More snooze than spice in the bedroom? Don’t panic: you can boost a flagging libido naturally.
Any other condition that affected up to three-quarters of all women would be the subject of much discussion. But although studies estimate that’s how many women struggle with low libido, it’s a topic that’s mostly avoided. “I have never had someone come to my clinic and say, ‘I want help with my sex drive’. People only tell me once they’re asked,” says naturopath Jackie Arbuckle (www.alchemybodyandsoul.com.au). “I find that low libido is often a symptom of something else going on. Once you address that issue, libido tends to increase as a side effect.”
Natural fertility specialist Natalie Kringoudis (www.melbournenaturalfertility.com.au) adds that libido is at “an all-time low” among her clients. “It affects both sexes equally, although it is generally more ‘accepted’ that men have a high libido,” she says. “Low libido is a sign that the body isn’t working as well as it could be, and that potentially there might be some compromise with the reproductive organs and hormone messages.”
Cause and effect
Lifestyle factors, and resulting hormonal imbalances, are the most common culprits. These include stress, fatigue, major illness, being overweight, excessive alcohol intake, lack of physical activity, pregnancy, menopause, and medications such as antidepressants, antihypertensives, chemotherapy, and the Pill. “Household chemicals, plastic and synthetics also have an effect,” Kingroudis adds.
Virtually all of these can be improved with natural therapies. In fact, natural treatments for low libido are often more beneficial than orthodox medical treatments. “Nutrients that help stress and restore balance to the body include magnesium, B vitamins, and adaptogenic herbs like withania, Siberian ginseng, and Korean ginseng,” says Arbuckle. “If the cause is menopause, black cohosh and wild yam can help, as will increasing dietary phytoestrogens, like soy.” Depression and anxiety can negatively impact sex drive. “Ask yourself what you want from your partner and communicate this to them. Then ask them what they want from you, and give it back to them,” she says. “Ultimately we want to please others: your partner wants to make you happy, and vice versa. If this isn’t the case, perhaps the relationship is the issue.”
While it may sound counter-intuitive, having more sex boosts libido. “Exercise gets the blood pumping and sex is great exercise,” says Kingroudis. “But the habit of having intercourse is just as important. The more you have, the more you want.”
The herb fenugreek may be effective in treating low libido in men. In a recent study from Applied Science of Nutrition and the University of Queensland’s Department of Medicine, 60 healthy men aged between 25 and 52 took 300mg of fenugreek seed extract twice daily. After six weeks, most participants’ sex drive had increased.
“Fenugreek has traditionally been used in diabetes and dyslipidemia, indicating it is likely to have an effect on hormonal regulation. Traditional Chinese herbalists used it for kidney problems and conditions affecting the male reproductive tract,” explains study leader Dr Elizabeth Steels. “It is far better for the body to be given the tools to regulate its own hormonal balance. This can be done effectively with herbs such as fenugreek, regular exercise, being unstressed and being asleep by midnight.”
Find your va-va-voom
* Make the time: Having regular sex improves libido, even if you’re not in the mood. “Be intimate more often,” Kingroudis says.
* Dose up: A quality multivitamin and fish oil supplement can address nutritional imbalances that may be contributing to your low libido.
* You are what you eat: “Dietary changes will absolutely boost your libido,” she says. “You need leafy greens, oily fish, protein and zinc-rich foods.”
* Get moving: Working out regularly maintains a healthy weight, and exercising outdoors means you’ll get more mood-boosting vitamin D.
* Take time out: “It’s amazing what a holiday or just a weekend away can do,” says Kingroudis. “Get yourself some downtime, on the double.”
* Seek help: Don’t suffer in silence. “If it really isn’t working, see a natural practitioner. Acupuncture and herbal medicine can do wonderful things for libido.”
Wealth coach Jeremy Britton (www.24hourwealthcoach.com) has been married to his second wife for a year. He experienced low libido in his previous relationship and says addressing the underlying psychological causes helped.
“Treating a couple for sexual dysfunction from the waist down is doing less than half the job. Medical intervention would have dealt with physical symptoms, but would have had little or no effect on our minds and spirits. With my new partner, we did much counselling and personal growth and self-development courses before we made commitments to each other. We started with the decision that, if we were going on a journey that lasts forever, we were going to have to be prepared for any eventuality.
“I did a 10-day silent meditation course. I came back no longer stressed from the mental clutter and internal chatter that used to be in my head. My wife thought that I was a completely different person: disciplined, attentive, connected, and present with her instead of being distracted with my thoughts. We saw results immediately and it kept growing. Our relationship is fulfilling on the physical level, as well as mentally and spiritually.
“My advice to men is to put birthdays and anniversaries into your diary or phone, make date nights a priority and also put in your partner's work schedule and monthly cycle. You can’t expect great sex if you’re not making the effort to know when the time is right, or to create the right timing. For ladies, I’d say get a handle on your expectations. Decide what you want, tell him, and if you change your mind, tell him that also, so that he can adapt.”