8 Powerful, Natural Alternatives To ‘Female Viagra’

Via: Kotin | Shutterstock

 
1,557
comments

by Luke Sumpter

on August 27, 2015

The United States Food and Drug Administration has recently approved a controversial pink pill containing the drug flibanserin, that’s being marketed to women as treatment to improve sexual function.

Branded as Addyi by Sprout Pharmaceuticals, who currently own the patent, the drug has been approved in United States to treat a condition known as female hypoactive sexual desire disorder (HSDD). Occurring in up to one-third of adult women in the U.S., according to a paper  published in the National Library of Medicine, researchers define the disorder as: “a deficiency or absence of sexual fantasies and desire for sexual activity that causes marked distress or interpersonal difficulty.”

Via: Nataliia Melnychuk | Shutterstock.

Via: Nataliia Melnychuk | Shutterstock.

An FDA advisory panel voted against approving flibanserin in 2010, when it was first presented by the German pharmaceutical company Boehringer Ingelheim, who originally developed it. After the panel rejected it — on the grounds that the drug’s impact was “not robust enough to justify the risks” — Boehringer Ingelheim passed the patent rights for flibanserin on to Sprout Pharmaceuticals. Known side effects of flibanserin include dizziness, nausea, fatigue, sudden loss of consciousness, lower blood pressure, sleepiness and harmful interactions with alcohol. Sprout Pharmaceuticals subsequently attempted — and failed again — to gain FDA approval in June 2013.

Now, despite major concerns over severe side effects, the drug has been approved, albeit under strict guidelines. The FDA is requiring that Addyi be dispensed only by specially certified and trained doctors and pharmacists, who will be obliged to keep track of any problems associated with daily use of the drug. Thus, essentially, upon release, the American female population at large will be used as a giant study group.

The reason for these highly unusual stipulations is that, after two failed attempts, it wasn’t breakthroughs in science that finally got flibanserin FDA approved. Instead Sprout Pharmaceuticals launched a media blitz to put pressure on the government body. Using the slogan “Even the Score”, Sprout’s spin-masters manipulatively claimed rejection of the drug was fueled by gender bias. Copy on the Even the Score website stated: “There are 26 FDA approved drugs to treat various sexual dysfunctions for men (41 if you count generics!), but still not a single one for women’s most common sexual complaint.”

Understandably, the PR route to FDA approval has been widely criticized. Georgetown University professor Dr Adriane Fugh-Berman, told Marketplace, “This may set a precedent of risky drugs being approved based on public relations campaigns rather than science.”

Not only is it worrying that governing agencies can be swayed by lobbying campaigns that run perpendicular to science, it is also of concern the our society’s answer to a complex sexual disorder is to have women chew on a potentially dangerous pill. Furthermore, unlike Viagra, which is only taken prior to sexual activity by men, Addyi — which is being referred to in the media as “female Viagra” — is intended to be taken on a daily basis, since it is designed to alter overall brain chemistry in ways similar to the neurotransmitters dopamine and serotonin.

Perhaps not surprisingly, the National Consumers League has welcomed the arrival of the little pink pill to the market. Sally Greenberg, the organization’s executive director, was quoted in numerous newspaper reports hailing the arrival of ‘female Viagra.’

“This is the biggest breakthrough in women’s sexual health since the advent of the Pill,” Greenberg enthused in The Telegraph. “Men have 26 different drugs available to treat sexual dysfunction. Now, with this drug’s approval, women finally have one.”

Meanwhile, Reuters quoted a National Consumers League press statement, which took quite a mental leap to claim that the arrival of Addyi somehow “validates (and) legitimizes female sexuality as an important component of health.”

There is no doubt that sexuality is an extremely important component of female health and wellbeing. But, when problems occur, should the road back to health be one that delivers gargantuan profit margins to pharmaceutical companies who are  simultaneously testing a potentially dangerous drug on the very women they are selling it to? The sexual health crisis women are experiencing deserves far more attention and holistic analysis than the cynical symptom suppression offered by such pharmaceutical profit centers.

The aforementioned paper on HSDD, states that there a “various options in the treatment of HSDD in women.” These include “lifestyle changes, treatment of coexisting medical or psychiatric disorders, switching or discontinuing medications that could impact on sexual desire, hormone therapy and marital therapy.”

This is an important statement to consider when presented with the idea that a single pink pill holds the key to treating such a complex condition.

Women’s sexuality does not diminish without reason. For example, 1 in 5 women develop depression in their lifetime, with women being almost twice as susceptible than men to develop the condition. Depression has also been shown to damage libido, as have the antidepressant medications that are ofter prescribed to treat it. How many women with HSDD are suffering from an underlying disorder that is causing the destruction of their libido? Would it not be far more proactive to eliminate the cause, rather then using drugs to suppress HSDD symptoms?

