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Supplements for Love, Lust and Libido
Every culture has it's own history and knowledge of aphrodisiacs from
their own areas whether it be from myths, stories and objects or
plants were labeled as such because of shapes and textures.
Staying healthy is your best and number one bet for a great sex life!
According to a Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA)
study reported on in February 1999, about 43 percent of women and 31
percent of men suffer sexual inadequacy for one reason or another.
The reasons cited included low desire, performance anxiety, premature
ejaculation and/or pain during intercourse. Interestingly, this is
thought to actually underestimate the real level of sexual
dysfunction in the U.S. While the study didn't look at the specific
physical causes of sexual dysfunction, the research indicated that
many of the sexual concerns were likely treatable, as they are due to
physical and health issues. There are dozens of natural herbal and
nutritional herbs that enhance sexual drive and pleasure in both men
and women, along with enhanced erections and more satisfying orgasms
and climaxes—and some of them are quite powerful.
These natural herbs
not only enhance libido, but they enhance most aspects of the human
sexual response, particularly if they are used in combination.
Androstenedione, (pronounced "an-dro-stene-dye-own") is a metabolite
of DHEA and a natural precursor of testosterone. For those whose
testosterone levels may need a boost, 25-50 mg of androstenedione
taken at bedtime, and perhaps again first thing in the morning, will
mimic the body's normal diurnal rhythms. The same dose may be taken
30-60 minutes before exercise (for enhanced performance) or after
completion of exercise (to enhance muscle recovery and growth).
Serum levels of testosterone start rising about 15 minutes after oral
administration and stay elevated for around 3 hours. Blood
testosterone levels usually peak in around 1 to 1.5 hours after
ingestion. Because the elevated testosterone levels swiftly return to
normal baseline levels, there is little risk of negative feedback
suppression of the hypothalamus, pituitary or testicles.
One of the more popular supplement ingredients for sexual dysfunction
is L-arginine, also referred to as arginine. Arginine is required to
carry out the synthesis of nitric oxide, a compound that, working
through cGMP, relaxes blood vessels and allows more blood to flow
through arteries. It has been hypothesized that taking extra arginine
will increase nitric oxide levels and increase blood flow to the
Arginine appears to offer some modest benefit for sexual dysfunction
in men. A double-blind, placebo controlled trial of 50 men with
erectile dysfunction tested arginine at a dose of 5,000 mg per day
for six weeks. Only about a third of the participants who received
arginine showed improvement, but that improvement was greater than
the 10% improvement seen in the placebo group. Moreover, erectile
dysfunction is caused by a variety of factors. L-arginine may be
effective only in those men whose erectile dysfunction is due to low
levels of nitric oxide. Studies in animals provide some evidence for
effectiveness as well.
Although arginine alone has not been studied as a treatment for
sexual dysfunction in women, a reasonably good preliminary double-
blind trial found evidence for benefit with a combination treatment
providing a daily dose of 2,500 mg of L-arginine, as well as amounts
of Panax ginseng, Ginkgo biloba extract, damiana, plus numerous
vitamins and minerals. In a four-week, double-blind study, 77 women
with decreased libido were given either the combination of these
supplements or placebo. As expected, a high percentage of
participants taking placebo showed improvement. However, participants
taking the product showed statistically greater improvement such as
increased reported sexual desire level in 71% of participants given
the treatment vs. 42% in the placebo group. Other improvements noted
included: relative satisfaction with sex life (74% vs. 37%), improved
frequency of orgasms (47% vs. 30%), and improved clitoral sensation
(53% vs. 35%). No significant side effects were seen in either group.
There have been other studies of arginine for sexual dysfunction in
women, but because they were not double-blind, placebo-controlled
trials, they are of little scientific value.
An extract from wild oats straw, and a rather recent entry to the
field of aphrodisiacs. While oats have a long reputation of being the
most energizing grain, the alleged sexual effects have not commonly
been recognized in previous centuries. Avena sativa is said to free
up bound testosterone in both men an women. Most positive effects of
testosterone, including sex drive, are attributed to free
testosterone, while bound testosterone is mainly a subject of study
when enlarged prostates are the primary concern. Although not much
research has been done, there is much anecdotal evidence to suggest
that it not only stimulates the interest to have sex but enable more
and better orgasms.
