Is your libido lagging? You’re in good company. Anywhere from 15 to 25 percent of men and 44 percent of women have experienced diminished sex drive, according to research. Fortunately, there are a number of nutrients and supplements that can help you get your mojo back.
Why Your Libido Is Low
“A number of different factors can contribute to low libido,” says Josh Axe, D.N.M., C.N.S., D.C., founder of Ancient Nutrition and member of The Vitamin Shoppe Wellness Council. “While low testosterone levels and other hormone imbalances are the most common causes, factors like obesity, high blood pressure, aging, the use of certain medications, overuse of drugs or alcohol, and stress and depression can also contribute.” Even too much—or not enough—exercise can quickly bring your sex drive to a screeching halt.
Since sexual health is so complex, you’ll want to talk to your doctor about your issues first. From there, if you’re otherwise in optimal health, consider one of the following libido-strengthening supplements.
1. Maca Root
Another related benefit: sexual vitality. “In fact, some research shows that supplementing with Maca may improve sexual desire within a few weeks,” says Axe. One BMC Complementary & Alternative Medicine review, for example, found that Maca root improved sexual desire in both women and men after six weeks.
Experts suggest adaptogenic herbs like Maca root help improve hormone regulation by restoring communication between the brain and adrenal glands.
After getting the green light from your doctor, Axe recommends starting with 1,000 to 1,500 milligrams of organic Maca root powder per day.
An Indian cousin to asparagus, shatavari is another adaptogen with a long history of use in Ayurvedic medicine. Its root is known for regulating hormones, boosting libido, and relieving stress—especially in women.
Shatavari contains two superstar compounds—shatavarin and sarsasapogenin—which are considered precursors to female sex hormones. These compounds may help balance estrogen and progesterone, two hormones that affect libido in women, explains Taz Bhatia, M.D., integrative health expert and author of Super Woman RX.
Since adaptogens help improve mood and fight fatigue, shatavari may also address some of the common underlying issues involved in guys’ libido issues, too.
Once you’ve got the go-ahead from your doctor, Axe recommends a supplement with 400 to 500 milligrams of the root.
A long-loved herbal supplement, you’ve probably heard already heard of gingko. (Yes, yet another adaptogen.) Not only is gingko known for boosting cognitive function and acting as a powerful antioxidant, but it also supports mood and calms the nerves, two major factors in libido.
Not to mention, the herb dilates blood vessels to increase blood flow and circulation, a major plus for healthy sexual function, says one study published in the Archives of Sexual Behavior.
However, since gingko may interfere with certain medications, like antidepressants, consult with your doctor before adding it to your routine. If you get the green light, look for a supplement that contains 100 to 250 milligrams, suggests Axe.
Fenugreek—an herb with small, golden, edible seeds—has been used in Chinese medicine for thousands of years to support testosterone and sexual function. And it’s still a sexual health powerhouse today, says Axe. Fenugreek’s libido-related benefits likely come from compounds called saponins found in its seeds (the same type of compounds found in shatavari).
According to one study published in the journal Phytotherapy Research, healthy men who supplemented with fenugreek for six weeks reported greater improvements in quality of life as related to sexual function than those who took a placebo. The researchers concluded that fenugreek “demonstrated a significant positive effect on the physiological aspects of libido.” They also suggested it may help maintain normal healthy testosterone levels.
Axe recommends a daily dose between 500 and 1,000 milligrams.
You’re more likely to find this one in your spice cabinet than a supplement store. Still, nutmeg is rumored to heat things up in the bedroom. “Nutmeg can be a great tool to help boost libido and improve sexual function,” says Axe.
While much of the research on nutmeg and libido has been done on animals, multiple studies suggest it can enhance libido by stimulating the nervous system and increasing blood flow. In fact, the authors of one BMC Complementary & Alternative Medicine study concluded that their research “provides a scientific rationale for the traditional use of nutmeg in the management of male sexual disorders”.
Since nutmeg supplements aren’t a thing (at least yet), Axe recommends reaping its benefits by incorporating it into your cooking. “Try sprinkling it over fruit, drinks, and desserts, or adding it to roasted veggies,” he says.
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