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What Causes Low Libido?
Let’s face it. In a single day, nothing crosses the minds of men and women more than sex and there’s nothing wrong with that. It’s a natural and primal drive that releases stress, forms bonds, and provides a wealth of other health benefits. That’s why it is surprising that research shows libido to be significantly decreased when compared data from the 1950s. The stressful frenzy of modern life is largely responsible. It has become normal for sex to be put on the backburner in order to deal with seemingly more pertinent matters like bills and work, not to mention, relationship issues, poor lifestyle habits and anxiety. The common factor impacted by all of the above is testosterone, a key player in sex drive (yes, even in women!). While this can happen to anyone, especially with age, the good news is that it can be largely avoided by implementing healthy lifestyle habits and stress management.
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How To Naturally Boost Libido
It’s best to begin with natural lifestyle interventions in the form of small, yet impactful changes. A few lifestyle modifications that everyone can make and benefit from include the following:
- De-stressing: Stress management is key. Chronic worrying about work or finances for example raises cortisol, which has an inverse relationship with testosterone.
- Eating: A diet low in processed sugar and alcohol, and high in healthy fats has been shown to boost T levels.
- Moving: Exercise consisting of heavy compound lifts (think deadlifts and squats) in conjunction with HIIT has shown to be the most beneficial. While great for the heart, steady-state cardio like long distance running has actually be shown to decrease testosterone.
- Sleeping: A good night’s sleep is probably the most underrated contributor to healthy T levels. Studies show that the majority of testosterone is released during sleep. Sleep not only restores energy and prepares you for the next day, it also regulates hormone levels. Poor sleep can have devastating effects on one’s testosterone after just a few days. In fact, a 2011 study restricted healthy male participants sleep to only 5 hours/night and daytime testosterone levels were decreased by 10% to 15%.
For the majority of people, these simple changes will deliver huge benefits. But what if you’ve done your best to dial in these lifestyle factors yet that desire still isn’t there? It’s time to look to nature and dive into herbal supplements for boosting libido. Many doctors are quick to prescribe pharmaceutical solutions like hormone replacement therapy. However, once you begin taking exogenous injections, your body will halt natural production of these hormones making you reliant HRT for the rest of your life. The following list of herbal supplements have been proven to be effective at enhancing libido, have a history of safe use, and can be used for as long or as little as you see fit without any negative side effects.
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The Five Best Herbal Supplements To Boost Libido
1. Mucuna Pruriens
- What it is: Known as the “Magic Velvet Bean”, Mucuna is a legume native to the tropics of Africa and Asia. It has a long history of use in the ancient Indian system of Ayurvedic medicine. It has also been the subject of modern medical studies regarding its use in managing male infertility and as an aphrodisiac, as well as for its neuroprotective effects. It is actually the seeds of the Mucuna bean that boost libido due to an amino acid called L-dopa, which converts to “the feel-good chemical” dopamine. Elevated levels of dopamine help to decrease the body’s stress hormone, cortisol, which in turn upregulates testosterone. Through this cascade of effects, research has proven Mucuna to improve sexual drive, function, and performance in men.
- How to use it: Most studies on the libido enhancing properties of Mucuna administered a daily dose between 3 and 5 grams (3,000-5,000 mg). This amount was shown to increase the sexual activity of male rats considerably by stimulating testosterone level. Mucuna capsules and powders can be easily found online or at your neighborhood vitamin shop. Unfortunately, most of these supplements only provide 300-1000 mg per serving. Since doubling, tripling, or even quadrupling the suggested serving size to get the necessary 3 to 5 grams is costly and possibly unsafe, try stacking a moderate dose of Mucuna (1200 mg) with the other herbal supplements on this list.
2. Horny Goat Weed
- What it is: The plant’s name in Chinese, Yin Yang Huo, directly translates to Horny Goat Weed. You can probably guess why. Used for hundreds of years in traditional Chinese medicine to treat fatigue and sexual problems, modern research has shown Epimedium (its scientific name), to restore low levels of testosterone, which accounts for reported boosts in libido. The aphrodisiac effects of Horny Goat Weed come from a flavonoid compound it contains called Icariin.
- How to use it: In rat studies, a dosage of 40 mg per kg of body weight was shown to be effective at boosting testosterone. This was an extract containing 80 mg per kg of Icariin. The icariin is what is important to look for when supplementing with Horny Goat Weed. This equates to approximately 900 mg of Icariin for a 150lb person, or 1,200 mg for a 200lb person.
3. Stinging Nettle Extract
- What it is: Stinging Nettle grows all over the world and its use as a herbal remedy dates back to the ancient Greeks. Named for its stinging leaves, the plant ironically has been shown to be anti-inflammatory and has a long history of use as a natural pain reliever. Stinging nettle may help in cases of a decreased sex drive and function due to its ability to keep testosterone bioavailable in the body. Compounds called lignans found in the herb help to counteract sex hormone-binding globulin (SHBG) which binds to testosterone, rendering it unavailable and causing sexual drive and function to take a dive. Supplementing with Nettle has been shown to prevent SHBG from removing testosterone from circulation, thereby enhancing libido and overall vitality.
