Understanding the Human Sexual Response
The act of making love can be one of the most important experiences of our lives. It offers intimacy, sensuality, pleasure, and gratification. It is also the means by which we create life. Unfortunately, for literally millions of men and women, sex is disappointing. If either you or your partner is one of those individuals who find sex more frustrating than fun—and you are looking for a more natural way to solve the problem—you’ve got the right book in your hands.
Natural Sex Boosters not only discusses aphrodisiac supplements for a lagging sex life, but also discusses supplements that can significantly enhance a normal sex life—for both men and women. It is possible to experience heights of sexual passion and enjoyment like you have never experienced or could imagine!
I personally prefer natural sex boosters to Viagra and other pharmaceutical medicines. Natural supplements such as the ones I will discuss help many aspects of the human sexual response, and have fewer side effects than prescription drugs.
Natural Sex Boosters—Hype or Reality?
Since time immemorial, people have been in search of foods, herbs, and potions meant to stimulate sexual desire and enhance lovemaking. The Egyptians, Greeks, Romans, Chinese, and others all had their favorite aphrodisiacs and herbal concoctions. We can thank Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of love, for the word “aphrodisiac.” This preoccupation with finding love potions has existed throughout the centuries and up to the present time.
Shakespeare, in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, writes:
Fetch me that flower, the herb I show’d thee once;
The juice of it on sleeping eyelids laid
Will make man or woman madly dote
Upon the next live creature that it sees.
The range of substances and methods recommended by sages of ancient cultures is mind-boggling. From ram’s testicles to ground rhino horn, the pursuit of natural sex boosters has been an age-old quest with all the superstition and pseudo-science you might imagine, leading most scientists to dismiss such sexual enhancements as folklore. There is a general suspicion in the modern Western mindset that natural compounds purported to enhance sexual passion or performance are barely, if at all, effective. Most Westerners would be surprised to find out, however, that there are dozens of natural substances that enhance sexuality in both men and women—and some of them are quite powerful!
As medical science has given us a greater understanding of the human sexual response, research is beginning to uncover the biochemical mechanisms of how natural sex boosters actually work. I have searched through decades of published studies to bring to you a summary of these interesting research findings.
Women and Sex
Female sexual dysfunction is a common medical condition that can have a major impact on self-esteem, quality of life, mood, and relationships. While there are religious, sociological, and emotional elements to female sexual function and response, impairment can also occur due to medical problems. Female sexual dysfunction is often categorized into three major areas: lack of desire; problems with lubrication and sensation; and difficulty having an orgasm.
Declining sexual desire often troubles women as they get older, and is partly due to the body’s decreasing levels of testosterone and other hormones. Testosterone powers the sex drive in both men and women. Stress or depression can also lead to low libido. Vaginal dryness can develop when estrogen levels drop as menopause approaches.
Many of the natural sex boosters discussed in this book work extremely well in women to enhance libido, arousal, lubrication, and sensation.
Men and Sex
In men, sexual dysfunction primarily takes the form of a decline in libido, and impotence. The 1992 National Institutes of Health (NIH) Conference on Impotence suggested “erectile dysfunction” (ED) as a more appropriate term for the inability to obtain and/or maintain penile erection sufficient for satisfactory sexual performance. ED is sometimes made worse by personal relationship issues. Male sexual dysfunction should be viewed as a chronic disease with medical, psychological, sociological, and behavioral components.
Common medical causes of ED include chronic illness or the side effects of drugs. Additional risk factors for ED include cardiovascular disease, smoking, obesity, and high cholesterol. Less commonly, the problem is psychological. Physical causes are more common in older individuals whereas psychological causes are more common in the young. Erectile dysfunction does not have to be a part of getting older. It’s true that as you get older, you may need more stimulation (such as stroking and touching) to achieve an erection. You might also need to wait more time between erections. But older men need not accept sexual dysfunction as a normal consequence of aging.
