Natural ways to boost your sex drive

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Lacking a little something in the libido department? We show you how some well-chosen herbs could add sparkle to your sex life.

Herbal enhancers to boost your sex life
Various herbs can be used as aphrodisiacs to help boost your sex life. These work in different ways and may help:

  • Improve your general sexual energy levels when you are tired.

  • Increase sexual desire through a direct action on brain chemicals.

  • Increase desire through a hormone-like action or by stimulating natural hormone production in the body.

  • Raise low mood to overcome the loss of sex drive linked with depression.

  • Increase blood flow to the reproductive organs, which may produce feelings of engorgement, tingling or throbbing.

  • Stimulate erotic dreams or thoughts.

The top five herbal sex boosters:

1. Korean ginseng (Panax ginseng)

Korean Ginseng has been used in China as a sexual balancer and revitalising tonic for over 7,000 years.

Actions: It's stimulating and restorative, improving physical and mental energy, stamina, strength, alertness and concentration. As an adaptogen, it also helps you adapt to physical or emotional stress and fatigue. It has a normalising effect on hormone imbalances and boosts metabolic rate as well as improving blood flow to the genitals.

Who would benefit? If your low sex drive is linked with stress, over-work, fatigue, convalescence or hormone imbalances.

Dose: Depends on grade of root. Choose a standardised product. Start with a low dose and work up from 200 mg - 600 mg per day. It should not be taken for more than 6 weeks without a break. In the East, ginseng is taken in a two weeks on, two weeks off cycle.

Cautions: Not advised if you have high blood pressure or have an oestrogen dependent condition (eg pregnancy, breast cancer) as it contains oestrogenic compounds.

2. Damiana (Turnera diffusa aphrodisiaca)

Damiana is a traditional aphrodisiac used by the Maya of Central America.

Actions: Damiana contains volatile oils that gently irritate the urogenital tract to produce a local, stimulant effect. It may also boost circulation to the genital area and increase sensitivity of nerve endings. These combined effects are said to increase sexual desire, enhance sexual pleasure and stimulate sexual performance.

Who would benefit? Those whose loss of sex drive is linked with decreased sensitivity and difficulty achieving arousal.

Dose: One to two 400mg capsules or 1 dropperful of tincture. Usually taken on an occasional basis when needed rather than regularly.

Cautions: Do not take during pregnancy.

3. Muira puama (Ptychopetalum olacoides)

Muira puama is widely used by natives of the Amazon and Orinoco river basins to enhance sexual desire and combat impotence. Popularly known as Potency Wood.

Actions: It is thought to stimulate sexual desire through a direct action on the central nervous system, or boost production/function of sex hormones.

Who would benefit? Those with low sex drive; males with temporary difficulty maintaining an erection.

Dose: 1 - 1.5g daily for two weeks, or a cup of Muira puama tea or a dropperful of tincture on an occasional basis when needed.

Cautions: Do not take during pregnancy.

4. St John's Wort (Hypericum perforatum)

St John's wort is widely used to help lift a low mood and it is often suggested to boost a flagging sex drive in those feeling blue.

Actions: Low sex drive is an early feature of mild to moderate depression. Research involving 111 post-menopausal women with low sex drive plus physical exhaustion found that St John's Wort helped 60% became interested in sex again, to feel sexy and to enjoy or even initiate sex with their partner. 82% also suffered less irritability, anxiety, low mood, hot flushes, sweating and disturbed sleep.

Who would benefit? Anyone whose loss of sex drive is linked with physical exhaustion, anxiety, stress, irritability, low mood or depression. Especially beneficial for women around the time of the menopause.

Dose: 300mg three times daily (0.3% standardised extracts).

Cautions: Avoid strong sunlight as may cause photosensitive dermatitis if skin is exposed to the sun during systemic treatment. Check for interactions if taking any prescribed or over-the-counter drugs. Do not take during pregnancy.

5. Ginkgo (Ginkgo biloba)

Ginkgo is a popular herb for boosting blood flow to the brain (improving memory) and fingers (helping Raynaud's) - not many people realise it also boosts blood flow to the genitals.

Actions: Relaxes blood vessels and boosts circulation to the peripheries to improve maintenance of an erection, even at a relatively low dose. Research involving males with erectile dysfunction showed a beneficial effect after 6 - 8 weeks treatment, and after 6 months half of patients had regained full potency.

Who would benefit? Those whose low sex drive is linked with mental fatigue, poor memory, stress during times of intensive study (eg for exams), peripheral vascular disease or cold extremities. Would also benefit male smokers who tend to have less firm erections.

Dose: 40 - 60 mg standardised extracts up to 3 times a day (chose a preparation standardised for at least 24% ginkgolides). Cautions: Check for interactions if taking any prescribed drugs. Do not take during pregnancy.



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