Sexual desire is complicated and personal. It ebbs and flows throughout our lifetime, and varies greatly from person to person. But one truth is universal: There’s nothing more frustrating than losing your libido. Thankfully, there are many herbs that can be used to increase sexual desire.
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Ashwagandha is an evergreen shrub native to the dry regions of the Mediterranean, South Asia, Central Asia, and Africa. In traditional Ayurvedic medicine, the roots and leaves of ashwagandha were given to increase vitality, general health, longevity, and to prevent disease. It was thought that in taking this herb, one would gain the strength of a horse.
A systematic review of human studies showed that ashwagandha successfully reduces stress levels, which is great for helping to improve sexual desire. When the mind is free of anxieties and the body feels relaxed, it is easier to achieve sexual arousal. You can consume this herb by mixing a cup of warm milk mixed with 1 teaspoon of powdered ashwagandha, or you can find it in supplements like Nutrafol, which includes ashwagandha to promote hair health and overall wellness.
An edible root native to the Andes, maca has been traditionally used for sexual arousal, fertility, and relief of hot flashes. These traditional uses are supported by modern day research that shows maca can improve sexual desire in healthy menopausal women, as well as individuals affected by selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI)-related low libido. Maca is an ingredient added to Nutrafol’s Women’s Balance formula because it’s able to support healthy hormone production in women experiencing menopause.
3. Horny Goat Weed
Several species of the genus epimedium are known by the common name horny goat weed. This evergreen perennial plant is native to parts of Asia and has been used traditionally in Chinese, Korean, and Japanese medicine to improve libido and help with symptoms of menopause and PMS. Today, the best known constituent of this plant is icariin, a type of flavonoid shown to improve the production of nitric oxide. The presence of nitric oxide is crucial for proper erectile function. Epimedium also has the ability to support production of estrogen and progesterone, most likely contributing to its traditional use to reduce symptoms of menopause and PMS.
Known as the “food of the gods,” chocolate has been used by indigenous cultures for centuries. Historical texts often refer to the use of the plant’s buttery seeds (beans) as an aphrodisiac. While there are not many clinical studies that evaluate cacao’s function as an aphrodisiac, eating or drinking chocolate in a ritualistic and mindful way can help a person become more in touch with their senses. This increased mindfulness can be beneficial in improving sexual desire, as demonstrated by a body of research on the effects of mindfulness on sexual desire and libido.
The berry of this climbing plant native to China, Korea, Japan, and eastern parts of Russia is known in traditional Chinese medicine as “five taste fruit” or “five flavor fruit.” When eating one of these berries, a person experiences the flavors of sour, bitter, sweet, spicy, and salty. In traditional Chinese medicine, schisandra fruit is used for its anti-aging and tonifying properties. There is not direct research looking at schisandra and sexual desire or libido, but, similar to cacao, schisandra berries can be eaten in a mindful manner to help bring awareness to the senses and sensation in the body.
Native to the Mediterranean, tribulus is now a widespread plant that can be found all over the world. It has historical use in traditional medicines of both China and India. This plant has been the focus of studies looking at its effects on sexual desire, and has seen very promising results, especially in women both in pre- and post-menopausal years. This libido-stimulating effect is thought to be due to tribulus’ ability to increase levels of free and bioavailable testosterone.
Considered to be “the king herb,” panax ginseng holds an important place in traditional Chinese medicine. Ginseng is a perennial plant, with roots that hold its medicinal capabilities. Many studies show ginseng’s anti-inflammatory effects and its ability to improve cognition. Ginseng has also been studied in both men and women and has research backing its use for improving sexual arousal in women, as well as erectile dysfunction in men.
Finding your botanicals
When it comes to herbs, it is always important to make sure that the herbs you are getting come from a reputable source. Ensure they are standardized to the best available practices and tested to make sure they are free of contaminants.