Claims of pain relief, lowered stress levels and increased blood flow and other benefits are all being touted. With little to no data on CBD sexual wellness, we had several experts weigh in on the up-and-coming category.
Is CBD effective in sexual wellness?
“It's definitely a big question amongst a lot of women,” said Kat Merryfield, founder of CBD brand Kat’s Naturals.
Merryfield, a natural health practitioner with a background in formulation, said she has had a number of requests for sexual wellness products containing CBD and “It's definitely a topic that women want to know about.”
More questions than answers
“There is very little research that studies the use of cannabidiol and sexuality in humans,” said Sarah Melancon, PhD, a sociologist and clinical sexologist. Melancon pointed to one study in particular, which said, “Accumulating evidence indicates an increasingly important role for the endocannabinoid system in regulating reproductive processes. Receptors responsive to cannabinoid agents are distributed throughout the entire body, including the hypothalamus, testes, and ovaries. Recent evidence now demonstrates the presence of cannabinoid receptors in sperm and within the uterus, attesting to the potential role of the endocannabinoid system at every level of the reproductive process from maintenance of sexual activity to embryonic implantation.”
"We don’t have any rigorous studies to prove that CBD helps in the bedroom, back seat, elevator, or wherever,” observed Dr. Leslie Mudd, PharmD, resident pharmacist at Cornbread Hemp. But she said the idea seem promising.
“If you think about it, CBD is perfect for intimate problems. We know that CBD works with the endocannabinoid system to bring about and maintain balance within the body and to help us process serotonin, the ‘happy' hormone.' CBD can mitigate tension, anxiety, and worry by establishing a sense of calm. If anxiety and stress are less, we are better able to relax,” said Mudd, who is also a member of the scientific review committee for the University of Louisville Hospital/Brown Cancer Center in Louisville, Kentucky.
Whether CBD serves as an aphrodisiac is up for debate. Some research suggests cannabinoids boost libido, while others have found it decreases it. One theory is that CBD may improve libido by reducing anxiety and lowering inhibitions, similar to the effects of alcohol.
Because laws on marijuana made it difficult to conduct research on CBD, few high-quality studies have been done until recently.
According to Harvard Health Blog, “No high-quality research shows that CBD improves sex drive, decreases pain, treats depression or mood disorders, decreases PMS symptoms like bloating and cramps, or relieves symptoms of menopause like hot flashes. This may change as more studies are done, but for now, the jury is out.”
Interestingly, CBD is the most well-researched wellness trend on Instagram. According to an analysis of online healthcare provider, Babylon Health, there are 501,000 Google Scholar articles on CBD for the 8 million plus Instagram posts where #CBD is tagged.
Pain & anxiety: Broad implications
Merryfield told NutraIngredients-USA that there’s something she refers to as “the CBD fairy dust” — where people treat CBD as the cure-all. This might be due to the vast implications of pain and anxiety.
“The most that CBD does overall is pain and anxiety. It's amazing how many factors pain and anxiety have on a person's life,” explained Merryfield. “So if anxiety is happening in your digestive tract and it's ruining your bowel movements, then yes CBD would be helpful. If anxiety has caused fibromyalgia from many years of anxiety and dysfunction then yeah, it's going to help. But is it a cure? Probably not.”
Dr. Chris Norris, a chartered physiotherapist and neurologist with board certification in sleep medicine and clinical associate professor at the University of California, told us that CBD is beneficial for those experiencing performance anxiety: “CBD works directly on the body’s endocannabinoid system, a complex network of receptors in the body that help regulate the nervous system, immune system and the body’s organs. Those receptors, when activated by the body’s own endocannabinoids, can have an anti-anxiety effect on the brain.”
While CBD may help with anxiety symptoms such as overcoming performance anxiety, it may also have other health advantages for females too.
According to WebMD, 43% of women experience some form of sexual dysfunction. CBD may help with muscle relaxation, pain relief and inflammation.
“If chronic discomfort or sexual dysfunction are problems, CBD may also be able to help with pain during sex. Studies show that CBD is a potent anti-inflammatory and can be effective as an adjunct treatment for pain,” said Norris.
While the research is lacking, enthusiasm in CBD and sexual wellness is not. The fading stigma attached to sexual experimentation is a key factor boosting the market growth. Additionally, the convenience of e-commerce also enables consumers to opt for sexual wellness offerings without having to pay for such products at the checkout counter.
The US sexual wellness market size is expected to reach $13.2 billion by 2027, registering a CAGR of 8.3% over the forecast period, according to a new report by Grand View Research.
With mass-market retailers like CVS, Walgreens and Kroger selling CBD products, market research firm Brightfield Group projects that CBD annual sales in the US, now at $600 million, will jump to $23 billion by 2023.
With interest in CBD is soaring and the sexual wellness market also on the up and up, Merryfield predicts the niche CBD sexual wellness category could very well crack the mass market.
“I think that CBD, especially women's sexual health is going to be a new emerging market that's going to do quite well.”