Can orgasms help your endocannabinoid system?
What if sufferers of certain health conditions having to do with endocannabinoid deficiency were able to heal through the power of orgasm? That question has been on my mind since reading a 2017 study which hypothesizes that endocannabinoids can play an important role in the sexual response cycle.
Endocannabinoids are cannabinoids that the body produces which bind to and activate cannabinoid receptors, much like THC and CBD in cannabis. Specifically, the above study showed significant increases in the body’s levels of the endocannabinoid 2-AG post-orgasm—which could help contribute to the delightful experience we colloquially refer to as “post-coital bliss.”
So, if you’re trying to improve the functioning of your endocannabinoid system (ECS) and thereby related health issues, should you be prioritizing regular orgasms in your self-care routine? I delved into this question with a couple cannabis experts to find out.
Getting down to raise endocannabinoid levels
Dr. Genester Wilson-King, MD, obstetrician, gynecologist, and cannabis advocate, was also intrigued by the 2-AG study mentioned above. “Endocannabinoids … might play a very important role in the sexual response cycle, leading to maybe a better understanding and treatment of sexual dysfunction,” she said.
When asked if regular orgasms could help ECS function, Dr. Dustin Sulak, D.O., said: “There’s a little bit of evidence supporting this theory, not conclusive; but the ECS does well with similar stimuli that create a short-term strong production of cannabinoids, like exercise.”
I asked Sulak if orgasms could be a “double-whammy” since they stimulate the ECS by both being an enjoyable exercise as well as directly boosting endocannabinoid levels: “Absolutely. Sex [with orgasm] is the double-whammy for sure. It’s a triple or quadruple whammy. It involves touch. In animals, touch and social grooming are strong ways to stimulate endocannabinoid release. I think many people don’t have enough social grooming activities or physically touch each other on a daily basis, but feel better when they do.”
So how often should one be taking advantage of these benefits? According to Dr. Sulak, “I would suggest at least once a day doing something that strongly stimulates endocannabinoid activity. And so, perhaps if it’s a day when somebody didn’t have a chance to exercise, or dance, or sing, and the day’s winding down, and they realize, well, it’s time for a different type of practice, I would say go for it.”
Women could actually benefit from more than one orgasm per day. “I think experts in the orgasm field would recommend, especially for women, to have several per day for optimal health. And you know, typically for women, one orgasm can follow the next. And so there’s not a good reason for stopping at one,” he said.
Dr. Wilson-King noted that cannabis can potentially help bring back multiples for some women: “I don’t know that it can help a person who is not multi-orgasmic, but a person who has had multiple orgasms in the past, certainly using cannabis can enhance that.”
But it’s different for the fellas. “What a lot of men don’t realize is that they can absolutely have orgasms without ejaculating,” said Dr. Sulak. “The practice is essentially to approach orgasm very slowly and cautiously, then wait in that space that leads up to orgasm. It starts out feeling like a very narrow space where they kind of get right up to the edge and then fall over. With enough practice that edge can become miles long, and they can remain at the edge and have all sorts of orgasmic feelings and actual contractions in their body without ejaculation.”
Self-lovin’ and wellness
The aforementioned study on 2-AG studied masturbation, and both Drs. Sulak and Wilson-King stressed that one does not need to be partnered to enjoy the benefits regular orgasms can have for the endocannabinoid system.
Dr. Sulak elaborates, saying “I really want to encourage people to not feel like they need a partner to achieve the health benefits. So many people think, what am I going to do right now? Oh, I’ll either jog or maybe I’ll meditate or something. And the idea of a sexual health practice probably doesn’t even occur to most of the readers.”
So, the next time you’ve got a free hour to engage in some wellness, remember Dr. Sulak’s words: “Meditation, running, and masturbation can all produce increased endocannabinoid levels and states of euphoria and mental clarity.”
Cannabis can help release endocannabinoids
While Dr. Wilson-King doesn’t recommend cannabis first for help in getting to orgasm, she said it absolutely can help for some: “Cannabis is a libido enhancer. It helps you to relax, helps you to have maybe more body awareness and sensitivity … Pharmaceuticals are usually single molecular substances that have one effect, whereas cannabis is multifactorial, such that it affects the brain, it affects the body, it affects the vaginal tissue, it affects the sensitivity. The advantage of cannabis is its multi-pronged approach.”
She also noted that cannabis can do wonders for women who deal with painful sex, saying, “It can relax the vaginal muscles, relax the mind, and has the patient focus more on her partner and her body as opposed to worrying about pain.”
As for how much to use, she said, “Using cannabis for sex is generally dose-related, especially for men—lower doses really help, whereas higher doses, you get too stimulated and can’t focus and may have difficulty, men more than women, but low doses are effective for both.”
Dr. Sulak is on the same page. “The goal I think for someone that is really wanting to use this information for health would be to consider using a little THC at a low dose to help them kind of change their gears and compartmentalize the rest of their day, creating a sacred space and a new mindset as they approach the practice. But not to use so much THC that they’re very intoxicated. Rather, they should be trying to use their own equipment—to get high on their own supply,” he said, referencing tapping into one’s own endocannabinoids.