Oil May Help Women With Arousal Problems
Small Study Shows Botanical-Based Topical Product Helps
Jan. 30, 2003 -- For millions of women with sexual arousal problems, the mind is willing but the body just doesn't respond. Arousal disorder is one of the most common forms of female sexual dysfunction, and there are literally hundreds of over-the-counter products claiming to fix the problem. But there has been almost no scientific proof that any of them worked until now.
A small study, reported in the January issue of the Journal of Sex and Marital Therapy, found the botanical massage oil Zestra to be much more effective than a placebo oil for enhancing sexual arousal when applied to the genitalia. The manufacturer-funded research included just 20 women, but one of the nation's top sex therapists says she is impressed by it.
"The fact that this was found effective in comparison [with] a placebo sets it apart from the other herbal products out there," Laura Berman, PhD, tells WebMD. "These herbal products aren't regulated by the FDA, so they didn't have to do this study."
Berman, who runs the Berman Center in Chicago and makes frequent television appearances to talk about sexual problems in women, says many of her patients have used the product with mixed results.
"It does create a tingling and warmth sensation in the genital area," she says. "Many patients enjoyed that, but others told us they didn't like the tingling."
The study assessed Zestra's effectiveness in 10 women with female sexual arousal disorder (FSAD) and 10 women without the disorder by surveying them about their sexual satisfaction before and after its use. The researchers looked at changes perceived in the level of arousal, desire, satisfaction with arousal, genital sensation, and ability to have an orgasm. Each woman used Zestra five times and the placebo oil five times, but neither they nor the research team knew which oil they were using until the test was completed.
Women with FSAD reported satisfaction with sexual arousal less than one-third of the time while using the placebo oil, but 85% of the time with Zestra. Women without FSAD reported satisfaction with arousal 73% of the time with the placebo oil and 95% of the time while using Zestra.
"The magnitude of the change that we saw was every bit as dramatic as what was seen in the studies of Viagra for men," lead researcher David M. Ferguson, MD, PhD, tells WebMD. Ferguson works as an independent consultant helping manufacturers test their products.
Results from the small study offer early evidence that Zestra may be effective in one of the largest groups of women who commonly experience problems with arousal -- those taking selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) antidepressants. More than 40 million women take SSRIs and as many as 60% report some sexual side effects.