Does CBD work for treating erectile dysfunction?
While there is no current research that demonstrates CBD, a natural (non-psychoactive) substance from the cannabis plant, may help treat ED, but it may help address anxiety, which can play a role in ED.
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.
Whether you’ve heard commercials about it on the radio or seen ads on TV, chances are you’ve heard a thing or two about erectile dysfunction (ED). But while the phrase is a hot topic, many people are confused about what the condition actually entails and which remedies—if any—actually work. One popular, albeit controversial, treatment strategy involves the use of cannabidiol, aka CBD, a non-psychoactive molecule found in hemp and marijuana.
- Erectile dysfunction is a common type of male sexual dysfunction that involves the inability to get or keep an erection that is satisfying enough for sex.
- There is no current research that demonstrates CBD, a natural (non-psychoactive) substance from the cannabis plant, may help treat ED, but it may help address anxiety, which can play a role in ED.
- Other treatments for ED, like oral medications and lifestyle modifications, can be helpful.
Before diving into if and how CBD may impact ED, it’s important to understand what ED really is. ED is a common type of male sexual dysfunction that involves the inability to get or keep an erection that is 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 have a negative effect on a person’s confidence and sex life. In fact, ED can be a sign that something is wrong with a man’s health. 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 important to discuss ED with a doctor, even if sexual topics can be difficult to talk about. (NIH, n.d.).
According to the most recent comprehensive study of ED, ED is common. A cross-sectional analysis of data from 2,126 adult males in the 2001–2002 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) found that about 18.4% of men age 20 or older have ED. This suggests that about 18 million men in the United States have ED. While ED was positively correlated with age, rates of ED were also higher in men with at least one cardiovascular risk factor. That means men with high blood pressure and a history of heart disease showed higher rates of ED. Men with diabetes also had particularly high rates of ED: About 51.3% of men with diabetes also dealt with erectile dysfunction (Selvin, 2007).
What is CBD?
CBD 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, 2020). Cannabis plants with very low THC are classified as hemp. CBD can be found in both marijuana and hemp. Unlike THC, CBD doesn’t appear to alter consciousness or cause a person to feel “high.” In fact, some research has shown antipsychotic effects and may benefit people with anxiety disorders (Shannon 2019; Zuardi, 2012). Cannabinoids work by interacting with the body’s endocannabinoid system (ECS). This is a system in the body that plays a role in the nervous system and other physical and psychological issues (Lu, 2016).
Can you treat erectile dysfunction with CBD?
While there’s not a ton of research on the topic of CBD as a treatment for ED, one 2009 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 (NIH, 2019). Because anxiety may play a major role in erectile dysfunction or even be a cause of erectile dysfunction, some people believe CBD oil for erectile dysfunction may be a helpful tool (Hedon, 2003). However, there are currently no studies that examine that link directly.
Potential risks and side effects 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. To use any of these medications (Epidiolex for the treatment of seizures associated with Lennox-Gastaut syndrome or Dravet syndrome, and Marinol and Syndros for the treatment of anorexia associated with weight loss in AIDS patients), you’ll need to have a prescription from a licensed healthcare provider (FDA, 2020).
Because CBD products aren’t generally regulated by the FDA, 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 treatment options for ED
CBD may not be an approved treatment for ED, but there are several other treatment options available. Oral medications taken before sexual intercourse are often considered the first line of treatment for ED after lifestyle modifications. 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, as well as 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 have a beneficial impact on ED. Horny goat weed is a traditional Chinese medicinal herb that is often used to treat fatigue and low sex drive. Animal and lab studies have shown that horny goat weed contains a substance called icariin that is a mild PDE5 inhibitor (Dell’Agli, 2008), but it’s unclear if these benefits translate to humans (Shindel, 2010). A 2015 review of studies found that yohimbine, the active ingredient in yohimbe bark, may work better than a placebo to treat ED (Cui, 2015). One study found that men who were deficient in vitamin D were 32% more likely to have problems with erections (Farag, 2016), and some research has shown vitamin B3 supplementation may be helpful in increasing penile blood flow (Ng, 2011). In general, research on natural supplements is limited, so it’s best to work with a doctor or other medical professional to treat ED.
There is no current research that demonstrates CBD can help with ED, though it may help address anxiety, which can play a role in ED.
CBD oil and erectile dysfunction
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- Research overview
- What the experts say
- Bottom line
Commonly referred to as ED, erectile dysfunction affects 30 million American men of all ages. The causes of erectile dysfunction may be physiological, psychological, or a combination of both. Certain men may be at greater risk of developing erectile dysfunction, such as those who are older than 50, are overweight, or have heart disease.
