(February, 2011) Aphrodisiac Herbs: Holistic Help for the Bedroom
Looking for ways to increase libido, improve sexual function, or simply heighten sensual pleasure? While television ads hawk drugs to deliver results, those who want to avoid pharmaceuticals can rest assured that humans have relied on herbs for centuries to cope with intimate challenges.
We’ve answered readers questions below. You’ll see that many of nature’s solutions enjoy years of traditional use—plus modern scientific support. Long live romance!
Q: Are there any herbs that enhance sexual desire and performance for both men and women? M.F., Fairfield, CT
A: Try maca (Lepidium meyenii). This turnip-shaped herb grows in the Andes Mountains of Peru. Compounds from the root of this plant have been used to enhance fertility in both men and women as well as improve both mild erectile dysfunction and vaginal dryness. In addition to enhancing sexual function and desire, research indicates that this herb may also reduce anxiety and depression in postmenopausal women.
Maca root can be eaten cooked or raw. Dried maca powder can also be added to smoothies. Fresh maca appears to have higher amounts of the suspected active ingredient than dried maca.
Q: I’m going through the change. What herb can I take to help support my sexual functioning as I get older?L.S., Boston, MA
A: Consider taking American ginseng. Its compounds help prevent vaginal dryness and will make women feel more comfortable and relaxed during intimacy. It may also help boost libido.
Q: My partner suffers from occasional erectile dysfunction (ED). What herbs can help?D.A., Tempe, AZ
A: Panax ginseng, also known as Korean ginseng, proved effective in improving erectile function in men with ED who participated in an eight-week, double-blind, placebo-controlled study. It’s also used in the treatment of low libido and infertility for both genders.
In another double-blind, placebo-controlled study, more than 66 percent of men with mild to moderate ED reported improved erections after taking Korean red ginseng.
Recent animal studies indicate that Panax ginseng combined with other herbs such as Eurycoma longifolia (tongkat ali), Epimedium grandiflorum (horny goat weed), and Centella asiatica (gotu kola) may enhance erectile function.
For best results, ginseng should be taken during the day between meals. Because this herb can thin the blood, do not take it before surgery or if you use anticoagulant drugs like warfarin or aspirin.
Q: My husband is under a lot of stress at work. As a result, he seems to have lost his sex drive. Are there any herbs that can help him regain his libido?R.G., Mason, OH
A: Horny goat weed (Aceranthus sagittatum) may help support healthy sexual function and sex drive in men. Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera), also called Indian ginseng, is often used in traditional Ayurvedic medicine to restore male libido. Available in capsule form, this herb typically takes effect after a week of daily use. Studies conducted in both India and Russia indicate that rhodiola (Rhodiola rosea) can also increase libido. It may also help improve ED.