Written by Sally Machin, ND
After delving into causes of low libido, finally we come to the fun part… what we can do to turn it around (or maybe turn it on?). The pharmacy industry was all over Viagra, but there has been little pharmacological treatment available to women. Some have been studied, but denied by the FDA because of side effects. Some doctors have been successfully treating women with testosterone when they have low levels, however there appear to be risks associated with this hormone therapy.
The fact that there are limited pharmacological options is no problem for us, because we focus on natural options. Of course, evaluating contributing medical factors and assessing any underlying issues, such as stress and fatigue are very important. However, there is some really exciting research about natural therapy options – specifically in relation to fenugreek seed. In Part 2 of this series, we talked about the role that low levels of certain hormones can play in some women’s low libido. Fenugreek seed has been shown in studies to actually raise the level of free testosterone. “Free” in this case means that the testosterone being measured is not attached to a protein, so it is available to tissues. The same trial found that fenugreek also increased serum estradiol (the main form of estrogen in premenopausal women – it is formed mostly by the ovaries). While this may sound impressive, lab values are not what most women care about when they want their libido to increase. The good news is that this trial also looked at two different validated measures for female sexual function – both surveys showed significant increase in score after two months of treatment with fenugreek seed compared to the placebo group. The treatment group also demonstrated a significant increase in frequency of sexual activity with their partners. Other studies have also confirmed the safety of using fenugreek seed.
If you are experiencing underlying causes for low libido, other treatment options may be better suited for you. For people under chronic stress, working on stress management support may be a better route. When someone has been under chronic stress, they may also experience benefit by using botanical and nutritional formulas to get their body back in balance. Certain nutrients are used more when someone is under chronic stress and may need to be replenished. Additionally, there are many botanical medicines that support the adrenal glands, which can get overworked with long-term stress.
Lastly, any chronic condition can negatively impact a woman’s libido. When that is the case, a targeted approach like using fenugreek may be helpful in combination with addressing underlying causes. As naturopaths we like to look at the whole person and address anything that is preventing a person from being in their optimal state of health. In this type of scenario, it wouldn’t necessarily be enough just to try to boost libido without tackling the rest of what is happening physically or psychologically. Not only do I want my patients to be happy with their sex lives, but I also believe that a low libido can be an indicator that we need to work on optimizing their overall health. We take a personalize approach with all our patients and that includes our approach to their sexual health.
Fenugreek Seed Extract for Support of Women’s Libido. Research Review. Metagenics, Inc. 2014