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Herbs to Boost Sexual Functioning

By:
Maria Noël Groves, RH (AHG)

Approximately 30 to 45 percent of men and women have had sexual dysfunction, and 36 percent report low libido. Stress, cardiometabolic health, medication side effects, depression, and other issues are often at play, which may warrant professional diagnosis and care. Nonetheless, many herbs can help bring back that lovin' feelin'.

Increasing Your Sexual Functioning

Get the Heart Pumping & Blood Flowing

  • Get a Cardiovascular Assessment

    Sexual function relies heavily on adequate blood flow to the genitals, but circulation issues are most apparent in erectile dysfunction. Get a full cardiovascular assessment to identify and address early warning signs of disease like atherosclerosis.

  • Eat Heart-Healthy Foods and Herbs

    Alongside a plant-rich diet and regular cardiovascular exercise, consider heart tonic and circulation-enhancing herbs and foods like hawthorn, garlic, ginger, and low doses of cayenne and rosemary for general support. Watch for herb-drug interactions and seek the guidance of a healthcare professional if you have cardiovascular disease.

Ditch the Stress to Increase Vitality & Virility

Nothing kills the mood quite like stress, especially if you're feeling overwhelmed, anxious, or depressed.

Mood boosters are individual and can include:

  • lifestyle changes
  • adequate sleep
  • regular exercise
  • therapy
  • specific nutrients
    • vitamin D
    • omega-3 fatty acids
    • B vitamins

You should also follow a healthy diet rich in fruits and vegetables that balances blood sugar.

Mood-Boosting Supplements

  • Ashwagandha

    Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) root acts as an adaptogen, improving resistance to stress while also boosting mood and easing anxiety and insomnia.

    Ashwagandha also supports sexual function, fertility, and libido. It enhances testosterone and sperm health.

    A pilot study on sexual function in women found that taking 300 milligrams of ashwagandha extract capsules twice daily for eight weeks, compared to a placebo, improved:

    • arousal
    • lubrication
    • orgasm
    • satisfaction
  • Maca

    Maca (Lepidium meyenii) boosts mood and energy while enhancing sexual vitality. It's helpful in middle age to maintain vitality and virility.

    Several studies support its ability to boost desire and sexual function, including in postmenopausal women, in antidepressant-induced sexual dysfunction, in erectile dysfunction, and in healthy adults. Maca may also support:

    • fertility
    • sperm count
    • sperm motility
    • prostate health

Consider Aphrodisiacs

Alongside maca and ashwagandha, other herbs have the reputation more specifically for libido.

Herbal Aphrodisiacs

  • Damiana

    In Mexico, calming and uplifting damiana (Turnera diffusa) leaves and flowers form the base of a libidinous cordial, and the herb can also be incorporated into tea, liquid extract, or pills. It's traditionally used in all genders and may work partly via the nitric oxide pathway.

  • Tribulus

    Tribulus (Tribulus terrestris), meanwhile, has stimulating and testosterone-like effects on libido and sexual function in erectile dysfunction and perimenopause.

  • Stronger Herbs

    Stronger libido herbs may not be necessary and are difficult to source from reputable companies via ethical harvesting methods. Adulteration and illegal poaching of wild stands are common.

    • horny goat weed (Epimedium spp.)
    • red Asian ginseng (Panax ginseng)
    • muira puama (Ptychopetalum olacoides and Croton echioides)
    • yohimbe (which has considerable side effects on par with Viagra)

Rule Out Deficiencies

Also rule out and address underlying deficiencies in zinc or iron, which may reduce libido and sexual function.

Traditional aphrodisiac mussels and oysters are naturally abundant in both minerals.

Use Caution with Libido Supplements

Be aware that the libido supplement industry is the worst sector of dietary supplements in terms of adulteration, often with undeclared drug ingredients, unsubstantiated claims, and unsafe ingredients.

Seek quality products from stores and companies you can trust including natural food stores, co-ops, and herbalist-run shops.

Choose reputable brands, such as:

  • Mountain Rose Herbs
  • Gaia Herbs
  • Oregon's Wild Harvest
  • Herb Pharm
  • Herbalist & Alchemist
  • Wise Woman Herbs

Sources

"A double-blind placebo-controlled trial of maca root as treatment for antidepressant-induced sexual dysfunction in women" by C.M. Dording et al., 4/4/15; "Ethnobiology and ethnopharmacology of Lepidium meyenii (maca)..." by G.F. Gonzales 10/2/12, Evid Based Complement Alternat Med

"Effects of Withania somnifera on reproductive system..." by R.N.D. Azgomi et al., 1/24/18; "Efficacy and safety of ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) root extract in improving sexual function in women" by S. Dongre et al., 10/4/15 Biomed Res Int

"Efficacy of Tribulus terrestris for the treatment of premenopausal women with hypoactive sexual desire disorder..." by F.B.C. Vale et al., Gynecol Endocrinol, 5/18

"Evaluation of the efficacy and safety of Tribulus terrestris in male sexual dysfunction..." by Z. Kamenov et al., Maturitas, 5/17

"Maca (L. meyenii) for improving sexual function: A systematic review" by B-C Shin et al., BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine, 2010

"Pro-sexual effects of Turnera diffusa..." by R. Estrada-Reyes et al., J Ethnopharmacol, 3/7/13

"Results of a comparative multi-center randomized clinical study of efficacy and safety of EFFEX tribulus and tribestan in patients with erectile dysfunction" by L.G. Spivak et al., Urologia, 5/18

"Withania somnifera (Indian ginseng) in male infertility" by S. Durg et al., Phytomedicine, 11/15/18