The simple act of biological sex has always resided under the looming shadows of political and religious controversy, chaining the matter to the big metal ball of taboo topics within Western culture. It is a subject that is talked about in hushed tones in order to satisfy the current cultural narratives. Yet, when we take a look around at the bombardment of advertisements, music videos and art, sex and erotic symbolism are almost everywhere. Sex sells, literally.
Within our society the concept of sex is often portrayed to be very much aligned with success, money and pride. With all of these ideals constantly stimulating our minds and imprinting themselves onto our psyche, it is no wonder that lack of performance, or any sexual struggles for that matter, can cause negative feelings within an individual, such as shame and worry. It doesn’t have to be this way.
John Hopkins University published a report in February 2008 stating that 18 million men in the United States are affected by erectile dysfunction. That is a huge percentage of the population, and when viewed in tandem with our cultural ideals of what it takes to be a “real man,” such statistics must weigh quite heavily upon the minds of many within their day-to-day lives.
According to the National Survey of Sexual Health and Behavior conducted by Indiana University, 75 percent of men manage to reach orgasm during sexual intercourse, while only 29 percent of women claim the same outcome.
Relationships consist of many different layers and while sex is not always the driving force behind love and relationships, it can play a vital role in forming an intimate connection with one’s partner.
The above statistics have lead many people in search of a solution. Pfizer, the world’s largest research-based pharmaceutical company, made a monolithic $1.68 billion in revenue off their erectile dysfunction drug Viagra in 2014 alone. Although this drug is effective at promoting relaxation within muscles and increased blood flow to the genitals to aid erectile dysfunction, it also has a rather large pool of negative side effects. Drugs.com has compiled a long and detailed list of side effects that Viagra can induce, which range from shortness of breath and irregular heartbeat to sudden hearing and vision loss.
Sexual issues are not just limited to physiological ones, depression is closely interlinked with the inability to maintain an erection in men and the inability to orgasm within both men and women. WebMD notes that the underlying cause of this is an imbalance in neurotransmitters related to sexual function. Because of this, people suffering from depression may find that the flickering flame of sexual desire may be withering away, possibly putting strain upon their intimate relationships.
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention released a survey in 2012 expressing that nearly 8 percent of the population, ages 12 and upwards, suffer from depression in one of its many forms.
However, the Western world is seeing a huge surge in the popularity of holistic and alternative medicine. Many treatments that belong to these practices often utilize non-invasive therapies as well as herb and plants in their most natural forms, which cut the risk of side effects substantially. A handful of herbs and plants have been found to be effective at increasing sexual performance and enhancing libido whilst being free of damaging side effects — many of which also offer the body a shot of nutrient dense compounds.
A double-blind crossover study conducted at the University of Ulsan College of Medicine in Seoul, Korea, found the herb ginseng to be highly effective at treating men suffering from erectile dysfunction. Those who consumed the herb showed remarkable scores in comparison to those who were given a placebo. These results led to the authors of the study to conclude that “ginseng can be an effective alternative treatment for male erectile dysfunction.” But ginseng’s benefits in the bedroom aren’t limited to men; women can also use the plant’s powerful root to fuel their sexual flames.
Another study of the herb, this time carried out at Chonnam National University Medical School in Gwangju, Korea, sought to discover the effects of ginseng on sexual arousal in menopausal women. The results showed great promise, with the herb causing significantly higher scores than a placebo once again. The authors of the study stated, “Ginseng extracts improved sexual arousal in menopausal women, they might be used as an alternative medicine in menopausal women to improve their sexual life.”
Another herb with a few thousand years worth of traditional use behind it, maca, was used as an important super food and medicine by the native Andean people due to its high nutritional value. It was also used to enhance fertility and sexual performance. The Universidad Peruana Cayetano Heredia, Lima, Peru, released a study confirming maca’s ability to improve sexual desire. An improvement in sexual desire was seen over an eight-week period in men between 21-56 years of age.
Maca also showed antidepressant abilities in mice studies, meaning it could potentially help to alleviate depression in humans. Therefore, it might also help people suffering from sexual issues that stem from depression and lack of intimacy.
3. Ginkgo Biloba:
This plant dates back around 300 million years, making it one of the oldest surviving tree species on earth. As well as being a great source of antioxidants, it harbors the ability to enhance oxygen utilization, and thus improve memory and concentration. Ginkgo is also proving to be an effective way to treat sexual dysfunction.
Researchers from the University of Texas at Austin found that ginkgo biloba extract increases blood flow and has a relaxant effect on smooth muscle tissues. The study explains, “these processes are important to the sexual response in women and, hence, it is feasible that ginkgo biloba extract may have a therapeutic effect.” A single dose of 300mg had a significant effect on sexual arousal compared to placebo in 99 women.
4. Horny Goat Weed:
This perennial herb is native to the hillsides and cliffs of Japan, Korea and China. Traditionally, horny goat weed was believed to be an aphrodisiac and was administered in the treatment of sexual issues such as impotence and premature ejaculation.
A 2008 a lab study confirmed that a compound found within the herb, epimedium, inhibits the action of an enzyme that restricts blood flow to the penis. Epimedium has a mechanism similar to drugs prescribed to treat erectile dysfunction.
Native to the Polynesian Islands, where this herb is used recreationally and ceremonially, Kava has weaved its way into the Western world due to its well-researched ability to calm the nerves and reduce stress in both women and men.
Anxiety, tension and a whole host of stress-related issues are key contributors to loss of libido and sexual dissatisfaction in both sexes. Eric J. Leech from Planet Green states, “the mind is a very powerful tool for improving health, but it can also be a factor in our own self-induced sexual dysfunctions if we let it. While Kava can help sexual dysfunction caused by self-induced mental issues, it will not show much, if any improvement, over an actual diagnosed case of erectile dysfunction.”
Kava is a great alternative to assist with the mental side of sexual issues. Users have described it as having a similar relaxant effect to alcohol, only without the feelings of intoxication.