Women’s libido – fact and fiction

Women’s libido – fact and fiction

Many women experience libido problems and suffer from guilt because they don’t want sex as often as their husband or partner. And men reinforce these negative feelings by considering low sex drive in women as the ‘problem’ in a relationship because they’re not getting sex as frequently as they would like.

Well-known sex therapist Dr. Rosie King says low libido in women is the most common complaint she receives in her work with couples wanting a better sex life. She outlines in her book Where Did My Libido Go? that there is a lot of incorrect information around the issue, making women feel guilty and ‘to blame’ for sexual tension in a relationship.

Myths about women’s libido

What are some common myths about women’s libido?

Myth No 1. If the romantic buzz fades it means the relationship is dead.

Brain scan research shows that ‘falling in love’ involves a crazy neurochemical cocktail that affects the brain in a similar way to cocaine. Over time (usually three to five years) that ‘mad about you’ rush evolves into a much calmer, more secure (and, some suggest, a deeper and more lasting) attachment. Female libido slows in response to this.

But a woman’s libido taking longer to respond doesn’t mean the relationship is in trouble – it’s all part of the natural ebb and flow of sex in a relationship.

Every couple will have times when male and female libidos get ‘out of sync’ for many reasons – ranging from work stress to the arrival of children. And it’s not always woman’s libido that is the problem. Men also experience low sex drive (which is different from erectile dysfunction – not being able to get an erection). At least a third to a half of all men experience times when they may also not feel interested in having sex.

Most women experience libido problems at some time in their lives, often related to hormonal changes (birth or menopause), stressful life events, or a relationship that is going sour.

Dr. King says social expectations in our ‘sexed up’ world are high; that we are always going to be ‘hot to trot’. These are at least partly to blame for couples feeling there is something wrong with their relationship, or with a woman’s libido.

Rather than jumping into serial monogamy and looking for the next romance, the answer is to understand your and your partner’s needs better, and pay attention to communicating with, and caring for, one another.

Myth No 2. If you love someone, you should feel turned on by him, anytime, anywhere.

Sex serves different physical and emotional needs for men and women. For men, sex is the way they gain intimacy in relationships, while most women need to feel close to someone before their libido is aroused. Dr. King suggests that going without sex for a man equates to going without conversation for a woman.

She says: “Women are very good at getting their emotional and physical needs met outside of the romantic relationship, while men often rely on sexual activity with their partners to fulfill these very important needs. 

To address this key difference, it’s vital for men to be aware of all environmental issues that may affect a woman’s libido. If she’s had a lousy day at work, if there are things around the house she’s wanted to be fixed and they are still not done, if she feels unsupported and under-appreciated – all of these things will affect her readiness to be sexy.

Myth No 3. You have to feel like sex to enjoy sex.

Since the sexual revolution of the ‘60s the concept that male and female libido is the same has taken root. Biologically this is incorrect. Men, with their much higher testosterone levels, are geared for instant arousal. Women take longer to feel aroused.

However, if all the other environmental factors mentioned above are taken care of, a woman feels secure and appreciated and she can enjoy sex even if she doesn’t feel instant arousal. 

Sex therapists suggest that if a woman develops a mindset to say ‘Yes’, if she communicates to her partner what pleases her, and is willing to engage even if she doesn’t feel aroused at the start, she can still enjoy the experience. Her libido will ‘catch up’ once the engagement begins.

There is one caution, however. This saying ‘Yes’ approach assumes your relationship is basically sound. If you are having deeper communication and relationship problems Dr. David Schnarch, author of Intimacy and Desire, Awaken the passion in your relationship, recommends don’t ‘just do it’ to make your partner happy.

“If you have negative anticipations of sex; if you are unhappy with yourself, or feel alienated or angry with your mate, you are not a candidate for ‘just do it’,” he recommends. Sort out those issues first.

Herbal sexual enhancers

Herbal formulas have been used safely and effectively in traditional medicine for thousands of years. They can help provide extra spark to your sex life by increasing libido, giving more energy and reducing stress. 

Libido-enhancing herbal supplements like Herbal Ignite for Her are taken daily, like a vitamin pill or dietary supplement. They could be the answer for any woman struggling with low libido. 

Healthy intimacy is the best libido enhancer for women

There’s a well-known saying that a woman’s main sex organ is her brain. Any man who ignores this truth will struggle to find the right libido enhancer for his woman. Novelist Isabelle Allende phrased this same thought another way: “For women, the best aphrodisiacs are words. The G-spot is in the ears. He who looks for it below there is wasting his time.”

