Scientists validate natural products to boost libido
St Valentine’s Day is here again. It is a season synonymous with expression of ‘canal’ love among couples licenced to have sex after marriage.
Unfortunately, despite recommendations by several studies for couples to have sex more frequently because the act has been demonstrated to beat depression and prostate cancer, some men are firing blanks while their partners have lost interest in sex.
Little wonder products that promise to revive flagging libidos, sustain erection, prevent premature ejaculation, lubricate the vagina to mention but a few have flooded the market and doing more harm than good.
In recent times, so many men and women have lost their lives after patronising such products, which even the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) has labeled dangerous.
However, scientists have identified simple natural products and actions to get couples ‘firring on all cylinders.’
Top on list are: physical fitness; sufficient rest; plant based diets; dates, tiger nuts, watermelon; unripe plantain; onions; garlic; bitter kola; colanut; nutmeg; cowhage/velvet bean; local spices and cattle stick.
Onions, garlic, bitter kola and colanut evaluated.
A study published in Annals of Complementary and Alternative Medicine evaluated aphrodisiac activities of four Nigerian ethno-medicinal plants.
The researchers from the Department of Pharmacology, Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, Osun State, said some age-long plants are currently used as aphrodisiacs.
Allium cepa (onions), Allium sativum (garlic), Garcinia cola (bitter kola) and Cola acuminata (kolanut), used ethnomedicinally in Nigeria for enhancement of libido and erectile dysfunction, were evaluated.
Aqueous-ethanolextracts (50, 100, 150 mg/kg) were subcutaneously administered to six groups of male rats. Normal saline (5 mL/kg, ip) and testosterone (1 mg/kg, sc) were negative and positive controls, respectively. Another group received testosterone (1 mg/kg, sc) and 10 min later, the extract (100 mg/kg, sc). Eight hours thereafter, the male rats were introduced to females with pre-determined oestrous cycle and Mount (MF), Erection (EF) and Intromission (IF) frequencies, Mount (ML), Intromission (IL) and Ejaculatory (EL) Latencies, Post Ejaculatory Interval (PEI) and Lordosis were recorded.
The results showed testosterone induced increased sexual frequencies that were comparable (p>0.05) to those of G. cola but significantly (p<0.05) higher than those mediated by A. cepa, A. sativum and C. acuminata. Only G. cola consistently gave reduced latencies that were either significantly (p<0.05) lower or comparable to those of testosterone. Therefore, order of significant sexual activity was testosterone = G. cola > A. sativum = C. acuminata > A. cepa. Co-administration of testosterone with A. cepa and A. sativum bulbs significantly inhibited the effects of standard drug, C. acuminate showed some enhancement of effects, while G. cola had no effect.
The researchers concluded: “The plants were confirmed as ethno-medicinal aphrodisiacs, while common practice of using herbal sexual stimulants with prescribed drugs may not always increase sexual performance.”
Sexual function is an important attribute of behavioral life, especially in relationships between the opposite sexes. Libido, the capacity for sexual activity (sex drive), is frequently expressed as sex-seeking behavior and its intensity varies among individuals over a given period of time.
Hence, in marriages/relationships, absence of libido would mean no procreation (reproduction) and ultimately the extinction of human race. Sexual problems are widespread and may adversely affect mood, well being and interpersonal functioning. Various regions of the brain have been implicated in mood and sexual behaviors. Upon sexual stimulation and arousal, neural message is sent from the brain to the spinal cord and nerves that serve the sexual organs. In men, the body responds by releasing a cascade of chemicals that direct the flow of blood into the penis resulting in penal erection while in women, the nipples are stiffened, clitoris stimulated, vagina lubricated and the body prepares for intercourse.
Erectile dysfunction has been defined as the difficulty or the inability to attain or sustain an erection adequate for satisfactory sexual intercourse, in at least 50 per cent of the time for a period of six months. Studies have shown that mostly menopausal women suffer from reduced libido and men from erectile dysfunction. Hence, a variety of central and peripheral disorders, including damage to nerves, arteries, smooth muscles and fibrous tissues, chronic alcoholism, smoking, and psychological factors, such as stress, anxiety, guilt, depression, low self-esteem and fear of sexual failure, and diseases such as diabetes, kidney, vascular and neurologic diseases, side effects of antihypertensive, antihistaminic, antidepressant, tranquilizer, appetite suppressant drugs and cimetidine, together with hormonal abnormalities, such as low testosterone levels, could also be responsible for this dysfunction. With 10 per cent to 52 per cent and 25 per cent to 63 per cent occurrences in men and women, respectively, sexual dysfunction or disorientation has assumed the status of a serious medical and social problem. It is also an inevitable process of ageing and the prevalence in men aged 50 years to 70 years is over 50 per cent.
