Van der Pop

Body Talk


Introducing our Friend of Vandy, Carlen Costa, PhD. Carlen is Van der Pop’s resident Sexologist and through a series of upcoming contributions to the world of VdP, we are thrilled to share her helpful insights on cannabis and sex!


Where to begin? Let’s start with examining the relationship between cannabis and the female body. We all know that there are some stark biological differences between men and women, but how do these variations relate to how men and women experience cannabis consumption, and particularly, when applied to elevated sexual activities?

When it comes to self-love and sex, Carlen has a treasure-trove of knowledge to explain how this multifaceted herb is known to provide positive supports for women. Read on and learn more…..

On the Endocannabinoid System (ECS):

What’s the ECS you say? Well, this fascinating component of being a human serves as a bridge between the body and the mind. As legalization opens doors for more research on cannabis, learning the basic physiological process of the ECS is a great place to begin understanding how cannabis can affect the body.

Each of us are equipped with our own unique and naturally occurring endocannabinoid system that features a series of cannabinoid receptors that modulate a whole host of body functions, such as the regulation of sleep, appetite, mood and...sexual pleasure.

As you may have learned, our bodies produce two major endocannabinoids: anandamide, which mimics the effects of Tetrahydrocannabinol aka THC found in cannabis and 2-arachidonoylglycerol or 2-AG for short, which mimics the effects of Cannabidiol aka CBD found in cannabis. In turn, the cannabinoid receptors that we have in our body can be activated by endocannabinoids produced in the body as well as from the “phyto”cannabinoids derived from cannabis, such as THC and CBD.

What does this suggest? Given the reported similarity of our naturally occurring endocannabinoids to phytocannabinoids, it appears cannabis can be a way to explore how our individual ECS could be guided for optimal functioning. When thinking about how this applies to s-e-x, consider the following fun and provocative facts:

-       Women can be more strongly affected by cannabis than men.

-       The highest density of cannabinoid receptors are found in our central nervous system and in the pelvic region;

-        Both the phytocannabinoids found in cannabis, as well as the endocannabinoids that are naturally generated are able to penetrate the body and mind by accessing the ECS as a two-way information highway from the brain and central nervous system to the pelvic region. This positions cannabis to enhance your experience of pleasure, sexual and otherwise by using the same neural pathways that are biologically tailor-made for “processing” THC and CBD. 

On Estrogen and Cannabis:

When it comes to women’s bodies, as a primary sex hormone found in the female anatomy, estrogen gets a lot attention, but it can also be easily misunderstood. Let’s clear the air!

First off, women have higher levels of estrogen and these levels tend to ebb and flow throughout the duration of a female’s reproductive cycle. In turn, this fluctuation is felt throughout the body and ultimately means there isn’t one exclusive experience of how estrogen interacts with your physiological system. It can imbue us with sensitivity and awareness while also granting superhuman abilities of gestating and feeding human beings! This also means that the interaction between estrogen with the ECS can pose unique reactions for how women experience the effect of cannabis.

As anyone who has experienced menstruation or menopause can tell you, great power can come with great challenge. Could cannabis be your new best friend in helping to balance and soothe your hormones? Consider the following: 

-       Your tolerance of THC is impacted by your estrogen level. The lower your estrogen, the higher your tolerance to cannabis to THC. This means that women who are on their “period” –when estrogen levels are lowest–are reported to handle more THC in this phase of their cycle than others. This is excellent news for those of us who struggle with severe menstrual cramps but still need to function in the real world.

-       Post-menopausal women can often experience chronic low estrogen levels resulting in diminished sex drive and vaginal dryness. Cannabis can reportedly enhance sexual motivation as well as soothe vaginal discomfort, while re-invigorating the libido.

-       Just as cannabis can cause “cottonmouth” it can also exacerbate vaginal dryness, so consider using a CBD-infused lubricant; take advantage of its tension-relieving and blood flow-enhancing properties to glide right by any discomfort and enjoy all the pleasure you deserve.

On Orgasms:

Let’s face it, while society’s perception of female sexuality and bodily autonomy has come a long way, unfortunately, there is still a long way to go; the lingering stigma attached to women actively seeking pleasure needs to diminish as this is still disrupting many women’s abilities to enjoy sex and achieve orgasm.  

In my own private practice, women consistently tell me that they are striving for “getting out of their head and into the moment” and allow their bodies to “lose control” and eliminate whatever’s standing in the way of achieving a mind-blowing climax. And we all deserve those, right? Cannabis is known to be an effective tool to increase our desire and the experience of mindful sex by enabling us to more fully express and accept our sensuality with less inhibition.

Consider the following functions of how intentional cannabis use may support a healthy and happy sex life (not to mention euphoric and consistent orgasms!):

-Relaxation + Pain Relief: In their respective ways, THC and CBD is reported to calm the mind and physically relieve pain. As a result, many cannabis users experience slower/quieter thoughts during foreplay and the ability to enjoy intercourse without discomfort. CBD treatments have been found especially effective in relieving discomfort associated with vaginismus, fibroids and menstruation.

-Connection + Presence: A quiet mind and enhanced physical sensations can increase the pleasure we deserve to feel during sex. Cannabis can support feelings of depth and intimacy by introducing mindful practice into our sexual activities and behaviours. By slowing down the carousel of racing thought, this powerful herb may help to make anxieties disappear and allow us to centre ourselves in our bodies.

-Perception of Time Passing: Cannabis use can alter our sensation of time going by which may allow us to quit rushing to the finish line and enable us to be present for a moment’s pleasure.

And one side-note: if you’re prone to paranoia, explore strains that are low-THC, higher-CBD. Nothing kills the mood like wondering if you’ve turned off the oven!

Carlen Costa, PhD is a Sexologist, Relationship Psychotherapist & The Everyday Goddess. She empowers women to embody an unapologetically passionate lifestyle through her teachings in intimacy, sexuality, sensuality, self-worth, body-image and, relationships. Carlen encourages women to become sassy, sexy and switched on, through a holistic approach in her private practice, speaking nation-wide and, in her growing women's only group, The Everyday Goddess gang. Carlen is also the founder of The Goddess Foundation, which seeks to fund initiatives by women, for women, across Canada. Learn more at and follow @drcarlen.

Van der Pop does not condone or endorse the illegal consumption of cannabis. This article is not meant as medical advice. Prior to using cannabis for medical purposes, please consult your physician.

Photo credit: Roman Hidalgo Photography

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