Long-term MS sufferer Jeanette had battled with pain on a daily basis for many years. She had come to accept that many activities, including sex, would often have to be endured rather than enjoyed.
“Everything was just painful,” she says. “Having sex was painful, and I was rarely in the mood. I think the fact I wanted to feel sexy and great about myself but just couldn’t added to the situation.
“But of course this isn’t something you can discuss with people – ridiculously, I even felt embarrassed to Google search it – so in terms of finding a solution, that was never going to happen,” she remembers.
Then, on a rare night out, with inhibitions gradually dissolving in red wine, she broached the subject with her mates.
“The mask slipped and I just had let it all out. Ordinarily I’d never discuss my sex life with anyone, but that night I’m so pleased I did.
“One of my friends asked whether I had tried CBD. I remember thinking she must be mad to suggest something like that to me. I’m a 40-something woman with kids, and cannabis was something I tried once and hated at university – but after thinking about it for a while, I thought it’s worth a try as there must be more to my life than this.”
Having plucked up the courage to buy CDB, Jeanette is now among the rapidly rising number of people worldwide becoming more vocal about the effectiveness of cannabis in boosting their sex lives.
Although known for generations as a traditional herbal aphrodisiac, with use in India and China as far back as the seventh century, it is increasingly becoming known for the role it can play in sex; and not just for those battling chronic pain.
Some studies have linked it with an increased libido, for example.
Research from Stanford University found that women who used a cannabis product daily had sex an average of 7.1 times in four weeks, compared to an average of six who did not use the product.
For men, it was 6.9 times compared to 5.6 for non-users. Although the 2017 study did not explicitly state cause and effect, its findings have been said to show a direct link between cannabis and sex drive.
Increased use of CBD for sex is reflected in the multitude of cannabis-based products being released into the market targetted at delivering bedroom benefits. Some are claimed to help to relax both partners and eliminate anxiety to make sex more pleasurable.
Therapists also point to cannabis’s role as a vasodilator, increasing blood flow everywhere in the body, including to the genitals, meaning an increase in blood flow, oxygen, and even sensation to those areas.
Peter Barsoom, founder of 1906, a business which specialises in cannabis edibles, explains: “Our body’s natural endocannabinoid system is key in regulating things like pleasure, pain, relaxation and homeostasis.
“When it is activated by the cannabinoids in cannabis, it can leave users feeling relaxed with increased pleasure and decreased pain. This can lead to increased arousal and make sex even more enjoyable.
“For others, the reason is the increased pleasurable sensations that can arise with cannabis. This effect can make sex feel even more enjoyable.”
Jeanette beleves in these claims, and that cannabis products should be more readily available, and more openly discussed, to benefit people like her.
She says: “I have to say, CBD has changed my life, and certainly my sex life. From not really wanting to even think about sex, for the first time in so many years, I can enjoy it.
“I am having sex regularly and am enjoying it – the fact I’m even saying that is fantastic. The effect CBD has on my pain is like nothing I could have imagined.
“Being the age I am, with the menopause on the horizon and me worrying about being ‘past it’, I feel like I have a new lease of life.”
Jeanette’s story helps to articulate the effectiveness of cannabis in helping people with chronic conditions.
But some sex therapists also advocate the use of CBD products to help women who have had, or are going through the menopause, and older people in general who are looking to improve their sex life.
Ashley Manta, a “sexuality coach” from the US is a leading advocate of the effect cannabis can have on older people and those in pain.
“Cannabis is so useful for seniors, because it addresses the common things that get in the way of intimacy. For folks whose bodies are ageing, one of the more common things is pain. Whether from arthritis, stiffness or an injury, pain can be very distracting when it comes to pleasure,” she told Forbes.com.
“For folks who have pain, cannabis-infused topicals are useful because they don’t cause the head high, and they don’t make you feel like a zombie like opioids can.
“You can apply them directly to the places that hurt, elbows, knees or hips, and that can take a lot of the edge off. Then you can feel more embodied and present with your partner.
“A lot of folks I speak to do not want to get high. And I tell them you don’t have to. If you want to use cannabis for the rest of your life and never get high, there are so many ways to do that – and benefit sexually.”
While experts point to the benefits cannabis can have in sex, however, they are equally keen to stress the fact that low doses are key.
Dr Jordan Tishler is instructor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and president of the Association of Cannabis Specialists.
He advises that as cannabis can have a different effect on every user, with insufficient research-based evidence to date to give any definitive answers about suitable doses or quantity, each person must find their own level through starting with a very low amount.
“At really high doses of cannabis, people can withdraw enough into their own head that they essentially forget what they are doing, and it’s no longer a mutual experience, and often just ceases to happen,” he says.
“Sexuality occurs most between the ears. It’s a mental and emotional thing. People get very fixated on genitalia, but that’s only the end result. A lot of things have to go right for it to work.”