Herbs for Passion

By KP Khalsa.

Often, people in codependent relationships have difficulty keeping passion alive. Sad to say, this is one of the most common concerns I hear. While this is not a disabling condition, it must rank as one of the most frustrating. According to the Mayo Clinic, more than 40 percent of women complain of low sexual desire at some time in their lives, while 5 to 15 percent have an ongoing problem in this area1. And this trend has nowhere to go but up, as baby boomers age.

I was visiting a colleague at a local herb apothecary recently, when a customer mentioned that her husband’s passion had just about sputtered out. Not lacking for passion herself, she was at her wit’s end. The store herbalist and I took one look at each other, did a double take, and both said together, “Ashwagandha!” We talked with her about her husband and cautioned her not to expect results before the one month mark. My friend went back to her business, until a dozen red roses arrived at the store two weeks later. The enclosed note told the story. I guess you can guess what had happened the night before.

Ashwagandha root, sometimes named “winter cherry,” is the main Ayurvedic tonic used in South Asia to promote passion and physical pleasure. Unlike ginseng, which has a similar reputation, this relative of tomatoes and potatoes is not stimulating, but rather relaxing. That allows much higher doses to be taken, with no overstimulation. 

Studies show that ashwagandha has a testosterone-like effect2. In a double-blind clinical trial, the herb (3 grams per day for 1 year) was evaluated for the process of aging in 101 healthy male adults of 50 to 59 years of age. Significant improvements in overall health were noted, and 71.4% of those who received the herb reported improvement in sexual performance3. Ashwagandha is appropriate as a sexual tonic for women or men, and is often combined with shatavari root, another anti-aging herb. 

A typical dose of ashwagandha is about a gram per day, taken over long periods, up to many years, as a rejuvenator, but, since ashwagandha is very safe, larger quantities, up to 10 grams per day, are often used short term. In India, it is given with pungent, heating herbs (ginger, pepper, etc.) to increase its stamina benefit.

Kapi kachu (Mucuna pruriens) seed is one of the popular medicinals of India, where it is a constituent of more than 200 indigenous herb formulations. Kapi kachu has recently been getting attention for increasing libido, for which I like it a lot. Proprietary and classical formulas to promote passion often center on a combination of ashwagandha, shatavari and kapi kachu. 

Kapi kachu seed is considered to be one of the best sexual tonics for increasing libido and erectile function. In 2009, An Indian study found it to be a potent aphrodisiac, while a 2010 study found that the seed improved sexual problems caused by diabetes45. To increase arousal, use 2 grams in capsules with warm milk daily at bedtime. 

Another famous seed from South Asia, Gokshura (Tribulua terrestris), is a standout for sexual building and libido. In 2008, a study done in Singapore saw gokshura produce significant increases in several major sex hormones, while another recent experiment from Egypt showed that the herb has aphrodisiac activity67. Furthermore, in a study done at Iowa State University, researchers studied a combination containing gokshura and found it to bump up 4 different sex hormones8.

If your passion is slipping, you may use up to 10 grams of gokshura per day, in capsules, Herbalists often use equal parts powdered gokshura, sesame seed, kapi kachu and ashwagandha. Each day, take 6 grams of this mixture with honey or milk.

Sexual zip does not have to wane as we get older. To be honest, our passion will probably change and mature over time, but we all have the right to expect that we can have a fulfilling romantic life. These three herbs are just the top drawer in the herbalist’s love toolbox, but they should be a good start. Once you get the fire sizzling, there’s no doubt that you’ll get a taste of what you’ve been missing, and that taste will be pretty juicy.

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  1.  http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/low-sex-drive-in-women/DS01043/DSECTION=symptoms ↩︎
  2.  Abdel-Magied EM, Abdel-Rahman HA, Harraz FM. The effect of aqueous extracts of Cynomorium coccineum and Withania somnifera on testicular development in immature Wistar rats. J Ethnopharmacol 2001 Apr;75(1):1-4 ↩︎
  3.  Kuppurajan K, et al, J Res Ayu Sid, 1, 1980:247. [from:  Bone K, “Withania somnifera”, Clinical Applications of Ayurvedic and Chinese Herbs, (Queensland, Australia:  Phytotherapy Press), 1996:137-41.] ↩︎
  4.  J Ethnopharmacol. 2009 Apr 21;122(3):497-501. Epub 2009 Jan 31.
    Dose- and time-dependent effects of ethanolic extract of Mucuna pruriens Linn. seed on sexual behaviour of normal male rats.
    Suresh S, Prithiviraj E, Prakash S.

