, J., Smith, R. P., & Kovac, J. R. (2019). Recent advances in the understanding and management of erectile dysfunction. F1000Research, 8, F1000 Faculty Rev-102. doi: 10.12688/f1000research.16576.1. Retrieved from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30740217/
- National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. (2020). Yohimbine. LiverTox: Clinical and Research Information on Drug-Induced Liver Injury. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK548703/
- Maroon, J., & Bost, J. (2018). Review of the neurological benefits of phytocannabinoids. Surgical Neurology International, 9, 91. doi: 10.4103/sni.sni_45_18. Retrieved from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29770251/
- Meissner H, Cascella M. (2021). Cannabidiol (CBD). In: StatPearls [Internet]. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK556048/
- Ng, C. F., Lee, C. P., Ho, A. L., & Lee, V. W. (2011). Effect of niacin on erectile function in men suffering erectile dysfunction and dyslipidemia. The Journal of Sexual Medicine, 8(10), 2883–2893. doi: 10.1111/j.1743-6109.2011.02414.x. Retrieved from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/21810191/
- Shannon, S., Lewis, N., Lee, H., & Hughes, S. (2019). Cannabidiol in anxiety and sleep: A large case series. The Permanente Journal, 23, 18–041. doi: 10.7812/TPP/18-041. Retrieved from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30624194/
- Sheikh NK, Dua A. (2021). Cannabinoids. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK556062/
- Sooriyamoorthy T, Leslie SW. (2021). Erectile dysfunction. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK562253/
- U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). (2021). FDA regulation of cannabis and cannabis-derived products, including cannabidiol (CBD). Retrieved on Aug 4, 2021 from https://www.fda.gov/news-events/public-health-focus/fda-regulation-cannabis-and-cannabis-derived-products-including-cannabidiol-cbd