This piece first appeared in Cannabis Now.
By now, you may have heard of Foria Pleasure, the THC-infused “all natural sensual enhancement oil thoughtfully designed for women,” also described as a “therapeutic aphrodisiac.” While Foria “can help promote natural lubrication” it “is not designed to be used as a traditional sex lube during intercourse. It is intended to be applied as a pre-lubricant.” Foria was created in 2013, and made the rounds in the media throughout 2014 and 2015, but many members of the press missed the finer points about their product, specifically that it was not latex safe.
Having previously covered Foria, I jumped at the opportunity to have a one-on-one with their CEO Mathew Gerson a couple months back. During the interview he vented some of his frustrations about media misrepresentation, gave me a preview of Foria Relief, and let me in on some other future products in the works.
While Foria’s website and official releases have made it clear that their product is not meant to be a sexual lubricant and is not latex safe, that message has fallen on deaf ears with most of the media. It seems that, for many people (at least many journalists), once they hear something is made from an oil and “goes down South” it is immediately a lubricant.
“We did not anticipate the media calling it a lube,” Gerson said. “We always described it as a pre-lubricant, a mist to spray on before sex, where it would be largely a non-issue. Instead the media misinterpreted it, which was painful for me coming from the sexual health industry, as one of the only sex positive condom companies in that space.”
Before creating Foria, Gerson launched Sir Richard’s Condom Company, a socially responsible, for-profit company who generously gives away one condom for each condom sold, to help mitigate the global HIV/AIDS epidemic. To combat the misinformation surrounding Foria, Gerson drew from his past work in the sex positive world to bring a deeper degree of sexual education by forging “an educational partnership with Good Vibrations,” a Californian chain of sex stores local to the Bay Area.
What Is Foria?
Gerson breaks it down in very simple terms, “a lubricant is applied for sexual activity, for intercourse. We call this a pre-lubricant because it is used before the sexual act to help encourage the bodies natural lubrication.” He was also clear about the risks, “the only negative is that it is not latex safe,” in other words, the only drawback regarding its use is for women having sex with men using condoms (perhaps a lower percent of people than you may think). Gerson said the choice to use coconut oil was made “after discussing the best possible oil with lots of sexual educators” and explained the oil was chosen “to avoid chemicals and because of it’s numerous benefits.” For those women who do want to use Foria with condoms, there is hope on the horizon, Gerson says that they have had some breakthroughs in condom-safe versions of Foria and are also beginning to develop a product designed for men.
The astute reader may now be realizing that Foria is nothing but a THC-rich tincture, made with coconut oil, that is marketed for topical use rather than internal use. Though Foria is just coconut oil and CO2 cannabis oil, it is very high quality, and Gerson says that their CO2 oil is only sourced from “biodynamic-grade organic material.”
Foria was not intended to be a lubricant, or to have the overtly recreational bent that much of its media attention has portrayed, it was meant to be a medical aid to assist issues like vaginal dryness and other causes of female sexual dysfunction (FSD). Depending on which study you look at, FSD is a condition which effects roughly 40 million American women, or is a condition reported by 86 percent of women. Additionally, according to a 2010 study by Harvard medical school, symptoms of FSD may become more common as women age. Foria is a wonderful natural, organic, chemical free way to combat FSD without using a more invasive method like hormone therapy or pharmaceutical drugs.
Foria has also recently added another product to their line-up, Foria Relief, a vaginal suppository with 60mg of THC and 10mg of CBD designed to mitigate menstrual cramps. This new product was met with the same media fanfare, with provocative titles like “Innovative Cannabis Product Pushes Foria Deeper into Female Sexual Health and Wellness.” All joking and talk of “putting weed up your vagina” aside, this is a very unique product for women’s sexual health and I know of no pharmaceutical company that is even attempting this delivery method. Whether it works or not is a different matter, [it’s] still being tested by Foria and the numerous women already using Foria Relief. When I spoke to Gerson they had already completed a pilot study on Foria Relief showing its effectiveness.
Doctors Weigh In
When I asked Gerson about whether they had any studies to back up their claims about Foria he was candid with me, replying “no one has done any clinicals to date on introducing cannabinoids through the genitals. Smoking and edibles are a poor comparison to topical Foria.” He added that they are “looking at the physiological effects of how THC gets into the bloodstream and finding that the plant is extraordinarily effective at diminishing pain and improving relaxation, and overall greatly improves the experience.” Gerson also said that in addition to their partnership with Good Vibrations that soon they may “have a female urologist who is coming on board,” who has already been discussing Foria with some of her patients “for many acute conditions where no pharmaceuticals would help.”
That urologist is Dr. Jennifer Berman, who was recently interviewed by Vice about how the science behind Foria Relief works. Dr. Berman explains, “When a woman experiences menstrual cramps, the uterus is contracting… The muscle goes into spasm, and it releases inflammatory mediators that exacerbate pain. Cannabis, in general, works to relieve muscle spasms by increasing blood flow and decreasing muscle contractions. When you increase blood flow, you help to restore oxygenation to the tissue, thereby decreasing inflammation and lessening comfort.”
A recent Live Science article on Foria Relief interviewed Dr. Ranit Mishori, a professor of family medicine at Georgetown University School of Medicine, to see his opinions on the product. Dr. Mishori said that with exception to a study in the 1800s, he saw no evidence in the medical literature that supports using cannabis for menstrual cramps.
“Sexual health can still be viewed as a taboo topic,” Gerson said.
While Gerson was emphatic about how the media grossly misrepresented his product by calling it a sexual lubricant, a new competitor has recently released a CBD-only sexual lubricant. While Foria has their partnership with Good Vibrations to help increase education around their product and safe condom use, their new competitor has been sparse with information discussing how oil-based lubricants dissolve condoms. Their press release touts their product as “an all-natural alternative to the synthetic lubricants found on drugstore shelves” and never once mentions that it is not condom safe, leaving members of the press who received their release to do their own homework.
Aside from infused oils, growers in Humboldt have bred a new strain of cannabis, called Sexxpot, that is intended to raise female libido. This strain can be smoked, made into a concentrate, or even used to infuse an oil to be used topically like Foria. The creation of Sexxpot and other new competitors entering the cannabis and sexual health market are signs of things to come. These are products designed both to help people achieve greater sexual comfort and to address medical needs that are currently not being helped through more mainstream methods. For millions of women who suffer from FSD, and many more who suffer from countless other conditions, relief may be on the horizon using new methods of cannabis medicine to help alleviate stress, pain, and to promote relaxation.
Have you tried cannabis to improve your sexual health? Share your stories below.
Mitchell Colbert became a cannabis activist when he was busted for possession at nineteen years old and was inspired to educate others to know their rights. He has written for Weedist, AlterNet, High Times, and Cannabis Now Magazine, and runs a blog called WellSuitedForLife.com. He’s a former chapter president of Students for Sensible Drug Policy and was a regional director for 2010’s Prop 19 campaign to legalize cannabis in California.