With February 14th just around the corner, love is in the air. But what if you feel your relationship could do with a boost?
There’s still time to re-ignite the passion with a little herbal help, says Editor Jane Garton.
What can negatively impact your sex life?
The first step is to take a long hard look at what could be affecting your sex life. Stress, overwork, anxiety or just feeling down are common culprits. Some prescription medicines can knock your libido too. PMT and hormonal ups and downs especially in the years leading up to the menopause and as you journey through it can also have a big impact.
In men, problems in the bedroom can stem from drinking too much alcohol, but also a lack of testosterone and (especially as men get older), reduced blood supply to the penis.
But it is not all bad news! Read on for some herbs that can help restore that loving feeling.
St John’s wort
Feeling low is guaranteed to put sex off the agenda and if this sounds like you, St John’s Wort may be the herb to boost your spirits. It is also good for anxiety as well as sleep problems. At least one trial using St John’s wort in pre- and post-menopausal women found that those taking a standardised extract of the herb felt sexier and more confident because they were happier in themselves. They were more inclined to initiate sex with their partners, and to become more adventurous in bed as a result.
If your sex life has taken a nosedive, stress overload could be the culprit. A great stress-buster is Panax ginseng. It is thought to support the adrenal glands, which are responsible for the ‘fight or flight’ hormones that go into overdrive when stress becomes an on-going reaction to daily tensions and worries. Ginseng can give your energy a boost too, helping you to cope better with life’s ups and downs, as well as giving you more staying power at times when you might otherwise tire more easily!
It can be hard get in ‘the mood’ and communicate with your partner if you can’t relax. So if you find yourself worrying about work, money problems or family issues, for example, valerian can be a great leveller. It is also worth considering if you have problems falling sleep or keep on waking in the middle of the night.
Gingko biloba improves blood flow to the extremities. It increases the amount of blood and energy-giving oxygen reaching the fingertips and toes, as well as the genital areas of both men and women. It can help a man achieve and sustain an erection, particularly if this is difficult because arteries and blood vessels in the penis have narrowed.
Black cohosh and agnus castus help stabilise hormone levels as well as reducing hot flushes and relieving vaginal dryness, making sex more enjoyable. Contrarily, agnus castus was known by medieval monks as ‘chasteberry’ because they thought it would help them suppress feelings of sexual desire. In women, however, it is now known to increase production of progesterone and boost fertility.
Horny goat weed
The benefits of aptly-named horny goat weed are said to have first been noted by the ancient Chinese, who realised that flocks of goats became friskier after eating the plant. It is believed to be a potent aphrodisiac, with some reports suggesting it could be as helpful as some prescribed medicines for impotence. Extracts appear to work by increasing blood pressure in and around the penis.
Used for centuries as a natural stimulant, rhodiola was also a long-favoured ingredient in folk lore love potions. The legendary 13th– century Ukrainian prince Danilia Galitky, for example, who was well known for his amorous escapades, was said ‘to take great strength from the golden root’. More recently, Russian studies show that it can benefit sexual dysfunction problems such as weak erections or premature ejaculation.
More tips for a better sex life
Say no to night-time coffee.
It can actually aggravate you if you’re already worked-up, making you less likely to be in the mood for love. Sip camomile tea instead.
Stub it out.
Smoking is not only a turn-off for most non-smokers but also damages blood vessels and nerves in the extremities. In the long run this can affect performance in the bedroom.
Tone up to turn-on.
Regular exercise is great for improving body-confidence, circulation and stamina. And feeling and looking good rates high in the attraction stakes.
Learn to relax.
Worry causes stress, which can in turn lead to anger and frustration when expectations under the duvet aren’t fulfilled. Try deep breathing exercises to calm you down, and leave your workday at the office, where it belongs.
Think of each other.
Companionship and understanding are as important as sex in any relationship. Concentrate on pleasing your partner and you could be surprised by just how good you feel too.