And Dr. Rosie King is only partly joking when she advises that the best libido enhancer for women is “twenty-three and a half hours of foreplay”. That’s because, for women, the best libido enhancer of all is a warm and intimate relationship before sex. Just buying some sexy underwear and a kinky video isn’t going to do it.

Everything in a woman’s day affects her desire and arousal, says Dr. King. And the best libido enhancers for women are built around a healthy intimate relationship reflected in:

  • Good communication.
  • Healthy intimacy.
  • Non-demanding attention.
  • Experiencing sensuality.
  • Spending quality time with your partner.
  • A low level of conflict.

If men understand this they’ll understand the need to prepare for what happens in the bedroom long before the lights go out.

Tips for men looking for female libido enhancers

Some of the ways to ensure you’ll find a libido enhancer that works for women:

  • Ask her about her day and listen to her answer.
  • Give her flowers occasionally.
  • Organise a night out together.
  • Make romantic gestures like cards, flowers, gifts and compliments.
  • Give her a card, or make an unexpected phone call, to say “I love you”.

In short, you need to show her you care.

What Women Can Do to Enhance Female Libido

There’s a lot a woman can do herself to enhance her libido and create surroundings and circumstances that are conducive to her feeling rested and sexy:

  • Understand what turns you off and get rid of it.
  • Talk to your partner about what turns you on.
  • Create a peaceful and sensual space you feel comfortable in.
  • Ensure you are rested and not under too much stress.
  • Make time – and space - for sex. Don’t just expect it to happen.

Natural libido enhancers for women

Women have recognised the need for libido enhancers for centuries and looked to nature for answers. These include figs (reputedly favoured by Cleopatra) and artichokes (popularised as an aphrodisiac in 16th century France by Catherine de Medici, wife of the French King Henry II). Avocados (forbidden by Spanish priests as a danger to chastity) and almonds, which Romans threw at newlyweds because the smell was said to incite female passion, all make the list of foods to enhance a woman’s libido.

It’s not surprising that some women prefer chocolate to sex because it contains several chemicals that release ‘feel good’ brain chemicals like dopamine and serotonin. And then there’s honey mead drunk by Persian and Germanic couples in the first month of their marriage (which is where the term ‘honeymoon’ comes from), to encourage fertility and the birth of a son.

Herbal supplements as female libido enhancers

These days we are more likely to turn to natural herbal supplements to enhance female libido. Herbs that are commonly used to enhance women’s libido include tribulus terrestris, horny goat weed, damiana, maca, mucuna pruriens, muira puama, dong quai, ginseng, ginko biloba and wild yam.

Many of these are found in herbal supplements like Herbal Ignite for Her, which is used by many couples to increase their sexual satisfaction and enhance a woman’s libido.

If vaginal dryness is causing discomfort and creating a barrier for arousal, it’s worth considering personal lubricants like kiwi fruit-derived Sylk to enhance libido, aid lubrication and ease sensitivity.

Another option worth considering is L-arginine cream. If applied 30 minutes before intercourse, it can enhance a woman’s libido and increase sexual arousal and response. Another great option is Ignite Intimate Gel, a topically applied water-based aphrodisiac that improves sex drive, blood flow, orgasms and lubrication. Don’t be shy about using these types of products if they help.

Top 10 herbs to enhance female libido

1. Tribulus Terrestris

This herb has a long history of traditional use in China, India and Greece for sexual health, and to boost energy levels. Tribulus is one of the more commonly prescribed libido herbs for both women and men. It is thought tribulus increases the production of lutenising hormone (LH) that stimulates testosterone levels - women with a low libido often have low levels of testosterone

2. Horny Goat Weed

Horny Goat Weed has been used for over 1,000 years in Asia and the Mediterranean to improve sexual function and increase energy. It's thought to work by increasing nitric oxide levels, which relaxes smooth muscle and allows more blood flow to the clitoris, thereby improving sexual pleasure and increasing the likelihood of orgasm.

3. Damiana

Dubbed the ‘ultimate feel good herb’, damiana dates from the time of the Mayans and is used to relax the body, reduce stress, and increase overall sexual sensitivity. Spanish missionaries first recorded that Mexican Indians drank damiana tea mixed with sugar as an aphrodisiac.

Scientists from the University of Hawaii School of Medicine studied 77 women over the age of 21 who wanted to improve their sexual function. Thirty-four of these women took a nutritional supplement containing damiana, in addition to ginseng, ginkgo biloba and L-arginine – all of which work together to improve blood circulation to the sexual organs. Forty-three received a placebo (dummy treatment) each day.

