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CBD for Erectile Dysfunction: Research, Benefits & Side Effects

Kelly Brown MD, MBA

Reviewed by Kelly Brown MD, MBA

Written by Lauren Panoff

Published 02/27/2021

Updated 04/05/2024

Cannabidiol (CBD) is an active ingredient and cannabinoid derived from organic hemp — also known as the Cannabis sativa plant (or, popularly, “weed”). For a long time, normalizing the usage of cannabis beyond the “stoner” crowd seemed out of reach. 

As regulations slowly evolve, we can gather more data on the potential health benefits (and, yes, risks) of CBD. Today, it’s found in a growing number of consumer products. 

CBD is typically marketed for relaxation effects. Many men wonder if it has a place in the bedroom for erectile dysfunction (ED). After all, if CBD can promote calmness, can it increase blood flow to your penis or even be used as an alternative to Viagra®

ED is a very common condition affecting at least 30 million men in the United States alone. Understandably, it leads some guys to seek natural solutions.

So let’s examine what the research says about CBD.

The Cannabis sativa plant contains over 80 cannabinoid compounds. Two of the most well-known are CBD and delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).

Unlike THC, CBD doesn’t produce any psychoactive activity. In other words, it doesn’t get you “high.”

The way CBD works isn’t totally understood. It’s thought to bind to cannabinoid receptors throughout the nervous system and interact with certain neurotransmitters.

Researchers continue to examine all possible health-related uses for CBD. For example, there are potential applications in reducing inflammation, treating neurodegenerative diseases and certain cancers, and managing chronic pain as well as mood and sleep disorders like sleep apnea. Many people look to CBD as a natural remedy for anxiety or are curious about CBD for depression.

You don’t have to go far when looking for CBD health products. The cannabinoid is found in things like:

  • CBD oil

  • Capsules

  • Gummies

  • Melty tabs

  • Sleep aids

  • Topical lotions and muscular pain-relief creams

  • Hair oils

  • Lip balms

  • Beverages

The question is whether these types of products are helpful for their intended purposes, like treating ED.

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CBD is being studied as a potential treatment option for several health conditions. So, are there potential benefits of CBD for ED? While we’re at it, does CBD make you last longer in bed?

Despite how convincing the marketing is for CBD products that allegedly boost sex drive, improve performance and strengthen erections, there’s nothing to back these claims. Additionally, we can’t find any evidence that CBD increases blood flow to your penis or acts on the nerves and muscles involved in erections. 

Most research on CBD and sexual health is mixed.

One study that surveyed 325 middle-aged men found an association between a higher frequency of cannabis use and increased male sexual function. But the authors concluded that the association is unlikely clinically significant, noting that selection bias makes it difficult to generalize the findings. 

Another study found that some men who used cannabis experienced increased arousal in certain parts of their brains when exposed to erotic photos. However, the results weren’t specific to CBD but rather the use of marijuana.

On the other hand, some animal studies suggest that CBD usage can negatively impact sperm function and male reproductive hormones.

At the end of the day, there’s not enough data to say whether CBD could be helpful for ED or other sexual health issues.

CBD and Sexual Performance Anxiety 

Lots of guys struggle with sexual performance anxiety. In some cases, overwhelming nervousness around preparing for sex interferes with the ability to perform. This can feed into more anxiety, a vicious cycle that can really mess with your mojo.

For example, in a 2022 review of six studies, researchers examined psychological factors — like anxiety, depression and relationship conflicts — involved in sexual dysfunction (especially ED) among men under 40. Over 85 percent had a “psychogenic primary cause” of their sexual problems – meaning it was due to something mental rather than physical.

Furthermore, another review of 12 studies found a high prevalence of ED among men with anxiety disorders, suggesting that erectile dysfunction may be more severe in this population.

A meta-analysis of 48 studies, including almost 170,000 participants, found that the risk of ED increased by 39 percent for men with depression.

Psychological ED is real and can have devastating effects. If left unaddressed, some men may find themselves in a state of anxiety and shame that fuels depression.

There’s no research on CBD for sexual performance anxiety specifically, but some studies on CBD for anxiety have been optimistic. Here’s a rundown of the findings:

  • A 2020 review found that CBD showed promising results as an alternative treatment for anxiety disorders.

  • Researchers have identified some evidence in support of the anti-anxiety benefit of CBD. This could be because of how the cannabinoid affects the limbic and paralimbic areas of the brain, which serve many crucial cognitive and emotional functions. However, this is limited to short-term use.