There exist some literature on few studies on the physiology of the human sexuality and the brain organises the sexual behaviour. The enlargement and stiffening of the penis is triggered by neurotransmitter-nitric oxide, which stimulates production of an enzyme cyclic Guanosine Monophosphate (cGMP). This enzyme in turn stimulates the relaxation of the smooth muscles surrounding the arteries of the penis, thereby allowing the inflow of blood into the penis. Hence, failure in the triggering of cGMP leads to a libido problem. Success in completing the sexual act has been reported to depend on local excitation and psychic stimulus. For example, administration of a small amount of the female sex hormones, oestradiol and progesterone, will immediately activate stereotypic female copulatory/reproductive behavior, known as lordosis.
Aphrodisiac is any drug, food or food products (example chocolate), topical rubefacient, etc. that stimulates sexual desire, sex drive or sexual pleasure. Their use, in modifying/restoring the impaired sexual functions of humans by the ancient Greek and Arab Physicians, such as Hippocrates (460 BC), Dioscorides (70 AD), Raazi (926 AD), Ibn-e-sina (1038 AD) have been documented. The continued use of plants and their products in the management of sexual dysfunction and enhancement of libido in various African and Asian folkloric medicines, and recently world-wide as supplements, has generated some scientific interests. About six million Americans currently use ginseng root, an essential traditional Chinese medicine, as aphrodisiac.
Yohimbine, an indole alkaloid, is the aphrodisiac ingredient of the bark of Pausinystalia yohimbe (Bielle) Pierre (Rubiaceae) or root of Rauwolfia species. Rauwolfia plant, used in treatment of psychiatric disorders, is native to the tropical rain forest of West Africa. The aphrodisiac activity of yohimbine plant has been known before the last century. Its dried stem bark is widely used in North-eastern Nigeria for the treatment of erectile dysfunction and as an aphrodisiac, while its concoction is traditionally used to treat loss of libido. Current hypothesis on the beneficial mechanism of the action of yohimbine on sexual activities mainly points to a central mechanism of action.
Although testosterone may be used for hypoactive sexual desire, many of the world populations now prefer the use of natural plants. Many of such plants have served as lead for currently used drugs, such as quinine and quinidine from Cinchona spp., vincristine and vinblastine from Catharanthus roseus, artemisinin from Artemisia annua, etc. Also, lupenyl acetate was identified as the most active anti-plasmodial agent of Gongronema latifolium, ethnomedically used for treating malaria in Nigeria, while β-stigmasterol was the active anti-hyperglycemic ingredient in Seneciobiafrae. Asians all over the world, to flavour their curries, use Murraya koenigii, a spicy plant growing in Nigeria, and the volatile constituents responsible for this action have been reported.
Therefore, investigations into safer and more active natural sexual stimulants should be increased C. acuminata (P. Beaux) Schotf & End (Sterculiaceae), synonym Cola nitida (Vent) Schoff & End and commonly known as Cola or kola nuts and Garcinia kola Heckel (Clusiaceae/Guttiferae) also known as Bitter kola are believed to increase libido. Garlic, garlic bulb and garlic clove are the common names of A. sativum L while A. cepa L is called white onion.
They are both of the Liliaceae family and are known to possess aphrodisiac properties, especially milk of the white onion that has been reported to promote sperm count in man. Since, these four Nigerian medicinal plants and spices are either used in whole or part of aphrodisiac preparations in Uyo, southeast Nigeria. The researchers evaluated their aphrodisiac property, using Wistar rats, in order to justify the ethno-medicinal claims.
Cattle stick or poor man’s candle (Carpolobia lutea)
More studies have validated the potential of a local herb, Carpolobia lutea; to boost sexual performance in men, brain function especially in old age, heal ulcers, among other diseases.
Carpolobia lutea, commonly called cattle stick or poor man’s candle belongs to the plant family polygalaceae. The common names, which the plant is known include cattle stick (English), Abekpok Ibuhu (Eket), Ikpafum, Ndiyan, Nyayanga (Ibibio), Agba or Angalagala (Igbo) and Egbo oshunshun (Yoruba).
