BotanicalsHealthy Aging

Herbs for Female Libido Support

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5 herbal remedies to rev a woman’s engine

In the Greek myth, Tiresias struck two snakes in the act of mating and was himself then transformed from a man into a woman. When the Gods Zeus and Hera were later debating whether men or women experienced more pleasure during sex, they called upon Tiresias to settle the matter. The answer, to Tiresias, was a simple: sex is nine times better as a woman than as a man.

Not all women* nowadays would agree with Tiresias, however. More and more women nowadays struggle with low libido (low desire for sex), sub-optimal arousal, and difficulty reaching climax.

Here are five herbs that may help:

Lepidium meyenii (maca)

Maca (Lepidium meyenii) root has been used for centuries to enhance fertility and sex drive, with good evidence to support its use.

Studies have found that taking 1.5 to 3.5 grams of maca daily for two to 12 weeks is sufficient to boost libido in both men and women.[1] A review of four studies including 131 people likewise found that taking maca consistently for at least six weeks improved sexual desire.[2] These benefits may be explained, at least in part, by maca’s adaptogenic properties.

Maca has also been shown to have a dose-dependent effect on libido in those with sexual dysfunction caused by antidepressant medications. In a 2008 double-blind, randomized pilot study, in which 17 out of 20 total participants were women, maca was shown to alleviate selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI)-induced sexual dysfunction at a dose of 3 grams per day – but not at 1.5 grams daily.[3]

Maca has also been shown to support libido in those with sexual dysfunction caused by antidepressant medications.

In 2015, the same researchers repeated their 2008 study. This time, however, they had more participants: 45 female outpatients (mean age of 41.5 ± 12.5 years) with SSRI- or SNRI (serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake Inhibitor)-induced sexual dysfunction whose depression had remitted.[4] (SSRIs and SNRIs are types of antidepressant prescription medications.) The 12-week, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial showed that 3 grams of maca root daily alleviated antidepressant-induced sexual dysfunction in postmenopausal women.

The findings of another study also show that maca (at a dose of 3.5 grams per day) reduces psychological symptoms like anxiety and depression and mitigates the symptoms of sexual dysfunction in postmenopausal women.[5]

Traditionally, maca root is ground into a powder and eaten. (Warning: its malt-like flavor combines quite well with chocolate!) Nowadays, maca can typically be found health food stores and supplement retailers in the form of, powder, capsules, or liquid tincture.

Tribulus terrestis (puncture vine)

Both the root and fruit of the tribulus (Tribulus terrestris) plant have been used medicinally in Traditional Chinese Medicine and Indian Ayurvedic medicine for centuries. Traditionally, people have used this plant for a variety of potential effects, like to enhance libido, keep the urinary tract healthy, and reduce swelling.[6]

Women who received tribulus had significant improvements in sexual desire, arousal, lubrication, sexual satisfaction, and pain.

Tribulus terrestris has shown beneficial effects as an aphrodisiac (agent that stimulates sexual desire) in several animal and human studies. In one such investigation – a randomized double-blind placebo-controlled trial – 67 women of reproductive age with hypoactive sexual desire disorder were randomly assigned to receive a Tribulus terrestris extract (7.5 mg/day) or placebo for four weeks. At the end of the fourth week, the 30 women who received tribulus had significant improvements in sexual desire, arousal, lubrication, sexual satisfaction, and pain.[7] A review of the herb reports that 67% of women with very low libidos experienced increased sexual desire after they took supplements of 500 to 1,500 mg for 90 days.[8]

Turnera diffusa (Damiana)

Damiana (Turnera diffusa) is a well appreciated plant aphrodisiac, well known for warming the pelvic region.[9] Native to Central and South America and the Caribbean, damiana has been used as an herbal medicine since before written history.

Despite its longtime use, however, there have not been many placebo-controlled trials conducted on the plant to date. The few studies published thus far focus on damiana’s use in combination of other herbal remedies.

On such placebo-controlled study of 108 women (age 22 to 73 years) with low sex drive examined the effects of a supplement containing damiana, ginkgo and other vitamins and minerals. Compared with the placebo group, the women taking the supplement reported significant increases in sexual desire (72% more) and overall satisfaction with their sex life (68% more) after four weeks. Interestingly, post-menopausal women seemed to enjoy the greatest benefits from the supplement.[10]

In a 2019 prospective, non-controlled, observational study, 29 postmenopausal women aged 45-65 with a risk of sexual dysfunction were treated for two months with a supplement containing dry extracts of damiana, tribulus, fennel, and ginkgo. The women’s Female Sexual Function Index (FSFI) scores were monitored before and after the treatment period, along with their blood levels of free testosterone and sex hormone-binding globulin (SHBG). (The FSI comprises: desire, arousal, lubrication, orgasm, satisfaction, and pain. The women in the study all had baseline FSI of less than 25.83.) After two months of taking the supplement, 86.2% of the women had significantly higher FSI scores, with an average jump from 20.15 at baseline to 25.03 at the end of the treatment period. The highest increase was observed in the desire domain, and all of the other FSI categories – except for dyspareunia (pain from penetration) – showed significant increases. Of the 21 women whose blood hormone levels were assessed, 52.4% had significantly increased their testosterone levels from baseline after two months, and 95.2% had decreased their sex hormone binding globulin (SHBG) levels.[11]

Fouquieria splendens (Ocotillo)

A somewhat obscure – yet nevertheless noteworthy – herb for supporting women’s sexual health is ocotillo (Fouquieria splendens). The bark of this plant is used by herbalists and native people in the American Southwest, as well as Latin curanderas and curanderos (traditional healers).[12] The few western herbalists to write about this plant include Michael Moore and Drs. Silena Heron, Deborah Frances, and Eric Yarnell.

Ocotillo is particularly useful when there is chronic congestion in the pelvic region.

Ocotillo is respected as the quintessential pelvic lymphagogue, or agent that promotes the flow of lymph through the pelvic region. It is particularly useful when there is chronic congestion in the pelvic region, as with ovarian cysts, uterine fibroids, endometriosis, and recurrent urinary tract infections.[13] By simply moving lymph and “energy” through the female reproductive system, ocotillo may also support libido.

Asparagus racemosus (shatavari)

Asparagus racemosus – or shatavari, as it’s known in Ayurvedic Medicine – has been used for female reproductive health since at least the 16th century.[14] It is used in Ayurveda for a variety of women’s reproductive issues (including use in both pregnant and lactating females) to support libido, mediate stress-related reproductive issues, support fertility, prevent miscarriage, and stave off breast cancer.[15]

In the west, Shatavari is likewise appreciated as a female reproductive herb, though the

underlying mechanism of its action upon the ovaries is not yet well understood.[16] Although there are not many well-blinded, published clinical studies on the herb, animal studies report that the herb has estrogenic effects[17], [18] – in particular on the mammary glands (the milk-producing glands of the breasts) and the female genitalia according to a rat study.[19]

Conclusion

Herbal allies like maca, tribulus, damiana, ocotillo, and shatavari are here to support the ladies, and to help prove Tiresias right.

 

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