Endocannabinoid system in sexual motivational processes: Is it a novel therapeutic horizon?

Pharmacol Res. 2017 Jan;115:200-208. doi: 10.1016/j.phrs.2016.11.021. Epub 2016 Nov 21.

Abstract

The endocannabinoid system (ECS), which is composed of the cannabinoid receptors types 1 and 2 (CB1 and CB2) for marijuana's psychoactive ingredient Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol (Δ9-THC), the endogenous ligands (AEA and 2-AG) and the enzymatic systems involved in their biosynthesis and degradation, recently emerged as important modulator of emotional and non-emotional behaviors. For centuries, in addition to its recreational actions, several contradictory claims regarding the effects of Cannabis use in sexual functioning and behavior (e.g. aphrodisiac vs anti-aphrodisiac) of both sexes have been accumulated. The identification of Δ9-THC and later on, the discovery of the ECS have opened a potential therapeutic target for sexual dysfunctions, given the partial efficacy of current pharmacological treatment. In agreement with the bidirectional modulation induced by cannabinoids on several behavioral responses, the endogenous cannabinoid AEA elicited biphasic effects on sexual behavior as well. The present article reviews current available knowledge on herbal, synthetic and endogenous cannabinoids with respect to the modulation of several aspects of sexuality in preclinical and human studies, highlighting their therapeutic potential.

Keywords: Cannabinoid CB1 receptor; Endocannabinoids; Sexual behavior; Δ(9)-THC.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cannabinoid Receptor Modulators / metabolism
  • Cannabinoids / metabolism
  • Endocannabinoids / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Receptors, Cannabinoid / metabolism
  • Sexual Behavior / physiology*

Substances

  • Cannabinoid Receptor Modulators
  • Cannabinoids
  • Endocannabinoids
  • Receptors, Cannabinoid