  • In a 2011 study, researchers gave 24 never-treated patients with generalized social anxiety disorder either a placebo or 600 milligrams of CBD an hour and a half before a simulated public speaking test. Those who received CBD experienced significantly reduced anxiety, discomfort and cognitive blocks in their speech performance compared to the placebo group.

At the end of the day, there’s not currently enough evidence to recommend CBD for ED. But that doesn’t mean it won’t be helpful for some.

More rigorous, long-term human research is needed in order for it to become a mainstream treatment option.

Choose your chew

CBD is used in several ways, depending on the type of product, such as:

  • Putting CBD oil drops or spray under the tongue, letting it sit for up to a minute before swallowing

  • Adding CBD tincture oil to beverages like coffee, tea, smoothies or water

  • Taking a CBD capsule with water

  • Chewing CBD gummies

Note that the FDA (U.S. Food and Drug Administration) has limited data on the safety of using CBD. It warns that more information and risk assessments are needed before it can recommend CBD for any reason — not just for ED.

Like any natural remedy, CBD comes with potential risks and side effects. How well CBD is tolerated and how effective it is can vary among individuals. It can also depend on things like where it originated, the dosage and why it’s being used.

Studies of use in humans have reported side effects of CBD, including:

  • Diarrhea or vomiting

  • Fatigue or excessive sleepiness

  • Abnormal liver function

  • Changes in appetite

  • Unintentional weight gain or loss

  • Irritability or increased anxiety

  • Skin rash

  • Headaches

What’s more, CBD may interact with certain drugs, including epileptic drugs, antidepressants, opioid pain-relievers and THC, as well as common medications like acetaminophen (Tylenol®) and alcohol.

Besides possible safety issues, it’s important to be aware that most CBD products aren’t subject to the same regulations as FDA-approved medications. Like other over-the-counter dietary supplements, they aren’t required to undergo rigorous testing and ongoing clinical trials.

CBD may be a gray area yet for sexual health, but several alternatives have shown to be effective for managing and treating erectile dysfunction.

PDE5 Inhibitors

Drugs called PDE5 inhibitors are commonly prescribed as a first line of treatment for ED. They work by inhibiting the enzyme phosphodiesterase-5 (PDE5) found in the smooth muscle cells of the blood vessels of the penis.

Normally, this enzyme reverses the process of an erection. When it’s blocked from doing so, it enhances the activity of nitric oxide, promoting blood flow and harder, longer-lasting erections.

The most well-known PDE5 inhibitors include: 

  • Sildenafil. This is the active ingredient in the popular ED medication Viagra®, or the generic version of the “little blue pill.” Sildenafil is designed to alleviate erectile dysfunction for roughly four hours.

  • Tadalafil. This is the active ingredient in the ED medication Cialis®. Tadalafil is effective for up to 36 hours.

  • Avanafil. This is the generic version of Stendra®. Among the newer ED medications available, it’s designed to have fewer side effects than the OGs.

  • Vardenafil. This is the active ingredient in the ED drug Levitra®. It’s formulated to provide relief for four to eight hours.

Another option is our hard mints. These chewable ED meds contain the same active ingredients as the PDE5 inhibitors in Cialis®, Levitra® and Staxyn® but at different dosages. 

ED medications can be highly effective when used as directed. You’ll need a prescription to try one, which is easy to do by speaking with a healthcare provider through our online platform. 

Mental Health Support

You should definitely consider if psychological factors are involved in your ED. Research shows that higher self-reported stress is associated with reduced sexual activity and satisfaction.

If this is the case, consider online therapy or another form of mental health support.

Everyday Habits

Your everyday lifestyle can make an enormous difference in your sexual health. To improve your odds of maintaining an erection, consider the following tips:

  • Maintain a healthy weight. Research shows that obesity is an independent risk factor for ED.

  • Understand your heart health markers. Monitor and manage your blood pressure and cholesterol. These are risk factors for heart disease and can negatively affect your erectile function when elevated.

  • Prioritize nutrition. Emphasize minimally processed foods in your diet, like fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, legumes, lean proteins and whole grains. This way of eating is associated with a lower incidence of sexual dysfunction. On the other hand, eating lots of ultra-processed foods high in saturated fat and added sugar and low in fiber may promote sexual dysfunction.  