    Department of Anatomy, Dr Arcot Lakshmanasamy Mudaliar Postgraduate Institute of Basic Medical Sciences, University of Madras, Taramani Campus, Chennai, India.
    Abstract
    AIM OF THE STUDY: According to Indian Systems of Medicine, Mucuna pruriens Linn., belonging to the leguminous family (Papilionaceae), were used for treating male sexual disorders since ancient times. In this study, the effects of ethanolic extracts of the Mucuna pruriens Linn. seed on general mating behaviour, libido and potency of normal male Wister albino rats were investigated and also compared with the standard reference drug, Sildenafil citrate.
    MATERIALS AND METHODS: Animals were divided into one control group (Group I–received saline) and four experimental groups (Groups II-V). Experimental groups were divided on the basis of the dosage of extract to the animals as follows: 150 mg/kg body weight (Group I), 200mg/kg body weight (Group II) and 250 mg/kg body weight (Group IV) while Group V received Sildenafil citrate (5mg/kg body weight). Animals were fed PO with saline or extract or standard drug once in a day for 45 days. To analyse the mating behaviour, female rats with oestrus phase were used.
    RESULTS: The extract administered PO significantly increased the mounting frequency, intromission frequency and ejaculation latency, and decreased the mounting latency, intromission latency, post-ejaculatory interval and inter-intromission interval. The potency test significantly increased erections, quick flips, long flips and total reflex. Therefore, the results indicated that the ethanolic extracts of Mucuna pruriens Linn. seed produced a significant and sustained increase in the sexual activity of normal male rats at a particular dose (200mg/kg). When compared to control, all the drug-treated groups have shown drug-induced effects for a few parameters. However in Group II, there was an obvious enhancement in all parameters, without affecting the normal behaviour. When compared with the standard drug, the net effect of extract is even less than that in Group II.
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  5.  J Sex Med. 2010 Apr 26. [Epub ahead of print]
    Effect of Mucuna pruriens (Linn.) on Sexual Behavior and Sperm Parameters in Streptozotocin-Induced Diabetic Male Rat.
    Suresh S, Prakash S.
    University of Madras-Department of Anatomy, Dr. Arcot Lakshmanasamy Mudaliar Postgraduate Institute of Basic Medical Sciences, Chennai, India.
    Abstract
    ABSTRACT Introduction. Sexual dysfunction is one of the major secondary complications in the diabetic. Mucuna pruriens, a leguminous plant identified for its antidiabetic, aphrodisiac, and improving fertility properties, has been the choice of Indian traditional medicine. Aim. Objective of the present study was to analyze the efficacy of M. pruriens on male sexual behavior and sperm parameters in long-term hyperglycemic male rats. Methods. Male albino rats were divided as group I control, group II diabetes induced (streptozotocin [STZ] 60 mg/kg of body weight (b.w.) in 0.1 M citrate buffer), group III diabetic rats administered with 200 mg/kg b.w. of ethanolic extract of M. pruriens seed, group IV diabetic rats administered with 5 mg/kg b.w. of sildenafil citrate (SC), group V administered with 200 mg/kg b.w. of extract, and group VI administered with 5 mg/kg b.w. of SC. M. pruriens and SC were administered in single oral dosage per day for a period of 60 days. The animals were subjected to mating behavior analyses, libido, test of potency, and epididymal sperms were analyzed. Main Outcome Measure. The mating behavior, libido, test of potency, along with epididymal sperms were studied. Results. The study showed significant reduction in sexual behavior and sperm parameters in group II. Daily sperm production (DSP) and levels of follicular stimulating hormone, luteinizing hormone, and testosterone were significantly reduced in group II, whereas the animals with diabetes administered with seed extract of M. pruriens (group III) showed significant improvement in sexual behavior, libido and potency, sperm parameters, DSP, and hormonal levels when compared to group II. Conclusion. The present work reveals the potential efficacy of ethanolic seed extract of M. pruriens to improve male sexual behavior with androgenic and antidiabetic effects in the STZ-induced diabetic male rats. This study supports the usage of M. pruriens in the Indian system of medicine as sexual invigorator in diabetic condition and encourages performing similar study in men. Suresh S, and Prakash S. Effect of Mucuna pruriens (Linn.) on sexual behavior and sperm parameters in streptozotocin-induced diabetic male rat.
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  6.  Phytomedicine. 2008 Jan;15(1-2):44-54.
