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 supply.
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 aroused).
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 Coumadin.
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 woes.