In 2011, The Huffington Post reported that 1 in 4 women were taking antidepressant medications. Antidepressants have a diminishing effect upon the female libido. More pills are not the answer.

Lifestyle modification may well be a far better option for tackling the root cause of HSDD. To augment this, there are various natural herbal remedies available that have been shown to boost the libido without the risk of harmful side effects from drugs such as flibanserin.

Photo: Turnera diffusa. Via  Nordschitz | Licensed under Creative Commons 4.0

Photo: Damania. Via Nordschitz | Licensed under Creative Commons 4.0.

1. Damania (Turnera diffusa) 

Turnera diffusa, commonly known as damania, is native to Mexico, Central America and the West Indies. The leaves of this yellow flower bearing shrub have been used traditionally as an aphrodisiac to boost sexual arousal in both men and women. The herb is also used to alleviate depression, impotence, menstrual problems, anxiety and asthma. It has also been used to improve digestion and treat constipation because of its laxative properties. It’s thought that damania’s ability to boost energy, while delivering increased amounts of oxygen to the genital area, may explain why the plant is able to stimulate the libido.

James Duke, PhD wrote in his book Handbook on Medicinal Herbs (1985) that damiana makes “every nerve tingle with sexual sensation, whetting the appetite of lustful desire.”

Dr. James Meschino, D.C., M.S., N.D. has also commented on this sensation in a research paper he authored entitled “Natural Support for Sexual Performance & Libido Enhancement in Men and Women.” Meschino writes: “In Holland it is renowned for its sexual enhancing qualities and positive effects on reproductive organs. In particular, Damiana has been shown to increase the sensitivity of genital tissues. With aging, sensitivity of these tissues is often reduced due to fewer functioning nerve endings. Damiana helps to compensate for this effect, re-establishing heightened sensitivity and arousal capabilities.”

Such statements add credibility to ancient claims about damiana’s ability to increase blood flow to the clitoris and thus enhance the quality of the female orgasm.

A study conducted at the University of Hawaii’s School of Medicine found that women who took an herbal preparation which included damania (alongside L-arginine, ginseng, ginkgo, calcium, and iron) reported significant improvements in sexual function. A total of 108 females between the ages of 22 and 73, who reported a lack of sexual desire, enrolled in the study. After a period of 4 weeks, the premenopausal women in the group who were given the preparation reported “significant improvement in level of sexual desire…and satisfaction with overall sex life.” Perimenopausal women within the group reported improvements in frequency of intercourse, satisfaction with sexual relationships, and vaginal dryness. Postmenopausal women given the herbal preparation primarily reported increases in levels of sexual desire. The authors concluded that, “Nutritional intervention plays an important role in women’s sexual health” and that herbal compounds of this kind “may be desirable alternative to hormone therapy for sexual concerns.”

Anxiety may also be a major factor in a diminished sex life. Giorgio Corretti, MD and Irene Baldi, MD note an article published by the Psychiatric Times that, “Anxiety plays an important role in the pathogenesis and maintenance of SDs. This co-presence is very common in clinical practice: patients with SDs will often present with an anxiety disorder, and in many cases it is unclear which is the primary disorder.”

Fortunately, damania can aid women who have sexual problems that stem from anxiety. The herb contains the bioflavonoid compound apigenin which has anxiety-reducing effects when consumed in high doses. To back these claims up, a study conducted at the University Institute of Pharmaceutical Sciences at Panjab University in India found various types of damania extract produced anti-anxiety effects within mice.

Photo: Ginkgo biloba tree branch. Via:  l i g h t p o e t | Shutterstock.

Photo: Ginkgo biloba tree branch. Via: l i g h t p o e t | Shutterstock.

2. Ginkgo Biloba

Used in Chinese medicine for epochs, Ginkgo biloba offers another natural pathway for women looking to restore their libido. As well as displaying abilities to heal the retina of the eye, treat depression, ease headaches, sinusitis and vertigo, this herb has been tested clinically for its ability to improve sexual dysfunction.

A paper published by the Department of Psychology at the University of Texas noted that: “Ginkgo biloba extract (GBE) facilitates blood flow, influences nitric oxide systems, and has a relaxant effect on smooth muscle tissue. These processes are important to the sexual response in women and, hence, it is feasible that GBE may have a therapeutic effect.”

The team studied the long-term effects of GBE on sexual function in 68 sexually dysfunctional women and found that, “When combined with sex therapy, but not alone, long-term GBE treatment significantly increased sexual desire and contentment beyond placebo.”

