Has your desire for sex gone south? Low libido is very common, and often triggered by hormonal or emotional problems.
Try these natural solutions to rev up your sex drive.
Look to the East:
According to traditional Chinese medicine, low libido is due to kidney deficiency, especially if it is accompanied by dizziness, tiredness, or lower back-ache.Saigon cinnamon, Chinese foxglove, Asiatic cornelian cherry fruit, Chinese yam, wolfberry and peony root are all tonics which may help a low libido.
Foods like Chinese jujubes, black sesame seeds, sword beans, wheat and chicken liver would also be recommended to increase kidney energy, along with a course of acupuncture.
Visit the Australian Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine Association to find a qualified practitioner near you.
Pick a herb:
Maca is a root plant native to South America that is said to nourish the endocrine glands which produce and release sex hormones, so improving vaginal tenderness as well as stimulating the hypothalamus, pituitary and adrenal glands, which in turn support and balance hormones and so boost flagging desire.
Add a teaspoonful of the powder to a smoothie or hot drink daily.
If depression and fatigue are responsible for low libido, tonic herbs like ginseng and ashwagandha build stamina and energy, regulate metabolic rate and protect against mental and emotional stress.
Ginkgo is a potent antioxidant that enhances the supply of blood to the extremities, including to the sex organs. Sarsaparilla contains steroidal saponins which mimic the effect of some hormones, acting as a sexual health tonic.
Damiana is a nervous system stimulant which has been traditionally used to promote energy and increase libido in women — however, it should only be used under professional supervision.
Visit the National Herbalists Association to find a trained herbalist who can make you a personalised prescription.
Eat the food of love:
The "junk in, junk out" rule holds true: a vibrant, energising, balanced diet plays a major role in delivering the same benefits in the bedroom, while heavy, fatty foods will make you feel sluggish.
Zinc is necessary for the production and release of sex hormone in men and women: good food sources are oysters, crab, fortified cereals, cashews, chicken, and chickpeas.
Foods with a high antioxidant content, including brightly-coloured berries, red grapes, and chocolate, may also help, while spices — chillies, ginger, nutmeg, and curry — are thought to stimulate micro-circulation to the genital area.
Taking a B-complex supplement may calm the nervous system and reduce anxiety about sexual experiences - they are also involved in the synthesis of hormones involved in sexual function.
The amino acid L-arginine stimulates the production of nitric acid which increases blood flow to the genitals.
Take it E-asy:
Poor lubrication equals painful sex, and no one wants to do it if it hurts. The most common reason is vaginal atrophy, when oestrogen levels drop during the lead-up to menopause and then again in menopause itself, resulting in thinning of the tissues and dryness.
Try piercing a vitamin E capsule and massaging the contents into the vagina daily.
Conventional treatment includes prescription hormone creams or pessaries, or you could try non-prescription wild yam cream, which helps to balance hormones when rubbed into the skin.
Skip lubricants made with mineral oil, petroleum derivatives, parabens, artificial colours or perfumes, and opt instead for water-based ones made with all-natural ingredients, like the kiwifruit gel that is the base of Sylk or the chamomile and aloe vera used in AstroGlide.
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Psychological factors, notably stress and depression, can be a downer for your sex drive, due to the negative effects of the stress hormones cortisol and adrenalin, which reduce the reactivity of sex drive receptors as part of the body's "fight or flight" response to stress.
It's crucial to manage stress, by taking the time to meditate and exercise.
If body image, relationship or low self-esteem issues are interfering with your interest in sex, seek therapy from a qualified counsellor.
Check your Rx:
Prescription medications can have undesirable side effects on your sexual health — antidepressants, and drugs for blood pressure, pain relief, and chemotherapy are notorious libido killers; even over-the-counter antihistamines may be a culprit. Ask your doctor if any of your medicines might be a hidden cause.