Results of a study published in Journal of Intercultural Ethnopharmacology suggest that methanol extract of Carpolobia lutea root (MECLR) enhances male sexual activity possibly by augmenting nitric oxide concentration.
The study provides a novel scientific rationale for the use of Carpolobia lutea in the management of penile erectile dysfunction.
Nutmeg (Myristica fragrans)
The dried kernel of broadly ovoid seeds of Myristica fragrans (Nutmeg) of the family Myristicaceae has been mentioned in Unani medicine to be of value in the management of male sexual disorders. In a study by Tajuddin et al., it was found that administration of 50 per cent ethanolic extract of a single dose of Nutmeg and Clove, and Penegra resulted in the increase in the mating performance of the mice. It was found that out of six control animals only two males mated (inseminated) two females and the remaining four males mated one female each during the overnight experimental period. Whereas, Nutmeg treated male animals mated three females each except two, which mated five females each. In the Clove treated male animals three mated two females each, two mated four females each and remaining one mated three females each. In the Penegra treated animals four mated five females each and two mated three females each.
Date palm (Phoenix dactylifera, dabino in Hausa)
Phoenix dactylifera (date palm) of the family Palmae is a native to North Africa has been extensively cultivated in Arabia and Persian Gulf. The date palm pollen (DPP) is used in the traditional medicine for male infertility. In an experimental study by Bahmanpour et al. investigated the effect of P. dactylifera, pollen, on sperm parameters and reproductive system of adult male rats. They observed that the consumption of DPP suspensions improved the sperm count, motility, morphology, and Deoxy nucleic Acid (DNA)/genetic material quality with a concomitant increase in the weights of testis and epididymis.
Tropical almond (Terminalia catappa)
Terminalia catappa is a large tropical tree belongs to the family, Combretaceae a significant aphrodisiac potential. Ratnasooriya et al. observed that T. catappa seeds at dose of 1500 mg/kg or 3000 mg/kg, per oral for seven days in rats had a marked improvement of aphrodisiac action, sexual vigor. In contrast, the higher dose (3 000 mg/kg, p.o.) reversibly inhibited all the parameters of sexual behavior other than mounting.
Recent studies have shown that diabetes and its attendant complications (erectile dysfunction/premature ejaculation, leg ulcer/gangrene, liver/ kidney failure), lung cancer and sickle cell anaemia can be addressed with extracts of Indian almond. Nigerian and Indian researchers have regenerated the pancreas with Indian almond extracts thereby boosted blood sugar regulation, improved sexual and liver/kidney functions in diabetics.
According to a study published in Asian Journal of Andrology, male rats were orally treated with 1500 mg/kg or 3000 mg/kg SS or vehicle, and their sexual behaviour was monitored three hours later using a receptive female. Another group of rats was orally treated with either 3000 mg/kg SS or vehicle for seven consecutive days. Their sexual behaviour and fertility were evaluated on days one, four and seven of treatment and day seven post-treatment by pairing overnight with a pro-oestrous female. The estrous cycle comprises the recurring physiologic changes that are induced by reproductive hormones in most mammalian placental females.
The results showed the 1500 mg/kg dose, had a marked aphrodisiac action (prolongation of ejaculation latency) but no effect on libido-sexual desire- (per cent mounting, per cent intromission and per cent ejaculation), sexual vigour (mounting-and-intromission frequency), or sexual performance (intercopulatory interval).
In contrast, the higher dose (3000 mg/kg) reversibly inhibited all the parameters of sexual behaviour other than mounting-and-intromission frequency and copulatory efficiency. The effects of high dose SS were not due to general toxicity, liver toxicity, haemotoxicity, stress, muscle deficiency, muscle incoordination, analgesia, hypoglycaemia (reduced blood sugar) or reduction in blood testosterone level. They were due to marked sedation.
The researchers concluded that the kernel of T. catappa seeds has aphrodisiac activity and may be useful in the treatment of certain forms of sexual inadequacies, such as premature ejaculation. “The present findings show that seeds of T. catappa possess potent aphrodisiac activity and provides scientific evidence in favour of the claims made in Ayurvedic medicine in Sri Lanka regarding this action. The results also suggest that moderate consumption of kernel of seed of T. catappa could be useful in the treatment of men with sexual dysfunctions resulting primarily from premature ejaculation.”
