Masturbation to Orgasm Stimulates the Release of the Endocannabinoid 2-Arachidonoylglycerol (2-AG) in Humans
That’s the title of a study recently published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine finding a link between the orgasm state and the release of an endocannabinoid (an internally-produced cannabinoid) that looks and acts just like one found in cannabis. We’ve heard just about every anecdote claiming that marijuana makes for mind-blowing sex. But what can that molecule, 2-Arachidonoylglycerol, tell us about the real connection between marijuana and sexual satisfaction?
There exist two types of cannabinoids, one created internally and another set, called phytocannabinoids, produced by plants. Researchers continue to investigate how the human body reacts to the cannabinoids found in us that are mimicked (almost precisely) by plants like marijuana and how they interact with the system of cannabinoid receptors, called the endocannabinoid system. Two of the main receptor types are CB1 and CB2. CB1 receptors mostly populate the brain and spinal column, waiting to be triggered by the endocannabinoid, anandamide (the equivalent of plant-produced THC). Cool fact that anandamide gets its name from root words meaning “bliss,” although you probably know it as “runner’s high.” Using cannabis with THC is like flooding the system with that same pleasurable high.
Meanwhile, the CB2 type congregates around the organs and looks out for the 2-Arachidonoylglycerol (2-AG) cannabinoids. So, while you might have assumed that it was the THC making sex feel so extra good, the researchers of the orgasms and endocannabinoids study found that it’s not anandamide released during orgasm, it’s 2-AG.
Over two separate studies, the researchers found that healthy individuals who masturbated to orgasm had elevated levels of 2-AG, not anandamide, concluding that 2-AG release plays a role in the reward aspect of sexual arousal and orgasm.
So, if 2-AG is the lock, which cannabinoid is the key to it?
If you guessed Cannabidiol/CBD, you’re right. Although it doesn’t directly engage an endocannabinoid receptor, the CBD molecule does boost the body’s levels of 2-AG, which may indicate that high-CBD products could improve the action of 2-AG in sexual response. And, since THC engages with both CB1 and CB2 receptors, it’s possible that THC somewhat hinders our ability to receive the 2-AG molecule during sex. The study on orgasms and the release of 2-AG in humans did not go as far as to explore that connection. They only proved a reliable link between orgasms and the endocannabinoid we produce before and during the climax. But if you’ve watched the cannabis space long enough, you know that one study leads to the next and scientists aren’t going to leave a stone unturned in the quest for carnal knowledge.
Alana seeks to see cannabis from the perspective of politicians, advocates, entrepreneurs, and consumers. She got her start with a byline in the arts and culture section and crossed over into cannabis after using it medicinally. Current projects include investigations into cannabis and wellness; entrepreneurs of the Green Rush; cannabis for athletes; and the evolution of cannabis laws and culture in Canada.