Ginkgo biloba has been reported to have anti-oxidant abilities and improves blood flow to the nervous system and brain. The ability to enhance blood flow, including to the genital regions, may result in heightened sexual sensations.

Photo: Vitex. Via: pittawut | Shutterstock.

Photo: Chasteberry. Via: pittawut | Shutterstock.

3. Chasteberry (Vitex agnus-castus)

Otherwise known as vitex or ‘the women’s herb,’ chasteberry is a superb natural remedy for regulating the female reproductive system. This plant is approved in Germany for premenstrual and menstrual issues. It is believed to elevate sexual desire by boosting the hormone progesterone as well as raising levels of dopamine, a chemical which is associated with the brain’s pleasure and reward centers.

Chasteberry also decreases prolactin in the brain — a chemical which is known to interfere with sexual desire. The herb has also shown promise in reducing the symptoms of premenstrual syndrome and premenstrual dysphoric disorder, and aids in the treatment of fibrocystic breasts and female infertility. Other uses include preventing miscarriage and increasing breast milk supply.

Photo: Ginseng root and tea. Via: hjochen | Shutterstock.

Photo: Korean red ginseng root and tea. Via: hjochen | Shutterstock.

4. Korean Red Ginseng

Boasting 5000 years of historical use, korean red ginseng is also showing promise in the arena of sexual arousal, especially in menopausal women. It is believed its effectiveness is due to the herb’s relaxing effect on the clitoris.

A study conducted by the Department of Urology at Chonnam National University in Korea found that, “Oral administration of KRG extracts improved sexual arousal in menopausal women.” This led the research team to conclude that: “Red ginseng extracts might be used as an alternative medicine in menopausal women to improve their sexual life.”

In addition, ginseng has traditionally be used as a treatment for depression, nausea, tumors, pulmonary problems, dyspepsia, vomiting, nervousness, stress and ulcers. Results from a double-blind, placebo controlled, 14 week study also suggest that when used in combination, ginseng and Ginkgo biloba may contribute to significant improvements in memory.

Photo: Maca root. Via: vainillaychile | Shutterstock.

Photo: Maca root. Via: vainillaychile | Shutterstock.

5. Maca

Found growing in harsh temperatures at high altitude in the Peruvian Andes, maca has a history of use among the now diminished Incan civilization that inhabited this region. Maca was revered by the Peruvians for its vast medicinal benefits. The Incan folk system used the plant to increase energy and mental performance, as well as to boost libido.

A 2008 study conducted by a team from the Depression Clinical and Research Program of Massachusetts General Hospital sought to determine whether maca was effective at countering sexual dysfunction induced by selective-serotonin reuptake inhibitors, a type of antidepressant commonly referred to as SSRIs. The double-blind, randomized study compared low (1.5 g/day) and high (3.0 g/day) doses of maca in 20 patients with SSRI-induced sexual dysfunction. The group that consumed the larger dose experienced significant improvement in sexual experience, though the group taking the lower dose did not. The authors concluded that: “Maca root may alleviate SSRI-induced sexual dysfunction, and there may be a dose-related effect. Maca may also have a beneficial effect on libido.”

SSRI use is growing increasingly common in the West, where doctors prescribe them as a quick fix for depression. However these drugs, which have been shown to be no more effective than a placebo for those suffering from mild to moderate depression, are proving to cause major problems in the bedroom, with reduced libido being a well-documented side effect. In the words of Deepak Prabhakar, MD, MPH and Richard Balon, MD, “SSRIs are associated with a risk of clinically significant loss of sexual desire that may resemble moderate to severe hypoactive sexual desire disorder.”

Maca may also aid females by balancing hormones and reducing uncomfortable symptoms associated with menopause. Researchers from the Faculty of Health Studies at Charles Sturt University & Therapeutic Research International in Sydney, Australia analyzed the hormone balancing effects of maca. The double-blind, randomized study, involved a total of 168 early-postmenopausal women, of which 124 completed it. The team found that maca “significantly” stimulated production of the primary female sex hormone estrogen. Because of this, researchers found that maca “significantly reduced both frequency and severity of individual menopausal symptoms (hot flushes and night sweating in particular).” The team therefore concluded that maca offered “an attractive non-hormonal addition to the choices available to early-postmenopausal women in the form of a natural plant alternative to Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT).”

Photo: Shatavari flowers. Via: wasanajai | Shutterstock.

Photo: Shatavari flowers. Via: wasanajai | Shutterstock.

6. Shatavari (Asparagus racemosus

This white-flowered member of the asparagus family produces succulent roots that are revered in the Ayurvedic medical system. Traditional uses range from the alleviation of constipation and stomach ulcers to the suppression of anxiety and diabetes. In the arena of female sexual health, shatavari is associated with aiding premenstrual syndrome and balancing crucial hormones.