Goat head (Tribulus terrestris)
Tribulus terrestris is a flowering plant in the family Zygophyllaceae. It is commonly called devil’s thorn, puncture vine, caltrop, yellow vine and goat head. It is a common herb in Nigeria.
To the French, it is croix de Malte and abrolhos in Portuguese. In Nigeria, it is dareisa in Arabic-Shuwa, tsaiji in Fula-Fulfulde, hana taakama in Hausa (prevents swagger, in allusion to its thorns piercing the feet-a common expression) or tsaida (to stop because if a thorn pierces the foot one must stop to extract it), kaije in Kanuri, tedo by the Koma people of Adamawa State and da ogun daguro in Yoruba.
Administration of Tribulus terrestris (TT) to humans and animals improves libido and spermatogenesis. Neychev et al. investigated the influence of T. terrestris extract on androgen metabolism in young males. The findings of study predict that T. terrestris steroid saponins possess neither direct nor indirect androgen-increasing properties.
It is also found to increase the levels of testosterone, leutinizing hormone, dehydroepiandrosterone, dihydrotestosterone, and dehydroepiandrosterone sulfate. The corpus cavernosal tissues obtained from New Zealand White rabbits following treatment with TT were tested in vitro with various pharmacological agents and electrical field stimulation and was found to have a pro-erectile effect. A study by Gauthaman et al. showed the androgen releasing property of the TT extract and its relation to sexual behavior and intracavernous pressure using castrated rats.
Fadogia agrestis (bakin gagai in Hausa)
Fadogia agrestis belongs to the plant family, Rubiaceae. It is called bakin gagai in Hausa, from gagai meaning aphrodisiac. It possesses significant aphrodisiac potential. Yakubu et al. evaluated the aphrodisiac potential of the aqueous extract of F. agrestis in Male rats. Their sexual behavior parameters and serum testosterone concentration were evaluated.
The results showed a significant increase in Mount Frequency (MF), Intromission frequency (IF) and significantly prolonged the ejaculatory latency and reduced mount and Intromission Latency (IL). There was also a significant increase in serum testosterone concentrations in all the groups in a manner suggestive of dose-dependence. The aqueous extract of F. agrestis stem increased the blood testosterone concentrations and this may be the mechanism responsible for its aphrodisiac effects and various masculine be haviors. It may be used to modify impaired sexual functions in animals, especially those arising from hypotestosteronemia.
Yakubu et al. studied the effects of administration of aqueous extract of F. agrestis stem on some testicular function indices of male rats. Compared with the control, extract administration for 28 days at all the doses resulted in a significant increase in the percentage testes-body weight ratio, testicular cholesterol, sialic acid, glycogen, acid phosphatase and g-glutamyl transferase activities while there was a significant decrease in the activities of testicular alkaline phosphatase, acid phosphatase, glutamate dehydrogenase and concentrations of protein.
Velvet bean or Cowhage (Mucuna pruriens, werepe in Yoruba and agbala in Ibo)
Another study published last year in BioMed Research International identified Mucuna pruriens as one of the plants used for improvement of sexual performance and virility.
Mucuna pruriens belongs to the plant family Leguminosae. The velvet bean plant is notorious for the spiky hairs on the mature bean pods that are very irritating to the skin.
Researchers have shown that Mucuna pruriens enhances fertility by producing a dose-dependent increase in follicle stimulating hormone and luteinizing hormone which in turn increased the number of eggs released at ovulation possibly through its rich source of L-Dopa and its metabolite, dopamine.
The total alkaloids from the seeds of M. pruriens were found to increase spermatogenesis and weight of the testes, seminal vesicles, and prostate in the albino rat.
M. pruriens stimulated sexual function in normal male rats which was observed by increase in mounting frequency, intromission frequency, and ejaculation latency.
M. pruriens seed powder improved significantly various sexual parameters copulatory behavior including mount frequency, mount latency, intromission frequency, and intromission latency of the male albino rats. The ethanolic extracts of M. pruriens seed produced a significant and sustained increase in the sexual activity of normal male rats at a particular dose (200mg/kg). There is significantly increased mounting frequency, intromission frequency, and ejaculation latency and decreased mounting latency, intromission latency, postejaculatory interval, and interintromission interval.
In clinical studies, the treatment with M. pruriens seeds increased sperm concentration and motility in all the infertile study groups in man. After the treatment of extract the seminal plasma of all the infertile groups, the levels of lipids, antioxidant vitamins, and corrected fructose were recovered after a decrease in lipid peroxides after treatment Their was recovered sperm concentration significantly in oligo-zoospermic patients, but sperm motility was not restored to normal levels in astheno-zoospermic men.