For these men, there is hope in the form of prescription medications or psychotherapy, depending on the root cause. Weedmaps News recently reported that cannabidiol (CBD) may enhance sex, making it more satisfying and less painful for both partners. Could CBD oil, specifically CBD-rich cannabis oil, which retains other cannabinoids and terpenes, offer similar benefits for men with ED?
A greater amount of research exists for managing the psychological symptoms of erectile dysfunction than the physiological ones. In particular, CBD oil has shown to be effective in decreasing anxiety in a number of studies. While most studies utilized CBD oil that was either broad-spectrum or full-spectrum, CBD isolates (products that lack THC and other compounds), may also provide beneficial effects. Because CBD is such a significant part of the cannabis plant, cannabis itself could play an important role in alleviating ED.
Performance anxiety may be a factor for men whose ED has a psychological origin. Susan A. Stoner’s 2017 scientific review for the University of Washington discussed how cannabis in small amounts lowered anxiety. Stoner, a licensed clinical psychologist who is a research consultant for the University of Washington’s Alcohol and Drug Abuse Institute, noted that higher amounts of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) had the opposite effect and increased anxiety, while CBD provided more consistency. This is a prime example of successfully using CBD-rich cannabis oil as opposed to THC-rich cannabis oil.
The potential benefits of CBD could be ideal for men who do not want to take medications long term but would prefer to treat their ED situationally. Photo by: Gina Coleman/Weedmaps
Similarly, a 2018 study published in the Journal of Affective Disorders found that cannabis lowered anxiety levels, stress, and depression in the short-term. The potential benefits of CBD and other cannabinoids could be ideal for men who do not want to take medications long term but would prefer to treat their ED situationally.
Obesity is one physical cause of erectile dysfunction that CBD could potentially treat, although CBD on its own was nowhere near as effective as CBD paired with tetrahydrocannabivarin (THCV) in the supporting study. In 2012, the British newspaper The Daily Telegraph published an article titled, “Cannabis Could Be Used to Treat Obesity-Related Diseases.” Science correspondent Richard Gray wrote about the revealing study conducted by GW Pharmaceuticals: “When the scientists examined two compounds, called THCV and cannabidiol, they were found to have an appetite-suppressing effect.”
The CBD/THCV combination could indirectly help men with ED by decreasing appetite and, potentially, contributing to weight loss. Based on this evidence, a broad-spectrum product which contains both of these beneficial cannabinoids could be useful. Cannabis product labels should list which cannabinoids are included and in what concentrations. Only lab-verified products are guaranteed to be pure.
Cannabis use has repeatedly been linked to lower body mass index (BMI), rates of diabetes, and other metabolic diseases. Because CBD is either the primary or secondary ingredient in most varieties of whole-plant cannabis, it could play a very important role in managing BMI, which would support healthy sexual function for men. The specific role of CBD in these conditions is still being investigated.
What the experts say
From the perspective of treating ED-related anxiety, CBD-rich oil may be helpful, according to some experts.
From the perspective of treating ED-related anxiety, CBD-rich oil may be helpful. Photo by: Gina Coleman/Weedmaps
Diana Urman, a certified sex educator with a practice in San Francisco, believes that CBD can help reduce sexual anxiety. In a 2018 interview with HuffPost, Urman said, “Many people say they feel more spontaneous and adventurous [after using CBD]. There is also sometimes an increased sensitivity to touch and increased willingness to be more engaged and sensual which, in turn, enhances sexual pleasure and deepens orgasmic abilities.”
While the results are not guaranteed, CBD-rich oil may be worth trying for men who want to be less inhibited in bed and treat their ED without the side effects of prescription medications. As Dr. Perry Solomon, chief medical officer at HelloMD, said in a Men’s Journal article in 2016, “The way I see it, why not try cannabis? There are side effects to Viagra and zero side effects to cannabis when dosed properly. Maybe it’s just making them feel better and relaxed, and that’s making it easier for them to enjoy sex, but it’s still working.”
However, moderation is key, as some research has indicated that too much cannabis can actually cause ED, even while it increases sexual desire.
While the role of cannabis and CBD in erectile dysfunction is not clear, it’s possible that these interventions, alongside other healthful lifestyle choices, could affect ED by improving mood and metabolic function.
CBD oil and erectile dysfunction Copy article link to clipboard. Link copied to clipboard. Contents Research overview What the experts say Bottom line Commonly