A paper authored by a team from the Vignan Institute of Pharmaceutical Sciences in India explored the phytoestrogenic properties of shatavari. Such plant-based “dietary estrogens” are structurally similar to estrogen produced within the body. The researchers found that the phytoestrogens within shatavari may be useful as an alternative to potentially dangerous synthetic hormone replacement therapy for woman approaching and experiencing menopause, offering a gentle and natural way to re-balance hormone levels.

Photo: Ashwagandha has red berries; it's brown roots are used in medicine. Via:  Wowbobwow12 | Licensed under Creative Commons

Photo: Ashwagandha has red berries; its brown roots are used in medicine. Via: Wowbobwow12 | Licensed under Creative Commons

7. Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera)

Used traditionally in Ayurvedic, Indian, Unani and African medicine systems, ashwagandha offers many beneficial uses. Traditionally its applications included the treatment of arthritis, insomnia, anxiety, asthma, menstrual problems and fibromyalgia. It has also long been regarded as an aphrodisiac.

Ashwagandha belongs to a category of herbs known as adaptogens, which help defend the body against the negative effects of daily stress. It contains chemicals which may aid in calming the brain, countering inflammation and augmenting the immune system.

The key to ashwagandha’s libido boosting properties may be its profound ability to alleviate stress, which disrupts sexual function. Prolonged stress causes too much cortisol to enter the blood stream and high levels of this hormone have been associated with a lack of sex drive.

Ashwagandha contains two acyl steryl glucosides, sitoindoside VII and sitoindoside VIII, which have proven to be potent anti-stress agents. A paper written by researchers from the Department of Neuropsychiatry and Geriatric Psychiatry at Asha Hospital in India documents the effects of a full-spectrum extract of ashwagandha in reducing stress and anxiety in adults. 64 subjects with a history of chronic stress were enrolled in the study and were randomized into either the placebo control group or the study drug treatment group. Subjects where then asked to take one capsule either containing a placebo or ashwagandha extract twice a day for 60 days.

After the 60 days, the study group that consumed the capsules that contained 300 mg of full-spectrum ashwagandha extract showed significant reduction in stress-assessment scores as well as reduced cortisol levels. The authors of the study concluded that: “a high-concentration full-spectrum Ashwagandha extract safely and effectively improves an individual’s resistance towards stress and thereby improves self-asses quality of life.”

Photo: Horny goat weed. Via: KENPEI | License by Creative Commons 3.0

Photo: Horny goat weed. Via: KENPEI | License under Creative Commons 3.0

8. Horny Goat Weed (Epimedium grandiflorum)

Horny goat weed has been used as a traditional medicine in Asian systems for more than a thousand years. It was believed to have aphrodisiac effects that could counter impotence and premature ejaculation.

This perennial herb, found among cliff crags and hillsides, is native to Korea, Japan and certain regions of China. It is considered a yang tonic in traditional systems, specifically for the “energetic organ” referred to as the kidney. Increased kidney energy in this sense directly correlates to enhanced sexual function.

A paper written by a team from the Department of Obstetrics & Gynecology at the National University of Singapore describes horny goat weed extract as being “strongly oestrogenic due to the presence of novel potent phytoestrogens.”

Phytoestrogens are naturally occurring plant compounds that are structurally and functionally similar to estrogens that are manufactured within the human body. These compounds have been proven to be effective at alleviating several menopausal symptoms including hot flushes and night sweats.

A drop in estrogen levels, as occurs during menopause, can result in vaginal dryness, which can make intercourse painful. This is one of the main causes of sexual dysfunction in menopausal women. The introduction of phytoestrogens may help to restore proper hormone levels and alleviate these symptoms.

Other potential health benefits that these compounds offer include a lowered risk of osteoporosis, heart disease and breast cancer. So as well as offering women a natural means to maintain sexual function, horny goat weed may assist in the prevention of several potentially lethal conditions too.

***

Our society seems to have accepted the ideology that it is more practical and therefore beneficial to pop a pill for a short term thrill, disregarding the fact that such chemicals can inflict physical damage. Such shortcut chemical solutions also compromise willpower and empowerment. A nation of women who have explored the depths of their own wounds and vulnerability and consciously created space to repair past damage is going to be far more powerful and sexually alive than a population of females who have been sold the idea that a pill is the answer to their complex problems — when all it can likely do at best is mask symptoms. In this situation, short term gain equates to long term pain. Opening oneself physically, whilst being emotionally shut down, is taking away the most profound aspect of the sexual experience. Western society has marketed sex via shallow superficiality. Our sacred relationships deserve more reverence.