Natural Enhancement For Female Libido

Written by Dr. Jewel Alfoure, ND

Natural Enhancement For Female Libido

The Blue Pills For Women?

  • Male sexual enhancement is readily available in pharmaceutical form.

  • Female sexual enhancement is still not pharmaceutically available.

  • When it comes to enhancing libido, drugs take a bottom-up approach.

  • The bottom-up approach is limited in efficacy for both males and females.

It seems like there is an endless array of options to enhance the male libido, but when it comes to the female libido, there is hardly anything at all. Pharmaceuticals that target libido appear to all be concerned with the "bottom-up approach, which is the approach of enhancing blood flow to the genitals and hoping for an enhancement to take place this way. While improving blood flow may be an approach with some efficacy for some males, its effectiveness is limited for females. Even after about 30 years since discovering pharmaceuticals geared towards enhancing the male libido, there still appears to be very little out there in terms of enhancing female libido (1). 

The Female Erection?

  • The lack of a sexual enhancement agent for women is not due to an erection.

  • Females experience an erection-like increase in the size of the clitoral bulb.

  • A change in the skin tone of the vulva to a more rosy/ pink skin tone also takes place upon sexual arousal. 

  • Accompanying the colour changes, there is an increase in the size of the vaginal lips and a pulling back of the clitoral hood that takes place upon female sexual arousal.

  • The most evident, well-known sign of sexual stimulation for women is the increase in the lubrication of the vagina. 

Female sexual dysfunction is an alteration in a woman's sexual response. Alterations include changes in feelings of desire, arousal or excitement, or even satisfaction. While the first sign of sexual arousal for women includes healthy levels of vaginal lubrication, women are not free of erectile tissues. The truth is, the structure known as the clitoris is the female structure homologous to the penis. Like the penis, the clitoris is made of erectile tissues that fill with blood upon sexual arousal (2). However, the female erection is easier to miss due to the size and the location of the clitoris. In addition, a good portion of the clitoris is not visible, so its erection is a lot more subtle. Therefore, enhancers of genital blood flow may play a role in enhancing female libido, but libido is much more than just genital blood flow (3). 

Libido for Women

For women, libido is a combination of a healthy physical and emotional/ mental state. Most libido issues occur because of stress, physical or emotional, followed by hormonal irregularities. 

Women tend to have a lot of responsibilities. While they are also blessed with a natural system of seasonal regulation, the menstrual cycle, for many, that system becomes a lot more of an obstacle than a blessing. 

The menstrual cycle is the system for organizing the entire female body, including sexuality rhythmically. The issue is that most women cannot listen to their natural rhythms as daily life gives very little space for women to slow down or take some time off when their body needs a break. The lack of space to slow down is a lack of optimal hormone regulation. The body is forced to perform at times when it is meant to slow down the stress of overwork, which results in issues with metabolic health and mood (4). 

Why The Low Libido?

  • Hormonal irregularities

    • Low androgen levels

    • Low estrogen levels

  • Low mood/ neurotransmitter levels

  • Low thyroid function

  • Adrenal fatigue/ stress 

  • Other factors 

While reasons for low libido can be complex when it comes to female libido enhancement, we know that enhancing testosterone significantly enhances female libido. Additionally, enhancing estrogen is another significant factor in improving libido (5). Therefore, estrogen improvement plays a significant role in strengthening postmenopausal women's libido.

Other factors that have shown efficacy for enhancing female libido include improving healthy neurotransmitter levels (6). Dopamine, for example, is the reward neurotransmitter in the brain—the enhancement of dopamine results in more reward-seeking behaviour. 

On the other hand, dopamine has another significant function in the brain. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that acts as an antagonist against prolactin. Prolactin is the hormone for breastfeeding. The hormone is critical for allowing a woman to lactate and make healthy food for her child. When released outside of breastfeeding, it can be detrimental to health. Prolactin lowers libido, lowers mood and makes the body more prone to weight gain. Additionally, it suppresses the production of hormones. Thus, prolactin reduces fertility, alongside a significant lowering of libido (7,8). 

Thyroid health also plays a role in maintaining healthy libido as the thyroid is the gland that wakes up the body and signals the initiation of healthy functioning. During periods of prolonged stress, our adrenal glands become the supporters of the body. When the adrenals become fatigued, the body is more likely to have unhealthy hormone levels. Additionally, metabolic fluctuations such as spikes in blood sugar can quickly occur (9,10). 

For postmenopausal women, the body will rely significantly on the adrenal gland to ensure healthy hormone levels. However, when the adrenal gland becomes fatigued, the body has difficulty establishing healthy hormone levels to maintain critical tissues such as hair, skin, nails, and bones. It also has a hard time keeping a healthy mood and healthy libido (11). 

