Libido, or sex drive, doesn’t look the same for everyone. Sometimes your libido may be high, while other times it may be low.
Low libido occurs when someone experiences a lower-than-usual sex drive or a disinterest in sex. It may involve less sexual thoughts and fantasies, reduced interest in having sex, reduced sexual activity overall, and a decrease in sexual stimulation.1
Low libido may come and go, and it can affect both men and women. In fact, 1 in 3 women is said to have low libido, while low libido is prevalent in 5% of middle-aged men2 3
This article will explore the many causes of low libido, common treatments for low libido, and how certain supplements for libido may be able to help.
What causes low libido?
Low libido causes can range from physical to emotional. These causes can occur at any age but may be more likely in those who are middle-aged or older. Typically, libido will naturally and gradually decrease with age.1
Aside from the obvious downsides, a low libido can lead to troubles in relationships and even affect your quality of life. Because of this, it’s good to know the potential causes of low libido so you can act on them accordingly.
Common causes of low libido include:
- Genetic disorders
- Developmental disorders
- Liver and kidney disease
- Certain autoimmune diseases
- Radiation to the gonads
In men, low libido may also be caused by:
- Endocrine diseases
- Drugs and medications
- Decreased testosterone1
Additional causes of low libido in women include:
- Relationship difficulties
- Body image
For some people, common health conditions like diabetes and heart disease may also cause low libido.6 7
It may be that treating these and other conditions linked to low libido may help fix the problem. But sometimes other treatment options are needed.
Common treatments for low libido
There are many different avenues both men and women can take when it comes to treating low libido. Some of these include:
- Behavioral therapy
- Communicating with partner
- Treating underlying health problems
- Diet and/or lifestyle changes
- Changing medications that may be causing libido issues
- Taking a libido medication such as testosterone8 9 10
Can supplements help with low libido?
Another potential treatment option for low libido is supplements.
Many supplements for libido are marketed as such. However, some of these are not backed by science. It’s important to choose a supplement that has been well-researched.
Below is a look at 7 of the most well-supported supplements for libido.
1 – L-arginine
L-arginine is an amino acid that has been studied for its potential libido-boosting effects.
One systemic review found that L-arginine, either alone or in combination with other active ingredients, could be an effective treatment for low libido and sexual dysfunction in women. Women in the study were pre-, peri-, and post-menopausal.11
Men may benefit from L-arginine, too. A recent clinical trial found that high doses of the amino acid significantly improved erectile dysfunction compared to a placebo. In the study, participants took 6 grams of L-arginine per day for 3 months.12
2 – Yohimbe
Yohimbe is a type of evergreen tree that contains yohimbine, a compound used in traditional medicine to treat low libido.13
According to one review, Yohimbe is thought to work by dilating blood vessels and increasing blood flow, two factors that can help with erectile dysfunction. Other studies have shown that Yohimbe may improve sexual vigor and stamina. It has even been shown to work in those with heart disease and diabetes, two health conditions known to cause low libido.14
3 – Maca
Maca is an edible plant that has many potential benefits for human health conditions, one of which is low libido.
One study looking at sexual dysfunction in people (mostly women) taking antidepressants found maca to be a potential treatment option. In the small study, maca was found to be well-tolerated. It also was shown to alleviate sexual dysfunction and improve libido.15
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4 – Ashwagandha
An herb that grows in India and Asia, ashwagandha has long been used for low libido. It is considered an aphrodisiac and may increase sexual desire.
In healthy women, ashwagandha has been shown to improve sexual function. One study concluded that taking ashwagandha may help reduce stress and increase testosterone in women with low libido.16
A different study found that ashwagandha improved sexual function in men as well. Study participants were noted to have significantly improved perceptions of sexual well-being and increased testosterone after taking the herb for 8 weeks. Improvements were also noted in arousal and desire.17
5 – Tribulus
Tribulus (Tribulus terrestris) is a plant used in traditional medicine for its perceived properties as an aphrodisiac.
It has been found to increase sex drive and libido in women. It’s also thought to improve sexual arousal and satisfaction in women.18
Men with mild to moderate erectile dysfunction have also been found to potentially benefit from Tribulus. Results from a 12-week human trial showed that adult males who took Tribulus had significant improvements in sexual function compared to a placebo.19
6 – Red Ginseng
Another herb that grows in Asia, red ginseng has been touted as a natural aphrodisiac. Both animal studies and human trials have reported that red ginseng may be useful in the treatment of low libido in men.20
It has also proven itself useful for women, especially menopausal ones. In one small clinical study, red ginseng extract was given to menopausal women experiencing low libido. At the end of the study, red ginseng was found to significantly improve sexual arousal. Researchers concluded that it may be a beneficial alternative medicine for some menopausal women.21
7 – Saffron
Saffron is often used as a spice, but it has other potential uses including the treatment of low libido.
A systematic review looking at the relationship between saffron and libido found evidence suggesting that saffron can have a positive effect on sexual dysfunction. According to the review, saffron may also be useful in the treatment of erectile dysfunction.22
Saffron may also be used by women with low libido. A small human trial performed on such women concluded that saffron was not only safe but also beneficial for the treatment of low libido. It was shown to improve sexual performance in women of reproductive age.23
Get treatment for low libido
Low libido may be more common than you think. It can affect anyone at any time in life but may be more likely with age.
Changes in your libido can be caused by several factors, from illness to medications to physical or emotional trauma. Relationship challenges may also cause your libido to wax and wane.
Various treatment options are available, including medications, lifestyle changes, and supplements for libido.
It may be helpful to have a conversation with your healthcare provider if you experience low libido. They may be able to help you figure out the root cause and recommend the best treatment option for you.
About Brittany Lubeck
Brittany Lubeck is a registered dietitian and nutrition writer. She has a Bachelor of Science in Dietetics, a Master of Science in Clinical Nutrition, and began her career as a clinical dietitian. Brittany has always enjoyed research and loves that she can help people learn more about nutrition through her writing.
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