Sex Drive for Women
By: Allan N. Spreen, MD, The Nutrition Physician
We're constantly bombarded with information concerning a man's sex drive...Viagra news is everywhere. The Internet is full of products for everything from herbal aphrodisiacs to products for enlarging a man's anatomy (not that there aren't a few out there for women!).
However, Viagra isn't considered appropriate for women (and, matter of fact, isn't particularly harmless for men). Is there anything out there that might enhance a woman's drive? If so, it seems to me that such a situation wouldn't be too bad for the male partner either!
The sex drive is a complicated area (duh). It may not even involve a chemical problem if emotionally the partners aren't compatible, don't communicate well, or expect different things from each other. Boredom and complacency can be huge obstacles to overcome. If an individual is highly stimulated by individuals other than their own partner, but not by the partner specifically, chances are that the problem is not hormonally or biochemically induced. It's time for counseling, some serious talking or, unfortunately, maybe even a new partner.
But let's avoid the psychological side...far too sticky. What can a woman do who loves her partner but just doesn't feel any sexual motivation? It's entirely possible that the problem, if not environmental or emotional, can be significantly affected by supplemental considerations.
First of all, such supplements may need to be prescribed by your doc. A big factor in a woman's sex drive, oddly enough, is testosterone. It's worth having blood levels of testosterone checked (yep, in the woman, to assure they are within normal limits for age. If they are low, then low doses of testosterone to put a woman within the proper range for her age can work wonders. (Your doc should be involved anyway, in case there are other medical issues to be overcome in the search for a normal sex drive. Anemia, thyroid problems, infections and many other diagnoses should be considered and ruled out or treated.)
Also to be considered along hormonal lines is progesterone
. We're not talking Provera, here, which contains a synthetic molecule the human body was never intended to deal with. We're talking about real, natural progesterone
. It's available, both in prescription form from compounding pharmacists, and over-the-counter, both as topical creams. In a reasonable proportion of women the application of this hormone, which is absorbed well through the skin, can have a beneficial affect on sex drive. The agent is usually applied to varying areas of soft skin (it saturates in just one spot and needs to be moved to another), three weeks on and one week off (but check with your doc). Also bear in mind that there are Mexican yam creams available that contain the precursor to progesterone but not the actual hormone. Most effective products come from the yam plant but have already been converted to an active hormone state before being sold, since humans, unfortunately, are not good converters of the precursor to the active hormone.
There are herbal agents that can be effective for both women and men. Avena sativa
(green oat extract) may be worth a try. It's commonly available and has been used for ages as a sexual stimulant. Though detractors like to talk about "placebo effect" (you get the effect because you believe
it should work), I don't buy into it completely (though if it works, I also don't care why it does!).
Another option is Muira puama
. This is a more recent addition to the American scene from tropical Pacific rim areas. When effective, the results can be truly invigorating.
Concerning efforts for women only, chaste tree berry
(Vitex agnus castus) may help, especially if the sex drive has been adversely affected by nearing or experiencing menopause. Sometimes just a couple of weeks can show a difference.
If pain or discomfort is involved, whether due to PMS, menstrual cramping or menopausal symptoms, then a trial of black cohosh (Cimicifuga)
may be in order. This herb has been used for centuries in treatment of problems with a woman's period. Another effort in this area can also include dong quai (Angelica sinensis)
. Whether one works alone better than the others, or whether a combination is best depends strictly on the woman. The human body is not as readable as a computer (especially the female...just had to throw in a Chauvinist remark there!) and the solution for a given problem may have multiple facets before reaching a successful conclusion.
There may also exist an illness that can destroy sex drive while not overtly causing pain. In women (and even in men but less so) I'm convinced there's a common problem with yeast overgrowth that is predominantly unrecognized. It's considered a "non-diagnosis" by many of today's docs, but I believe it not only exists, but also can be considerably debilitating. If you have unexplained fatigue, irritability, headaches, weird pains, abdominal complaints, difficulty concentrating, or any combination of the above (along with many other symptoms) then consider systemic yeast (also called Candidiasis). A great book on the subject is The Yeast Connection Handbook,
by Wm. Crook, M.D., or another of his excellent works on the topic. All women should take the questionnaire inside the cover and see if they score high.
Returning to simpler solutions here's one kinda cute idea that can be highly effective for some while even downright uncomfortable for others. This involves the use of niacin (vitamin B-3)
. Straight niacin
is well known to cause what's called the "niacin flush." This effect begins about 10-15 minutes after ingestion and lasts about 20 minutes. What happens is that a transient, reddening, itching sensation occurs during a rapid dilation of blood vessels. Nearly every blood vessel in the body dilates for a few minutes, starting in the face, progressing into the trunk region, then into more personal areas (you can see where I'm headed with this), and finally out into the extremities.
When you're prepared for it (and if you don't mind the effects) the rewards can be impressive. First of all, it's a wonderful time to have your back scratched! Then, when the effect reaches, shall we say, more sensitive regions, the enhanced blood flow can also enhance sensation. For sure this is not an idea just for the women, as the enhanced blood flow in men can enhance something else (though unfortunately the effect is strictly temporary)!
Bear in mind that within the B-3 family there are forms of the nutrient that do not cause the niacin flush, so if you're the adventurous type and decide to try this idea you'd want to avoid both niacinamide
and also inositol hexanicotinate
. Besides, niacin's cheaper.
Human beings were meant to enjoy the pleasures of a healthy sex life, and such a life shouldn't be reserved for just the younger adults of the world. Mature and older adulthood does not have to mean an inevitable decrease in the sex drive and its wonderful rewards, so don't just write yourself off if you sense this happening. Get proactive, examine your environment, your emotions, your diet and your susceptibility to the effects of select supplements, and pursue the joys of what should remain yours for years to come.
Allan N. Spreen, MD
"The Nutrition Physician"
Dr. Spreen is a nutritionally-oriented medical doctor in practice for over a decade before concentrating on nutritional writing. He is known for his original "Nutrition Physician" on-line sites for both America Online and iVillage's 'The Women's Network', offering nutrition information directly to the public.
His authored works include Nutritionally Incorrect-Why the American Diet is Dangerous & How to Defend Yourself (Woodland); Smart Medicine for Healthier Living (Avery), co-authored with Janet Zand and James LaValle: and The Menopause Diet (Woodland).
A graduate of both the Georgia Institute of Technology and the University of Tennessee before obtaining his M.D. from East Tennessee State University, Dr. Spreen wears a second hat as a coach of competitive divers at the national and Olympic levels.
VitaminUSA Home Page