Greetings friends. Libido and sexual health is a topic that is gaining more recognition due to it’s confirmed contribution to overall well being and health. Science has now proven that sexual activity and orgasm is essential to the balance of “feel good” chemicals in the brain that have been linked to helping beat and reduce depression, dementia and promote better sleep and general well being. Natural health practitioners offer many useful methods to regain lost libido to help you enjoy balanced sexual health and well being. I am often approached and asked about what is available for people to use to help restore the libido of both men and women. The answer is lots! Natural medicines have been used for centuries to help keep people functioning at their sexual optimum and it is only in recent times that science has played catch up and is validating this ancient wisdom. Whilst I am going to discuss general reasons for low libido here today along with some common natural remedies, it is not the cure all. Loss of libido can be a symptom of a wider problem or deeper issue so as with any health issue; if a simple self help approach doesn’t work for you, then seek out professional help sooner rather than later.
What Causes Low Libido?
Decreased libido is often a side effect of of an illness or disease, injury or drug. Circulatory problems, diabetes, and high blood pressure can all cause erectile dysfunction and should be looked into by a health professional. There are psychological factors as well such as high stress, anxiety, guilt and depression can be causal to loss of libido and these are best treated by a qualified mental health practitioner or a natural health practitioner that specializes in such disorders. Many prescription drugs cause loss of libido (One more reason not to buy into big pharma’s con that drugs fix everything if you can avoid it!) and if this is occurring for you then see your prescribing doctor for possible alternatives. The main reason we see a decline in libido is a reduction is the sex hormone testosterone. Both men and women can experience this phenomenon. It can be treated by the use of herbs quite effectively or in more extreme cases, medically. Aging naturally sees testosterone levels decrease but the belief that the desire for sex decreases with age is a bit of a myth as there are many natural ways to keep the fires stoked!
Foods & Lifestyle Changes For Better Libido
As with all other aspects of health; you are what you eat to a large extent so it should come as no surprise that food is important in maintaining or enhancing libido. The following common foods are know to help libido;
- Oysters – Scientists used to scoff at the idea of oysters being an aphrodisiac until nutritionists discovered that they are high in zinc which is related and essential to male and female sexual functioning. Scientists at the University of Rochester have reported restored sperm counts to infertile men using zinc supplements.
- Caffeine – Not that I am a big fan of coffee, it tends to create more health problems than it solves, but One study found that regular coffee drinkers are considerably more sexually active than those who do not. So go ahead and enjoy that morning cuppa!
- Chocolate – It’s not like we need an excuse to but now you can indulge in good quality dark chocolate for not only the benefits to heart health and well being in general due to the antioxidant levels found in dark chocolate, it is also a great food for increased libido. Chocolate contains high levels of phenylethylamine (PEA). Sexual medicine specialist Dr Theresea Crenshaw, author of The Alchemy of Love and Lust calls PEA the molecule of love. It is a natural form of stimulant and a natural antidepressant, according to Dr Crenshaw. Both love and lust increase blood levels of PEA; interestingly these levels plummet after heartbreak!
- Oat Bran – Oat bran may provide an indirect sexual boost due to it’s effect on blood flow. Better circulation to the genital area means better erections for men and better lubrication for women.
- Take Your Vitamins – Vitamins A and E, and minerals zinc and selenium are like fertilizer for androgen production and testicular function. While in the developed world we may eat a lot of food, most of it is low or totally missing these important micro nutrients. Supplements are one targeted way to get more of these critical nutrients, or, eat more shellfish for zinc and selenium, carrots and kale for vitamin A, and almonds and sunflower seeds for vitamin E.
- Get Some Sun – The male reproductive tract is a target for vitamin D, and vitamin D supplementation has been shown to increase total testosterone, bioavailable testosterone and free testosterone. We have an epidemic of vitamin D deficiency in the U.S. If you aren’t sure of your level, get tested, and in addition to supplements, be sure to get your 15 minutes of direct sunshine a day.
- Relax – Stress is a major driver of low Testosterone. Ultimately your adrenal hormones, thyroid hormones and sex hormones are all interconnected in a beautiful but complicated dance. A stress-driven phenomenon called “cortisol steal” can lead to a hormone imbalance where the production of testosterone is decreased in favor of cortisol. Stress also increases the production of aromatase and 5-alpha-reductase, two enzymes that break down testosterone. If you relax and breathe, meditate, do yoga or otherwise boost your parasympathetic nervous system, even for just 10 minutes a day, you give your hormone system a chance to reboot and rebalance, lowering cortisol and increasing testosterone.
- Sleep – One study showed that after only one week of just five hours of sleep nightly, testosterone levels dropped 10-15%. While surviving on only a few hours may sound macho to some, it’s actually eroding your most important male hormone.
- Stay Fit – Belly fat and obesity are testosterone killers. One study showed that obese teen boys have up to 50% less testosterone than their non-obese peers. One reason for this may be that fat cells contain more aromatase, an enzyme that converts testosterone to estrogen. Unfortunately, obesity and low testosterone reinforce each other, leading to a spiral of weight gain and hormone imbalance in men. The good news is that reversing the spiral is mutually reinforcing as well.
Substances That Decrease Libido
Like many people, you’ve probably tried some of these to no effect as many are just not good for you full stop and are most certainly not good for libido enhancement.
