Sexual Health Herbs

Discover a wide range of herbs and superfoods known to exert a positive effect on sexual health.

Sexual health is a broad term, covering hormonal balance, vitality and wellbeing in the reproductive systems, libido and ‘performance’. When our sexual health is below par our whole being is affected, as sexual energy is seen in many traditions as the life force itself.

Fortunately there are many herbs and nutrient-dense superfoods from around the world which are now easily available. At Indigo Herbs we have selected only pure, unadulterated botanicals which can easily be taken as teas, tinctures or in powdered form. Some of these herbs are tonics, which means they can safely be consumed on a daily basis.

For women, Nature’s medicine chest can help with difficult or irregular menstruation, PMT, recovery from childbirth, and menopausal symptoms such as hot flushes and emotional instability. Some herbs promote the flow of milk when breastfeeding. For men, there are herbs to give ‘the strength of a stallion’ or to help with the increasingly common problem of an enlarged prostate. For both sexes, botanicals can aid fertility and strengthen sexual appetite.

Wouldn’t you rather be choosing to use something natural which works in harmony with your body, rather than harsh pharmaceutical drugs with their possible side-effects? Your body would definitely say ‘Yes!’

As always, it is important to support the use of herbs with a healthy diet and lifestyle. Take a look at the list below to see what can help your situation.

 

Agnus castus

(Agnus castus)
Agnus Castus Benefits

Agnus Castus exerts a balancing effect on female sex hormones. Herbalists believe it is a natural source of progesterone that can help to balance the ratio of oestrogen to progesterone. It has been used to successfully jump start the regular menstrual cycle and can be especially useful when coming off the birth control pill.

Since progesterone plays a crucial role in conception and sustaining pregnancy, Agnus Castus may also be a first step before trying infertility treatments. Progesterone is needed to thicken the uterine lining, and help with luteal phase defects—the period between ovulation and menstruation during a woman’s menstrual cycle which is typically 10-17 days long. When there is an insufficient luteal phase, it can lead to problems with conception and miscarriage.

Some studies have shown that the use of Agnus Castus extract may also help with the symptoms of perimenopause, the earliest stage of menopause. The hormone balancing qualities of this herb make it ideal for counteracting hot flushes and other symptoms.

 

Ashwagandha

(Withania somnifera)
Ashwagandha Benefits

Ashwagandha’s amorous reputation is legendary, producing an increase in sexual desire and satisfaction in both men and women. Its extracts have the ability to stimulate the production of nitric oxide in the body - this causes a dilatation of the blood vessels that carry blood to the genitals, leading to increased sexual desire.

Ashwagandha's stabilising effect on male hormones is well documented, with studies showing that it increases luteinising hormone (which stimulates testosterone production) and significantly raises serum testosterone levels.

Also a powerful herb for male and female fertility, Ashwagandha’s stress busting qualities help to create a more optimal environment for fertility and conception. Studies show that consuming Ashwagandha can reduce the body’s level of the stress hormone, cortisol, by up to 26%.

Ashwagandha provides menopausal support to women, acting on the endocrine system by encouraging hormonal balance. In a recent study of 51 menopausal women, a significant reduction in symptoms such as hot flashes, anxiety and mood was noted as a result of supplementation with Ashwagandha.

 

Avena sativa

(Avena sativa)
Avena sativa benefits

Often described as "Nature's Viagra", Avena Sativa is soothing and calming to the nervous system, whilst at the same time increasing sexual desire in men and women. In men it is believed to increase luteinizing hormone levels. Luteinizing hormones are released by the pituitary gland and tell the testicles to produce more testosterone. It also stimulates the freeing up of bound testosterone, thus helping to balance the hormones necessary to support a healthy sex drive, sexual response and energy levels.

In women it is a tonic to the nervous system, making it good for recovering from exhaustion. Tradition holds it increases vaginal stimulation and advances the physical and emotional desires for sex.  This effect is thought to be due to Avena Sativa’s ability to encourage blood circulation, a contributing factor to boosting sexual desire.

It is a good female hormone balancer, able to relieve PMS symptoms such as cramps, headaches and mood swings.

 

Black Cohosh

(Actaea Racemosa)
Black Cohosh Benefits

Used for thousands of years by indigenous peoples of the Americas, the Black Cohosh root was primarily used to treat all manner of gynaecological problems including menopause symptoms, painful periods and difficult childbirth.

Black Cohosh can be useful in managing erratic periods and/or easing cramps and uterine tension. It can also stimulate menstrual bleeding and improve uterine tone. Additionally it can have an impact on the hormonal balance of the body, making it useful to combat mood swings and stress brought about by PMS or the menopause.