Ingredients of Healthy Female Libido 

Maca (Lepidium meyenii)- The potatoe-like maca root is also known as Peruvian ginseng. Appointed the name "ginseng," Maca is known to be a healthy adaptogen for both men and women. It shines in literature as a well-tolerated form of mood support that can alleviate SSRI-induced sexual dysfunction in postmenopausal women. Some studies point towards the root's ability to function as an enhancer of well-being during the transitional perimenopause years (12, 13). 

Maca is an adaptogen that helps the body maintain healthy energy levels well into the afternoon hours. Additionally, for those who are more active, Maca enhances sports performance, boosts libido, and enhances overall mood. Maca is free from caffeine though it is known to have a reliable energy kick that has minimal effect on sleep. 

Overall, Maca is also an adrenal nourishment plant as it helps the body balance adrenal hormone and acts as a balancer for the entire endocrine system. If required, Maca can stimulate the body to produce more estrogen. While the functionality of Maca on the hormonal system of the body is poorly understood, Maca is shown to enhance adrenal, ovarian and thyroid function. 

Thus Maca is not only an enhancer of libido for postmenopausal women; it is an overall boost for any stressed woman who can use a healthy adaptogen (14). 

Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) is known as the herb for female sexual libido. Ashwagandha has been employed safely for the enhancement of female libido for centuries. Ayurvedic medicine has used it to enhance both libido as well as fertility. Ashwagandha has been demonstrated by clinical studies to improve female libido and lead to more satisfying sexual encounters. Parameters that appeared to be enhanced with Ashwagandha include sexual arousal, lubrication, orgasm and satisfaction. In other words, Ashwagandha appears to enhance all parameters of sexual health for women (15). 

Ashwagandha is also an adaptogen used for thousands of years by Ayurvedic medicine to enhance energy levels. In addition, it is known to enhance thyroid function and eliminate fatigue, improve sleep quality and act as an overall stress relieving agent. 

When it comes to boosting libido and sexuality, Ashwagandha is not only a booster of nitric oxide levels; it is also a factor in improving testosterone levels and an overall enhancer of energy levels. The herb is not only a promoter of healthy vaginal sensitivity and lubrication but a general promoter of vigour and sexual potential. As mentioned previously, most women are known to have their libido enhanced significantly with testosterone levels, and Ashwagandha is a healthy stimulant of the synthesis of more endogenous testosterone for both men and women (16). 

Ashwagandha has the unique feature of enhancing libido utilizing a reduction in cortisol; hence it directly lowers the effect stress has on libido. It also is associated with an increase in DHEA; thus, not only does it diminish cortisol depletion (which lowers testosterone), it boosts the levels of precursors to testosterone. All of the cortisol lowering/ hormone enhancing findings were reported on randomized controlled trials on humans (17).  

Other health benefits attributed to Ashwagandha include anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, anti-mutagenic, anxiolytic, immunomodulator, neurological, endocrine and cardiovascular tonic. Some studies show that Ashwagandha exhibits anxiolytic effects and anti-depressant effects. Those effects are linked to an influence on sex hormones as its effectiveness at enhancing luteinizing hormone, and follicular stimulating hormone are supported by literature (18). 

Another notable booster of DHEA is the mighty Puncturevine (Tribulus Terrestris). Unlike Ashwagandha, Tribulus has the reputation of being a testosterone enhancer for men. While true in its potential to increase testosterone levels, Tribulus is not a hormone booster as much as a modulator. The same plant given to men to combat low testosterone can be given to women with disorders such as Poly Cystic Ovarian Syndrome to lower a relative elevation of testosterone. Including Tribulus in female libido-boosting supplements means a better safety margin and testosterone enhancement to the highest safest, libido-enhancing levels of hormones (18). 

For women who are going through the menopause transition, sometimes the issue is lower testosterone and lower estrogen. Lower estrogen means less capacity for sexual stimulation and dryer, more atrophic vaginal tissues. Though estrogen enhancement can be done safely with careful hormone replacement, it is always best to allow the body the space to enhance hormones regularly with modulators. Hops (Humulus lupulus) provide a unique capacity to boost estrogen levels by supplying the body with a very potent phytoestrogen known as prenylnaringenin (20). As a phytoestrogen, some studies point towards the capacity of prenylnaringenin to enhance the experience of menopause, reduce hot flashes and night sweats, decrease depressive symptoms, increase vaginal lubrication, protect the cardiovascular system and improve bone health (21). 

 

References 

  1. Osterloh IH. The discovery and development of Viagra®(sildenafil citrate). InSildenafil 2004 (pp. 1-13). Birkhäuser, Basel.

  2. Baskin L, Shen J, Sinclair A, Cao M, Liu X, Liu G, Isaacson D, Overland M, Li Y, Cunha GR. Development of the human penis and clitoris. Differentiation. 2018 Sep 1;103:74-85.

