If you’re experiencing a sluggish libido, difficulty getting an erection or orgasming, or other sexual dysfunction, you may be tempted to try a natural approach — after all, some herbal remedies have been used for thousands of years. But before you start taking any supplements that promise to rev up your sex drive, you should know their limitations and potential risks.
First, there is no magic pill that will make your sex life amazing. Supplements or herbs won’t provide instant arousal, orgasms, or erections. “There’s not one libido supplement I recommend” for that purpose, says Ellen Barnard, a certified sex educator at A Woman’s Touch Sexuality Resource Center in Madison, Wisconsin.
Still, supplements that support underlying health when taken over time might improve your sex life, Barnard says, in the same way that exercise or a healthy diet do. Before turning to any pills, natural or not, Barnard suggests looking at all the things you need to function well sexually. Is it more passion, more talking, or more connecting with your partner?
Many herbs are marketed as sex enhancers, but the evidence behind these claims is extremely thin, says Ikhlas Khan, PhD, the director of the National Center for Natural Products Research at the University of Mississippi. Dr. Khan coauthored a review of supplements marketed for women’s sexuality in a paper published in April 2020 in the Journal of Ethnopharmacology. The review concluded that there are no high-quality studies proving their effectiveness for women’s libido. “There are so many more questions than answers,” he says.
That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try any supplements to potentially help your sex life, but “you should be educated as much as you can before you do,” Khan says.
Especially if you take other medications, tell your physician about any herbs you plan to try. Some supplements can interfere with prescribed medications. Women who are pregnant or nursing should be especially cautious.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not regulate herbs, vitamins, and supplements the way it regulates pharmaceuticals. That means you can’t believe whatever the product promises, since these claims don’t have to be proven the way a medication’s do.
If you are experiencing sexual dysfunction — such as orgasm difficulties, erectile dysfunction, vaginal pain, low libido, and the like — it’s best to speak to a physician or sex therapist. There may be treatments that have a more proven track record than you’ll find in any vitamin shop.
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How Do Libido Supplements Measure Up?
Walk into any pharmacy or health food store and you’ll find shelves lined with teas and products promising to heat up your sex life in a natural way. Most of these supplements have side effects, and many lack complete ingredient information on the packaging, such as how much of a particular herb is in one pill and where the herbs are sourced. This makes it even harder to evaluate them.
Among the many products claiming to correct sexual dysfunction, here are some of the most popular.
Naturally produced by the body as a semi-essential amino acid, L-arginine works by dilating and relaxing blood vessels, which is why proponents claim it can help treat erectile dysfunction (ED). According to a review published in 2021 in the journal Pharmacy, L-arginine used in combination with supplements such as Lady Prelox may help women with sexual dysfunction, but more research is needed.
According to the MedlinePlus, 2.5 to 5 grams (g) of L-arginine by mouth daily may “possibly” improve sexual function in people with ED. It notes that the supplement might work best when taken along with a proven medication such as Viagra, where it may enhance the effects. But if you prefer to get your nutrients from whole foods rather than supplements, watermelon contains an amino acid that the body naturally converts to arginine. Arginine levels rose by 22 percent when watermelon was consumed daily, according to a study in the journal Nutrition.
Possible risks and side effects of L-arginine include:
- Low blood pressure
Gastrointestinal upset — stomach pain, bloating, diarrhea
Heart issues, especially after a heart attack
High potassium levels in people with kidney disease
This herb comes from an evergreen tree native to parts of Africa. A compound in the bark, called yohimbine, has traditionally been used to enhance sexuality in men, Khan says. Yohimbe appears to have some benefit on male erectile function when combined with the supplement L-arginine or with prescription medications, says a meta-analysis published in 2021 in the Turkish Journal of Urology. No evidence exists to determine if it benefits female sexual function.
