Herbal traditions have been used for centuries to help boost libido, without modern drugs or medical intervention. In our modern world, we have access to a vast array of over-the-counter drugs, and most people overlook the power of herbs, each one possessing an individual, unique, and subtle way of interacting with the body, to help enhance sexual energy, drive, and performance. Here's how to tap the potential of herbs to enhance and support our sexual health and do it naturally.

As for which one works best? You need to try each one out, then go off of using it for several days, and observe how you feel. Many of the studies have been done on small groups of participants and the research is scarce, so the herbal knowledge is often based in Ayurvedic medicine and centuries-old practices. Try each one on its own, but always talk to your doctor since some herbs interfere with medication and you don't want any adverse side effects.

The effect of plant-based diets on stamina and performance

Diet plays a role in the bedroom as well. A diet rich in plant-based foods with nitric oxide boosts performance in the gym and in the bedroom, so the first task for anyone who wants to improve their libido is to switch to a plant-based diet and ditch red meat and dairy, which causes inflammation and can contribute to ED, as well as heart disease and obesity.

In the documentary about athletes and plant-based diets, The Game Changers researchers studied how diet affected young male collegiate athletes, who were given plant-based dinner versus animal products, and watched the results as they slept in a sleep lab. The athletes who were given the plant-based dinner also had more frequent erections while sleeping, something they were blushing to see when presented with the results by the researchers. A study in the British Journal of Cancer found that vegans had 13 percent higher testosterone levels than those who eat flesh and 8 percent higher testosterone levels than vegetarians.

If you are eating plant-based, or mostly so, you are already doing yourself a favor as far as performance is concerned. Here's how to use herbs to stoke your sex drive and improve libido without taking a prescription.

Dried Tribulus terrestris on white background
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1. Tribulus Terrestris

Tibulus is revered in Ayurvedic medicine as an aperitif, astringent, anti-inflammatory, stomach tonic, diuretic, and aphrodisiac. In one study it was found to increase in erectile function in rabbits given the herb for 4 weeks. The herb may indeed increase libido, but the mechanisms by which this happens is difficult to study since it is such a holistic, powerful herb. Start with half a teaspoon of pure organic powder extract a day for five to seven days and assess how you feel but be warned that it is quite bitter. It’s one of the 10 ingredients in dashamula.

Close up of Shatavari plant (Asparagus racemosus Willd)
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2. Shatavari

The translation from Sanskrit most often used for shatavari is “She who possesses 100 husbands.” Shat means one-hundred, but vari could mean “husbands” or “roots”. I think the translation “she who possesses a hundred roots” may be more on point since it helps a woman grow her family tree, or put down roots. Shatavari is an adaptogen in the same family as the asparagus family that is believed to increases fertility in women, but it is also recommended for men for other holistic benefits.

Studies on Shatavari are more preliminary but researchers have found: Shatavari may improve female reproductive health complications including hormonal imbalance, polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), follicular growth and development, oocyte quality and infertility possibly by reducing OS level and increasing antioxidants level in the body.”

Organic Shatavari can be purchased from herbal supplier Banyan Botanicals.

Epimedium flower in the garden
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3. Horny Goat Weed

Legend has it that Chinese farmers observed goats copulating more after grazing on ying yang huo, hence its name “horny goat weed”, but the plant also helps with pain and fatigue. Since then, Horny Goat Weed has been used for ED and to strengthen sexual desire.  Western research has even begun to accept it as an effective treatment for osteoporosis, hay fever, atherosclerosis, nerve pain fatigue, and erectile dysfunction.

Chinese herbalism has long revered yin yang huo, of which there are 15 different species. Herbalists caution against overstimulating the yang and they recommend combining horny goat weed with ying herbs to ward off “hot” symptoms like irritability, aggressiveness, or a racing heartbeat. If you are making a tea, the calming properties of herbs like chamomile or mint will provide the ying to balance out the horny goat weed's yang.

Look for Horny Goat Weed here.

Damiana Yohimbe Sassafras
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4. Yohimbe

Yohimbe is an evergreen tree native to western and central Africa that's bark contains a natural chemical called yohimbine, which has been used in herbal traditions for centuries.

Yohimbe is shown mixed results when it comes to improving sex drive, though one study showed that 3 of 11 participants reported some improvement in sensation and sexual function. "Under yohimbine, frequency of sexual activities increased," so there may be enough evidence to encourage using it, for men as well as women who want increased sensation. But the herb has been closely examined for its side effects, especially the fact that it can cause racing heart and tremors. For this reason, doctors suggest taking Yohimbe a few hours before sex, rather than as a daily. Yohimbe bark is sold here.

The herbs tongkat ali
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5. Tongkat Ali

 Known as Malaysian ginseng, the root of the Tongkat Ali plant has been shown to help improve stress levels, but people also take it because it appears to stimulate the release of free testosterone, improve sex drive, and can reduce fatigue, according to research.

As an adaptogen, Tongkat Ali may be taken on its own without other herbs. It also improves muscular strength and stamina.  Secrets of the Tribe sells an alcohol-free tincture.

Bottom Line: Try herbs for sexual drive and to improve libido and observe how they influence your body, but keep doses low until you figure out which ones work well for you and lower your dose if you feel the effects are too intense. And check with your doctor before trying any new herbal remedy since some of these are known to interact and impinge medications.

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