A stark drop in oestrogen levels is responsible for bringing on the symptoms of menopause. Some researchers believe that Black Cohosh exerts its effects on menopausal symptoms through a brain-related action, such as modulation of serotonergic pathways, or through its potential ability to act as an antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, or selective oestrogen receptor modulator. Research shows that Black Cohosh can alleviate menopausal symptoms such as hot flashes, night sweats, anxiety and mood swings.One study reported that Black Cohosh improved anxiety, menopause and vaginal symptoms. In addition, the number of hot flashes dropped from 5 to less than 1 average daily occurrence in the Black Cohosh group compared to those taking oestrogen in whom hot flashes dropped from 5 to 3.5 daily occurrences.

 

Blessed Thistle

(Cnicus benedictus)
Blessed Thistle Benefits

Blessed Thistle has the ability to increase milk supply. In one particular study it was concluded that the most effective of the herbal galactagogues were Fenugreek and Blessed Thistle taken together. It not only stimulates the production of breast milk, it improves the quality too. 

It is also a well known herb as a remedy for other female problems, helping to alleviate PMS symptoms such as painful menstruation and PMS related headaches.

 

Catuaba Bark

(Erythroxylum catuaba)
Catuaba Benefits

The name Catuaba is a Guarani word that translates as “what gives strength to the Indian”. It is the Amazon’s most famed and sought after aphrodisiac, with numerous songs composed by the Tupi Indians in praise of its libido enhancing effects and ability to treat erectile dysfunction. Containing 3 specific alkaloids believed to support libido, including “yohimbe” which seems to be the most active compound that produces a stimulatory effect on the libido of both men and women. These alkaloids are thought to enhance sexual function by stimulating the nervous system.

Catuaba stimulates blood flow to the genitals, can strengthen and prolong an erection, enhances sexual excitement and is said to give more powerful orgasms.

 

Chuchuhuasi

(Maytenus aelivis)
Chuchuhuasi

Known as the "Tree of Life" in Venezuela, the bark of Chuchuhuasi is a well known libido booster for both men and women in the Amazon. It is said to give the person who drinks it (normally mixed with local sugar cane rum), a renewed sense of life and vigour. 

Chuchuhuasi is a great herb for women, helping to regulate the menstrual cycle and relieve painful cramps. 

 

Clavohuasca

(Tynanthus panurensis)
Clavohuasca Benefits

Clavohuasca is a traditional South American herb used as an aphrodisiac for centuries in Brazil and Peru, known to stimulate libido and treat sexual dysfunction in both men and women. In women, Clavohuasca is a strong sexual stimulant and increases libido in pre-menopausal women - one of the ways it does this is by increasing blood flow to the pelvic area. Its libido enhancing effects are thought to be strongest in women, peaking 3 hours after consumption. 

In men Clavohuasca is most effective as a remedy for erectile dysfunction, and weakness of erection and is also used traditionally for relieving impotence.

 

Damiana

(Turnera diffusa)
Damiana Benefits

Especially indicated for alleviating problems of achieving and maintaining erections, Damiana also works to relieve stress and anxiety related to fears of inadequate sexual performance. Studies have shown that consuming the plant works to slow down the digestive tract and instead rushes oxygen to genital areas. This helps men to achieve erection much more easily and maintain it for longer periods of time. Yet another study claims that use of Damiana leads to greater sensitivity in the erogenous zones, especially the genitals, which in turn may help men to experience greater sexual pleasure.

Damiana had long been thought of as an exclusively male aphrodisiac, until family and integrated medical practitioner Cynthia Watson published her book, “Love Potions, a Guide to Aphrodisiacs and Sexual Pleasures”. In it, she presented evidence indicating that androgens such as testosterone might be effective for stimulating so-called “frigid” women, a characteristic some researchers suspect may be caused by an androgen deficiency. Watson also said she saw a renewed interest in sex among women who used Damiana.

 

Dong Quai

(Angelica sinensis)
Dong Quai Benefits

Also known as "female Ginseng", Dong Quai has a long and enduring history as a potent herb for women. It has the ability to regulate oestrogen levels - whether they're too high or too low - strengthening the uterus, improving uterine tone and regulating the menstrual cycle. 

Dong Quai is also a blood tonic in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), and has been shown to improve red blood cell counts which is helpful after menstruation has ended as the blood is replenished more rapidly. It increases blood flow to the reproductive system, reducing congestion and pain, it is traditionally used for situations of stagnation such as PCOS, endometriosis, ovarian cysts and uterine fibroids.

Dong Quai is usually prescribed in conjunction with other herbs in TCM to treat symptoms of the menopause. A recent randomised, placebo controlled study examining the effects of Dong Quai combined with Chamomile, found a significant difference in the relief of hot flashes, insomnia and fatigue between the treatment and placebo groups. The researchers concluded that treatment of menopausal symptoms was effective and without any side effects.