  • Avoid smoking and excessive alcohol use. The nicotine in cigarettes may reduce sexual response to stimulation. While alcohol itself isn’t directly linked to ED, some research has shown that the most significant predictor of someone developing sexual dysfunction is how much they drink.

  • Exercise. Engage in physical activity most days, as exercise can help improve blood flow to the penis and promote erectile function. Combine several things you enjoy, such as swimming, bicycling, jogging, playing tennis and strength training.

  • Get quality sleep. Poor sleep has been linked to a higher risk of ED. Sleep experts say adult men should get at least seven hours of sleep per night.

Have your testosterone levels checked. Low testosterone may reduce your interest in sex and impact your ability to have erections, though the link isn’t fully understood. Ask your healthcare provider about getting this tested.

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We get it — ED is a big interruption to your sex life. If you’re in the thick of it, you might be grasping for any treatments available to regain confidence in the bedroom.

The idea of CBD for ED is a fascinating intersection of age-old health concerns with emerging science. Some preliminary research suggests that CBD may positively impact certain aspects of sexual health. Other studies find no such luck.

In the end, you’re wise to take a discerning approach when deciding what’s best for you. 

When it comes to CBD and ED, remember that:

  • It’s not a cure-all for ED. CBD doesn’t increase blood flow to the penis or promote longer-lasting erections, nor will it reverse the underlying causes of ED. A better option is likely a combination of erectile dysfunction medication, lifestyle changes, mental health support and possibly vitamins and supplements for ED. Your healthcare provider can help you come up with the right solution. 

  • More research is needed. Limited studies suggest that CBD may be helpful for some men experiencing anxiety related to sexual performance. However, larger and more rigorous human studies are needed before this cannabinoid can be recommended as an ED treatment option. 

  • Responses can vary. CBD can have varying effects depending on who’s using it, how much is used and what it’s used for. Some people report side effects like nausea, sleepiness and weight changes. CBD can also interact with certain medications and alcohol, resulting in other side effects. 

Ready to explore other treatment options for ED? Start here, and we’ll get you set up with one of our healthcare professionals.

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Editorial Standards

Hims & Hers has strict sourcing guidelines to ensure our content is accurate and current. We rely on peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions, and medical associations. We strive to use primary sources and refrain from using tertiary references. See a mistake? Let us know at [email protected]!

This article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. The information contained herein is not a substitute for and should never be relied upon for professional medical advice. Always talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of any treatment. Learn more about our editorial standards here.

Kelly Brown MD, MBA
Kelly Brown MD, MBA

Dr. Kelly Brown is a board certified Urologist and fellowship trained in Andrology. She is an accomplished men’s health expert with a robust background in healthcare innovation, clinical medicine, and academic research. Dr. Brown is a founding member of Posterity Health where she is Medical Director and leads strategy and design of their Digital Health Platform, an innovative education and telehealth model for delivering expert male fertility care.

She completed her undergraduate studies at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (go Heels!) with a Bachelor of Science in Radiologic Science and a Minor in Chemistry. She took a position at University of California Los Angeles as a radiologic technologist in the department of Interventional Cardiology, further solidifying her passion for medicine. She also pursued the unique opportunity to lead departmental design and operational development at the Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center, sparking her passion for the business of healthcare.

Dr. Brown then went on to obtain her doctorate in medicine from the prestigious Northwestern University - Feinberg School of Medicine and Masters in Business Administration from Northwestern University - Kellogg School of Management, with a concentration in Healthcare Management. During her surgical residency in Urology at University of California San Francisco, she utilized her research year to focus on innovations in telemedicine and then served as chief resident with significant contributions to clinical quality improvement. Dr. Brown then completed her Andrology Fellowship at Medical College of Wisconsin, furthering her expertise in male fertility, microsurgery, and sexual function.

Her dedication to caring for patients with compassion, understanding, as well as a unique ability to make guys instantly comfortable discussing anything from sex to sperm makes her a renowned clinician. In addition, her passion for innovation in healthcare combined with her business acumen makes her a formidable leader in the field of men’s health.

Dr. Brown is an avid adventurer; summiting Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania (twice!) and hiking the incredible Torres del Paine Trek in Patagonia, Chile. She deeply appreciates new challenges and diverse cultures on her travels. She lives in Denver with her husband, two children, and beloved Bernese Mountain Dog. You can find Dr. Brown on LinkedIn for more information.

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