A number of serious risks have been associated with yohimbe, according to the National Institute of Health’s National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, including:
- Heart attacks and seizures
Rapid heart rate
Increased blood pressure
Ginkgo is one of the oldest living tree species in the world, and it has long been used in traditional Chinese medicine for everything from bladder disorders to dementia. Formally known as ginkgo biloba, it’s promoted as a way to help with premature ejaculation and decreased libido.
A systematic review of five studies by Iranian researchers published in 2021 in the Avicenna Journal of Phytomedicine found the herb may have positive effects on sexual function in post-menopausal women, likely by increasing blood flow to the genitals, but there is no evidence it helps anyone else.
In a study published in July 2022 in Current Issues in Molecular Biology, researchers found no consistent benefit of ginkgo biloba in three randomized controlled trials when compared with placebo.
Khan’s review cites several small studies testing ginkgo to improve sexual dysfunction in women who were taking antibiotics, a drug that can blunt arousal, but did not find it was effective, including one study of 37 women published in Human Psychopharmacology in 2002.
Ginkgo leaf extracts are relatively safe when taken in moderate amounts, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) observes. Most studies on the herb use 120 to 240 milligrams (mg) taken daily in divided doses, according to Mount Sinai Medical Centers.
Still, there are potential side effects when taking ginkgo, including:
- Skin rash
Upset stomach and constipation
Bleeding in those with a known bleeding risk
The root of the ginseng plant has been used in Eastern medicine for thousands of years. Rather than act on one specific part of the body, ginseng is believed to boost energy and act as a tonic that can revitalize a person’s overall functioning, notes the American Botanical Council, a nonprofit organization that educates people about herbs.
Khan’s study cites positive results from several small studies evaluating the herb’s effects on the symptoms and sexuality of women in menopause. In one, 62 women received either 500 mg of the herb or a placebo and after a month those taking the ginseng reported fewer bothersome menopausal symptoms and enhanced sexual function, according to results published in Complementary Therapies in Medicine in August 2019.
In a larger review published in 2022 in the journal Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice, researchers looked at three separate studies and found that ginseng didn’t produce a positive effect on women’s sexual function.
Possible risks and side effects of ginseng include:
- Insomnia (the biggest complaint, according to the NIH)
Menstrual problems and breast pain
Increased heart rate
High or low blood pressure
Kava traces its heritage to the South Pacific, where its root has long been used to make an intoxicating ceremonial beverage, similar to the role alcohol plays in the West. According to the American Botanical Council, these cultures use the herb to induce relaxation and sleep, especially for people with anxiety, to treat urinary tract conditions, and more.
It has also been associated with better sex, likely due to its effect on anxiety. In one small study published in Phytotherapy Research in 2013, when researchers gave kava supplements or placebo to people with anxiety, they found that women who took it had increased sex drive. They also observed that people whose anxiety decreased also reported the greatest improved sexual function and performance.
On the other hand, kava has been associated with significant liver damage that, according to the NIH, has sometimes been serious or fatal.
Other side effects of kava include:
Drowsiness or dizziness (driving or operating machinery after taking kava is not recommended)
Dry, flaky skin
This clover-like herb is native to parts of Europe and Africa, where its phytoestrogen-rich seeds, which have the same benefits as women’s hormones, are used as an ingredient in spice blends. (The seeds’ extract is also available in capsules and powders.) Khan’s paper notes that it has been used in Arab cultures “for all female issues.”
One small study published in 2015 in Phytotherapy Research found increased sexual desire and arousal in women who took the supplement compared with the control group. But a review published in the Journal of Herbmed Pharmacology showed mixed results with fenugreek in menopausal women who had sexual dysfunction. As Khan’s paper notes, much more evidence is needed before fenugreek can be considered an effective aphrodisiac.
Side effects of fenugreek include:
- Diarrhea and nausea
Drop in blood sugar (when taken in large doses)
Allergic reactions such as hives anywhere on the body, or a tingling or itchy feeling in the mouth
Additional reporting by Meryl Davids Landau.
