Libido

a couple holding hands

Great sex is good medicine! So says recent research that affirms that having regular, satisfying sex is one of nature’s best tonics for whatever ails you. But statistics show that as we age into our 40s, 50s, and on up, we tend to have sex less frequently. Medical doctors who specialize in sex therapy say that is not a good thing. There are many things today that keep our sexual energy flagging. There are foods that you can eat, as well as nutritional supplements and herbs that men and women can take to strengthen their libido.

The subject of female sexuality and the understanding why midlife libido as an important topic is no longer a taboo subject. Many young, middle-aged and older women are looking for ways to improve sex before, during and after menopause. Increased sexual desire among women is a hot topic of conversation. Best selling books, talk shows, and medical research are intensely interested in the subject. The changing attitudes that women have about their sexuality is fueling the need to help dispel the many myths surrounding libido. Many women relate improved sexual drive to a newfound sense of freedom. 

Over 46% of the women in America experience little or no sexual satisfaction from clitoral orgasm and only 25% achieve orgasm with intercourse. It’s a sad fact that countless numbers of women, between the ages of 18 and 80, do not even know what an orgasm is or how it is achieved. Sexual frustration is a leading cause of low libido, although many other possibilities exist.

CAUSES

Sexual desire is a complex subject to isolate because sexuality is more than the biological urge to procreate. The interplay between the physical and emotional intimacy is a requisite to pleasure. It is important to site some of the common causes that can cause low libido (which can be mental or physical) before treatment options can be made. Dr. Howard Peiper and Nina Anderson, authors of Natural Solutions for Sexual Dysfunction, state “Most of our sexual problems stem from poor diet, lifestyle burnout, pesticides, drugs, alcohol or a combination of them all.” Here is a list of the most common causes:

  1. Hormonal imbalances – the interaction between the hormones estrogen, progesterone, testosterone, DHEA, and adrenalin are complex. Balancing these hormones, especially during peri- and post-menopause, takes time and patience. Increasing the body’s level of “feel-good” hormones (endorphins), is also a benefit. A qualified practitioner can measure these hormones by performing blood or sputum tests. 
  2. Emotional stress – including depression, low self-esteem, and stress or anxiety perpetrated by the sexual partner (poor relationship) is a leading cause of low libido. 
  3. Side-effects of prescription drugs, OTCs and other medications – some of the common drugs that may effect sexuality included anti-depressants, beta-blockers and statin drugs 
  4. The disease connection – various medical conditions such as vascular disease (hardening of the arteries or atherosclerosis); diabetes; dyspareunia; asthma; edema; cancer; MS; alcohol consumption; long-term tobacco use; and other endocrine and hormonal diseases. 
  5. Abnormal brain chemistry- this can be because of poor nutrition or immune suppression. Sometimes this can be corrected by enzyme therapy and eating a healthier diet. This can also allude to the myth of the aging process and a decrease libido. Hormones such as DHEA, along with many herbs, a healthy diet, and exercise, can help to minimize the aging process in humans. 

DIET

A change in dietary and nutritional support is critical to a supplemental or drug regimen for low libido. Improving the diet is involved with making more “healthy” choices. It is advised to drink more fresh water, eat a diet rich in whole foods including vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and legumes. Adequate protein from high-quality, low-fat sources (soy, whey, cold-water fish, organic eggs, legumes, free-range chicken) is also important. Eating less, in general, is another sex-stimulating nutrition tip. Avoid saturated and hydrogenated fats, junk and fat food, refined sugar, alcohol, aspartame, and processed foods. One expert on hormonal health recommends a high-fiber, low-acid diet, emphasizing low glycemic index foods. Try and avoid alcohol in the diet which can contribute to male reproductive tract toxicity.

In some cases a vitamin B12 deficiency can lead to pernicious anemia, which can cause low libido in both men and women. 