A bioflavonoid called chrysin has shown potential as a natural
aromatase-inhibitor. Chrysin can be extracted from various plants.
Body builders have used it as a testosterone boosting supplement. The
problem with chrysin is that because of its poor absorption into the
bloodstream, it has not produced the testosterone enhancing effects
users expect. In a study published in Biochemical Pharmacology (1999,
Vol.58), the specific mechanisms of chrysin's absorption impairment
were identified, which infers that the addition of a pepper extract
(piperine) could significantly enhance the bioavailability of
chrysin. Pilot studies have found that when chrysin is combined with
piperine, reductions in serum estrogen (estradiol) and increases in
total and free testosterone result in 30 days.
Chrysin is also a potent antioxidant that possesses vitamin-like
effects in the body. It has been shown to induce an anti-inflammatory
effect.Chrysin has one other property that could add to its libido-
enhancing potential. A major cause of sexual dissatisfaction among
men is work-related stress and anxiety as well as "sexual performance
anxiety" that prevents them from being able to achieve erections when
they are expected to.
Yes, chocolate can be a pleasure herb. Compounds known as
phenylethyamines work like natural neurotransmitter dopamine with
epinephrine (also known as adrenalin) creating an elevation of senses
and feelings of well being. So there is something to be said about
that pound of chocolate for valentines day.
Damiana (Turnera Diffusa):
Damiana leaves have been used as an aphrodisiac and to boost sexual
potency by the native peoples of Mexico, including the Mayan Indians.
The two species used in herbal healing, both of which are referred to
as damiana, are Turnera aphrodisiaca and Turnera diffusa.
Historically damiana has been used to relieve anxiety, nervousness,
and mild depression, especially if these symptoms have a sexual
component. The herb is also used as a general tonic to improve
wellness. Damiana has also been used traditionally to improve
digestion and to treat constipation, as in larger doses it is thought
to have a mild laxative effect.
The libido-boosting power of damiana hasn't been tested in humans,
although a liquor made from the leaves has long been used as an
aphrodisiac in Mexico. How damiana works as an aphrodisiac is
currently not known. It's mild stimulating properties is believed to
be the catalyst for women and in men, it is said to irritate the
urethra in men therefore sensitizing the penis and making it more
responsive to stimulation.
This is a natural steroid hormone, one of the hormones produced by
the adrenal glands. After being secreted by the adrenal glands, it
circulates in the bloodstream as DHEA-sulfate (DHEAS) and is
converted as needed into other hormones. DHEA is chemically similar
to testosterone and estrogen and is easily converted into those
hormones. Though claims abound that DHEA stimulates sexual appetite,
no well-controlled trial has investigated the effects of DHEA on
sexual activity. However, preliminary research has suggested that it
may help improve sexual function in women. DHEA has other potential
uses, including the treatment of lupus.
This is a plant compound called an indole, and has been shown to help
regulate and promote a more efficient metabolism of estrogen, and an
optimal ratio of estrogen metabolites. DIM balances estrogen levels,
promoting health and well-being. This powerful phytonutrient is found
in broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage and brussels sprouts, unlike other
phytonutrients like soy isoflavones, has no hormonal properties in
itself. Men can also benefit from DIM supplementation. Studies show
it works indirectly by increasing the activity of enzymes that
control estrogen production. DIM boosts levels of "good" estrogens
called 2-hydroxy estrogens and reduces levels of "bad" estrogens
which are 16-hydroxy and 4-hydroxy estrones. Both forms of "bad"
estrogen are carcinogens, and studies show that women with elevated
levels of 16-hydroxy estrone have a high rate of breast cancer.
There's evidence that benign prostate enlargement and some types of
prostate cancer may be related to a buildup of estrogen in that
gland, not testosterone. In overweight men because fat cells convert
DHEA and testosterone to estrogen, DIM supplementation can be
especially helpful. A combination of DHEA and DIM together for one
month is a recommended treatment for increasing testosterone levels.
