For some men, it helps. For others, it hurts. Cannabis is known to be a natural aphrodisiac, especially for women. But for men, if you get too high, you might experience a kind of erectile dysfunction that essentially keeps you soft.
To understand how and why Erectile Dysfunction happens, you first need to understand the science behind erections. When a muscle in the penis called the corpus cavernosum is relaxed, more blood is able to flow into the penis, causing an erection. When the corpus cavernosum is not relaxed, a man experiences erectile dysfunction. In order for the corpus cavernosum to relax, cells in the penis must receive signals from the brain caused by sexual stimulation.
When these cells are activated, they produce a gas called nitric oxide, which sends messages to other parts of the penis that need activation before an erection can happen. The enzyme cGMP is one of the recipients of these messages, so when the enzyme no longer receives nitric oxide, the corpus cavernosum stops relaxing and the erection wilts.
A man has cannabinoid receptors all around his brain and body, including his penis and specifically, in the corpus cavernosum. In studies on rats and rabbits, scientists have found that the endocannabinoid, or naturally occurring cannabinoid anandamide enhances relaxation in the corpus cavernosum.
In follow up experimentation, scientists found that blocking cannabinoid receptors kept the muscle from relaxing. However, in monkeys, scientists found that anandamide inhibited relaxation in the corpus cavernosum.
This means, it’s possible that THC, the main psychoactive compound in cannabis, might facilitate erections in rodents, but inhibit them in primates. Yet, because there’s been little research on cannabis and the human body, it’s hard to say for sure how cannabis affects human males.
In a study from the 1980s, mean who smoked cannabis regularly said that it enhanced sex for them. However, another study from the same period found that in regular cannabis consumers, the corpus cavernosum failed to produce enough nitric oxide, which causes erectile dysfunction.
And in another study from Australia, researchers screened more than 4,000 men to see if they could find patterns between cannabis consumption and erectile dysfunction. The researchers did not find any correlation between regular cannabis use and maintaining and erection.
Of course, psychological factors play a role, as well. If a man consumes a mild dose of cannabis, he’s likely to experience the aphrodisiac effects, so long as he doesn’t get too high. The bottom line is that in many cases, whether a man gets “ED” is dependent on the dose.