Is Semen an Antidepressant?
We all feel a little low from time to time. Staying on top of your mental health can be difficult with all the other things you have going on. So much goes into feeling good in your brain: eating the right foods, feeling good in your body, processing traumas and difficult situations, and of course – genetics!
The world of wellness is full of biohacks, tips, and tricks to help people support their mental health and combat depression. Before you grab another bottle of Omega-3s while on your way home from your heated yoga class, you might want to keep reading about a potential tool for dealing with depression (albeit a surprising one). Semen.
The Chemistry of Semen
Most people think of semen and sperm as synonymous, but that’s not true. Sperm are cells that travel up the female reproductive tract in hopes of a pregnancy. But that’s not all that’s in semen.
Semen is composed of water, mucus, minerals, fructose, enzymes, and hormones like prostaglandins. It also contains certain “happy chemicals” like oxytocin, endorphins, and serotonin, all of which can help boost someone’s mood.
Some studies have found that people exposed to semen had fewer depressive episodes and suicidal thoughts. Part of this may be thanks to how absorbent vaginal tissue is, along with its many blood and lymph vessels. This gives those happy chemicals plenty of opportunity for absorption through the vagina, although this effect might work for oral sex as well.
One of these studies was a survey of college students at SUNY Albany. Researchers found that 20% of women who usually or always used condoms reported suicidal thoughts. That figure was only 5% for people who reportedly never used condoms, and 7% for those who used them sometimes.
Not the Whole Story
Another hormone found in semen is melatonin. Yes, the same one that helps support your sleep and is vital for a balanced circadian rhythm. Better sleep typically means an overall more balanced mental health.
While these studies are interesting, most of them have had limited sample sizes or lacked long-term follow-ups. So while the science is interesting and supports the idea of semen as an antidepressant, they’re not conclusive or widespread enough.
One of the first things you should remember when looking at scientific data is “correlation does not equal causation”. While it is true that semen has mood-boosting hormones, and some studies support this idea, they’re too limited to make any conclusive statements.
Outside of the chemical composition of semen, having safe, pleasurable, and consensual sex can be incredibly beneficial for your mental health. Yet another benefit to this whole theory.
Depression Is No Joke
Semen as an antidepressant leaves plenty of room for joking and innuendos, that being said, we don’t want to make light of depression. Clinical depression is a serious disorder affecting approximately 5% of adults globally. Cis-women are almost twice as likely as cis-men to be diagnosed with depression.
Common symptoms of depression include:
- Fatigue and general lack of energy
- Loss of interest in hobbies
- Difficulties with work and school
- Feelings of sadness, hopelessness, or emptiness
- Trouble with concentration and memory
- Unexplained physical issues like headaches, stomach or back pain
- Sleep problems
- Irritability or anger
- Suicidal thoughts or attempts
If you are experiencing symptoms of depression it’s important to talk to your healthcare provider and get a referral for a mental healthcare practitioner. You can also use resources like Psychology Today to find a therapist near you.
Other steps you can take to support your mental health include getting regular physical activity, meditating, practicing breathwork, eating a balanced diet, and spending time with loved ones. You’re not alone, there is support out there for you. Sometimes it just takes time to find the right tools.
A Word on STIs
We’re all about safer sex here, so we figured this is a good time to throw in a friendly reminder when talking about other people’s bodily fluids. Coming into contact with semen, whether it’s through your mouth, vagina, or some other body part puts you at risk of contracting or giving someone a sexually transmitted infection.
STIs like HIV, gonorrhea, and chlamydia can all be spread through semen. Whether or not semen may help with depression, it’s just as important to protect yourself and your sexual partners from the transmission of STIs.
Be sure to avoid exchanging genital fluids unless you’ve both been tested since your last sexual partner. Otherwise, you’ll want to use a barrier method like condoms – which also help protect from unwanted pregnancy.
It’s also important to note that some people do have semen allergies, called seminal plasma hypersensitivity. This can result in symptoms like red and itchy welts, swelling at points of contact, and gastrointestinal symptoms in some cases.
Semen As an Antidepressant: Overview
While studies do support the theory that semen has antidepressant qualities – mostly thanks to the hormones it contains, it’s probably not a viable depression treatment for most people.
The risk of contracting STIs or having an unwanted pregnancy is higher than any potential benefits consuming semen may offer. Not to mention, if you’re experiencing serious symptoms of depression, it’s important to seek outside support.
That being said, if you have a partner that you feel safe and comfortable having sex without condoms with, then by all means – see if it makes a difference to your mental health and report back! Just be sure to take measures to prevent unwanted pregnancy when having vaginal sex, unless you’re trying to get pregnant.
Natasha (she/her) is a full-spectrum doula and health+wellness copywriter. Her work focuses on deconstructing the shame, stigma, and barriers people carry around birth, sex, health, and beyond, to help people navigate through their lives with more education and empowerment. You can connect with Natasha on IG @natasha.s.weiss.