Using Herbal Medicine to Increase Libido
Low libido is a very common experience in modern society and, as with most health issues, is usually a symptom of a bigger health imbalance which needs to be addressed. The underlying cause may include the physical (e.g. clogged arteries in the penis/vaginal dryness); emotional and mental causes (e.g. depression/abuse); environmental factors (e.g. ingestion of hormonal disruptors) or stress and fatigue.
While some of the tools and pharmaceutical medications available can bring short-term results, in the long-term they may can not only disguise an issue but potentially exacerbate it.
Herbal Medicine for Enhanced Sex Drive
When supporting a patient with low sex drive the natural practitioner will address the case holistically to understand the cause. Along with lifestyle counselling and nutritional advice, some of the following herbs and nutrients may be used to enhance libido and performance.
Korean (Panax) Ginseng – The ginseng family are known to improve stamina and performance. Korean ginseng in particular has been researched and shown in clinical trials to enhance the release of nitric oxide synthase from the endothelial cells and perivascular nitrergic nerve in the penile corpus cavernosum. The effect of increasing blood flow in the penis, as well as its well known energy and stamina enhancing attributes contribute to the aphrodisiac effects of Korean ginseng.
Potency Wood ( Muira puama) – Aptly named, potency wood is a shrub native to Brazil which has been used as an aphrodisiac in folk medicine and since been demonstrated through clinical trials to be one of the best herbs for treating erectile dysfunction or lack of libido. A 1990 study of 262 subjects with low libido and erectile dysfunction demonstrated that within two weeks 62% of participants reported increased libido and 51% reported benefit in achieving/maintaining erection.
Yohimbe – (Pausinystalia johimbe) – Yohimbine is an alkaloid isolated from the bark of the West African yohimbe tree. It is the only medicine which has been approved by the FDA to treat impotence. Its main effect is to increase blood flow to erectile tissue. In Spain this herb is used to increase copulation of prized horses during mating season, and it is often used as sexual stimulant for cattle, sheep, dogs. It should be used with caution as it can generate side effects, and it should not be used by women.
Ginkgo biloba – Ginkgo has a well documented reputation for enhancing circulatory and cognitive function. Recent studies show that ginkgo can also be effective in enhancing blood flow in the penis, thereby supporting healthy erections.
Tribulus (Tribulus terrestris) – Tribulus is a very powerful herb for treasting sexual deficiencies. It has been proven to support healthy sex hormone levels in men and women, maintain healthy testosterone levels and support endurance and vitality.
Damiana (Turnera diffusa) – Damiana is a very popular aphrodisiac with a colourful history . It contains volatile oils which are thought to slightly irritate the urethra. It is used to treat sexual debility and nervous tension and to enhance sexual pleasure. Damiana is a popular herbal remedy for enhancing the female libido.
Shatavari (Asparagus racemosus) – Shatavari is used for female hormonal balance, fertility, ovulation and to treat menopausal symptoms. It is incredibly beneficial for female reproductive health and according to Ayurvedic medicine can give a woman “the capacity to have a hundred husbands.” In Western herbal medicine, Shatavari is used to treat sexual debility and promote conception in both sexes. It is a female reproductive tonic and aphrodisiac.
Considering the Person Rather Than The Condition
While the above herbs may be used specifically to enhance libido, any variety of herbs may be used once the individual case is assessed. As any herbal protocol will formulate for the individual the personal formula will be created specifically on a case by case basis.
For example, where general stress and fatigue are an underlying problem, Withania somnifera may be used to strengthen the constitution, increasing energy, reducing stress and enhancing performance. The ginsengs and Rhodiola (Rhodiola rosea) may be considered here also. When depression is an underlying issue, anti-depressant herbs may be used, or in the case of an individual who has low sex drive due to pharmaceutical anti-depressant use, some of the herbs listed above may be considered.
Nutrition For a Healthy Libido
Alongside herbal support, various nutritional recommendations will be made. Nurition plays a big role in determining virility as optimal sexual function requires optimal nutrition. It is vital that the diet includes healthy oils, vegetables, fruit, regular healthy protein and whole unprocessed grains.
Some specific nutrients which may be recoimmended include L-Arginine and Zinc.
L-Arginine is an amino acid found in a variety of foods, which helps release nitric oxide, the gas molecule which helps relax smooth muscle tissue and expand blood vessels in the penis. One study showed an 80% improvement in erectile function for men who took 2.8g of L-Arginine for two weeks. Another study focusing on men with erectile dysfunction showed that a third of the men taking 5g of L-arginine for five weeks reported a significant improvement. Arginine should not be taken by people with the Herpes virus as it can stimulate outbreaks.
Zinc is probably the most important nutrient for sexual function. The mineral is essential for normal functioning of the male reproductive system, with low zinc intake associated with decreased testosterone and sperm production. Zinc is concentrated in semen, and where a zinc deficiency exists the body holds on to limited stores by reducing sex drive. Good sources of zinc include liver, meat, oysters, nuts, seeds (especially pumpkin seeds) and legumes.
A Healthy Lifestyle Contributes to a Healthy Sex Life
Lifestyle advice is also often required when treating the client with sexual difficulties. The main cause of erectile dysfunction in men over 50 years is atherosclerosis (hardening of artery walls) of the penile artery. Atherosclerosis occurs systemically therefore cardiovascular risk needs to be treated overall if vascular insufficiency is the cause of dysfunction. Changes need to be made to lower cholesterol and triglyceride levels, high blood pressure, obesity and other risk factors. Smoking and alcohol intake need to be reduced and exercise increased.
Emotional and psychological health needs to be considered also. The Masachusetts Male Aging Study concluded that erectile dysfunction is 82% more likely in men who are depressed. Where necessary the natural health practitioner will refer for counselling support and may consider supporting the emotions with other modalities such as Bach Flower Remedies or Australian Bush Flower Essences.
Getting Down To It – The Sexual Act
When it comes to the act, the practitioner may also suggest some natural lubricants which may not only lubricate, but protect the sexual organs. One excellent choice is extra virgin coconut oil which can be used for an all-over body massage and contains beneficial anti-fungal properties when used topically as a sexual lubricant.
A holistic approach is recommended to rehabilitate a low sex drive. Herbal medicine, nutrients and counselling/support should be used to ensure the health not only of the physical body but also the mind, emotions, relationships and environment of the person.