can't make love, I have a terrible headache." This phrase has become
well-recognized, and even a subject of humor to epitomize a popular belief
that women may often need an excuse to avoid love-making with a man whose
sexual appetite is much more insistent that hers.
recent years, however, we have been hearing increasingly about men who are
intimidated by women, or for one reason or another, cannot
perform--"performance anxiety." Do women or men have a higher
incidence of inhibited sexual desire to the point where it becomes a
problem in their life? Perhaps it is much more equal than is popularly
thought, but men are more reticent to talk about it. It's no joke to many
men when it comes to what is called in the Merck Manual (14th ed.)
abnormal fear of the vagina. Other intrapsychic (it's all in the mind)
causes in men for "inhibited sexual excitement" (impotence) are
listed as sexual guilt, fear of intimacy, depression, and some
recreational drugs (see sidebar).
no other area of human health does the mind enter in more thoroughly than
in human sexuality--an ironic statement, because most of us realize that
this is precisely one area of human activity where the mind can often do
more harm than good. But in fact, statistics show that for both men and
women, up to 80% of sexual dysfunction and inhibited sexual desire are of
mental or emotional origin.
to the Merck Manual, impotence in men is of two types: primary, which is
rare, and "generally indicates severe psychopathology;" and
secondary, "in which erectile dysfunction prohibits completion of
successful sexual intercourse in about 25% (or more) of
opportunities." As mentioned, a full 80% of the secondary impotence
is directly attributable to mental and emotional factors and only 20% to
disease and functional abnormalities such as diabetes, cardiovascular
diseases, surgery, and disorders of the hypothalamic-pituitary-gonadal
hormone processes, which might lead to lowered levels of testosterone.
Although low levels of testosterone might even be found in a majority of
men with impotence, it is difficult to know whether psychological factors
inhibiting sexual contact leads to lowered testosterone levels, or visa
be continued below...
Drugs and their effect on Sexual Performance
Drugs, such as alcohol, can also be a factor. I recently read a study that
was carried out in the 60s in San Francisco with a group of volunteers,
which clearly showed that while cocaine (which is considered the 'cadillac'
of sexual stimulants) and marijuana led to increased sexual interest and
improved performance, drugs such as heroin, alcohol, and a variety of
downers (such as reds and quaaludes) and amphetamines actually led to a
mild to strong decrease in these areas. Common prescription drugs can also
lead to impotence as a side-effect. This is especially notable with
hypertensives, sedatives, and tranquilizers.
common myth in this culture is that older people loose their sexual desire
and ability to have satisfactory intercourse. Statistics and studies do
not support this, however. According to the Merck Manual again,
"Aging is not an inevitable cause of impotence, even into the 70s and
80s." Of course, the desire to have sex will cool off somewhat as we
get older. I've often felt how fortunate I am to not have the same desire
in my 40s as I did when I was 19!
The most common prescription for functional impotence is yohimbine
hydrochloride. The drug originated from a West African tree, Pausinystalia
johimbe, which has been sold for years on the herb markets of countries
world-wide, including the U.S. The alkaloid is an -adrenergic blocker,
increases parasympathetic tone and decreases sympathetic tone, as well as
a central nervous system (CNS) stimulant. There are a few modern studies
showing that it is effective for some types of impotence, especially ones
of vascular, diabetic, or psychogenic origins, and it can improve the
quality and staying power of erections, usually without increasing sexual
excitement. However, the drug should be used cautiously, because it is a
CNS stimulant and can lead to side-effects such as dizziness nervousness
and anxiety (Physicians Desk Reference, 43rd edition). Yohimbe is also
available in some products sold in health food stores, but again, it
should be used with caution.
many cases of impotence are associated with our mind and emotions, it is
appropriate to seek the services of a qualified psychologist, marriage and
family counselor or social worker. I prefer to work with practitioners who
do not view such problems as pathological, but as a process of
self-discovery and personal growth. It is important to clearly understand
the root causes of impotence, and often doing so, the problem will
disappear on its own.
