4 A Healthy Desire


For Your Health: Three Supplements to Get You 'In the Mood'

By David N. Ilfeld, M.D. Board Certified Internal Medicine, Rheumatology, Allergy & Immunology 10/14/2010
The rewards of a healthy sex life are many. Besides the obvious benefits of feeling good and having fun, sex burns calories, helps you sleep better, eases pain and boosts immunity. So when libido starts to lag, it's something you should look into.

Loss of sexual desire can happen for any number of reasons, including physical circumstances such as menopause and chronic illness, or psychological issues such as stress and depression. Certain medications, drugs, alcohol, smoking and age also affect libido.

Many couples in long-term relationships experience periods of dwindled desire. In these instances, improving communication and employing imagination can go a long way toward restoring passion. While it might be tempting to turn to popular pharmaceuticals as a quick fix, loss of libido is not the same thing as erectile dysfunction. If the problem persists more than six months, visit your healthcare practitioner. In the meantime, these three supplements may help you spice things up in the bedroom.

Korean Ginseng
Asian ginseng (Panax ginseng) is a plant native to China and Korea. Its roots contain active components called ginsenosides believed to be responsible for the herb's health-promoting effects. In a 2007 study, 60 men with sexual health issues were given 1,000 mg of Korean red ginseng, or placebo, three times daily for 12 weeks1. In the ginseng group, 67 percent of men reported improved erection and scored significantly higher on a test used to measure erectile function than those taking placebo.

Maca is a Peruvian plant (Lepidium meyenii) found in high-altitude areas of the Andes mountains and is rich in minerals, fatty acids and beneficial phytochemicals. It was used traditionally by South Americans to enhance fertility and improve sexual performance in both men and women. To test the effect of Maca on sexual desire, a 12-week double-blind, placebo-controlled, randomized trial was conducted on a group of men from 21 to 56 years old2. Self-assessment of sexual desire was scored at four, eight and 12 weeks. An improvement in sexual desire was observed with Maca starting at eight weeks of treatment.

L-Arginine plus Herbs and Vitamins
L-arginine is an amino acid that's converted in the body to nitric oxide, which causes blood vessels to dilate for healthy blood flow. In a double-blind, placebo-controlled study, 108 women ages 22 to 73 who reported lack of sexual desire were given placebo or a combination of L-arginine, herbs (Ginkgo biloba, Korean ginseng, damiana), vitamins and minerals3. There was a significant improvement in sexual desire across all age groups for the combination of L-arginine plus herbs and vitamins as compared to placebo. Premenopausal and perimenopausal women appeared to benefit the most with significant improvement in several sexual areas.

Of course, for both men and women, maintaining good overall health is important for healthy libido. I recommend eating a well-balanced diet and taking a daily multi-vitamin along with antioxidant nutrients and omega-3 essential fatty acids. Regular physical exercise is also a must, for both physical and mental health-including stress relief and building self-esteem.

Remember, libido loss doesn't happen overnight. It also doesn't have to be permanent. With proper nutritional support, physical activity and communication, you can look forward to a healthy sex life that lasts for decades.

As always, to your good health,
David N. Ilfeld, M.D.

1. de Andrade E, de Mesquita AA, Claro Jde A, de Andrade PM, Ortiz V, et al. Study of the efficacy of Korean Red Ginseng in the treatment of erectile dysfunction. Asian J Androl. 2007 Mar;9(2):241-4.

2. Gonzales GF, Córdova A, Vega K, Chung A, Villena A, Góñez C, Castillo S. Effect of Lepidium meyenii (MACA) on sexual desire and its absent relationship with serum testosterone levels in adult healthy men. Andrologia. 2002 Dec;34(6):367-72.

3. Ito TY, Polan ML, Whipple B, Trant AS. The enhancement of female sexual function with ArginMax, a nutritional supplement, among women differing in menopausal status. J Sex Marital Ther. 2006 Oct-Dec;32(5):369-78.