By David Blyweiss, M.D.
Is your brain sabotaging your love life? If you suffer from depression, it’s a good possibility.
Lack of interest in sex could be a symptom of depression. It’s also a really common side effect of antidepressant drugs like Paxil and Prozac. But, whether it’s the cause or the cure that’s undermining desire, the problem is rooted in your brain.
You probably don’t think of your brain as a sex organ, but sexual desire starts in your mind and works its way down to the other parts of your body.
Normally, brain chemicals called neurotransmitters send blood surging to sex organs when you’re aroused. But if you’re experiencing depression, the message simply doesn’t reach your erogenous zones.
The neurotransmitters serotonin and norephinephrine—the same brain chemicals that are involved in depression—are responsible for arousal, sexual interest and your ability to feel pleasure. When your brain’s production of these chemicals is out of whack, your libido is, too.
Fortunately, there are ways to ease depression and reignite the fires of desire naturally. Here are 3 of my favorites for both men and women:
Damiana: This South-of-the-Border herb has been hailed as an aphrodisiac since ancient times, particularly by the native peoples of Mexico. According to historical sources, damiana encourages the renewal of sexual function and capacity. It’s also commonly used to treat nervousness, exhaustion and depression. Recent studies show that damiana extracts bind to progesterone receptors, which may be the reason behind this herb’s effectiveness.1 For best results, take 400 to 800 mg. three times a day.
Mucuna pruriens: With a long tradition as an aphrodisiac, this Ayurvedic herb promotes serotonin, a natural brain chemical that improves mood and relaxes muscle tissue. Mucuna is also a wonderful source of the amino acid levodopa, more commonly called l-dopa. Your brain converts l-dopa into dopamine, a hormone-like substance that helps stimulate the nerve impulses in the genital area and boosts sexual desire.2 If you’re suffering from both depression and a lack of desire, I recommend taking 200 mg. of a mucuna supplement that contains 15% l-dopa content.
Panax ginseng: Also known as Korean ginseng, panax ginseng has a long history of use in Traditional Chinese Medicine as a sex stimulant—and with good reason. A recent study shows that the ginsenosides in panax ginseng dilate the blood vessels in the genital area and relax the smooth muscles in the vagina, both of which enhance arousal. Ginseng also helps amplify sexual desire by increasing energy levels, reducing fatigue, easing sleep disturbances and lessening depression.3 Try 900 mg. of a concentrated herbal extract 2 or 3 times daily.
Check your local health food stores for these supplements. And remember, whichever herb you choose— make sure you give it a chance to work. Unlike pharmaceuticals, it can take several weeks before you notice any benefits from these safe and effective herbal remedies.
- Ito TY. The enhancement of female sexual function with ArginMax, a nutritional supplement, among women differing in menopausal status. Journal of Sex & Marital Therapy. 2006;32:369-78.
- Suresh S. Dose- and time-dependent effects of ethanolic extract of Mucuna pruriens Linn. seed on sexual behaviour of normal male rats. Journal of Ethnopharmacology. 2009;122:497-507.
- Murphy LL. Ginseng, sex behavior, and nitric oxide. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences. 2002;962:372-377.