- How to use it: Nettle is available in a variety of forms including dried leaf, powdered extract, capsules, tablets, and even as a root tincture. Generally, tinctures are considered optimal, but because there are minimal amounts of lignans found in the root, go with an option derived from the leaves of the plant. Freeze-dried extracts of the leaves, sold in 500 mg capsules, are an effective and efficient form of consumption. Try taking these at breakfast with the other encapsulated herbs on the list.
4. Kava Kava Extract
- What it is: The Polynesians have been using kava root for its calming effects for thousands of years. Originally used as a ceremonial drink in Polynesian culture, today, it’s considered a quick, easy, and safe way to achieve a relaxed state. Research shows that compounds called lactones in kava act to naturally promote relaxation and help eliminate stress and anxiety. So why is kava included on a list of top libido boosting herbs? Because there is an inverse relationship between cortisol, the stress hormone, and testosterone. Not to mention, many men cite nervousness and performance anxiety as reasons they lack sexual motivation. Kava helps take the edge off without any sedative effects (like alcohol).
- How to use it: When it comes to kava, there are a variety of ways to consume it, including teas, powders, pastes, capsules, and even kava candy. For a fast-acting, all natural option, go with a kava tincture in spray form. It’s easy to keep in your pocket so you have it when you need it, and has proven to be effective. Unlike the other herbal supplements on this list, you don’t need use it every day. Whenever you feel like winding down, try 5-10 sprays under the tongue for an immediate effect.
5. Tribulus Terrestris
- What it is: As stated before, there are many causes of low libido. For those that actually don’t have a problem with low testosterone, Tribulus may be your best bet. It has been shown to effective for increasing libido but does not impact testosterone. Researchers are not really sure of the mechanism by which Tribulus enhances sex drive but studies repeatedly demonstrate its efficacy on both men and women.
- How to use it: Depending on personal preference, Tribulus Terrestris can be consumed in capsule, liquid, or powdered extract form. Capsules range from 300-1500 mg, the most common being around 650 mg. In this human study on sexual dysfunction, participants were given 7.5 mg of Tribulus for 4 weeks and reported significant improvements. Therefore, a moderate dosage is more than enough to experience beneficial effects. Before downing a handful of caps and pulling up Tinder, start on the low end and work your way up. Taking too much can lead to unwanted side effects like diarrhea, so probably best to take it for a test drive.
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Don’t Waste Your Time: 3 Herbal Supplements NOT To Take For Libido
While the world of herbal supplements offers valuable compounds that have been proven to be effective, it is also known for being unregulated and at times deceptive. There are more than a few well known herbal supplements for libido that have been proven to be either ineffective or unsafe despite their claims and supposed popularity. The following are herbal supplements NOT to take if looking to safely enhance your sex drive.
- What it is: Bulbine is a South African herb that has been proven to increase testosterone and lower estrogen levels in rat studies.
- Why you shouldn’t waste your time: While in rat models it has proven to be potent and efficacious, it can damage the liver and kidneys similar to a steroid cycle. Furthermore, taking too much has actually been shown to decrease T levels.
Zinc and Magnesium
- What it is: Both affordable and safe, these minerals are part of the ever popular ZMA formula frequently recommended as a testosterone boosters for athletes.
- Why you shouldn’t waste your time: If you’re deficient, supplementing with zinc or magnesium can help bring your testosterone levels back up to your baseline. However, supplementing with additional zinc and magnesium will not increase testosterone above normal levels.
D-Aspartic Acid (D-AA)
- What it is: One study showed that men taking D-AA boosted testosterone levels in 20-23 year old males with an average increase of 42% in just 12 days. This created an initial craze, launching D-AA into the rankings as one of the best libido boosting supplements on the market.
- Why you shouldn’t waste your time: Patience is a virtue. Unfortunately, the supplement was found to be overhyped when another study done over a longer period of time found that testosterone levels returned to baseline after a month. While some evidence shows that D-AA promotes fertility and testosterone when supplemented by infertile men, there has been no measurable effects on those with normal testosterone levels.
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Can You Really Boost Libido With Herbal Supplements?
Without a doubt, stacking the aforementioned herbal supplements can increase sex drive and overall vitality in a matter of weeks. While these herbs have a tried and true history of use as alternative treatments and have been well-researched as libido boosters, it’s critical to include the other pieces to the puzzle. Taking supplements without first focusing on optimizing your diet, stress management, and sleep is like stepping over $100 bills to pick up a few nickels. The mental game is equally important. Whether you’re in a business deal, athletic endeavor, or the bedroom, the ability to psych yourself out is powerful. Herbs help. Healthy living helps. But healthy thoughts are hugely import too. Turn to your partner or close friends to talk it out, set aside ten minutes a day for meditation; whatever gets you back to a good place. With a clear head and a combination of strategies you’ll achieve a quick and lasting libido boost.