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Low libido, or reduced sexual desire, is estimated to affect about one-third of women between the ages of 40 and 64, while some research shows that it affects 75 percent of menopausal women. Low libido is also common in middle-aged and older men, where it’s associated with low testosterone levels, which affect about 40 percent of men over age 45.
Low libido can be caused by several factors, including hormone imbalances, the side effects of pharmaceuticals (e.g., high blood pressure medications, antidepressants, antihistamines), relationship problems, alcohol and drug abuse, mood disorders, and insomnia. While any effective treatment for low libido should address the root cause(s), the following three libido-enhancing herbs can provide benefit for both women and men.
Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera)
You’re probably familiar with the stress-busting effects of ashwagandha, but this Ayurvedic medicine is also known for its libido-enhancing benefits. A double-blind study of healthy women aged 21–50 found improvements in arousal and lubrication compared to placebo. Ashwagandha also has a history in Ayurvedic medicine to treat male sexual dysfunction and infertility and to act as an aphrodisiac. Ashwagandha supplementation has been shown in human studies to increase serum testosterone levels and decrease serum cortisol.
Tongkat ali (Eurycoma longifolia)
This herbal product is popular in Malaysia, Thailand, and Indonesia for the treatment of male sexual disorders, including low libido. Research on an extract of Tongkat ali has been shown to improve libido in men. The recommended dose is 200–400 mg daily of an extract.
Related: 6 Foods That Boost Libido
Maca (Lepidium meyenii)
Maca is a traditional Peruvian aphrodisiac, and modern studies back up its use for enhancing female and male libido.
In a 12-week double-blind, placebo- controlled, randomized, parallel trial, men aged 21–56 received 1,500 mg of maca, 3,000 mg of maca, or a placebo. Maca was shown to improve sexual desire at 8 and 12 weeks of treatment. Maca was also demonstrated to enhance libido in early-postmenopausal women. The general recommended dosage is 1,500–3,000 mg daily.
Natural Progesterone Cream
Natural progesterone creams are commonly used by perimenopausal and menopausal women to help relieve a variety of symptoms. Women with deficient progesterone who use transdermal progesterone may have a restoration of sex drive. A typical dosage is 20 mg applied to the skin twice daily for two weeks before menses for perimenopausal women, and twice daily for three weeks a month for menopausal women. Progesterone is best used under the guidance of a holistic doctor.