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Trouble between the sheets? If your sex drive is drooping, don’t despair, and don’t feel alone. Many doctors say they can’t think of a day that goes by without at least one patient (usually more, and both male and female) complaining of a low libido, and wanting to know what to do about it. It is affecting more young people than it used to do in the past. Fortunately, Mother Nature has a range of treasures in her aphrodisiac chest to help you get it back up again – safely. MS
By Marika Sboros
Low libido is becoming a modern plague. Known in clinical terms as hypoactive sexual desire disorder (HSDD), it does not respect its elders. It affects younger and younger people these days.
Some research suggests it affects more women than in the past. Experts say that’s probably a function, at least in part, of the “success” of drugs to treat erectile problems in men. The most well known, thanks to brilliant marketing, is Viagra – the trade name for the active ingredient, sildenafil. As one specialist put it: “The man gets a prescription for Viagra and he’s ready to rock and roll, while (the woman) is thinking: ‘Hey, where’s my pill?’ If she’s not ready to join him for a ride, there can be real problems.”
However, while the human sex drive is generally more multifactorial in females than in males, many causes are common in both – and not just age. Stress, anxiety, and exhaustion are powerful passion killers. So are medical conditions, such as heart disease, hypertension and diabetes that are becoming epidemic worldwide.
Drugs, including anti-depressants, antihistamines, beta blockers (taken by millions around the world to reduce high blood pressure) and cholesterol-lowering drugs known as statins – which some doctors think everyone over 40 should be taking. Recreational drugs such as cocaine, also affect sexual function adversely.
Unless your lowered sex drive is from a serious medical condition, you don’t have to go the pharmaceutical route for help. That’s just as well, since it’s in the job description of modern drugs, even (and in some cases especially) the most life-saving ones – to cause horrible side effects.
Viagra commonly causes headache, upset stomach, and changes in color vision (a blue tinge), and in rare cases, sudden loss of vision in one or both eyes, and “priapism” – an erection that won’t go away. That might not seem like a bad side effect, but it is. An erection that goes on for too long (medical specialists say that’s around four or more hours), requires urgent medical attention, because untreated priapism can permanently damage the penis.
When low libido is from stress, or its related close cousins of fatigue, exhaustion, anxiety and depression, it makes sense to go for natural, safer treatment options. So if those are the reasons that your sex drive is down, here are five top tips to get it up again:
- Rhodiola – an ancient herb sometimes called golden root, it grows and thrives in dry, sandy ground at high altitudes in Arctic areas of Europe and Asia. Rhodiola is an adaptogen, a group of hardy, rare plants that have unique abilities to “adapt” to the body’s specific needs. Former South African Dr Frank Lipman who now practices integrative medicine in the US, describes adaptogenic plants as “nature’s miracle stress and fatigue fighters”. Their effects are initially subtle, he says, but “real and undeniable”. In an article in the Life Extension Foundation magazine, Chris Kilham, author of Hot Plants (St Martin’s Griffin, 2004) calls Rhodiola —particularly the species known as Rhodiola rosea— the “single most beneficial medicinal plant in the world”. When it comes to a mechanism of action, research suggests Rhodiola may help block the breakdown of the feel-good hormones dopamine and serotonin. Diluting 20 to 30 drops of a good extract product in a glass of water is recommended, for both men and women.
- Maca (Lepidium meyenii) – Maca is a vegetable in the same family as broccoli, and has been part of the culture of indigenous people in the Andes region for centuries. According to a Life Extension Foundation magazine report, research shows a sound scientific basis for its reputed aphrodisiac and fertility properties: Peruvian research in 2002 showed that Maca improved subjective reports of male sexual desire compared with placebo. US research by scientists at Massachusetts General Hospital in 2008, showed that Maca can improve low libido among women, and inability to achieve orgasm among men, that are common side effects of a class of modern antidepressant drugs known as selective-serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRI), such as Prozac and Zoloft.
- Pumpkin seeds – US heart surgeon and TV celebrity Dr Mehmet Oz is a big fan. He says pumpkin seeds contain the “ultimate sex mineral” – zinc. (Oysters also contain high levels of zinc, the reason for their reputation as an aphrodisiac). Oz says research shows with a healthy sex drive have higher levels of testosterone than those whose libido is flagging. One way of keeping testosterone high or increasing its levels, is to add zinc to your diet, Oz says, because zinc blocks the enzyme that converts testosterone to oestrogen. He recommends a quarter cup serving of pumpkin seeds. Other food sources of zinc include sesame seeds.
- Ginger – You either love it or you hate it. It’s best to love it, because it has a reputation as one of the “most erotic foods”. Ginger comes from the root of the ginger plant, and is a warming herb that boosts circulation and blood flow, particularly to the sexual organs. Garlic does the same thing, but ginger smells a whole lot better on your breath, which increases its aphrodisiac properties. Ginger is high in magnesium and potassium that help to make it a good digestive aid,. It also has anti-inflammatory effects that help to boost a drooping sex drive. A teaspoon or two of an organic ginger powder sprinkled over food, in cooking, or chopped up ginger to make a tea, can do the trick.
- Watermelon – The lush red flesh of the fruit is shown in research to contain a plant compound called citrulline, that has beneficial effects on the cardiovascular and immune systems – and a similar mechanism of action to Viagra. It relaxes blood vessels and improves blood flow, though it isn’t nearly as organ specific as Viagra, according to US researchers at the Texas A&M University in 2008 . Unfortunately, most of watermelon’s citrulline is found in the inedible rind of the fruit. Still, the more scientists research it, the more they say it is an “amazing fruit” with a range of “natural enhancers to the human body”.
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