Medical Evaluation of Sexual Dysfunction
Before embarking on any therapy for sexual dysfunction, it is a good idea to have a thorough medical evaluation and physical exam taken. Testing could uncover a physical cause of the sexual problem. A urinalysis, complete blood count and basic chemistry panel will help to rule out most metabolic diseases. In the elderly, because thyroid disease can manifest slowly, thyroid-stimulating hormone levels should be measured to rule out thyroid dysfunction. Additional tests recommended for those over the age of 55 with a history of low libido include blood levels of prolactin and testosterone. Excessive prolactin has a negative influence on libido.
The Many Facets of the Human Sexual Response
The sexual response involves much more than merely the sexual organs. There are several major areas of the human body that play a part in sexual arousal. These include hormonal, vascular, neural, psychological, and chemical processes. Let’s discuss each of these areas in detail.
Androgens, such as testosterone, are a major component of libido in men and women. Testosterone levels decline about one percent each year in men, which may contribute to lower sex drive with aging. Testosterone also declines with age in women. Women who have had surgical removal of the ovaries often notice a drop in sexual interest. Replacement of androgens can be helpful in those with age-related sexual dysfunction.
Most hormonal problems revolve around dysfunction of the hypothalamic-pituitary-gonadal axis and are associated with either excess prolactin or decreased testosterone levels. Prolactin, a hormone made by the pituitary gland, inhibits sexual response when produced in high amounts. Other hormonal disorders that may cause sexual dysfunction include hypothyroidism, hyperthyroidism, adrenal insufficiency, or the presence of excessive levels of adrenal corticosteroids.
Testosterone is available by prescription only. Over-the-counter hormones, such as DHEA and androstenedione, convert into testosterone and thus have a positive influence on sex drive. Pregnenolone is another over-the-counter hormone that may increase testosterone levels.
Disruptions in the flow of blood to and from the penis are thought to be a common cause of male erectile dysfunction. For instance, medical conditions such as atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries), high cholesterol, hypertension, or diabetes reduce blood flow to the penis and genital organs thus leading to difficulty with erection or genital swelling. Additional factors that can impede blood flow include penile injury, surgery in the pelvic or abdominal area, and sitting on a bicycle too long. Men who log several thousand miles a year on their mountain bikes suffer scrotal damage that could reduce their fertility. Vascular disruptions may also reduce blood flow to the female genital organs.
Nerve damage from disorders such as diabetes, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, and stroke affects the brain’s ability to respond to sexual stimulation. In women, abdominal or pelvic operations can occasionally lead to nerve damage. Sexual dysfunction is common in men undergoing surgical treatment for prostate enlargement or cancer.
The causes of psychological sexual dysfunction are so numerous that it is difficult to list them all. However, most often these causes are related to depression, performance anxiety, marital stress or relationship problems, life crisis, financial difficulties, religious repression, or some type of mental illness.
Psychological erectile dysfunction is suspected when a person is able to have spontaneous erections during sleep, but has difficulty doing so with a partner. Most erections at night occur during REM (rapid eye movement) sleep.
Depression often coexists with sexual dysfunction, and the medical treatment of depression with certain drugs can further worsen sexual symptoms or cause sexual problems in a person who did not experience them prior to treatment.
A normal sexual response in men and women often begins in the presence of sexually oriented stimulation. When the mood and setting are right, the body responds by releasing a cascade of chemicals that direct the flow of blood into the sexual organs. In men, this rush of blood is directed into a pair of pockets, known as the corpus cavernosa, that run along the shaft of the penis and allow the penis to engorge and stiffen. In women, this blood flow leads to engorgement and lubrication of the organs as the body prepares for sexual intercourse.
Some of the well-known chemicals involved in enhancing the human sexual response are nitric oxide (NO), dopamine, and acetylcholine. Serotonin has an inhibitory effect on sexual interest.
Engorgement of the sexual organs is triggered by a unique neurotransmitter called nitric oxide (NO). NO is considered the most important factor for relaxation of penile blood vessels and corpus cavernosa. Normally, the blood flow to the penis is restricted due to contraction of the blood vessels. However, through the relaxation of these vessels, the flow of blood increases and leads to erections. Some natural sex boosters work by influencing either the production of NO, or by influencing the production of other chemicals that are involved in the sexual response. Smoking reduces blood flow to the genitals and reduces the formation of nitric oxide.
The chemistry of sex is important to understand in order to maximize the potential of natural supplements. I will discuss this issue further in the next chapter.