After four weeks, over 73% of women who took the supplement reported an overall improvement in their sex lives, compared with just 37.2% of those in the placebo group. Improvements were experienced in several areas, including sexual desire, reduction of vaginal dryness, frequency of sexual intercourse and orgasm, and increased clitoral sensation.

Damiana and L-arginine are available in topically applied intimate creams like Ignite Intimate Gel.

4. Muira Puama

This is a Brazilian shrub helps to enhance sexual desire in both men and women. ‘Potency wood’ as it’s called, is used as a nerve tonic, for general sexual function and to ease menstrual cramps and PMS.

Research published by J. Waynberg and S. Brewer in 2000 showed that muira puama significantly increased the sexual drive in women. The researchers concluded there were significant improvements "in the frequency of sexual desires, sexual intercourse, and sexual fantasies, as well as in satisfaction with sex life, the intensity of sexual desires, the excitement of fantasies, ability to reach orgasm, and intensity of orgasm”.

(Muira Puama is not accepted for use in Australia under the Therapeutic Goods Act.)

5. Maca

Maca has been used for 3,000 years in the Andes to improve energy and fertility. Maca root is highly beneficial to women entering menopause, because it encourages an increase and then a balance between estrogen and progesterone, and reduces hot flushes and vaginal dryness. Maca root also helps to increase libido, restore sex drive lost during menopause and is also thought to help decrease the effects of memory loss and osteoporosis.

(Maca is not accepted for use in Australia under the Therapeutic Goods Act.)

6. Dong Quai

Dong quai is an aromatic herb that grows in China, Korea, and Japan and is used by herbalists as a treatment for a variety of gynecological complaints, ranging from regulating the menstrual cycle to treating menopausal problems. Dong Quai is an ingredient in Herbal Ignite for Women.

7. Gingko Biloba

Gingko is widely used for sexual function, particularly in combination with other libido-enhancing herbs. A test undertaken with 63 patients using Ginkgo biloba extract was found to be effective in 84% of patients with antidepressant-related sexual dysfunction.

8. Ginseng 

Ginseng has been used for thousands of years in China for sexual dysfunction and for reducing stress in both men and women. The active ingredients, ginsenosides, are believed to facilitate the release of nitric oxide in blood vessels, which increases blood flow to the clitoris and results in better orgasms.

9. Wild Yam

The phytosterols in the tubers of wild yam are precursors to the sex hormones oestrogen and progesterone. These stimulate libido by increasing oestrogen in the body. Wild Yam may also reduce the risk of heart problems and breast cancer in postmenopausal women.

10. Mucuna pruriens

Long used as an aphrodisiac, Mucuna pruriens is a naturally occurring source of L-Dopa, the precursor to dopamine. This is the brain's pleasure chemical, which has a significant impact on sexual pleasure and functioning. Mucuna has been known to increase women's libido, reduce anxiety and depression, promote ovulation, increase lean muscle, and more.

(Mucuna in not accepted for use in Australia under the Therapeutic Goods Act.)

Why Herbal Ignite is a great libido treatment

Herbal Ignite for Women is an over-the-counter dietary supplement taken daily with food to support pre-menstrual tension and menopause and to restore hormone levels to a healthy balance. It will also reduce stress levels and increase libido.

It contains four key ingredients:

  • Tribulus Terrestris, which is a general tonic that balances hormone levels, boosts vitality and sense of wellbeing and supports reproductive and sexual health.
    It also supports sex drive, ovulation and reproduction.
  • Damiana is known as the ‘ultimate feel good herb’ for women, because it helps balance female hormone levels, controls hot flushes and is renowned for its libido enhancing qualities. It also relaxes the body, reduces stress and anxiety, lifts mood and enhances sexual response.
  • Horny Goat Weed has been used in traditional medicine as an aphrodisiac to increase libido, improve sexual response and function and create a feeling of well being during menopause.
  • Dong Quai is known as ‘the women’s herb’ or ‘female ginseng’ because it is recognised in traditional Asian medicine as an excellent all-purpose women’s herb. It helps restore hormonal balance, improve menstrual regularity and relieve PMS and hot flushes.

Clinically trialled in Europe, Herbal Ignite has been used successfully by thousands of men and women in New Zealand and Australia to boost libido and improve sexual and general health. All-natural Herbal Ignite for Her is taken as a daily tonic, regardless of sexual activity.

Herbal Ignite is a New Zealand company and the herbs are approved under the Therapeutics Goods Act for use in Australia. Herbal Ignite is 100% natural and is free of unpleasant side effects. It is manufactured in New Zealand to the highest standards, with thorough testing and guarantees of no adulteration or undeclared ingredients.