Cannabis’s properties as an aphrodisiac are no secret—its ability to induce relaxation and euphoria, increase blood flow and improve tactile sensations likely play a role. In October 2017, a study in the Journal of Sexual Medicine surprised some and affirmed what others have instinctually known: Cannabis likely fosters sexual activity—in the study, regular cannabis users had 20% more sex than non-cannabis users did. Indeed, sex and cannabis have an intimate relationship—one that dates back centuries.
Cannabis is strongly linked to Hindu culture in many ways—it’s been a traditional folk medicine in India since the fourth century BCE, and it’s still widely known as an aphrodisiac in that country. The plant was used in tantric sex and yoga practices associated with the goddess Kali as early as 700 AD. According to Michael Aldrich, who published a paper on tantric cannabis use in India, the combination of yoga, sex and cannabis was a way for participants to achieve a spiritual awakening.
Participants in the ritual would consume cannabis in the form of bhang, a preparation specific to India that consists of mashed-up cannabis leaves and flower rolled into a ball. In this ritual, other ingredients like almonds, pepper, cardamom and poppy could be added to the bhang to make a type of milkshake or “victory drink” called vijaya.
Folks consumed vijaya about an hour and a half before ritual lovemaking so that the cannabis would have time to take full effect. According to the book Hemp and Spirituality, tantric sex was about “oneness”—not necessarily about achieving orgasm.
Thus cannabis, which heightened the senses and induced euphoria was an essential part of the ceremony. The plant also enabled participants to be aroused for a much longer period of time—some manuscripts detailing these practices describe sexual rituals that lasted for as long as eight hours.
We don’t often associate Eastern European culture with cannabis, but people in this area of the world are also familiar with its healing and sensation-magnifying properties. For example, in Serbia, hemp is an important crop and has been used in folk medicine for centuries. Serbian men consider hemp seed to be an aphrodisiac—so much so that they believe wearing hemp can increase their sexual prowess.
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Meanwhile, in a 1975 paper, Polish anthropologist Sula Benet noted a mixture of lamb’s fat and nasha, which is a central Asian word for hemp, was consumed by Soviet-Era Russian brides on their wedding nights to reduce pain from their first sexual encounters.
Sula also notes that Eastern Europeans cooked a “happy porridge,” which consisted of almond butter mixed with hashish, dried rose leaves, daisy root, carnation petals, crocus bulb, nutmeg, cardamom, honey and sugar. Apparently, this mixture was considered the luxury cannabis product of its time and sought out by men who believed it to be “the strongest aphrodisiac.”
In 1903, a farmer stumbled upon an ancient Viking Ship in Norway that contained many artifacts from the 800s AD. Among the artifacts were the skeletons of two women and a curious leather bag that contained cannabis seeds.
These seeds are thought to be connected to one of those women, known as the Oseberg Queen. Many archeologists, among them the prominent Anne Stine Ingstad, believe the woman was not just a secular queen but also a priestess of Freya, the love goddess of Norse mythology.
Anne believed that the cannabis seeds were used in rituals during this pre-Christian period in Scandinavia. The book Cannabis: Evolution & Ethnobotany states that Freya was associated with hemp sowing and harvest festivals across northern Europe, and often times “erotic rituals” were held in her honor. It’s thought that the feminine cannabis flower had erotic and love-generating powers, and that those who consumed these flowers would be imbued with the joy and seductive tendencies of the love goddess.
Rarely is cannabis tied to male fertility and sexuality—in fact, some modern-day studies even suggest that cannabis use can lower testosterone in men, leading to a decreased sex drive. However, this isn’t the case in Uganda, where cannabis has been a common remedy for erectile dysfunction for centuries, according to an article published in African Health Sciences.
Although cannabis is technically illegal in Uganda, the authors of the study note that the plant is cultivated in the country for maintaining male sexual health, and that it’s usually smoked.
Cannabis’s aphrodisiacal properties have been known to humans for centuries, and its popularity in this context doesn’t seem to be waning: Companies like Foria and HerbaBuena have developed products for the bedroom that are sought after in the modern cannabis industry. As cannabis science progresses, perhaps it will confirm what many cultures around the world seem to have figured out on their own: that cannabis can and does enhance your sexual experience.
Photo credit: henri meilhac