 

Fenugreek Seed

(Trigonella fornum)
Fenugreek Benefits

Fenugreek Seeds have been used for 1000's of years in Ayurvedic medicine for matters pertaining to female reproductive health. It is known to balance the hormones that are responsible for the occurence of periods and it eases menstrual cramps and PMS symptoms.

Containing the phytonutrients diosgenin and estrogenic isoflavones, Fenugreek is a good herb to reduce menopausal symptoms. In one particular study that lasted for 90 days, oestrogen levels were found to have more than doubled in the Fenugreek treated group. Furthermore, a reduction in symptoms among this group included a 57% drop in night sweats, a 68% drop in mood swings, a 75% drop in insomnia and a 54% drop in headaches. Additionally, 32% of the group reported that their hot flashes had completely disappeared with the rest of the group experiencing a reduction in hot flashes from 3 - 5 times a day at the beginning of the study to 1 - 2 times per day. 

 

Fo-ti (Ho Shou Wu)

(Polygonum multiflorum)
Fo-Ti

Increased fertility, sexual vigour and the ability to treat erectile dysfunction are some of the benefits to sexual health you can expect to receive from Fo-ti. Researchers believe these effects are due to the proven ability of this herb to raise red blood cell counts and improve circulation – meaning Fo-ti’s power to increase blood flow to “all the right places” could be the key to its success in the bedroom.

In TCM this herb is known as a “Jing” tonic, which loosely translates as “vital essence” and refers to the primordial energy that fuels all life and, by extension, sexuality and drive.

A study published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism found “surprisingly high oestrogen activity” in Fo-ti, suggesting it may also alleviate symptoms of menopause.

 

Ginkgo Biloba

(Ginkgo biloba, Salisburia adiantifolia, Salisburia macrophylla)
Ginkgo Biloba Benefits

Ginkgo Biloba has an aphrodisiac effect on both men and women due to its ability to improve blood flow to all parts of the body, including the most intimate parts. It promotes blood flow to the brain and other parts of the body supplied by capillaries. This enhanced blood flow can help to improve brain and heart health as well as sexual health. In men, heart health and sexual health are closely connected because good blood flow is needed to achieve and maintain an erection.

In women, Ginkgo also stimulates the blood flow, increasing arousal and it can enhance pleasure and depth of orgasm, all based upon this increase of blood flow to the capillaries. Ginkgo Biloba has also shown promise in reviving sex drive in women both peri-menopausal and menopausal. It promotes blood flow to the vulva and the vagina, enhancing sensation and sexual pleasure, especially when taken long term. 

 

Gokshura

(Tribulus terrestris)
Tribulus Terrestris Benefits

Gokshura increases stamina, libido and sexual function for men and dramatically improves sexual performance and sensitivity for most women. In Men it stimulates the secretion of leutinising hormone LH, which goes on to stimulate testosterone in the gonads. It is this production of free testosterone in the body that stimulates the sexual energy. Studies have shown it to increase sperm production as well as sexual activity. It is indicated to increase libido, strengthen erection and speed up sexual recovery rate.

Gokshura has many benefits to a woman's sexual health and has been found to alleviate symptoms of the menopause, such as hot flushes, depression and emotional instability. Regular use of this herb during the menopause can treat the loss of sexual interest at this time, 65% of women treated in one study reported increased sex drive after using Gokshura. Although testosterone is associated with men's health, free testosterone production in women also has a positive effect on libido and sexual desire.

 

Horny Goat Weed

(Epimedium sagittatum)
Horny Goat Weed Benefits

Behind its comical name, Horny Goat Weed stands as a time tested aphrodisiac that increases libido in both men and women and improves erectile function in men. This is thought to be due, in part, to the flavonoid “icariin”, which is also responsible for the best known health benefits associated with this herb.

Firstly, icariin has been found to have the ability to boost the successful transmission of Nitric Oxide, the primary chemical transmitter for the successful and ample delivery of blood delivery to the penis tissue. Secondly it increases the natural circulation of free form testosterone around the body, not only boosting libido – testosterone is crucial to the health of the prostate and plays a dominant role in the production of healthy sperm.

Often believed to be exclusively for men, Horny Goat Weed has many benefits for women. Several studies have found that the active constituents of Horny Goat Weed balance oestrogen and estradiol levels in women. Icariin is a prenylflavonoid compound which acts as a natural phytoestrogen, associated with decreased symptoms of menopause, including low libido and vaginal dryness.

Horny Goat Weed's aphrodisiac effects work on women too, increasing blood circulation and improving blood flow to the genital area, this herb is excellent for stimulating female libido and decreasing sexual dysfunction.