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Why You Should Disclose Your STI Status to Your Partners
In the vibrant city of Kumasi, Ghana, a tale of love, honesty, and courage unfolded. Meet Ama, a compassionate and determined young woman, and Kwame, a kind-hearted and understanding man. Their love story was one that transcended barriers, as they learned the importance of disclosing their STI status to each other.
As their relationship blossomed, Ama found the strength to open up to Kwame about her STI status. She understood that this conversation was crucial for the well-being and trust within their relationship. With a pounding heart and a sense of vulnerability, Ama mustered the courage to disclose her status, unsure of how Kwame would react.
To her relief, Kwame listened attentively, appreciating Ama’s honesty and her courage to share such a sensitive matter. He assured her that he respected her openness and cared deeply for her well-being. Together, they embraced the importance of transparency and understanding in their relationship.
Recognizing the significance of this conversation, Ama and Kwame embarked on a journey of learning and understanding. They sought guidance from healthcare professionals who provided them with accurate information about the specific STI, its transmission, and the necessary precautions to maintain their sexual health.
With newfound knowledge, Ama and Kwame fostered open lines of communication about their sexual health and desires. They acknowledged that disclosing one’s STI status not only promoted trust and respect but also allowed them to make informed decisions about their intimate lives.
Ama and Kwame understood that their journey would involve taking necessary precautions to ensure their sexual health and prevent the transmission of the STI. They diligently followed the guidance provided by healthcare professionals, including the use of barrier methods and regular check-ups.
Their journey was not without challenges, but they faced them together with unwavering support and understanding. Ama and Kwame recognized that their love extended beyond physical intimacy, and their commitment to each other grew stronger through the trials they faced.
Through their experience, Ama and Kwame learned that disclosing one’s STI status is not only an act of responsibility but also an act of love. It fosters an environment of trust, empathy, and support within a relationship. They discovered that honest communication and education were powerful tools that could strengthen their bond and deepen their connection.
As their love story continued to unfold, Ama and Kwame became advocates for sexual health within their community. They shared their experience and knowledge, encouraging others to have open and honest conversations about their sexual health with their partners.
And so, dear reader, the story of Ama and Kwame teaches us that love and honesty go hand in hand. It reminds us of the importance of disclosing our STI status to our partners, as it fosters trust, respect, and responsible decision-making within our relationships. In the vibrant city of Kumasi, Ama and Kwame celebrated their love, empowered by their openness and the unbreakable bond they had formed.
How to Cope With (and Fix) Vaginal Dryness-Naa’s Story
In the serene coastal town of Cape Coast, Ghana, a tale of love and resilience unfolded. Meet Naa, a vibrant and compassionate woman, and Kwame, her devoted partner. Their love story was one of unwavering support and a shared determination to navigate the challenges they faced, including the delicate issue of vaginal dryness.
As time passed, Naa began to experience vaginal dryness, a condition that not only affected her physically but also had an impact on their intimate moments. Sensing Naa’s discomfort, Kwame approached the situation with empathy and a deep desire to find a solution that would allow their love to flourish.
With open hearts and a commitment to their relationship, Naa and Kwame embarked on a journey of understanding and exploration. They recognized that vaginal dryness could be caused by various factors, including hormonal changes, stress, certain medications, and even certain hygiene products.
Together, they sought advice from healthcare professionals who specialized in women’s health. They learned about the various treatment options available, such as lubricants, moisturizers, and hormone therapies. Naa, supported by Kwame’s unwavering presence, sought medical guidance to address any underlying causes contributing to her condition.
In addition to medical interventions, Naa and Kwame discovered the power of open communication. They fostered an environment where discussing their desires, fears, and concerns surrounding intimacy was not only accepted but encouraged. They explored the importance of foreplay, embracing longer periods of arousal and engaging in sensual activities that nurtured their emotional connection.
Naa and Kwame also embarked on a journey of self-discovery. They learned about the power of self-care, embracing practices that nurtured Naa’s overall well-being. They prioritized stress reduction techniques such as meditation, exercise, and engaging in activities they both enjoyed. This allowed Naa to reclaim her sensual identity, free from the pressures that accompanied vaginal dryness.
