Does CBD work for treating erectile dysfunction?
Before diving into if and how CBD may impact ED, it’s important to understand what ED really is. ED is a common type of male sexual dysfunction that involves the inability to get or keep an erection that is satisfying enough for sex. Although ED does become more common in men as they age, it’s not considered a natural part of aging, and it can have a negative effect on a person’s confidence and sex life. In fact, ED can be a sign that something is wrong with a man’s health. While it’s not always an indication of something serious, ED can sometimes signal other health problems like clogged blood vessels or nerve damage. That’s why it’s always important to discuss ED with a doctor, even if sexual topics can be difficult to talk about. (NIH, n.d.).
According to the most recent comprehensive study of ED, ED is common. A cross-sectional analysis of data from 2,126 adult males in the 2001–2002 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) found that about 18.4% of men age 20 or older have ED. This suggests that about 18 million men in the United States have ED. While ED was positively correlated with age, rates of ED were also higher in men with at least one cardiovascular risk factor. That means men with high blood pressure and a history of heart disease showed higher rates of ED. Men with diabetes also had particularly high rates of ED: About 51.3% of men with diabetes also dealt with erectile dysfunction (Selvin, 2007).
What is CBD?
CBD is a natural substance called a cannabinoid. It comes from the cannabis plant, which is part of the Cannabaceae family. CBD is one of two main cannabinoids; the other one is delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). Cannabis plants with higher levels of THC are classified as marijuana and are controlled substances (FDA, 2020). Cannabis plants with very low THC are classified as hemp. CBD can be found in both marijuana and hemp. Unlike THC, CBD doesn’t appear to alter consciousness or cause a person to feel “high.” In fact, some research has shown antipsychotic effects and may benefit people with anxiety disorders (Shannon 2019; Zuardi, 2012). Cannabinoids work by interacting with the body’s endocannabinoid system (ECS). This is a system in the body that plays a role in the nervous system and other physical and psychological issues (Lu, 2016).
Can you treat erectile dysfunction with CBD?
While there’s not a ton of research on the topic of CBD as a treatment for ED, one 2009 study found that there are ECS receptors involved in male fertility. And while research has found that cannabis was indirectly associated with erectile dysfunction and may cause ED in young habitual cannabis users, others believe CBD is a unique exception (du Plessis, 2015). Some research has shown that CBD may help reduce anxiety for some people (NIH, 2019). Because anxiety may play a major role in erectile dysfunction or even be a cause of erectile dysfunction, some people believe CBD oil for erectile dysfunction may be a helpful tool (Hedon, 2003). However, there are currently no studies that examine that link directly.
Potential risks and side effects of taking CBD
If you’re considering taking CBD in an attempt to treat erectile dysfunction or any other medical condition or health issue, it’s important to understand the potential risks involved. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved one cannabis-derived and three cannabis-related drug products. To use any of these medications (Epidiolex for the treatment of seizures associated with Lennox-Gastaut syndrome or Dravet syndrome, and Marinol and Syndros for the treatment of anorexia associated with weight loss in AIDS patients), you’ll need to have a prescription from a licensed healthcare provider (FDA, 2020).
Because CBD products aren’t generally regulated by the FDA, it can be difficult to determine the quality of the products you’re getting. It can also be difficult to know what form of CBD (i.e., CBD oil, gummies, CBD capsules, etc.) may work best for you. Using any drug without this knowledge can cause a host of unwanted side effects that are difficult to predict without guidance or regulation.
Other treatment options for ED
CBD may not be an approved treatment for ED, but there are several other treatment options available. Oral medications taken before sexual intercourse are often considered the first line of treatment for ED after lifestyle modifications. These drugs are known as PDE5 inhibitors, and the most common one is sildenafil (brand name Viagra). Other PDE5 inhibitors include tadalafil (brand name Cialis), vardenafil (brand name Levitra), and avanafil (brand name Stendra) (Krzastek, 2019).
Certain lifestyle changes and improvements can also have a positive effect on ED. Lack of physical activity, obesity, an unhealthy diet, and cigarette smoking have all been shown to contribute to ED, so taking actions to modify these behaviors and health conditions may have a major impact. Health conditions like diabetes, cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, as well as certain psychiatric and mental disorders can also contribute to ED, so working with a health professional to manage these conditions may be helpful (Krzastek, 2019).
There are also some natural supplements, herbs, and vitamins that may or may not have a beneficial impact on ED. Horny goat weed is a traditional Chinese medicinal herb that is often used to treat fatigue and low sex drive. Animal and lab studies have shown that horny goat weed contains a substance called icariin that is a mild PDE5 inhibitor (Dell’Agli, 2008), but it’s unclear if these benefits translate to humans (Shindel, 2010). A 2015 review of studies found that yohimbine, the active ingredient in yohimbe bark, may work better than a placebo to treat ED (Cui, 2015). One study found that men who were deficient in vitamin D were 32% more likely to have problems with erections (Farag, 2016), and some research has shown vitamin B3 supplementation may be helpful in increasing penile blood flow (Ng, 2011). In general, research on natural supplements is limited, so it’s best to work with a doctor or other medical professional to treat ED.