Despite compelling evidence indicating that marijuana can effectively treat post-traumatic stress disorder, the federal government continues to effectively block FDA-approved research into cannabis as a potential alternative to the addictive, dangerous, largely ineffective pharmaceutical drugs currently prescribed to PTSD patients.
So no wonder there's precious little hard science when it comes to whether or not marijuana works as an aphrodisiac. After all, if the feds honestly think pot's too dangerous to give to combat veterans living in agony, what are the chances they're going to let someone experiment with it simply because they'd like to experience increased sexual pleasure?
Meanwhile, when a 2010 article in Psychology Today looked at what limited data does exist, the magazine determined that while "the sexual effects of every other mood-altering drug—alcohol, amphetamines, antidepressants, cocaine, narcotics—are well-documented, fairly consistent, and not particularly controversial...oddly, marijuana's sexual effects are highly unpredictable, from strongly sex-inhibiting to strongly sex-enhancing."
So what accounts for that wide gap between those who smoke weed and get turned on and those who get sleepy? Set and setting, for one thing, plus opportunity, dosage, biochemistry and, perhaps most significantly, the user's own intentions.
According to a 1963 United Nation's Office of Drugs and Crime report called The Cannabis Habit, "the results of taking cannabis are considerably influenced by the individual's expectations or by the social or cultural setting"—a phenomenon that may be especially true when it comes to getting it on, or not getting it on, as the case may be.
Most reliably, based on the handful of studies to take the subject seriously, marijuana appears to reinforce whatever level of sexual interest a user is already experiencing, whether than means intense, immediate arousal, or a burning desire to stay chaste entirely, in favor of having a three-way with Ben and Jerry while watching the tube.
It's hard to identify universal truths when it comes to cannabis and pleasure.
"If you have a party and everybody smokes pot, there's going be a couple of people who turn inward, and don't feel sexy," longstanding sexpert Susie Bright told me. "Others will feel flirtatious, and open to suggestion. So it's hard to identify universal truths when it comes to cannabis and pleasure."
The same individual may also have vastly different reactions to marijuana in different contexts, according to Bright, best known for co-founding On Our Backs, the world's first women's sex magazine, and serving as one of America's founding sex-positive feminists. Now the host of a popular podcast, as well as a discriminating herbalist, she explains that in her vast experience—including one highly memorable "pot brownie orgy"—cannabis works best as an aphrodisiac in small-to-moderate doses. Otherwise, you risk going one toke over the line, and getting sluggish, or slipping into introspective "navel gazing."
She did, however, recently offer a helpful suggestion for avoiding those pot holes: "Whenever someone asks, 'What's the greatest drug combo for sex?' I always reply, 'cannabis and espresso.'"
"When I wrote Marijuana Reconsidered back in 1967, there wasn't a lot of literature on the subject [of cannabis as an aphrodisiac], and there still isn't," associate professor emeritus of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School Dr. Lester Grinspoon told High Times in 2001.
"Ultimately I concluded that marijuana greatly enhances the sexual experience for many people, as there's no doubt that when people are high, they're more sensitive to their sexual feelings and urges," Grinspoon continued. "So in that sense, it may be an aphrodisiac. But it is not an aphrodisiac in the sense that it would lead to an erection or any other manifestation of arousal... Marijuana does enhance sexual pleasure, but to the extent that someone's definition [of aphrodisiac] includes the initiation of a sexual encounter when all else is equal, I think that's less certain."
Meanwhile, the various, widely divergent negative stereotypes used to disparage pot smokers over the last century have only exasperated our cultural schizophrenia when it comes to stoned sex, from Harry Anslinger's Reefer Madness-era declaration that a few puffs of marijuana quickly leads minorities to commit rape and makes white women "want to seek sexual relations with Negroes," to equally baseless claims that smoking herb causes impotence, or infertility, or kills your sex drive entirely.
Even today in the popular consciousness, cannabis use largely remains associated with either all manner of depravity or conversely, the total shutdown of the libido, despite society's recent moves towards marijuana liberation. That's probably because the Western medical establishment has never once sought to link marijuana and sexuality in any but the most starkly negative ways. But what if we take a longer view of the subject?
Thousands of years ago, in ancient India, the earliest practitioners of tantric sex most certainly held a higher view of cannabis and copulation than we do now. In fact, after consuming psychoactive doses of THC by drinking down a sacred beverage called bhang—made by blending marijuana, milk, nuts, and spices—those pioneering sensualists sought to achieve total enlightenment by tapping into the body's deepest sexual energy. According to a 1998 Cannabis Culture article, their bhang-fueled tantric rituals were "intense, complex and difficult":
Tantra cannabis rituals date back at least to 700 AD, and involved groups of "purified" male and female worshippers who engaged in fasting, chanting, prayer, ceremonial purifications, Kundalini yoga, and sexual union, subjecting body and spirit to excruciating and ecstatic ordeals. Concentration, consecration and transformation were the goals of such rituals, which were conducted in temples festooned with thousands of flowers, clouds of incense smoke, and flickering temple lamps... The Indian Ayurvedic and Unani Tibbi medicine systems used cannabis to increase libido, conquer impotence, cure various diseases... produce long-lasting erections, delay ejaculation, facilitate lubrication and loosen inhibitions.
Now, modern science may be at last catching up, with the recent introduction of Foria, a "first of its kind all-natural sensual enhancement oil" that blends liquid coconut oil and cannabis oil into a spray specially designed for vaginal use. With a promise of more orgasms, more intense orgasms, multiple orgasms, natural lubrication and increased pleasure, the much-hyped product targets women either experiencing sexual dysfunction, or just looking to enhance an already good thing.
Designed for both topical and oral use, Foria can be applied directly to the clitoris, labia and vagina, and/or taken orally. Topical users won't get high, but the spray is potent enough to produce psychoactive effects when swallowed in large amounts. Many press reports have erroneously described Foria as a lube, but it's actually a pre-lube meant to be sprayed on the vagina at least 30 minutes prior to sexual activity. Each spray contains approximately two milligrams of THC, with six sprays as the manufacturer's recommended dose.
So far, Foria's only available in a small number of California medical marijuana dispensaries, but the plan is to go big in the near future. "We've only had our product available for 60 days, and we already have a large number of repeat customers," according to Foria founder Matthew Gerson. "Women who liked the product immediately wanted to share it with other women in their lives who are dealing with similar issues."
When Mish Way recently test drove Foria over at VICE, she reported very positive results:
I decided to dose my vagina with Foria religiously for a week. Every morning I gave it four sprays and again in the mid afternoon. My boyfriend and I had a lot of sex and monitored how things were changing, if they even were. Sex was intense. I noticed certain things felt different and orgasms were longer, way crazier, and felt enhanced.... I'm not sure if Foria completely changed my sex life, because my sex life was already pretty awesome, but it did make me realize that cannabis is an aphrodisiac that kind of rules when it's not smoked from a soda can.
Cosmo and The Bold Italic published similar high praise of Foria based on "firsthand" experiments, while Elite Daily, Refinery 29 and The Frisky offered more tempered endorsements. With the best results reportedly coming from a carefully dosed combination of oral and vaginal THC ingestion.
Which is to say, if we know anything, it's that you can indeed have your cannabis lube and eat it too. Whether or not pot fits your personal definition of aphrodisiac.