    The hormonal effects of Tribulus terrestris and its role in the management of male erectile dysfunction–an evaluation using primates, rabbit and rat.
    Gauthaman K, Ganesan AP.
    Department of Obstetrics & Gynaecology, Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine, National University of Singapore, 5 Lower Kent Ridge Road, 119074 Singapore. obgkg@nus.edu.sg <obgkg@nus.edu.sg>
    Abstract
    Hormonal effects of Tribulus terrestris (TT) were evaluated in primates, rabbit and rat to identify its usefulness in the management of erectile dysfunction (ED). TT extract was administered intravenously, as a bolus dose of 7.5, 15 and 30 mg/kg, in primates for acute study. Rabbits and normal rats were treated with 2.5, 5 and 10mg/kg of TT extract orally for 8 weeks, for chronic study. In addition, castrated rats were treated either with testosterone cypionate (10mg/kg, subcutaneously; biweekly for 8 weeks) or TT orally (5mg/kg daily for 8 weeks). Blood samples were analyzed for testosterone (T), dihydrotestosterone (DHT) and dehydroepiandrosterone sulphate (DHEAS) levels using radioimmunoassay. In primates, the increases in T (52%), DHT (31%) and DHEAS (29%) at 7.5mg/kg were statistically significant. In rabbits, both T and DHT were increased compared to control, however, only the increases in DHT (by 30% and 32% at 5 and 10mg/kg) were statistically significant. In castrated rats, increases in T levels by 51% and 25% were observed with T and TT extract respectively that were statistically significant. TT increases some of the sex hormones, possibly due to the presence of protodioscin in the extract. TT may be useful in mild to moderate cases of ED.
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  7.  Int Braz J Urol. 2007 Jul-Aug;33(4):554-8; discussion 558-9.
    Free serum testosterone level in male rats treated with Tribulus alatus extracts.
    El-Tantawy WH, Temraz A, El-Gindi OD.
    Drug Bioavailability Center, National Organization For Drug Control and Research, Cairo, Egypt. wldhmdy@yahoo.com
    Abstract
    OBJECTIVE: The present study was undertaken to investigate the effect of Tribulus alatus extracts on free serum testosterone in male rats.
    MATERIALS AND METHODS: Free serum testosterone level was measured in male rats treated with alcoholic extracts of the aerial part without fruits, fruits of Tribulus alatus and their fractions.
    RESULTS: All tested extracts showed significant increase in the level of free serum testosterone when compared to that of corresponding control, p < 0.05. Statistical comparison of all groups revealed that the maximum level was found in groups treated with chloroformic and ethanolic fractions of fruits extract.
    CONCLUSION: Tribulus alatus extract appears to possess aphrodisiac activity due to its androgen increasing property.
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  8.  Int J Vitam Nutr Res. 2001 Sep;71(5):293-301.
    Effects of androstenedione-herbal supplementation on serum sex hormone concentrations in 30- to 59-year-old men.
    Brown GA, Vukovich MD, Martini ER, Kohut ML, Franke WD, Jackson DA, King DS.
    Exercise Biochemistry Laboratory, Department of Health and Human Performance, Iowa State University, Ames, IA, USA.
    Abstract
    The effectiveness of a nutritional supplement designed to enhance serum testosterone concentrations and prevent the formation of dihydrotestosterone and estrogens from the ingested androgens was investigated in healthy 30- to 59-year old men. Subjects were randomly assigned to consume DION (300 mg androstenedione, 150 mg dehydroepiandrosterone, 540 mg saw palmetto, 300 mg indole-3-carbinol, 625 mg chrysin, and 750 mg Tribulus terrestris per day; n = 28) or placebo (n = 27) for 28 days. Serum free testosterone, total testosterone, androstenedione, dihydrotestosterone, estradiol, prostate-specific antigen (PSA), and lipid concentrations were measured before and throughout the 4-week supplementation period. Serum concentrations of total testosterone and PSA were unchanged by supplementation. DION increased (p < 0.05) serum androstenedione (342%), free testosterone (38%), dihydrotestosterone (71%), and estradiol (103%) concentrations. Serum HDL-C concentrations were reduced by 5.0 mg/dL in DION (p < 0.05). Increases in serum free testosterone (r2 = 0.01), androstenedione (r2 = 0.01), dihydrotestosterone (r2 = 0.03), or estradiol (r2 = 0.07) concentrations in DION were not related to age. While the ingestion of androstenedione combined with herbal products increased serum free testosterone concentrations in older men, these herbal products did not prevent the conversion of ingested androstenedione to estradiol and dihydrotestosterone.
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