For this history, we’re going way back. Cannabis has been used as a sexual enhancer for thousands of years. Yet, certain cultures seemed to get more out of the herb than others. Peoples in ancient India found ways to reach enlightenment through cannabis-inspired sexual experiences. Folks in ancient Greece, however, missed out. To give you the scoop, here is a very brief history of cannabis and sex.
Modern day yoga tends to shun intoxicants, but that wasn’t always the case. Clear back sometime between 1750-500 B.C.E., our ancestors were using cannabis to ignite sexual prowess and achieve enlightenment. Specifically, cannabis was used in Hindu tantras as a way to explore consciousness and ultimately find spiritual awakening.
Sex was incorporated into Tantric yoga during a specific period in history, where mind-altering drugs and sexual practices were integrated into meditational yoga.
Michael Aldrich wrote a brief history of marijuana in sex yoga back in the 1970s. He explains,
Marijuana fits into sex yoga as well, for in Hindu folk medicine it is the aphrodisiac par excellence. – Aldrich
To use cannabis during spiritual, sexual practice, yogi’s frequently made a special kind of drink. This drink was consumed before the tantric practice began. The climax of the practice was to occur about 90 minutes after consumption, during the most intense part of intoxication. Aldrich includes a basic recipe in his research,
The marijuana drink (‘vijaya’, the victory drink) is sometimes only a little round green ball of moistened bhang [recipe here] in milk or water, or more often a delicious marijuana milkshake flavored with almonds, pepper, cardamom, poppy seeds, and other spices.
Let’s move continents and fast-forward a few hundred years. While Hindus arguably had success with the herb in enhancing sexual satisfaction, Westerners weren’t so lucky. Greek physician, pharmacologist, and botanist Dioscorides wrote the famous De Materia Medica (On Medical Materials).
The five-volume series recorded the medical uses of over 600 plants and was widely used and circulated for over 1500 years. Cannabis was one of the plants Dioscorides included. Though he didn’t go into extensive detail, he explained that juices and hemp seeds were useful in treating earaches and in diminishing sexual desire.
Though cannabis was used medicinally by ancient Chinese and Indian populations for thousands of years prior, De Materia Medica is the first recorded history of cannabis in Western medical literature.
Continuing with Greco-Roman culture, cannabis was again mentioned by Galen. Galen is one of the most accomplished physicians in Western history and is considered the father of Western anatomy, physiology, pharmacology, and neurology. Like Dioscorides, Galen didn’t have much to say on cannabis. But, he did have a few words on the way the herb affects sexual desire.
Galen mentioned that cannabis seeds were used as a special treat for the affluent. They were used to top a certain kind of dessert that caused warm and pleasurable sensations. When people used too much, however, Galen believed that the herb caused dehydration and impotence.
While Greco-Romans were having a bit of trouble getting things going with the herb, folks in India seemed to be having a nice time. In fact, both Hindi and Sanskrit have words for hemp that specifically reference the herb’s sexual powers.
According to Ethan Russo, harshini means the exciter of sexual desire, delight, and elation. Hursini also refers to an exciter of sexual desire, and madini means intoxicator, or sexual intoxicator.
Citing British research from the 1800s, Russo explains that cannabis paste was combined with other herbs to treat cough, bowel complaints, and impotence in men. Additional research suggests that cannabis was widely used among all classes of people, and was known to ignite sexual desire in females. Physician and colonist Sir William O’Shaughnesy writes:
[Cannabis] is most fascinating in its effects, producing extatic happiness, a persuasion of high rank, a sensation of flying,voracious appetite and intense aphrodisiac desire. – O’Shaughnesy
The sexual powers of cannabis continued into the 1950s. Two authors published a report on cannabis use in India in 1957, explaining that the herb was used by both young and middle-aged individuals to stimulate sexual desire and prolong the overall experience. The authors explain,
In moderate doses cannabis is believed to promote sexual desire, and it is not an uncommon practice among the younger newly married folk to drink beverages and eat sweets containing bhang. Among profligate women and prostitutes, bhang sherbet used to be a popular drink in the course of the evening when their paramours visited them. – Chopra & Chopra
While folks in India seemed to tap into the herb’s psychoactive effects early on, Westerners were behind the times. Perhaps the psychoactivity of the plant aided in sexual performance, while simply consuming seeds had a different effect.
Cannabis and sex have a complicated relationship in present times. Some research suggests that the herb can enhance sexual performance for a time, though can have the opposite effect in large doses. More recently, some studies have shown that the plant can improve sexual dysfunction in those with certain chronic diseases.
A 1997 study of patients with multiple sclerosis, for example, found that in a pool of 51 MS patients with sexual dysfunction, 32 of them reported improved performance after cannabis. Now, topical cannabis lubricants and special low-THC strains are marketed as sex enhancers in legal cannabis states. You can even purchase a book on how to use cannabis to enhance your sexual experiences.
Though people have mixed results using cannabis as an aphrodisiac, it’s safe to say that there is a long history connecting the herb to sexual experience. Tantric yogis used the plant to achieve a type of divinity through enhanced sexuality. Those in Greco-Roman times played around with the herb for a bit, but couldn’t make the magic happen.
Yet, other cultures have had success with the sexual healing properties of cannabis up until quite recently. Perhaps you just need to know how to use it right.
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