Gianne Rayandayan, Clinical Herbalist
Everybody is different, and so is our relationship to our sexual desire, or ‘libido’. Our stressors, our diets, our cultural upbringings, and our relationship to sex itself differ from person to person.
Therefore, we must consider the individual when addressing any health goal, including libido. What’s more, proper nutrition is very important. There are a lot of physiological functions that go into arousal– even at a minute cellular level! That is why if building libido for the long-run is your goal, it is important to cover your nutritional bases. Even something like starting the day with a nourishing breakfast, or drinking enough water, or taking a good multivitamin can support libido substantially.
So, when supporting libido holistically, ask yourself these 4 questions:
- Where is your health as a whole?
- What is your relationship to stress– how do you feel at the end of the day?
- What is the state of your hormones?
- Where can sensuality be expressed and honored in your life?
You will find that ‘Libido’ is a topic with many layers to undress. Thankfully, botanicals are an excellent way to meet and support our individual needs!
Herbs in this blogpost: Maca, Ashwagandha, Ginseng, Horny Goat Weed (Epimedium), Valerian, Skullcap, Ginger, Cacao, Rose, Cardamom
Stimulants, Relaxants, and Adaptogens
Whether you’ve experienced it first-hand or not-- stress is a (libido) killer. Our bodies regulate sex hormones and stress hormones through the same pathways. Stress hormones like cortisol and adrenaline are necessary for our survival-- but too much can easily shift the balance of our hormones as a whole. Fortunately, there are many wonderful botanicals called ‘adaptogens’ that are known for supporting this entire system.
For this reason, Maca root is one of our favorites for supporting a healthy sex drive! It is a clinically effective endocrine modulator– one of the ways it improves libido is by bringing our hormones to a better state of balance 5, 12.
Maca is an ‘adaptogenic aphrodisiac’, meaning it not only makes our bodies more resilient to daily stressors, but increases sexual drive and vitality. This is especially important for women, whose libidos are highly affected by hormone levels.
Even women going through peri and post menopause– life stages where estrogen and testosterone naturally decrease 8 – will find this herb helpful! The same applies for folks experiencing a decrease in sex drive from taking antidepressants. 10
Ashwagandha and Ginseng are other adaptogenic aphrodisiacs to consider. They offer the same benefits that most adaptogens do, but with the added benefit of supporting testosterone levels, libido, and sperm count 11. Ashwagandha is more of a nourishing adrenal tonic, whereas Ginseng is very stimulating-- important factors to consider when addressing your individual needs, because what works for one person will not work for someone else.
If you find it difficult to be present with your partner because of workday tension, herbs like Valerian, Scullcap, and Passionflower can be a nice calming ‘reset’ before getting ‘in the mood’. Kava is also a great herb that promotes feelings of interconnectedness. For people in need of relaxing aphrodisiacs, I like recommending Wishgarden’s Serious Relaxer or our Remedy Kava blend. Even a custom herbal tea would make for a relaxing home ritual.
Bringing blood to our erogenous zones (and frankly, our entire bodies!) will heighten sensation and pleasure. This may seem like a no-brainer but it is in fact very important. Not just for men, but for women– circulation is an important factor for vaginal lubrication (in conjunction with mucosal membrane health, which can be directly supported with herbs like Sea Buckthorn)
Modern research supports the Ginsengs– namely Red Korean (Asian) and American Ginseng– as traditional male aphrodisiacs. These herbs support blood vessel dilation around the male genital area. Ginseng’s actions, like most herbs, are broad. But studies show that one of the ways Ginseng improves blood flow is through its interaction with the nitric oxide (NO) produced in male-organ tissue 7. NO itself acts as a vasodilator. Horny Goat Weed (Epimedium) has been studied for its ability to increase NO in the male genital area due to its levels of the flavonoid icariin. 9
L-Arginine is an amino acid that helps create NO. You can take L-Arginine as a daily supplement. Like American and Korean Ginseng, Nitric oxide causes blood vessels to relax and open up, allowing for increased circulation throughout the body.
You’ll find Ginseng, Horny Goat Weed, L-Arginine, and many of the herbs we’ve discussed for libido in our Male Virility Extract. It’s a great product to take in the moment ‘as needed’! To gain deeper traction over time, consider Libido-M or Integrative Therapeutics’ Testosterone Formula.
Half the fun of creating pleasure for ourselves lies in how we interact with the world around us. I immediately think of a scene in the film Amelie, where the main character luxuriously dips her hand into a sack of grains, for no other reason than she liked how it felt! If we are feeling disconnected from our own sensuality and desires, herbs can help us create rituals outside of our daily lives to engage with our senses.
Even an ‘every day’ herb like Ginger can be a pleasure to work with. Because of ginger’s warm, aromatic, and stimulating qualities, you can work with it internally and externally– Add some Ginger tincture to a hot cup of tea, or grate some fresh ginger root directly into a steaming footbath.
Herbs like Cacao and Rose petals have a wonderful effect on the nervous system and cardiovascular system, and can be very ‘heart-opening’ if you work with them intentionally. Hawthorn berry has a similar effect. If you love aromatherapy, spices and aromatic oils like Cardamom, Sandalwood, and Nutmeg can be fantastic to work with, in and out of the bedroom! A little goes a long way.
As always, we are here to support you as an individual– if you desire a more intimate approach to your health, stop by Remedy for a chat with one of our Clinical Herbalists or set up a 1-on-1 appointment. We look forward to seeing you–
Happy Valentine’s Day!
- 2016. Mars, Brigitte. The Desktop Guide to Herbal Medicine. P. 196-197
- 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. doi: 10.1046/j.1439-0272.2002.00519.x. PMID: 12472620.
- K. Gauthaman, A. P. Ganesan, and R. N. V. Prasad, “Sexual effects of puncturevine (Tribulus terrestris) extract (protodioscin): an evaluation using a rat model,” The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, vol. 9, no. 2, pp. 257–265, 2003.