M. pruriens significantly improved T, luteinizing hormone (LH), dopamine, adrenaline, and noradrenaline levels and reduced levels of follicle stimulating hormone (FSH) and prolactin (PRL) in infertile men. It also significantly recovered sperm count and motility. M. pruriens treatment to infertile men regulates steroidogenesis and improves semen quality. Treatment with M. pruriens significantly inhibited lipid peroxidation, elevated spermatogenesis, and improved sperm motility of infertile male and also improved the levels of total lipids, triglycerides, cholesterol, phospholipids, and vitamin A, C, and E and corrected fructose in seminal plasma of infertile men.
M. pruriens significantly ameliorated psychological stress and seminal plasma lipid peroxide levels along with improved sperm count and motility. Treatment also restored the levels of Comparison of Seminal Superoxide Dismutase (SOD), catalase, glutathione (GSH), and ascorbic acid in seminal plasma of infertile men. It reactivates the antioxidant defense system of infertile men and also helps in the management of stress and improves semen quality.
According to Medical News Today, regular exercise and open communication can help prevent anxiety-affecting libido.
Having high levels of anxiety is a common barrier to sexual functioning and libido for both males and females. This may be anxiety due to life stress or specific sex-related anxiety.
People with an intense work schedule, caring responsibilities, or other life stresses may feel fatigued and, as a result, have a low sexual desire.
Anxiety and stress can also make it more difficult for someone to get or maintain an erection, which can put a person off having sex. A 2017 review of erectile dysfunction in young men has suggested that depression and anxiety can result in a reduced libido and increased sexual dysfunction.
There are many things that people can do to manage their anxiety and boost their mental health, including: practicing good sleep hygiene; making time for a favorite hobby; exercising regularly; eating a nutritious diet; working to improve relationships; and talking to a therapist.
Improve relationship quality
According to Medical News Today, many people experience a lull in sexual desire and frequency at certain points in a relationship. This may occur after being with someone for a long time, or if a person perceives that things are not going well in their intimate relationships.
Focusing on improving the relationship can increase each partner’s sex drive. This might involve: planning date nights; doing activities together outside of the bedroom; practicing open communication; and setting time aside for quality time with each other.
Focus on foreplay
According to Medical News Today, having better sexual experiences may increase a person’s desire for sex, thereby boosting their libido. In many cases, people can enhance their sexual experiences by spending more time on touching, kissing, using sex toys, and performing oral sex. Some people call these actions outercourse.
For women, foreplay may be especially important. According to some 2017 research, only around 18 percent of women orgasm from intercourse alone, while 33.6 percent of women report that stimulation of the clitoris is necessary for them to orgasm.
Get good-quality sleep
Getting good sleep can improve a person’s overall mood and energy levels, and some research also links sleep quality to libido.
A small-scale 2015 study in women suggested that getting more sleep the night before increased their sexual desire the next day. Women who reported longer average sleep times reported better genital arousal than those with shorter sleep times.
Eat a nutritious diet
Following a nutritious diet can benefit people’s sex drive by promoting good circulation and heart health, and by removing specific foods that can decrease libido.
Metabolic syndrome and cardiovascular disease can affect physical sexual functioning. Also, polycystic ovarian syndrome can affect hormone levels, which may also disrupt libido.
Eating a diet rich in vegetables, low in sugar, and high in lean proteins can help prevent disorders that affect libido.
Get regular exercise
Getting regular exercise can help libido in many ways. A 2015 study of men undergoing androgen deprivation therapy, which lowers testosterone levels, found that regular exercise helped men cope with issues such as body image concerns, low libido, and relationship changes.
A 2010 review of women with diabetes cites research showing that exercise may help lower diabetes-related symptoms in women. The study emphasizes that doing exercises of the pelvic floor may be useful in women without diabetes.
Maintain a healthful weight
Some scientists link overweight and obesity to low sex drive, along with other factors related to reduced fertility. This is associated with hormonal factors, such as low testosterone concentrations.
Some people who are overweight may also experience psychological effects, such as lower body confidence.
Maintaining a healthy body weight can improve a person’s sex drive, both physically and psychologically. Eating a healthful diet and getting regular exercise can help achieve this, as well as boost a person’s overall energy levels.