Women: Revive your sex drive
Diminished libido—little or no sexual desire—is the most common sexual complaint among women. But repeated attempts by the pharmaceutical industry to solve the problem with one or another form of “female Viagra” have failed.
My viewpoint: Reviving a mature woman’s sex drive requires addressing multiple factors. These include…
Balancing hormones—which play a key role in both physical and mental aspects of arousal—particularly during the hormonal changes of perimenopause and menopause.
Treating the pelvic problems of aging, such as vaginal atrophy and dryness, which can cause painful sex.
Here are natural ways to boost libido that consistently work for the mature women in my medical practice. Choose one or two based on your particular needs. If you still have problems, consult a licensed naturopathic physician.
Several herbs and herbal combinations can help balance a mature woman’s hormones. Two of my favorites…
Maca. This powerful Peruvian herb is a good choice for women going through perimenopause or menopause because it is rich in plant sterols that balance and strengthen the entire hormonal system. The herb not only increases sex drive but also improves perimenopausal and menopausal symptoms such as hot flashes, night sweats and insomnia.
Additionally, it supports the adrenal glands, reducing levels of energy-depleting stress hormones.
Typical dose: 1,000 milligrams (mg), twice daily.
Two Immortals. This herbal formula from Traditional Chinese Medicine builds two types of chi, or life-energy—yin (feminine) chi and yang (masculine) chi—thereby boosting a woman’s libido, which requires both nurturing (yin) and stimulation (yang).
It also helps to balance hormones and control some symptoms of perimenopause (irregular menstrual bleeding and cramping) and menopause (hot flashes).
Many of my patients take it for six months to a year to rebuild their vitality.
Typical dose: Many companies manufacture the supplement, and dosages vary—follow the dosage recommendation on the label.
Two nutritional supplements are particularly effective at stimulating sexuality…
L-arginine. This amino acid works by boosting nitric oxide, a compound that promotes blood flow—including blood flow to your genitals.
A study in Journal of Sex & Marital Therapy showed that more than 70% of women who took a supplement containing L-arginine (ArginMax for Women) experienced increased sexual desire, more frequent sex and orgasm, enhanced clitoral stimulation, decreased vaginal dryness and improved overall sexual satisfaction.
Typical dose: 3,000 mg daily. Caution: Talk to your doctor before you take L-arginine, especially if you have low blood pressure, herpes, gastric ulcer, liver disease or kidney disease.
PEA (phenylethylamine). Called the “love supplement,” PEA boosts the neurotransmitter dopamine, enhancing feelings of well-being, joy and pleasure.
Typical dose: 60 mg once a day. (Higher doses can cause overstimulation, insomnia or anxiety.) Caution: Don’t take PEA if you’re nursing, pregnant or take an MAOI antidepressant medication such as selegiline (Eldepryl).
You also can boost PEA by exercising regularly, eating dark chocolate and taking a blue-green algae called spirulina.
Two aphrodisiacs are particularly effective for mature women because—by relaxing your body and improving your mood—they slowly and gently boost your libido.
Cordyceps. This mushroom is considered a potent sexual tonic in Traditional Chinese Medicine. It enhances both yin and yang chi, making it an ideal aphrodisiac for women.
Typical dose: 500 mg, twice daily.
What works best: Pills made by a hot-water extraction process that pulls out the herb’s most active constituents, such as the cordyceps supplement from JHS Natural Products (jhsnp.com).
Ginkgo biloba. Often recommended for memory loss because it improves blood supply to the brain, ginkgo also promotes blood flow to the vulva and vagina. Studies show that it may help restore libido in women takingantidepressants, which can destroy sex drive.
Typical dose: 40 mg, three times a day. The label should read, “Standardized extract of 24% ginkgo flavonglycosides (or flavone glycosides).”
Cholesterol-lowering statin drugs—taken by millions of older women—can lower libido, probably by damaging mitochondria, energy-generating structures inside cells. If you take a statin and notice a decrease in libido, talk to your doctor about your options.
The pubococcygeal (PC) muscle—a bowl-shaped “hammock” of pelvic muscle that contracts rhythmically when you have an orgasm and also supports your genital organs and bladder—is crucial to sexual pleasure.
New approach: Using a vaginal weight (a small, round weight inside an oval tube that is inserted into the vagina like a tampon) is the best way to strengthen the PC muscle, enhancing erotic sensation and sexual response.
What to do: To start, insert the tube for one to five minutes, twice daily, squeezing your PC muscle repeatedly to hold the tube in place. You can do this standing or lying down. Gradually work up to 20 minutes, twice daily, using progressively heavier weights. Do this for three months. You can order a set of vaginal weights at Vagacare.com. Cost: About $45.
Other benefits: Regular use of vaginal weights can help prevent and treat urinary incontinence and prevent prolapse of the bladder or uterus.
VAGINAL DRYNESS AND PAINFUL INTERCOURSE
Enjoyable sex requires vaginal tissue that is healthy and well-hydrated. But the midlife drop in estrogen levels causes a decrease of blood flow to the vagina, which can lead to vaginal atrophy and dryness. A simple remedy…
Vitamin E. The unique lubricating properties of vitamin E make it especially effective.
What to do: Pierce a soft 400 IU vitamin E gel capsule with a pin, squeeze the oil onto your finger, and apply it to the outside of the vagina and inside about an inch. Or use a vitamin E vaginal suppository. (I recommend the product from Earth’s Botanical Harvest, available online.) Apply the gel or insert the suppository nightly at bedtime for at least two weeks. Taper use to three times a week.