Dong Quai (Angelica Sinensis):
Dong quai has been called the "female ginseng" and is excellent as an
all purpose women's herb. It has been used for centuries in China for
regulating the menstrual cycle and easing menstrual pain and
cramping. It can be used to help women regain normal menstrual cycles
after taking "the Pill." It has proven helpful for relieving hot
flashes during menopause. Dong quai can be used for insomnia and
blood pressure stability for both men and women. (The affect on blood
pressure can be an overall lowering although sometimes it may rise
slightly first, followed by a decline). It can reduce PMS and may
help anemia, suppressed menstrual flow, uterine bleeding, abdominal
pain after childbirth, dry intestines, chronic pelvic disorders and
constipation and headaches due to blood deficiency. Dong quai helps
the liver utilize more oxygen and therefore can be useful in treating
hepatitis and cirrhosis. It may also help with abnormal protein
metabolism. Dong quai helps dilate peripheral blood vessels, increase
circulation, and has been used as a mild laxative.
Dong quai contains estrogenic substances that may exert some
regulating effect on estrogen levels and on estrogenic biological
mechanisms. They seem to enhance estrogenic effects when estrogen
levels are too low, and compete when levels are too high. This would
be in keeping with the idea of a menstrual tonic. It is doubtful if
dong quai has any direct estrogenic effects.
Substantial pharmacological research has validated these properties
in dong quai. Anticramping, hypotensive, tonic, antiasthmatic,
analgesic, anti-inflammatory and antiarthritic properties in the root
have all been demonstrated by basic research. It has also been shown
to be effective against several strains of microorganisms, especially
fungi such as Candida albicans, the primary causative agent in
vaginal yeast infections. This constellation of properties would help
explain the plant's sometimes dramatic effect on the PMS symptoms.
The herb Panax ginseng has a traditional reputation for enhancing
sexual function in men. One study supports this use for a particular
form of ginseng: the steamed and heat-dried product called red
ginseng. This three month double-blind, placebo-controlled study
evaluated the effects of Korean red ginseng in 90 men with erectile
dysfunction. Participants received either red ginseng at a dose of
1,800 mg daily, the drug trazodone (an antidepressant with marginal
effects on erectile dysfunction) and placebo. The results indicated
that red ginseng improved erectile function compared to placebo.
Contrary to some reports, ginseng does not appear to affect estrogen
or testosterone levels, or mimic their effects.
Ginkgo biloba is an herb that can improves sexual function in men.
Case reports and open trials suggest that Ginkgo biloba may be an
effective treatment for antidepressant-induced sexual dysfunction in
both men and women. Ginkgo not only helps brain circulation but also
penile blood flow. A study using a standarized extract showed 78% in
regained erections which where known to be caused by poor blood flow.
Horny Goat Weed (Herba Epimedium grandiflorum):
Yin Yang Huo in Traditional Chinese Medicine which has been loosely
translated by some as "licentious goat plant" and explains why
Western supplement companies have adopted the titillating name by
which it is known in the U.S: (horny goat weed). Epimedium is grown
as an ornamental herb in Asia and the Mediterranean region, and
various species are used for medicinal purposes. The use of epimedium
as a medicinal herb dates back to at least 400 A.D., where it has
been used as a tonic for the reproductive system (boosting libido and
treating impotence) and as a rejuvenating tonic (to relieve fatigue).
Epimedium is thought to work via modulation of cortisol levels (the
primary stress hormone). Under conditions of high stress, the
increased cortisol levels are known to cause fatigue and depress sex
drive - so bringing cortisol levels back into normal ranges is also
thought to help restore normal metabolism, energy levels and libido.
There is also evidence that epimedium can restore low levels of both
testosterone and thyroid hormone (bringing low levels back to their
normal levels) - which may account for some of the benefits of
epimedium in improving libido (sex drive). Animal studies using
epimedium have shown a reduction in bone breakdown, an increase in
muscle mass, and a loss of body fat-each of which may be linked to
the observed return of abnormal cortisol levels back to normal values
(and rhythm). In a series of studies conducted in humans and animals
by Chinese researchers, immune-system function was directly
suppressed and bone loss was accelerated, by using high-dose
synthetic cortisol (glucocorticoid drugs). Subsequent administration
of epimedium extract reduced blood levels of cortisol and improved
immune immune-system function (in the humans) and slowed bone loss
and strengthened bones (in the animals).