 

Maca

(Lepidium meyenii )
Maca Benefits

Maca benefits to sexual health stem from the fact that it primarily balances the endocrine system. It is a particularly potent aphrodisiac – the ancient Peruvians ingested this powerful root to boost the potency of the male libido. A great fertility booster, studies have shown that in men it can improve sperm quality, motility and volume. Glucosinolates, the plant alkaloids contained in Maca, can also positively affect fertility for both men and women.

These alkaloids are responsible for Maca’s ability to support hormonal balance. This balancing effect also controls oestrogen levels in the body, increasing reproductive health and decreasing symptoms of PMS, PCOS and the menopause.

 

Mucuna / Kapikachhu

(Mucuna pruriens)
Mucuna Pruriens Benefits

There is research showing that Mucuna Pruriens supports the normal function of the male reproductive system, in particular supporting normal levels of male fertility. This appears to be related to the ability of this herb to; increase libido (men and women), increase sperm count, enhance blood circulation to the genitals, strengthen and tone the sexual glands and release bound up testosterone – increasing the level of bio-available testosterone.

Its libido enhancing effects are thought to be due to the high levels of L-dopa (an amino acid which converts into dopamine), contained in this herb. Dopamine is an essential component of the body and is especially required for the proper functioning of the brain. L-dopa contains natural secretagogues which are believed to support the body’s ability to stimulate the natural release of HGH (human growth hormone). The blood carries dopamine to the brain where it naturally increases HGH production from the pituitary gland. The increased dopamine levels optimise the production of other hormones – including testosterone – leading to an increased sex drive and improved sexual performance in both men and women.

 

Saw Palmetto

(Serenoa repens)
Saw Palmetto Benefits

Saw Palmetto belongs to the class of herbs known as “adaptogens”. It is particularly known for its beneficial action on both the male and female reproductive system – known as a reproductive amphoteric – simply meaning it normalises reproductive function in men and women where this system is impaired. Studies show it can improve sperm count and motility in men and counter hormonal imbalance in women. 

Also known as “old man’s best friend”, Saw Palmetto is, indeed, an exceptionally beneficial herb to the gentleman over a certain age. It has been shown to slow down the production of the enzyme “5-alpha reductase” – an enzyme that converts testosterone into dihydrotestosterone (DHT). Whilst DHT is important as it plays a role in male development, it is also responsible for many common health issues such as loss of libido, enlarged prostate (Benign Prostate Hyperplasia) and hair loss.

Because Saw Palmetto inhibits the conversion of testosterone into DHT, the body retains normal levels of testosterone. This in turn will keep the libido functioning normally, hold weight in check and slow down hair loss. 

 

Shatavari

(Asparagus racemosus)
Shatavari Benefits

Shatavari's main constituents are steroidal saponins that suggest its use as an oestrogen regulator. This modulation helps to regulate menstrual cycles, manage PMS symptoms, alleviate menstrual cramps and control the amount of blood lost. Shatavari greatly helps with fluid retention and may also be helpful with the uncomfortable bloating often suffered before a period.

It is also very helpful to women who have fertility issues due to stress or immune-mediated problems, with Shatavari supporting proper immunological function. It supports the mucous membranes as it contains mucilage, this lines and protects the membranes of the cervix which is helpful for women with low cervical mucous. Adequate cervical mucous allows sperm to swim freely through the cervix. 

 

Siberian Ginseng

(Eleutherococcus Senticosus)
Siberian Ginseng Benefits

This adaptable herb is beneficial to both men and women in the realm of sexual health. In women it supports healthy menstruation and uterine tone. It is often prescribed by herbalists to combat infertility related depression and fatigue.

Offering a fertility boost to men too, a recent study found it significantly raises free testosterone levels resulting in a better sperm count and motility. 

 

Wild Yam

(Dioscorea villosa)
Wild Yam Benefits

Wild Yam root is perhaps most famous for its ability to support women in the health of their reproductive systems. With powerful antispasmodic and anti-inflammatory properties, Wild Yam is often prescribed by herbalists to relieve menstrual cramps and chronic pelvic pain. Helping the uterus to work more efficiently during menses, this uterine support allows for proper function of the uterus whilst working to prevent cramping and spasms.  

There is much controversy over the effectiveness of this herb for the menopause - Wild Yam has long been promoted as a source of natural progesterone. It is thought to aid in menopausal symptoms due to its containing a precursor to the steroid hormone “diosgenin”, however diosgenin does not have any hormonal activity and cannot be converted to any hormones the body can use. Despite the debate, there does seem to be some credible research that Wild Yam is beneficial for menopausal women. One study of 22 menopausal women who ate this tuber for 30 days showed improved status of sex hormones, lipids and antioxidants. The researchers speculated this may reduce the risk of breast cancer and cardiovascular disease in post-menopausal women, although they admitted “the mechanism is not clear”. Sometimes we just have to trust that nature really does know best.