- Alcohol – More than two beers or glasses of wine per hour and this powerful depressant of the central nervous system impairs erectile functioning in men and sexual responsiveness in women.
- Smoking – As if the smell of a smokers breath isn’t a big enough turn off. Tobacco narrows blood vessels thus impairing blood flow to the male’s erection and impairs female lubrication. Give it a miss.
- Antidepressants Drugs – I sit here writing this as a natural health practitioner so I have seen first hand the damage these drugs do to people. Sexual dysfunction is only one of the many side effects these drugs have. People using SSRI’s (Selective Serotonin Re-Uptake Inhibitors) are the ones most at risk for sexual dysfunction. People taking these report inability to orgasm, erectile dysfunction and failure to lubricate for women. Unless there is a severe problem and a true need for these types of drugs, seek out a natural alternative that doesn’t destroy your sexual well being and general well being. These are best recommended by a professional natural health practitioner.
- Drugs in General – Many over the counter drugs and prescription drugs can interfere with sexual functioning.
- High Cholesterol – A study at the University of South Carolina found that the higher a man’s cholesterol count was the more likely he was to suffer from erection impairment. This means sugary treats and rich overly processed foods need to be avoided and a healthy balanced diet and lifestyle needs to be adopted in order to prolong optimal sexual function.
Herbs That Help Enhance Libido
These are the most commonly used herbs for improving a person’s libido both male and female. Like all medicines these are best used under the supervision of a professional for best results.
- Ashwaganda Root – The Kama Sutra identifies ashwagandha as a potent igniter of passion and desire. While that benefit may get your immediate attention, its popularity with women has more to do with the way it stimulates libido and increases satisfaction. The herb may increase blood flow to the clitoris and other female sexual organs, creating an intense sexual experience.
- Maca root – This has been the go-to herb for women living in the Andes for centuries. Maca’s high iodine content supports a woman’s hormone balance and its high zinc levels, an essential mineral for sex hormones, does more than fan the flames of desire. Women who took maca root in one study reported improved sexual experiences and satisfaction. 
- Muira Puama – Women who use muira puama report a surge in libido, desire, sexual enjoyment and intensified orgasms.  Its positive effect on both pre- and post-menopausal sexual experience supports its overall benefits for female sexual and reproductive health. It probably comes as no surprise this herb is often called “potency wood.”
- Avena sativa – Generations of women stand by oats (Avena sativa) for its aphrodisiac and libido-stimulating qualities. Tradition holds it increases vaginal stimulation and advances the physical and emotional desires for sex. Scientists trying to understand how it works believe it frees bound testosterone, providing the body with the hormones needed for sexual stimulation.
- Catuaba – The Tupi tribe of Brazil praises catuaba for its potent aphrodisiac qualities. Its active compound yohimbine energizes and stimulates libido and desire. Research has determined it increases dopamine levels in the brain, resulting in greater sensitivity to erogenous stimulation. Regular use is known to create erotic dreams and heighten sexual satisfaction and orgasm intensity. 
- Damiana – Turnera diffusa, better known as damiana, grows natively in the American Southwest, Mexico, the Caribbean, and South America. Many consider its leaf a highly-prized libido enhancer. Flavonoids, phenolics, glycosides, terpenoids, and even caffeine all contribute to reduced feelings of stress and increased blood flow, particularly to the pelvic area where increased sensitivity leads to heightened stimulation. 
- Suma root – Sometimes called Brazilian Ginseng, this herb is extremely popular with the native population in South America for the way it aids female hormonal balance and excites libido. Science has confirmed suma root increases levels of estradiol-17beta, the primary estrogen hormone during a woman’s reproductive years.  Women who use this herb report more intense sexual experiences and greater satisfaction.
- Tribulus terrestris – Studies of women who use this herb report greater desire, increased arousal, lubrication, more intense orgasms, and satisfaction.  Tribulus stimulates androgen receptors in the brain making the body much more responsive to testosterone and other sex hormones. It also helps to reduce stress, anxiety, and depression.
- Tongkat Ali – Called the greatest natural aphrodisiac by Dr. Oz, Tongkat ali extract has been used by women to arouse desire and increase erogenous sensitivity. It’s traditionally given to women suffering from low libido, as it also supports positive responses to stress and stimulates memory and overall brain function. By normalizing hormone levels with a gentle increase of testosterone, women also experience increased metabolism and an easier time losing and maintaining weight. 
Well there you have it folks, some information for you to consider and some simple self help ideas to help you get the fires stoked up once again and keep them that way. If you are experiencing loss of libido that is more chronic then please take yourself off to see you health professional and get to the cause of the problem.
Until next time, be well naturally.
Craig Hitchens – Natural Health Practitioner / Remedial Therapist
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Alternative & Natural Health Disclaimer:
The information contained in this article is accurate at the time of posting but may change thereafter. The information provided on the various natural health subjects from this website of www.craighitchenstherapies.com is for informational purposes only and should not be considered as any form of medical advice. The information in the article this disclaimer is linked from is not meant to treat, diagnose, prescribe or cure any ailment. Always check with your health professional before taking any products or following any advice that you believe may conflict with other forms of health care. Always consult your health care professional before you start, stop or change anything that has been previously prescribed. Certain herbs and holistic remedies are unsuitable to take if you are pregnant or nursing and must always be cleared by your health professional before use.