Healthy Libido

picture of a couple with a healthy libido

Low Sex Drive? How to Maintain a Healthy Libido for Women

By Pamela Frank, BSc(Hons), ND 

Libido in women is dictated by two main physical influences: a) hormones like estrogen, testosterone and oxytocin and b) brain chemicals called neurotransmitters like dopamine.

A significant sign of hormone imbalance is a lack of ovulation or anovulation. Ovulation increases libido because there is a biological urge to reproduce when a woman ovulates.  Women often find their libido drops while on the birth control pill because the pill is suppressing ovulation.

For women who aren’t on the pill the solution to a low libido because of anovulation is to determine why ovulation isn’t happening and address that.

There can be a variety of reasons for anovulation such as hypothyroidism, stress, various vitamin/mineral deficiencies, hypopituitarism, being underweight and PCOS.

One way to try to balance hormones for successful ovulation is to keep your blood sugar level balanced. Spikes in blood sugar can cause hormone imbalances that contribute to anovulation.

Emotional reasons such as stress, feeling overwhelmed, lack of intimacy or feeling disconnected from her partner can cause low libido for women too.  Fostering emotional connection takes time and effort for both partners.  Make time for togetherness: try something new together, undertake a project, volunteer, disconnect from devices every evening, take a trip, cheer for your favourite team and talk to each other about things that really matter.  All of these can foster a sense of closeness and bonding that can help restore intimacy in a relationship.

Herbs for Libido in Women

Herbs that can be used to directly improve libido for women include Damiana, Malaysian Ginseng (Tongkat Ali) and Tribulus.  Damiana (Turnera diffusa) is one of the most highly appreciated plant aphrodisiacs. Tribulus is known to increase free and total testosterone which can help with libido, particularly in menopausal women.  Because it increases testosterone, Tribulus may not be suitable for women with PCOS. Properly standardized water extracts of Tongkat Ali are also known to stimulate the release of free testosterone, improve libido, reduce fatigue, and improve well-being.

Indirectly, vitamins and minerals that nourish the endocrine system like B vitamins, magnesium, zinc and selenium may help restore healthy hormone levels and improve libido.

Foods that May Boost Libido for Women

Because they are a rich source of tyrosine for dopamine production, the following foods may positively affect libido: soybeans, beef, lamb, pork, fish, chicken, nuts, seeds, eggs and beans.

Protein rich foods are also stabilizing for blood sugar which helps maintain hormone balance.

Foods that are rich sources of vitamins and minerals that nourish the endocrine system (B vitamins, magnesium, zinc and selenium) include: kelp, Brazil nuts, shellfish, beef, and dark green leafy vegetables.

What about the old stand-bys like oysters and chocolate? Well these may help because oysters are a rich source of zinc and chocolate is a rich source of magnesium and everyone knows that the way to a girl’s heart is through chocolate.

Sources: 
J Ethnopharmacol. 2014 Mar 28;152(3):424-43. doi: 10.1016/j.jep.2014.01.019. Epub 2014 Jan 24.
Ethnobotany, phytochemistry, and bioactivity of the genus Turnera (Passifloraceae) with a focus on damiana–Turnera diffusa.
Szewczyk K, Zidorn C2.

Menopause. 2016 Nov;23(11):1252-1256.
Efficacy of Tribulus terrestris for the treatment of hypoactive sexual desire disorder in postmenopausal women: a randomized, double-blinded, placebo-controlled trial.
de Souza KZ, Vale FB, Geber S.

J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2013 May 26;10(1):28. doi: 10.1186/1550-2783-10-28.
Effect of Tongkat Ali on stress hormones and psychological mood state in moderately stressed subjects.
Talbott SM, Talbott JA, George A, Pugh M.

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