In life, it’s the pleasant kind of friction that gives us the greatest joy. In sex, well, it’s also the pleasant kind of friction that gives us the greatest joy. However, while the will to live is a given, the will to have sex (aka libido) isn’t. There are all sorts of mental disorders and emotional trauma that cause problems with libido but there can also be physical damage to the body. Ultimately, a healthy expression of libido requires a functioning body as well as a functioning mind. So, what’s the effect of CBD on libido? Let’s take a look.
How Does Libido Work?
Libido comes from Latin for “love or lust”. Libido represents the loving, lustful, raw and passionate act of yearning for intimacy that humans so sorely need. Most of all, libido is a sincere yearning for pleasant friction that leads to a meaningful bond between two people. While we feel libido as a yearning and think it’s a conscious choice, it’s actually a result of chemicals being released in the body. That doesn’t take away from the beauty of a meaningful bond, but it does reveal that if something goes awry in the body, the libido inevitably suffers. In some cases, we then blame ourselves or think we’re unworthy of love.
Libido and Nitric Oxide
The largest amount of research with regards to libido has been done on erectile dysfunction (ED). On average, ED affects about 10 percent of men per 10 years of their life. So, for example, 40% of men in their 40s will suffer from mild to moderate ED. While much of the research focuses specifically on men, some of the ED research is applicable to women, since it can reveal how arousal works in the brain and detail bodily arousal mechanisms shared by both genders.
At its core, bodily arousal happens because of the release of nitric oxide (NO), a powerful substance that causes blood vessels to relax and let blood flow, which is essentially how an erection happens. Nitric oxide is normally created from nitrates (NO3) found in all sorts of leafy greens, such as kale. In the body, NO3 is reduced to the short-lived NO that briefly relaxes and expands any blood vessel it touches, helping the body micromanage its blood vessels. So, we’ve narrowed down the problem, which is that ED or any other issues with libido are essentially issues with blood vessels.
ED and Blood Vessels
A 2017 U.S. study titled “Recent advances in the treatment of erectile dysfunction” details how an erection happens, explaining that “erection occurs with the release of nitric oxide (NO) from the vascular endothelial cells.” Then, ED is explained as being a dysfunction in the penis of these cells that line arteries throughout the body, with an interesting implication: “a similar phenomenon is well known to impact the coronary arterial system resulting in CVD (cardiovascular disease).” In other words, this is a confirmation of what we figured out above—problems with libido might be caused by damaged blood vessels.
The link between ED and CVD was found to be so strong that men having the former would have an enormous risk of having or developing the latter in the near future. The study states it thusly: “Men in their 40s with ED have a 50-fold increased risk of CVD and men in their 20s and 30s have a sevenfold increased CV risk.” One explanation why ED strikes before any signs of CVD is that smaller arteries, such as the one in the penis, are more delicate and tend to suffer the damage more profoundly than the larger ones found in the rest of the body.
That study explains that the damage to endothelium occurs because of what’s known as “oxidative stress” that normally happens in the body, but ramps up during illnesses such as diabetes and hypertension, to name a few. Remember how NO3 becomes NO? The resulting excess oxygen is what causes oxidative stress, which the body normally cancels out using antioxidants, such as vitamin C (also present in leafy greens). So, solving libido problems requires tackling these serious health issues and radically changing lifestyles, with the very first step being to increase the intake of substances that protect the blood vessels.
A 2017 study took a dozen diabetic rats and tried to see what happens with their blood vessels when they’re given 10 mg of CBD per kilogram of body weight for a week. Alongside those, a dozen healthy rats were treated with CBD as well to see what would happen with their arteries.
The study states as a foregone conclusion that “cannabidiol causes vasorelaxation in isolated arteries of rats and in humans” but the novel discovery was that only the diabetic rats were helped by CBD—healthy rats’ arteries weren’t changed, “suggesting that the positive vascular effects of CBD are revealed when vascular dysfunction is present.” The real bomb of a revelation is what the study says next: “This is consistent with the known pro-homeostatic properties of cannabinoids, where they only affect the functioning of a perturbed system, but not a healthy one.”
In essence, the researchers found that CBD does not boost the function of blood vessels beyond what they’re normally capable of but simply helps the body achieve balance.
CBD and Oxidative Stress
A 2019 Polish study titled “Antioxidative and Anti-Inflammatory Properties of Cannabidiol” goes through what makes CBD so appealing when struggling with libido problems, stating that “The therapeutic potential of CBD has been evaluated in cardiovascular, neurodegenerative, cancer, and metabolic diseases, which are usually accompanied by oxidative stress and inflammation.”
The study succinctly explained oxidative stress as follows: “The result of an imbalance between oxidants and antioxidants is oxidative stress, the consequences of which are oxidative modifications of lipids, nucleic acids, and proteins.” In other words, when there’s too much oxidation and too few antioxidants, the cells starts accumulating oxidative stress, or damage.
When cells experience too much oxidative stress, their communication methods go haywire and they start firing off all sorts of signals, which can cause inflammation that compounds all other health problems. To combat all of those problems, a common prescription is taking vitamins C and E. The study compares CBD to those two, stating that “CBD exhibits much more antioxidant activity (30–50%) than α-tocopherol [a type of vitamin E] or vitamin C”. However, the study is still not pleased with CBD, mentioning some of its downsides, such as that it interferes with how the liver processes certain drugs. Like everything else, CBD has downsides, so let’s see what the studies say about how CBD affects libido.
CBD Intake and Libido
As a word of caution, here are a few studies that mention the negative effects of CBD on libido in rats. A 2018 study gave male mice 15 or 30 mg of CBD per kilogram of body weight for 34 consecutive days. The study found that CBD impaired the sexual function and fertility of rats with the increase in CBD dose, affecting up to 30% of the 30 mg group, with the study concluding that, “Our results indicate that chronic CBD exposure promotes functional impairment of the reproductive system of male Swiss mice.”
A 2020 Brazilian meta-study titled evaluated studies that tested the effects of CBD on reproductive systems of sea urchins, mice, rats, monkeys, and men. The meta-study found that “chronic doses of CBD have impaired sexual behavior in mice” but also noted that “knowledge is still limited, and additional research is required to elucidate fully the mechanisms of action, as well as the reversibility of CBD effects on the reproductive system.”
Right now, there’s scant data that would point to a relationship between CBD and libido. What studies do show is that CBD may act as a protector of blood vessels from inflammation and oxidative stress, which are the two core causes of cardiovascular problems. Whether this means CBD can improve libido is anyone’s guess.
Another stumbling stone is that there’s no telling what dose is effective or safe when using CBD for libido. There’s a dearth of studies using CBD on humans that could tell us what dose, if any, has an effect on libido, let alone a positive one. The best strategy moving forward is to cautiously evaluate the effects of CBD oil at all doses and make sure we’re always payingattention to the signs or the lack of signs our body is giving us.