Men: The secret to better erections
If you’re like most middle-aged and older men, you want better erections—erections that are reliable and hard. But better sex is only one of the benefits of better erections…
Surprising fact: A man’s erection is an important barometer of his health. Erectile dysfunction (ED)—when a man can’t get or keep an erection firm enough for sexual intercourse—often is an early warning sign of heart disease. An erection requires healthy blood vessels, nerves and hormones.
Important scientific evidence: A seven-year study of more than 4,000 middle-aged and older men, published in The Journal of the American Medical Association, showed that those who had ED at the beginning of the study or developed it during the study had a 45% higher risk of developing heart disease.
Unfortunately, ED affects roughly half of American men over age 60 (and many younger men)—most of whom have cardiovascular disease or one or more risk factors for developing it, such as high cholesterol, high blood pressure, insulin resistance, diabetes or obesity.
Of course, you can take an ED drug (such as Viagra, Cialis or Levitra) for the problem. But that won’t take care of the underlying health issues. Plus, no man wants to be dependent on ED drugs…they’re not without risk (blindness is a rare but possible side effect)…and they don’t always work.
Here’s what you need to know to preserve or restore your erections—and the health of your body—naturally…
Erections owe most of their hardness to nitric oxide, a molecule that signals blood vessels to relax, allowing blood to enter and pool in the penis. The body’s most effective way of stimulating nitric oxide formation is exercise—even mild exercise, such as walking.
Scientific evidence: In a study of 180 men ages 40 to 70, published in International Journal of Impotence Research, those who were sedentary were 10 times more likely to develop ED than those who were physically active.
My recommendation: 10,000 steps a day, which you can achieve through everyday physical activity (typically 4,000 to 5,000 steps) and a brisk walk of 4,000 to 6,000 steps (about two to three miles, or 30 to 45 minutes).
Start with 5,000 steps daily for one week. Increase to 6,000 steps daily the second week…and to 7,000 the third week…until you reach 10,000. Maintain that level. You can find an accurate pedometer—typically at a cost of $20 to $30—at your local sporting-goods store or on the Internet at DigiWalker.com.
Your sexual performance is greatly impacted by the foods you eat. My recommendations…
Reduce the fats in your diet. Fatty foods lead to clogged arteries, which prevent blood flow from reaching the penis. Cut back on saturated fats such as egg yolks, butter, cream, fatty red meats and palm oil.
Eat more fruits and vegetables. They reduce cholesterol and improve blood flow to the penis.
Eat whole grains, nuts and seeds. They provide an important basis for cardiovascular and penile health.
Spice up your foods. Chili peppers stimulate the nervous system, helping with sexual arousal. Ginger has long been considered a sexual stimulant and an overall tonic for general health.
Several supplements can help restore erections…
L-arginine and Pycnogenol. The amino acid L-arginine (found in meat, whole grains, fish, nuts and milk) is converted to nitric oxide in the body. But most men don’t get enough in their diets, so I often recommend an L-arginine supplement Caution: Talk to your doctor before you take L-arginine, especially if you have low blood pressure, herpes, gastric ulcer, liver disease or kidney disease.
L-arginine works best when combined with Pycnogenol, a patented amalgam of more than three dozen antioxidants extracted from the bark of the French pine tree. Together, the supplement allows for better nitric oxide production and utilization.
Scientific research: In a study of men with mild-to-moderate ED, published in Phytotherapy Research, taking a supplement with L-arginine and Pycnogenol for eight weeks improved erections and satisfaction with sex.
Typical dose: A daily dose of the supplement Prelox Blue, which contains a blend of Pycnogenol and L-arginine.
Omega-3 fatty acids (fish oil). Found in oily fish such as salmon and sardines, omega-3s can reduce plaque inside artery walls…decrease blood clotting…lower triglyceride (blood fat) levels…and decrease both blood pressure and blood vessel inflammation. Omega-3s are the nutritional building blocks of heart and penis health.
Typical dose: 2,000 milligrams (mg) daily, taken with a meal.
Horny goat weed (Epimedium sagittatum). This Chinese herb perks up sexual desire.
Scientific evidence: I conducted two studies on Exotica H-G-W, a brand of horny goat weed. The first study showed that the supplement enhanced sexual satisfaction in three out of five men. The second study—in which men took horny goat weed capsules one hour before sexual activity—resulted in a significant increase in hardness in two-thirds of the participants.
Typical dose: Two capsules daily, totaling 500 mg of horny goat weed. My patients take it for six weeks and then start to taper off. You can use it intermittently after that.
Testosterone—the predominantly male hormone that helps drive sexual desire and performance—declines with age. But most of that decline is caused by lifestyle—poor sleep, relentless stress and belly fat. My recommendations…
Sleep seven to eight hours a night. Going to bed at the same time every night (say, 11:00 pm) and getting up at the same time every morning (say, 6:30 am) is one of the best habits for deep, refreshing sleep.
Add strength-training to your routine. Whether it’s in the gym or at home with resistance bands, building and maintaining muscle are key to producing plenty of testosterone.
Breathe. Take a few slow, deep breaths a few times a day every single day—it does wonders for relieving tension and anxiety.
VISUALIZE FOR SEX SUCCESS
How do you prepare for an upcoming sexual encounter, especially if you didn’t do so well in a previous effort and don’t feel confident?
Sex is a physical act—and just as athletes practice visualization techniques so they can perform optimally, you can use the same techniques to build confidence in your bedroom “performance.”
First, relax—lie on your back on a mat or a rug with your arms at your sides and take a deep breath. Hold it for a moment, then exhale. Lie still, and continue breathing slowly.
Once you are relaxed, picture yourself about to have sex. Patiently go through the step-by-step sequence of events. Imagine every aspect of the session, including the sights, sounds and smells associated with sex. Try to rehearse the action in your mind just as you would actually perform it. It’s all about mental practice. When the time comes for the actual moment, your confidence will be higher.