Up to one quarter of cases of sexual dysfunction may be due to medicines prescribed for a medical or psychiatric condition.
Common pharmacologic causes include diuretics, anti-hypertensives, beta-blockers, sedatives and sleeping pills, anti-seizure medicines, anti-HIV drugs, antipsychotics and antidepressants. Over-the-counter medications such as antihistamines and decongestants also interfere with optimum sexual performance. Sedatives and sleeping pills reduce sensation of genital organs. Alcohol has a negative effect on the sex drive, and this effect increases with age.
Antidepressants of the SSRI (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors) class are well known to cause sexual problems. SSRIs include Prozac, Zoloft, Paxil, and others. SSRI-induced sexual dysfunction affects up to 60% or more of individuals who take these drugs. Biochemical mechanisms that are likely to cause this sexual dysfunction include increased serotonin; decreased dopamine; blockade of cholinergic receptors; and inhibition of nitric oxide synthetase. In response to this side effect, some doctors suggest a wait-and-see approach, while others may decrease the dosage or recommend drug holidays. More aggressive strategies for treating SSRI-induced sexual dysfunction include changing antidepressants and adding certain sex boosters. Bupropion and mirtazapine are antidepressants that are less likely to cause sexual dysfunction.
The hair-growing drug finasteride (Propecia), which is also prescribed as Proscar for use in benign prostate enlargement, may at times reduce sex drive. Finasteride blocks the conversion of testosterone to its more active form dihydrotestosterone (DHT). And since DHT is more potent than testosterone, it is possible that finasteride users may experience a drop in sexual interest.
A number of therapies have been developed over the years to address impaired sexual response, including the injection of drugs into penile tissue to induce an artificial erection, vacuum constriction devices, penile implantation surgery, hormones, and drugs.
Sildenafil, better known as Viagra, approved by the FDA in 1998, has been the most popular medicine for the treatment of erectile dysfunction. Two other drugs, Levitra and Cialis, were introduced to the U.S. market in 2003. Levitra is purported to work faster than Viagra, and Cialis is being promoted as helping erections last longer. Viagra works very well in dilating blood vessels in the genital region, which leads to an erection or increased blood flow to the vaginal tissues. However, it does little to directly increase libido or sexual arousal. The effect of Viagra is often noticed within an hour after taking a pill of 50 mg or 100 mg, and ease of erection may last up to twelve hours. Side effects of Viagra include headache, flushes, nasal congestion or runny nose, malaise, nausea, changes in blood pressure, irregular heartbeat, visual disturbances including rare cases of blindness, and chest pain.
I personally find natural sex boosters quite effective and preferable to pharmaceutical drugs. They may not be as effective as Viagra and the other new drugs in inducing erections, but they enhance overall sensation, sex drive, and sexual enjoyment. Hence, the entire sexual experience is much more pleasant.
As part of my research in writing this book, I did a thorough search on Medline, the database for all medical studies published in Western medical journals. I also searched on the internet and visited many health food stores to find ingredients and products promoted by vitamin companies as sex boosters.
After more than two decades of medical practice and reading medical journals, I have come to realize that results of studies do not often reveal the whole picture. Often, I have learned a great deal about the effects of a particular nutrient or herb by taking it myself. For instance, I discovered in 1995 that melatonin, the pineal hormone used for sleep, causes vivid dreaming. I had not come across any mention of this in scientific journals. I also discovered in 1998 that high doses of fish oil capsules enhance visual perception. This, also, had not been mentioned in the medical literature.
Research on some of the nutrients and herbs discussed in this book is quite limited. Hence, I thought you, the reader, would appreciate any type of anecdotal information. Much of the information in Natural Sex Boosters is unique since I mention my own personal experiences, along with feedback from my patients and friends who have tried these aphrodisiacs. I have taken almost all of these herbs, nutrients, amino acids, or hormones for varying periods of time and in various doses—and some in combinations. Taking these sex boosters for the purposes of writing a book was quite an enjoyable experience!
Please be aware that my response may be quite different from yours. You may or may not experience the same findings. There is a significant difference among humans on how they respond to different herbs, supplements, and drugs. Also, there are variations between products from different sources and companies.
