Herbs for Sexual Enhancement, guest post by pharmacist Paul Roberts

As we age and encounter sexual challenges, many of us turn to herbs for help. Yet how do we cut through the hyped-up claims and figure out whether a certain herb actually works for the reason we want to use it? And how do we know if it’s harmful or dangerous (“contraindicated”) because of a medical condition or other drugs we’re taking? 

I asked pharmacist Paul Roberts to give us some answers. Here he comments on herbs that people our age often buy, hoping to improve our libido, erections, and sexual responsiveness. 
— Joan
Herbs for Sexual Enhancement
by Paul Roberts
R.Ph., M.S., 
Certified Geriatric Pharmacist and nutritionist
Some herbs are reputed to enhance sexual libido and function. Do they work? Herbs
for sexual function are rarely used alone. Rather they’re found with several
others in combination. Therefore it’s difficult to determine which individual
ones work, and adequate studies for safety are generally lacking. Fortunately
herbs have generally mild effects and a good safety record overall, compared to
prescription medications.
Be sure to tell your doctor what herbs you’re taking or considering taking,
because they may interact with another medication you’re taking or aggravate a
condition you have.
These herbs are commonly used for sexual function:
Tribulus (Tribulus terrestris)
“Puncture Vine”

        Uses: to treat impotence, infertility, and increase muscle strength. Tribulus is widely used in combination with other herbs for sexual dysfunction in men.

Contraindications: Do not use if you are diabetic (it may
lower blood glucose levels); take lithium; have benign prostate enlargement,
prostate cancer, hormone dependent cancers, or other hormone-linked medical
conditions. Tribulus may interact with some heart and blood pressure medicines,
such as beta-blockers, calcium channel blockers, digoxin, and diuretics. Avoid
this herb for sexual dysfunction in women, as it’s likely to aggravate the
Conclusion: Tribulus is included in most herbal
formulas for sexual dysfunction, although there’s little scientific evidence
that it works. It is possibly effective for men and may be worth a trial for up
to 8 weeks if you do not have any of the contraindications.
Korean ginseng (Panax ginseng)
Uses: to improve erectile dysfunction, libido, sexual
arousal in women, orgasmic function, sexual satisfaction, physical stamina.
Contraindications: Avoid if you are taking blood thinners. Avoid
if you have autoimmune disease (it may stimulate immune function). Avoid if you
have schizophrenia unless prescribed by your doctor. It also has some
estrogenic effects and should be avoided by women with estrogen-sensitive
cancers or conditions.
Cautions: Use caution and check your blood sugar
frequently if you’re diabetic. Use only under medical supervision if you are
taking antidepressants or antipsychotics. It may cause insomnia and increase the
effect of caffeine, use with caution if you have difficulty sleeping. One study of a product containing
Korean ginseng, yohimbine , Horny Goat Weed, Muira Puama, and other ingredients
found the combination can interact with medications and may lead to irregular
Conclusion: Adverse effects rarely reported in doses
of 500mg to 2,000 mg for 4 weeks to 6 months. Found to significantly improve sexual function over 4 to 12 weeks.
Libido, orgasmic function, and sexual satisfaction have been shown improved
over 8 weeks, but probably not effective for increasing physical stamina. Used
by over 6 million Americans, Ginseng can be considered for improving sexual
function in men and enhancing sexual arousal in women if you do not have any of
the contraindications or cautions.
Maca (Lepedium meyenii)
Uses: for impotence, as an aphrodisiac, and to
relieve stress. Maca root in dried form has been consumed by Peruvians as
regularly for several thousand years, but never the fresh root, which is
considered unsafe.
Contraindications: Avoid in hormone-dependent cancers, or
other hormone-linked medical conditions.
Cautions: Although traditionally used to establish
female hormonal balance, no studies have been done in women.
Conclusion: Maca is possibly effective for increasing
libido and increasing sperm amount at 1.5 to 3 grams daily of the dried
powdered root. More studies are needed to verify other uses. Likely safe (in
the dried form) for short term, up to 3 to 4 months. Due to widespread use and
safety, in spite of lack of studies, combinations with Maca may be worth a
trial in healthy individuals.
Chrysin “Passion
Uses: for impotence and increasing testosterone.
It is purported to inhibit the conversion of testosterone into estrogen,
however studies that show this are lacking.
Contraindications: Avoid with prescription aromatase
inhibitors (Femara®, Arimidex®, Aromasin®) because
it may increase the drug’s effect. May interfere with anticoagulant, platelet
treatments or cause low blood pressure. Avoid if you are immunosuppressed or
immunocompromised. Avoid in hormone-dependent cancers, or other hormone-linked
medical conditions.
Cautions: May increase levels of some drugs cleared
by the liver enzyme “Cyp1A2” including caffeine. Ask your pharmacist
or doctor if this could affect any of your prescriptions.
Conclusion: Avoid this herb until more is known.
Wild Yam (Dioscorea villosa) 
Uses: to increase energy and libido in women
Cautions: Claims that Wild Yam is a natural
progesterone or has progesterone effects are not supported by studies.
Conclusion: No reports were found of adverse effects
when used in appropriate doses for short term. However, Wild Yam is not
converted to hormones in the body as is commonly believed, only in the
laboratory. Avoid this product.
Damiana (Turera diffusa)
Uses: to prevent and treat sexual dysfunction and
as an aphrodisiac.
Cautions: The research studied Damiana in
combination with other ingredients, however studies of the herb alone are
Conclusion: May be safe in appropriate doses for short
term, but possibly avoid this herb until more is known.
*WARNING: One study of a product containing Korean ginseng, yohimbine, Horny Goat
Weed, Muira Puama
, and other ingredients found the combination can interact
with medications and may lead to irregular heartbeats. Horny Goat Weed may
increase bleeding if you’re taking blood thinners. In combination with blood
pressure medications, it may lower blood pressure, leading to dizziness or