Heat Things Up!

With Herbal Remedies that can Boost Libido
Silhouette of a couple's legs while embracing on the beach with the sun in the background at sunset.

February is the month to celebrate or rekindle the fire and sensuality in your relationship. Sex drive is highly individual, but when your health or life is out of balance, libido easily wanes. If you’re hoping to warm things up in the bedroom, here are some herbal allies to consider.

Get the Blood Moving with Herbal Aphrodisiacs

The most well-researched and most commonly known herbal aphrodisiacs are those that address climax and the ability to achieve and maintain an erection. All of these herbs have benefits in all genders. Penile and clitoral tissues are closely related, made from similar tissues, rich in nerve endings, and benefit from blood flow and the right balance of stress and sex hormones including testosterone. Erectile dysfunction can be an early warning sign for cardiovascular disease and inadequate blood flow–definitely schedule a cardiovascular workup with your doctor.

Heart tonics and blood-moving herbs play double duty as aphrodisiacs. These include garlic, turmeric, rosemary, ginger, hawthorn berry, leaf and flower, and just the right hit of cayenne. Ginkgo, better known for enhancing cognition by improving microcirculation, also shows some promise. Sometimes these herbs light the fire on their own, but they’re also nice companions and synergists in formulas with the herbs mentioned below.

Traditional libido herbs such as muira puama bark seem to warm the area while enhancing sexual vitality in all genders. Additional classic libido herbs that likely work across a range of actions include epimedium (also known as horny goat weed) and tribulus, which is somewhat more stimulating and may support testosterone as well as perimenopausal hormone wobbles. They blend nicely with adaptogens and other libido-supportive herbs.

Stress Less to Increase Libido

Stress directly inhibits libido and sexual function, particularly in feminine genders. Damiana flower from Mexico relaxes and uplifts the nervous system while promoting hormonal balance of estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone in all genders. It’s a classic libido herb that’s particularly useful when stress and anxiety get in the way of having a good time. Additional relaxing herbs, though less libido specific, may be helpful including regular use of milky oat seed extract or oat straw decoction, and as-needed passionflower, lemon balm, kava, and/or skullcap.

Herbal Help for Dry Tissues

As we age, and particularly in menopause, tissues become dry and sensitive (not in a good way). Shatavari root’s moniker is for the “woman with 100 husbands” because it supports estrogen balance, offers gentle adaptogenic action, and has moistening qualities throughout the body, including promoting the release of cervical mucus. Many high quality and natural lubricants are also on the market, which can greatly enhance the experience.

Balance Hormones with Herbal Allies

Many adaptogens and longevity tonics have a long-held reputation for virility and vitality, likely by supporting healthy sex and stress hormone balance. Ginseng (particularly Asian red ginseng) is well-studied for erectile dysfunction, general, libido, and fertility. Due to sustainability issues and rampant adulteration, seek organically cultivated, woods-grown ginseng from reputable companies.

Ashwagandha is a more sustainable alternative, well tolerated by most, gently supporting testosterone and libido in all genders, improving mood, easing stress, and enhancing fertility. Maca may also provide general support as a nutritious, adaptogenic, and gently libido-enhancing herb. It tends to be particularly useful in menopause and andropause to promote hormone balance and uplift the mood.

Menopausal libido issues may be helped by herbs like hops, fenugreek, and others already mentioned such as tribulus, epimedium, muira puama, shatavari, and ashwagandha.

Buyer Beware, Tips for Choosing Quality Libido Supplements

Unfortunately, the libido supplement industry is one of our worst for dangerous adulteration, unsafe formulas, and unsubstantiated claims. Seek libido herbs from companies you already trust and consider creating your own routines from single herb products. Always double-check herb-drug interactions and contraindications. Yohimbe is found in many libido supplements, and while it does have “herbal Viagra”-like actions, it’s also quite dangerous and not generally recommended.

The Big Picture of Experiencing Low Libido

Keep in mind that libido is the “canary in a coal mine” for various states of imbalance. This includes pharmaceutical side effects, diseases, stress, relationship issues, mental well-being and trauma, nutrient deficiencies... In addition to herbs, consider your root causes of low libido and do your best to address them directly, talking with your partner if you have one, and enlisting the aid of a professional if necessary.

Sources: 

Adaptogens by David Winston with Steven Maimes ($19.99, Healing Arts Press, 2019)

Adaptogens in Medical Herbalism by Donald R. Yance ($50, Healing Arts Press, 2013)

Botanical Medicine for Women’s Health, 2nd edition, by Aviva Romm ($73.95, Churchill Livingstone)

“A double-blind, randomized, pilot dose-finding study of maca root (L. meyenii) for the management of SSRI-induced sexual dysfunction” by C.M. Dording et al., CNS Neuroscience & Therapeutics, 2008

“Efficacy and safety of ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) root extract in improving sexual function in women...” by D.S. Langade at al., Biomed Research International, 10/15

“Herbs and erectile disfunction: A review of traditional use and modern clinical evidence” by L. Woolven and T. Snider, HerbalGram, 2013, American Botanical Council

The Male Herbal, 2nd Edition, by James Green ($16.99, Crossing Press, 2007)

“Subjective effects of Lepidium meyenii (maca) extract on well-being and sexual performances in patients with mild erectile dysfunction” by Z.T. Cicero et al., Andrologia, 4/09

Contributor

Maria Noël Groves, RH (AHG)

Maria Noël Groves, RH (AHG), is the best-selling, award-winning author of Body into Balance: An Herbal Guide to Holistic Self Care and Grow Your Own Herbal Remedies. Maria’s a registered professional herbalist with the American Herbalists Guild and a graduate of the Southwest School of Botanical Medicine and Rosemary Gladstar’s Sage Mountain. Learn more about Maria and herbs at Wintergreen Botanicals.