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Ready to have "the talk?"
I don't just mean sex. It's time we talked about what cannabis can do to help enhance intimacy and partner connection. I've never been one to shy away from these types of conversations. They're some of the important ways to normalize cannabis and help connect people with this dynamic plant medicine.
As the dark days of winter set in, it's essential to remember this fact: Sex is good for us. Having regular sex can boost our immune systems, reduce blood pressure, and help reduce anxiety. And that's not limited to partnered sex—solo sex and masturbation are also crucial for releasing dopamine and other "feel-good" chemicals into the brain, leading to improved mood and sense of well-being.
Connection with ourselves and with partners is important, especially in times of stress. And I think we can all agree that the past year or so qualifies as a "time of stress."
When we're together all the time, and the pandemic throws off our routines, it can be challenging to remember to connect with our partners (and ourselves). Cannabis can help improve connection and intimacy—and I'll tell you how.
For millennia, people have used aphrodisiacs such as oysters, chocolate, turmeric, and essential oils. Some of these have actual effects on libido, arousal, or sexual satisfaction, but of course, many are more of a "mood-setter" or sexy symbol that can help endear a romantic partner. Oysters and chocolate, especially, fall into that category.
Some are riskier than others: Cantharides (a secretion made by some beetles that causes a potent aphrodisiac effect), for example, has been used across cultures and through the ages, although it can induce renal failure or cause death in doses as low as 10mg.
Yeah, hard pass from me on that one.
Cannabis, on the other hand, interacts directly with the body's endocannabinoid system (ECS).
Essentially, the body naturally produces endocannabinoids, like anandamide (ANA) and 2-Arachidonoylglycerol (2AG), that interact with CB1 and CB2 receptors throughout the body, brain, and nervous system. This creates homeostasis, or balance, within the body.
The science keeps building: Preclinical, clinical, epidemiological, and human experimental studies have indicated positive possibilities in cannabinoids helping to ease social anxieties, and cannabis can help people relax physically, too.
The ECS also plays a significant role in female sexual function and arousal, according to studies conducted by Carolin Klein, a researcher at the University of British Columbia. So, it follows that working directly with this system could lead to positive outcomes and greater sexual satisfaction for many people.
Everyone is different and bio-individual, but generally, women and men tend to take different amounts of time to arrive at an arousal level they find appropriate for sexual interaction. Put simply: Men are more like microwaves, and women are more like ovens. Understanding this fundamental difference can help men, women, nonbinary individuals, and everyone in between in their pursuit of sexual pleasure.
When consumed before sexual activity, cannabis can help women boost sex drive, achieve greater orgasm satisfaction and even decrease pain for those struggling with dyspareunia (painful intercourse), according to a study published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine.
Using cannabis can undoubtedly help with sexual satisfaction and arousal levels—and that's fantastic. But whether you're single, married, long-term partnered, or dating, you know that sex is not the whole picture of intimacy. Far from it!
Sex is but one aspect of partner intimacy and bonding. Psychologists recognize several different types of intimacy that are just as important—if not more so—for partner bonding than the physical act of sex alone: There's emotional intimacy, intellectual intimacy, physical intimacy, experiential intimacy, and spiritual intimacy.
In our stressed-out, harried, and upended lifestyles (at least currently), slowing down to focus on partner bonding, physical connection, and emotional availability is so worth it. Cannabis can help enhance relationships by reducing stress and anxiety levels and encouraging relaxed and open communication—assisting partners in connecting in meaningful ways.
When I use cannabis to enhance my date nights (making the most of being home-centric) with my husband, I find that it helps us slow down and talk about life, laugh, and reconnect in a way that is so important to us. We've been married for a long time, and between busy childcare schedules and our work, we've found it's essential to set aside that time to truly relate.
If you're curious about incorporating cannabis into your love life, you should do some more research on the effects of cannabis and the delivery methods—vaping, using a topical cream or balm, ingesting sublingually—that may work best for intimacy enhancement. And when selecting a product, you should aim to find a reputable brand with lab-verified products not to contain things like residual pesticides, mycotoxins, or heavy metals.
There are many cannabis research-focused advocacy groups, including the organization I co-founded, Realm of Caring, that are helping to arm the public with information about how cannabis works and how you can incorporate it into numerous areas of your life.
Lean into that learning—because knowledge is sexy.
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