Nettle Root Extract:
About 90% of testosterone is produced by the testes, the remainder by
the adrenal glands. Testosterone functions as an aphrodisiac hormone
in brains cells, and as an anabolic hormone in the development of
bone and skeletal muscle. But testosterone that becomes bound to
serum globulin is not available to cell receptor sites and fails to
induce a libido effect. It is, therefore, desirable to increase
levels of "free testosterone" in order to ignite sexual arousal in
A hormone that controls levels of free testosterone is called sex
hormone-binding globulin (SHBG). When testosterone binds to SHBG, it
loses its biological activity and becomes known as "bound
testosterone," as opposed to the desirable "free testosterone." As
men age past year 45, SHBG's binding capacity increases almost
dramatically-by 40% on average-and coincides with the age-
associatedloss of libido.
A highly concentrated extract from the nettle root provides a unique
mechanism for increasing levels of free testosterone. Recent European
research has identified constituents of nettle root that bind to SHBG
in place of testosterone, thus reducing SHBG's binding of free
testosterone. As the authors of one study state, these constituents
of nettle root "may influence the blood level of free, i.e. active,
steroid hormones by displacing them from the SHBG bindings site." The
prostate gland also benefits from nettle root. In Germany, nettle
root has been used as a treatment for benign prostatic hyperplasia
(enlargement of the prostate gland) for decades. A metabolite of
testosterone called dihydrotestosterone (DHT) stimulates prostate
growth, leading to enlargement. Nettle root inhibits the binding of
DHT to attachment sites on the prostate membrane.
Puncture Vine - Tribulus Terrestris:
This herb found in the Chinese Materia Medica, Bai Ji Li (Chinese)
also known as Gokshura and Gokhru (Ayurveda), traditionally has been
used for sexual and kidney dysfunctions as well as colic pains,
hypertension and hypercholesterolemia. It has a long standing use of
being a revitalizer and energizer. Research indicates it actually may
possess the ability to increase sexual desire verses just being a
physical stimulant. It is a promising herb in the areas of menopause
and infertility. Tribulus terrestris (tribulus) is thought to
increase DHEA levels, so it has been proposed as a treatment for
sexual dysfunction. However, investigation of tribulus has largely
been limited to trials in animals. Bulgarian studies have shown that
this herb stimulates Luteinizing Hormone, which stimulates the
production of testosterone in men.
Muira Puama (Ptychopetalum olacoides and Ptychopetalum unicatum):
Popularly referred to as potency wood, muira puama is an old
Brazilian folk aphrodisiac and cure for sexual impotence. Salves,
tinctures, and other formulations are made from the trunk or roots of
these two shrubs. Muira puama is typically touted for sexual potency.
Despite a lack of evidence that it actually works, men continue to
take muira puama to prevent impotence and enhance sexual desire.
There is also little evidence to support its use for rheumatism, for
which it is also often used. Muira puama is employed around the world
today in herbal medicine. Early European explorers noted the
indigenous uses and the aphrodisiac qualities of muira puama and
brought it back to Europe, where it has become part of herbal
medicine in England.
It is also used in Europe to treat impotence, infertility, nerve
pain, menstrual disturbances, and dysentery. In Germany, muira puama
is employed as a central nervous system tonic, for hookworms,
menstrual disturbances, and rheumatism. Muira puama has been gaining
in popularity in the United States, where herbalists and health care
practitioners are using it for impotence, depression, menstrual
cramps and PMS, nerve pain, and central nervous system disorders.
Spanish fly (Cantharides):
No discussion of aphrodisiacs would be complete without mention of
Spanish fly, the most legendary of the love drugs, but also the most
dangerous. Spanish fly, or cantharides, is extracted from dried
beetle dung. Reported sexual excitement after taking Spanish fly
stems from its ability to irritate the urogenital tract, causing a
rush of blood to the genital area. And that's the upside. The
dangerous downside: Spanish fly is a poison that burns the mouth and
throat, and can cause urinary infections, scarring of the urethra
and, in some rare cases, death.
Yohimbe is made from the bark of the Pausinystalia johimbe tree found
in Africa. It contains the chemical, yohimbine, which is an FDA-
approved drug that is marginally effective for male erectile
dysfunction. Yohimbine is believed to act through the nervous system
to increase blood flow to the penis. Most clinical studies have been
conducted with yohimbine rather than yohimbe bark. These days, some
call it the herbal Viagra. Unfortunately, there are side effects, and
for some men can be very serious. Side effects of yohimbe can include
anxiety, weakness, overstimulation, paralysis and hallucinations.
Andrew Pacholyk, MS, L.Ac.
Therapies for healing
mind, body, spirit