  3. Toesca A, Stolfi VM, Cocchia D. Immunohistochemical study of the corpora cavernosa of the human clitoris. Journal of Anatomy. 1996 Jun;188(Pt 3):513.

  4. Brown SG, Calibuso MJ, Roedl AL. Women’s sexuality, well-being, and the menstrual cycle: Methodological issues and their interrelationships. Archives of Sexual Behavior. 2011 Aug;40(4):755-65.

  5. Davis SR, Tran J. Testosterone influences libido and well being in women. Trends in Endocrinology & Metabolism. 2001 Jan 1;12(1):33-7.

  6. Zhang SX, Lutas A, Yang S, Diaz A, Fluhr H, Nagel G, Gao S, Andermann ML. Hypothalamic dopamine neurons motivate mating through persistent cAMP signalling. Nature. 2021 Sep;597(7875):245-9.

  7. Fitzgerald P, Dinan TG. Prolactin and dopamine: what is the connection? A review article. Journal of Psychopharmacology. 2008 Mar;22(2_suppl):12-9.

  8. Elsholtz HP, Lew AM, Albert PR, Sundmark VC. Inhibitory control of prolactin and Pit-1 gene promoters by dopamine. Dual signaling pathways required for D2 receptor-regulated expression of the prolactin gene. Journal of Biological Chemistry. 1991 Dec 5;266(34):22919-25.

  9. Larsson O, Sundbom CM, Åstedt B. Gynaecomastia and Diseases of the Thyroid. European Journal of Endocrinology. 1963 Sep 1;44(1):133-8.

  10. Krassas GE, Poppe K, Glinoer D. Thyroid function and human reproductive health. Endocrine reviews. 2010 Oct 1;31(5):702-55.

  11. Greenblatt RB, Colle ML, Mahesh VB. Ovarian and adrenal steroid production in the postmenopausal woman. Obstetrics and gynecology. 1976 Apr 1;47(4):383-7.

  12. Dording, C.M., Fisher, L., Papakostas, G., Farabaugh, A., Sonawalla, S., Fava, M. and Mischoulon, D., 2008. A double‐blind, randomized, pilot dose‐finding study of maca root (L. meyenii) for the management of SSRI‐induced sexual dysfunction. CNS neuroscience & therapeutics, 14(3), pp.182-191.

  13. Dording, C.M., Schettler, P.J., Dalton, E.D., Parkin, S.R., Walker, R.S., Fehling, K.B., Fava, M. and Mischoulon, D., 2015. A double-blind placebo-controlled trial of maca root as treatment for antidepressant-induced sexual dysfunction in women. Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, 2015.

  14. Lee MS, Kim TH, Lee HW. The Use of Maca (Lepidium meyenii) for Health Care: An Overview of Systematic Reviews. Sustained Energy for Enhanced Human Functions and Activity. 2017 Jan 1:167-72.

  15. Dongre S, Langade D, Bhattacharyya S. Efficacy and safety of Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) root extract in improving sexual function in women: a pilot study. BioMed research international. 2015 Oct 4;2015.

  16. Dongre, S., Efficacy and Safety of Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) Root Extract in Improving Sexual Function in Women: a double-‐blind, randomized, placebo-‐controlled study. Trupti Hospital & Santati Fertility Center, Mumbai. Lopez, Dr. Len.“The stress infertility connection.” http://www. cbn. com/health/nutrition/DrLen_051.

  17. Lopresti, A.L., Drummond, P.D. and Smith, S.J., 2019. A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled, crossover study examining the hormonal and vitality effects of ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) in aging, overweight males. American journal of men's health, 13(2), p.1557988319835985.

  18. Pratte MA, Nanavati KB, Young V, Morley CP. An alternative treatment for anxiety: a systematic review of human trial results reported for the Ayurvedic herb ashwagandha (Withania somnifera). The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine. 2014 Dec 1;20(12):901-8.

  19. Akhtari E, Raisi F, Keshavarz M, Hosseini H, Sohrabvand F, Bioos S, Kamalinejad M, Ghobadi A. Tribulus terrestris for treatment of sexual dysfunction in women: randomized double-blind placebo-controlled study. DARU Journal of Pharmaceutical Sciences. 2014 Dec;22(1):1-7.

  20. Milligan SR, Kalita JC, Pocock V, Van De Kauter V, Stevens JF, Deinzer ML, Rong H, De Keukeleire D. The endocrine activities of 8-prenylnaringenin and related hop (Humulus lupulus L.) flavonoids. The journal of clinical endocrinology & metabolism. 2000 Dec 1;85(12):4912-5.

  21. Possemiers S, Heyerick A, Robbens V, De Keukeleire D, Verstraete W. Activation of proestrogens from hops (Humulus lupulus L.) by intestinal microbiota; conversion of isoxanthohumol into 8-prenylnaringenin. Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry. 2005 Aug 10;53(16):6281-8.


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