Revving Up Women's Sex Drive
Will there ever be a 'Viagra' for women?
With names like Lioness, Xzite, and Rekindle, dozens of
nutritional supplements line drugstore shelves with promises to enhance women's
libido. Some of them even have an eye-opening price tag to go with claims. The
daily supplement Avlimil, for instance, costs $324-$360 for a one-year
Do any of them work?
Whipple says she knows of only two dietary supplements for
sexual dysfunction that have been studied in double-blind, placebo-controlled
trials: ArginMax and Zestra. The ArginMax trial looked at the supplement's
effect on sexual desire, while the Zestra study looked at its effect on sexual
arousal (libido is intact, but the woman has trouble becoming or maintaining
ArginMax appeared to not only have a positive effect on women's
libido, but also showed satisfaction with sex lives -- an important, but often
ignored factor, says Whipple.
Polan was one of the researchers involved in the studies on
ArginMax. She says the supplement is safe for women to try on their own, but
she still recommends that they first check in with their physicians.
"You don't want to miss what a doctor may pick up," says Polan.
"You want to make sure there is not some organic, or metabolic, or physical
reason for [the lack of sexual desire]."
Plus, it is important to make sure that herbal ingredients
don't negatively interact with any medications you may be taking, says Whipple.
For example, ArginMax contains ginkgo, which can promote bleeding. It is not an
ingredient that would mix well with blood thinners such as aspirin or
Leiblum further warns that the FDA doesn't regulate natural
ingredients. "Women may be getting very high levels, or very low levels, or
totally zero levels of these supposed herbs."
Instead of looking at herbal remedies for lost libido, she
recommends taking self-inventory. "It's more important to try to figure out why
you lost [your libido], instead of trying to find a quick fix."
Changes in lifestyle, attitude, and relationships may not be
bought in drugstores, but experts say they hold keys to unlocking libido
"For women, sex drive is critically dependent on being healthy
and really feeling good about a relationship. There will never be anything that
we'll be able to pull out of our medicine cabinet that will be more important
than those two things," says Shifren.
Part of being physically and emotionally healthy is having a
sensible dose of realism. It's normal to have low libido, says Ellison. In
fact, she says it's unrealistic to expect to feel a burst of desire all the
time, as shown on TV.
In real life, where people are in long-term, one-on-one
relationships with jobs, commutes, and kids, she says sexual drive isn't always
Instead of looking for libido, Ellison recommends creating
opportunities to make time together special. "Maybe what you need to look for
is a way to be more interested in your partner," she says.