No one wants to talk about it, but sex is an issue for many. Erectile dysfunction affects at least 3 million men in the U.S. alone, and one study shows that over one-third of women experience hypoactive sexual desire disorder, or a diminished libido.
Of course, both low libido and erectile dysfunction can stem from a variety of factors, including hormone imbalance, depression, or side effects of certain medications. It's important to work with a doctor to rule out underlying issues first, but for certain people, it's enough to supplement with all-natural vitamins, minerals, adaptogens, and foods to realign hormones and get that loving feeling back.
“Our libido is governed mostly by hormones – so when our hormones are out of whack we often first notice it in our sex drive,” explains Dr. NavNirat Nibber, ND. “The delicate balance between testosterone, estrogen, progesterone, cortisol and melatonin needs to be maintained.”
She notes that reducing stress – and the effects of stress on our body – is key to help improve sexual function, a task that can be accomplished not just with meditation and mindfulness but also with certain supplements like adaptogens.
“It’s our physiology and brain chemistry – neurochemicals such as serotonin, dopamine and GABA – that ultimately drive and determine our emotions, moods, and our ability to be both relaxed and alert so we can get the most out of intimacy,” explains Marta Montenegro MS, MF, CSCS, SFN, NSCA-CPT, a Miami, Fla.-based nutrition fertility lifestyles specialist at IVFMD. She notes that these neurotransmitters can increase alertness and decrease anxiety, improving sexual function and overall sex life.
With this in mind, here are seven all-natural supplements that can help you heat things up in the bedroom again.
1. A Good Multivitamin
While some sexual problems are linked to specific deficiencies or other issues, for many, the problem is much simpler, according to Arielle Levitan, M.D., co-founder of Vous Vitamin, LLC and author of "The Vitamin Solution."
“While everyone is looking for a magical pill to boost sex drive and satisfaction, there is no one magic pill," she explains. “It turns out that taking the optimal combination of daily vitamins for your personal profile is the best way to address this.”
She recommends a daily vitamin containing B vitamins, magnesium, iron, and vitamin D to help improve general energy and, by extension, libido.
Vitamin D3, specifically, can improve the production of sex hormones in both men and women, according to Calloway Cook, founder of herbal supplement company Illuminate Labs.
“This vitamin, which our skin produces when in contact with the sun, regulates sex hormone production to a large degree in both men and women,” explains Cook. “Supplementing Vitamin D in those already replete in the vitamin won't have an effect, but fixing a deficiency can improve libido. This is because Vitamin D deficiency can cause artificially lowered testosterone.”
This powerful adaptogen is a root native to Peru, used, among other things, for its libido-enhancing effects, which have been proven by double-blind, randomized human studies.
Ryan Bradford of Wonder Labs notes that maca can be beneficial for sexual health in both men with erectile dysfunction and post-menopausal women. Studies have shown that maca can even help those whose lost libido stems from use of anti-depressant medications.
Try: Navitas' Organic Maca ($18.79/16 ounces powder)
Don’t be scared off by this amino acid’s fancy name. Naturally produced in the body and present in food sources like watermelon, L-Citrulline has been found to increase the production of nitric oxide in the body which, explains Cook, dilates blood vessels and reduces blood pressure, helping to increase erection quality, especially in men with high blood pressure. Since, as Pam Machemehl Helmly, CN, founder and chief science officer of Wellnicity, explains, most standard American diets do not have enough of the nitrate-rich vegetables to help with ED and libido, supplementing can be helpful.
“Nitric oxide is a vascular dilator for our arteries and it’s what helps drive blood flow, essential to arousal for our sexual organs,” she says, noting that other amino acids, like L-arginine, and vitamins like vitamin C and folate, can also increase nitric oxide in the body.
"Ingesting foods with these nutrients can also help reduce levels of your stress hormone, cortisol, and therefore help you feel more relaxed," she continues, suggesting shrimp, peanuts, strawberries, and kiwi.
Try: Source Naturals' L-Citrulline ($19.99/120 capsules), in addition to consuming foods that promote production of nitric oxide.
Amino acid L-Tyrosine can help increase libido by increasing dopamine levels, according to Montenegro.
“When we consider foods that can help you increase your alertness, that get you energized and that promote what we like to call your mojo, then we need to be thinking about foods that help increase our dopamine levels,” she explains.
Foods rich in L-Tyrosine include sesame seeds and pumpkin seeds.
Try: Now's L-Tyrosine ($9.99/120 capsules)
5. Tryptophan and Choline
Sex drive is also reliant on our sense of wellbeing and calm, according to Montenegro. To improve this, ingesting foods that encourage the production of serotonin and GABA is essential – and both tryptophan and choline can do that.
Montenegro notes that these amino acids are present in salmon, almonds, walnuts, spinach, and eggs.
6. Panax Ginseng
This traditional Chinese remedy has been used for thousands of years to increase energy and physical endurance. The clinically tested aphrodisiac increases stamina and endurance in both men and women.
Try: Herbal Terra's Ginseng Tincture ($17.95/2 fl. oz.)
7. CBD Oil
CBD oil is the natural health world's most recent darling, and in addition to its purported powers as an anti-anxiety, anti-epileptic, and anti-cancer supplement, CBD may help boost tired libidos.
“When it comes to erectile dysfunction, there are three issues that occur,” explains Richie Jaynes, founder of HempLyfe. “One is physical; two is emotional; three is health. And so our products address every single one of those departments.”
CBD, he notes, may help reduce anxiety, depression, and stress, all of which are emotional triggers for erectile dysfunction and for loss of libido in men or women. But according to Jaynes, CBD is even more powerful when used in synergy with the other ingredients in his company’s Thrill, like Rehmannia root, a traditional Chinese remedy used as an adrenal tonic to improve sexual function, or goji berries, a purported aphrodisiac that may reduce the chances of metabolic syndrome, a precursor to erectile dysfunction.
“Everything is kind of a domino effect,” he says, noting that these ingredients "work synergistically with one another” – and with the full-spectrum CBD oil at the base of the formula.
“We chose as a company to use full-spectrum products, and this goes back to the synergy,” he says. “Why mess with the synergy of the plant?”