  1. PROGESTERONE CREAM
    According to Dr. John Lee, low libido can result from a dominance of estrogen in a women’s body. Estrogen dominance will always lower progesterone, which could be a cause of low sex drive. Topical progesterone cream can be applied at bedtime for 14 days a month for a pre-menopausal women, and 21 days a month for a post-menopausal women may be helpful. Check with a qualified healthcare professional before instituting progesterone cream. Dr. John Lee claims that estrogen alone does not stimulate the brain areas for normal sexual activity, but when progesterone is added, sexual activity returns. Dosage: 20-30 mg daily at bedtime or twice daily.
  2. TESTOSTERONE
    Low testosterone levels in women can be a major factor contributing to low libido. A medical doctor must prescribe testosterone. It can be made into a topical cream from natural chemicals- contact a compounding pharmacist for details. Dosage: As prescribed by a physician. 
  3. GINSENG (PANAX OR SIBERIAN)   Ginseng is a Chinese natural herb that can enhance desire and arousal by increasing the body ‘heat.” Long used as an aphrodisiac in men, many women feel greater sexual desire after using it. Ginseng can give a renewed sense of energy so that heightened sexual pleasure can be achieved. Dosage: As directed on package. 
  4. DEHYDROEPIANDROSTERONE (DHEA)
    DHEA is a steroid hormone that shows promise as an alternative to Viagra. DHEA is a hormone precursor to testosterone that peaks in concentration in early adulthood; thereafter, levels may decrease 2% a year. Dosage: 15-50mg daily for 1-2 months. 
  5. L-ARGININE
    Arginine is an essential amino acid, also known as L-arginine when found in a supplement, may help stimulate lost passion.  Some topical creams are made with
    L-Arginine and menthol. It can be applied to the clitoris and genital area acting as a stimulant to the soft tissue. Topical use can result in greater orgasmic pleasure and induced orgasm for those women who have difficulty achieving one. Dosage: As directed on package.
  6. TRIBULUS TERRESTRIS
    This herb has been used as a prosexual herb for thousands of years. Tribulus contains high levels
    of steroidal saponins, and small quantities of glycosides and sterols. Recent research has shown that tribulus can raise testosterone levels in men and women naturally when they are low, but will not cause testosterone to become imbalance (as in the case of prostate cancer or hypertrophy).  Dosage: As directed on package.
  7. BLACK COHOSH and RED CLOVER
    Two popular European herbs that enhances circulation and exerts an estrogenic effect on the vaginal tissue, thereby improving mucosal health. Dosage: As directed on package.
  8. DAMIANA
    A traditional herb used to increase sexual arousal for many centuries. This herb is known to improve blood flow to the sex organs, helping to hydrate and soothe irritated tissue. Dosage: As directed by a qualified practitioner. 
  9. PASSION FLOWER
    Although used in folklore as a minor tranquilizer, it can be used by women to calm the mind, especially by hormonal adjustments, and is considered an aphrodisiac. Dosage: As directed. 
  10. ASHWAGANDHA
    An Asian herb that has adaptogenic properties. Ashwagandha serves as a sexual stimulant with estrogenic properties. One popular product mixes this herb with nut grass, lodh tree, and nutmeg for added aphrodisiac effect. Dosage: As directed on package. 
  11. GINKGO BILOBA
    Ginkgo biolba acts as a vasodilator (increases free blood flow) to the pelvic organs, improves sexual responsiveness by enhancing energy, and may tonify the nervous system- three important factors in the restoration of libido. Dosage: 60-80 mg 2-3 times a day. 
  12. EURYCOMA LONGIFOLIA
    This herb comes from Southeast Asia and is also known as Malaysian ginseng. This potent herb may increase women’s libido and bring zest back into her sex life.  It is also used to treat vaginal dryness. Dosage: As directed on package. 
  13. DONG-QUAI (ANGELICA)
    Because of its reputation as a sex enhancer, Chinese angelica is one of the most widely used herbs in Chinese women’s medicine. Dosage: As directed. 
  14. CHASTE TREE BERRY (VITEX)
    A favorite herb in Europe used for its benefits on the female genitalia. Dosage: As directed. 
  15. CHOCOLATE
    Chocolate really can boost levels of body chemicals that make you feel good. This includes the neurotransmitter serotonin. There is nothing wrong with a little chocolate before sex. 
  16. ROYAL MACA ROOT
    A root from the Peruvian Andes Mountains. Maca has use as a traditional aphrodisiac and is believed to support normal sexual function in men, including increased seminal volume, sperm count and sperm motility. In women, maca appears to increase estrogen levels, supports body heat, vaginal lubrication and mental clarity. Dosage: 500-1,000 mg 2-3 times a day. 
  17. AROMATHERAPY
    Certain essential oils can produce a fragrance that is quite successful in enhancing libido by producing a “sexy mood.” Some of the best include jasmine, peppermint, sandalwood, and patchouli. Dosage: See package.
  18. MUIRA PUAMA
    Muira puama is also known as “potency wood” has been used for decreasing impotence. It is believed to increase testosterone and libido in men. Dosage: As directed. 
  19. YOHIMBE
    Although mainly used by men, this herb increases blood flow to the penis, but should do the same for the clitoris. Dosage: As directed. CAUTION: Continued use of this herb may raise blood pressure. 

 

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Holt, S. Natural Approches to promote Sexual Function. Alternative and Natural Therapies, October, 1999. Pp. 279-286.

Lee, JR. What Your Doctor May Never Tell You About Menopause. Warner Books, New York, 1996.

Lexxus information sheet for Viacreme. www.lexxusinternational.com. 2001.

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