As they navigated the complexities of vaginal dryness together, Naa and Kwame discovered that their love was not solely defined by physical intimacy. They realized that emotional connection, trust, and open communication were the pillars that held their relationship strong.
Naa and Kwame explored the beauty of intimacy beyond traditional notions. They embraced the power of touch, focusing on sensual massages, extended periods of foreplay, and finding pleasure in exploring new erogenous zones. They learned to be patient with one another, acknowledging that vulnerability and understanding were vital elements in overcoming the challenges they faced.
With time, patience, and a deep commitment to their love, Naa and Kwame found solace in the fact that they were not alone on this journey. They discovered that there is no shame in seeking support or guidance, as they realized that many couples face similar challenges.
And so, dear reader, the story of Naa and Kwame teaches us that love conquers all obstacles. It reminds us that addressing and coping with vaginal dryness requires patience, understanding, and a shared commitment to exploring new avenues of intimacy. In the picturesque town of Cape Coast, Naa and Kwame celebrated their love, embracing the beauty of their connection and the strength they found in facing challenges together.
Prostate Cancer: What It Means for Your Sex Life
In the quiet neighborhood of Osu, nestled in the heart of Accra, Ghana, a love story unfolded, weaving together the delicate strands of devotion, resilience, and the unwavering spirit of two souls. Meet Kofi and Akua, a couple whose love stood tall in the face of adversity as they navigated the impact of prostate cancer on their sex life.
Kofi, a kind-hearted and strong-willed man, was diagnosed with prostate cancer, sending shockwaves through their once blissful existence. Akua, a pillar of strength and unwavering support, stood by his side, ready to face the challenges that lay ahead.
As Kofi embarked on his journey of treatment and recovery, both he and Akua realized that their love was not confined to physical intimacy alone. They understood that their connection ran far deeper, rooted in a bond forged by shared dreams, trust, and unwavering companionship.
In the intimate moments of vulnerability, Kofi and Akua openly discussed the impact of prostate cancer on their sex life. They shed tears, shared fears, and explored the options available to them. They sought advice from medical professionals who specialized in cancer care, learning about the potential side effects of treatment and the strategies to navigate them.
Through their research and candid conversations, Kofi and Akua discovered that prostate cancer treatment might cause changes in sexual function, including erectile dysfunction and decreased libido. Armed with knowledge, they embarked on a journey to find new ways to connect and experience pleasure.
They explored the power of communication and trust, recognizing that open dialogue was key to understanding each other’s needs and desires. They learned to embrace the changes and limitations imposed by the illness, finding solace in the knowledge that love transcends physicality.
Kofi and Akua delved into the realm of intimacy, discovering alternative avenues of pleasure and connection. They explored sensual touch, engaged in passionate kisses, and discovered the beauty of emotional intimacy. They embraced the power of non-sexual acts of love, realizing that affection, understanding, and emotional support were the building blocks of their relationship.
They sought guidance from sexual health professionals who specialized in assisting couples affected by cancer. With their support, Kofi and Akua learned techniques to enhance pleasure, utilizing aids and devices that could bring them closer together.
As their journey unfolded, Kofi and Akua discovered a newfound depth to their love. Their intimate moments became a testament to their resilience, strength, and the power of unwavering support. They found solace in the understanding that love is not defined by physical abilities alone but by the profound emotional connection they shared.
And so, dear reader, the story of Kofi and Akua reminds us that love can triumph over adversity. It teaches us that while prostate cancer may pose challenges to a couple’s sex life, it is an opportunity to explore alternative forms of connection and deepen the bond that holds them together. In the vibrant neighborhood of Osu, Kofi and Akua proved that love is not defined by the presence or absence of physical intimacy, but by the unwavering support and unwavering commitment to stand by each other’s side through life’s trials.