an herbalist, and Traditional Chinese Medicine practitioner, I use herbs
as a major part of my "bag of tricks" in a clinical situation,
as well as personally and with friends and acquaintances. Besides herbal
therapies, I recommend proper exercise and deep breathing daily, to make
sure the circulation is moving. Hydrotherapy (cool showers, for instance)
can also be effective for this, and it is essential to eat a strong diet
that avoids foods rich in saturated fats, refined sugars, and processed
foods in general, and emphasizes high-fiber foods such as grains and
legumes, fresh lightly cooked vegetables, and a variety of fruits in
season. Following this diet and the other recommendations will often lead
to improvement within a few weeks.
be continued below...
I would organize herbal treatments and programs under the following
categories, depending on the needs of the individual.
herbs (when anxiety, tension and poor sleep is a root cause)
(to increase sexual desire)
enhancers (where testosterone levels are low)
stimulants (when circulation is poor, a person is often cold)
(when a person is under a lot of stress)
(blood, vital energy and vital essence, when a person is deficient or
Because nervousness, tension and even anxiety may play a major role in
impotence, relaxing herbs can be of benefit. Herbs such as valerian,
passion flower (I like the name), California poppy, lavendar and wild oats
can relax without lowering sexual desire. The relaxing herb hops should be
avoided, however. Modern studies show that it is estrogenic, and has a
long history of use as an anaphrodisiac (lowers sexual desire).
Valerian should be used as a fresh plant liquid extract (1-2 droppers/3
times daily, or as needed). Passion flower is mild, but effective, and is
usually combined with other relaxing herbs to enhance their activity.
California poppy is one of the best muscle relaxers and scientifici
studies show that it can help relieve mild anxiety. In my experience,
valerian and California poppy are very effective together. Wild oats is
well-known as a mild sexual enhancer and relaxing herb. Use it in liquid
extract form (2-3 droppers, made from the fresh spikelets) or as a
Since time immemorial, people have been looking for that magic herb that
can strongly increase sexual desire and potency. Unfortunately, there is
no one herb that can do miracles, rather there are several that can help
build up sexual energy and vitality. Ginseng is probably the best-known
aphrodisiac. Although there are many types of ginseng, look for either
"red Korean," or "red Chinese" (Kirin) ginsengs. In my
experience, these are stronger than white, unprocessed types. Ginseng is
especially effective for people over 40 who have weak digestive systems,
are not getting enough nourishment and are deficient, and have little or
no sexual desire. It should be taken daily (10-15 grams), in combination
with some ginger as a tea, liquid extract or powdered extract. To my
knowledge, ginseng is one of the only herbs known to stimulate the
production or testosterone in the body. In my experience, the following
herbs are also worth trying for their aphrodisiacal (is it a word?)
(powdered extract, liquid extract--1 ddropper 2-3 x daily)
(won't work unless it's very fresh--liquid extract only, 40 drops 3 x
puama (German researchers have found some activity, popular in Europe)
(warming, stimulating to the circulation and is mildly
aphrodisiac--use it on a regular basis as a tea or liquid extract in a
(contains the alkaloids theobromine, and small amounts of
caffeine)--use the liquid extract, or the unsweetened powder.
be continued below...
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After a thorough search of the available literature, and from personal
experience, I feel that herbs such as sarsaparilla and wild yam, which are
often sold in body-building formulas as a testosterone source are highly
overrated. Both herbs contain plant sterols, but there is no solid
evidence that they either stimulate or supply testosterone in the body.
However there is one Mexican study, which I can't confirm, that suggests
that sarsaparilla extracts can have this activity. It may be fun to
experiment--it isn't bad-tasting, but I'm not giving the story much
Red Panax ginsengs may be the best bet in this category, and there is one
animal study that shows that ginseng extracts can increase blood
Other herbs that may be helpful in a total herbal program can include
circulatory stimulants (ginger, prickly ash bark, turmeric, motherwort),
and adaptogens, which also can help support adrenal function (eleuthero,
American ginseng, ashwaganda, schisandra).
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