Many studies have found that there is a high placebo effect when testing with sex boosters. This placebo effect can be as high as 25% or more, and makes the interpretation of studies involving natural aphrodisiacs or anecdotal reports from individuals quite challenging.
The Right Dosage?
Throughout the book, I will mention a range of dosages for each supplement. It is impossible to give exact dosage suggestions that would apply to everyone, since each person has a unique biochemistry. There are many factors that influence a response to a particular supplement. These include age, sex, race, mindset, setting, medical or psychological condition, other medicines or supplements that are taken at the same time, quality of the supplement, etc. Another factor to consider is that the amount of the active ingredients in an herb may vary according to the region in which it is grown, the type of soil, the method of harvesting, storage, the quality of the product itself, weather conditions, and a number of other elements. Furthermore, many of these botanicals have only just begun to be investigated for their sex-boosting effect and hence little is known about the proper dosage and timing.
As a rule, and to be on the safe side, start at the low end of the dosage suggestions and gradually build up depending on the way the substance makes you feel. Another basic rule is that most women will require a dose smaller than those recommended for men. Perhaps only one-half or two-thirds of the dosage for males will be needed for women.
A Word of Caution
It is very difficult to predict how you will respond to the sex boosters discussed in this book. If you have a concern due to a medical condition or are currently taking medication, discuss the issue with your health care provider before experimenting on your own. Please keep in mind that some of these natural sex boosters are quite powerful—particularly the hormones and yohimbe—and if misused they can cause unpleasant side effects. Concurrent use of supplements may mimic, magnify, or oppose the effect of medicines you may be taking. Herbs, even if natural, can be toxic if taken in excess.
Another factor to consider is that these natural sex enhancers may make you hypersexual, possibly changing the quality as well as the quantity of your sexual behavior and interests. There can be unpredictable allergic reactions to supplements or fillers in the capsules that may involve the lungs, heart, skin, or other organs. However, these allergic reactions are rare.
Since these natural supplements have rarely been tested in pregnant women, it would be best for such women to only use them under strict medical supervision. It is always important to weigh the possible benefits from taking a substance versus the potential side effects that may occur to the developing fetus.
How to Use Natural Sex Boosters
As a result of my research, I have gathered information on various herbs and natural supplements that have sex-boosting qualities. I have designed the following chapters to serve as a reference guide to help you discover the right aphrodisiac for you.
Chapter 1 contains a brief discussion of the chemicals that are involved in the process of sexual arousal. You will likely return to this chapter to refresh your understanding of the chemistry of sex. In Chapters 2 through 18, I include an alphabetical listing of the natural herbs that are most commonly available and promoted as sexual enhancements. These individual chapters are organized to provide a concise overview of the most current information on each supplement. I begin with a brief explanation of the particular herb or nutrient. I then present the findings of any research studies that are available, and describe the way in which the product works. I then share with you my personal experiences in using the herb, as well as feedback from my patients who have tried the sex booster.
I also include the inevitable cautions and possible side effects from using each product, and the suggested dosages for the various forms that may be available. Unfortunately, many of these nutrients have not been well studied in the Western medical literature, and there are few extended human trials on which to report. As a result, long-term side effects are largely unknown. In addition, there is a lack of specific dosage recommendations for these natural products, unlike the product labels of pharmaceuticals.
The field of natural sex boosters is an evolving one. That is why I have included Chapter 19. This chapter details some sex-boosting herbs that have been reported to have aphrodisiac qualities. These products often appear among the ingredients list on other labels. However, these herbs are not presented in individual chapters, as there is either a lack of research evaluating these herbs, or the nutrients do not provide an immediate sexual effect. Hopefully, future studies will provide greater insight into these herbs and their wondrous possibilities to enrich and enhance your sex life.
Over the past several decades, science has slowly become aware of the potential of natural supplements and herbs in influencing the human sexual response. The research in this field is still in a quite early stage, and much is yet to be discovered about the potential benefits of these supplements and their proper dosages and combinations. I am very pleased to share with you my findings regarding dozens of natural sex boosters. But first, in the next chapter, let me explain in greater detail the chemicals that influence stamina, sensation, and sexuality.