Is Maca (Lepidium meyenil) the Peruvian Viagra?
If you read what’s on the interwebz, you might believe that this Andean plant that is part of the mustard family will improve sexual function and desire. Some clinical studies even suggest that maca can boost sperm count and mobility. Wow. A wonder plant. Makes me all va va va vooommmm; you too?
Um. Not. So. Fast.
I wrote about Maca two years ago and shared some information about studies examining its potential for alleviating symptoms in peri- and postmenopausal women. At the time, I also alluded to its so-called aphrodisiac and energizing properties. Heck, not only is it widely used in Peru but it’s even licensed in Norway for medicinal purposes. So perhaps the claims are true?
Again, not so fast.
I ran across an interesting review of randomized studies on maca that examined its effects on sexual desire and function. Interestingly, of the 88 studies that the researchers identified, only 4 met scientific standards for analysis. All study participants — both men and women — ingested 1.5 g to 3.5 g of Maca daily for up to 12 weeks. Only one of these studies tested dried, natural maca and the rest were commercial grade. Here’s what they learned:
- Despite claims, few scientific trials have evaluated maca’s effect on sexual function.
- Of the few trials that met the researchers’ review criteria, there was only limited evidence to suggest that maca improved desire after at least six weeks.
- None of the studies looked at side effects.
In other words, maca may be useful but it’s still unclear what it’s useful for. Meanwhile, if you want to improve your sexual desire or functioning, you may want to look elsewhere.Read More
Female sexual disorder, also known as hypoactive sexual desire disorder (HSDD, i.e. lack of sexual desire) is big business and the race for the gold ring continues. While the FDA effectively put a halt to the antidepressant flibanseran only months ago, testosterone therapy continues to drive the march towards finding a cure for a low libido. The question remains, however, is this a good or bad strategy? And how about risks and benefits of adjunctive testosterone? Is it safe?
HSDD is a disorder that robs a woman of her libido and sexual desire. It is believed to affect up to 36% of women between the ages of 20 and 70, although slightly higher numbers of women with some degree of lowered sexual desire have been reported. Especially affected are women who have had their ovaries removed and have entered menopause as a result; these women in particular, have low testosterone levels. Notably, however, not all women who experience diminished sexual desire have low testosterone levels and the cause of HSDD is unknown. In addition to physical causes, relationship and interpersonal/psychological issues are also believed to play a role, making the condition even more difficult to treat. And while testosterone may be helpful for boosting libido, it has also been linked to side effects that include acne, excessive hair loss or growth, hoarseness, weight gain, insomnia, voice deepening and migraines. More importantly, use of testosterone has also been shown to increase cholesterol levels in some women, thereby raising the risk for heart disease.
According to research, the HSDD market ranges from $2 to $5 billion. Even more troubling is the fact that in 2009 alone, physicians wrote more than 4 million prescriptions for testosterone to treat HSDD even though it’s not approved as a therapeutic strategy.
LibiGel® is a topical testosterone gel that is applied to the upper arm. Thus far, it has been shown in short-term, 3 month clinical trials, to significantly increase the number of ”sexually satisfying” events by as much as 238% without serious side effects. Since these early trials, the company has been studying over 2,000 postmenopausal women over the age of 50 with an elevated risk for heart disease to observe how well the gel does over the long-term (i.e. 3 years). Thus far, the manufacturer BioSante reports that the rates of reported cardiovascular events and breast cancer are very low and plans to present interim data later this week at this year’s North American Menopause Society Meeting.
Is LibiGel going to liberate sexually dysfunctional women? And what about the other factors that affect desire, such as relationship status, self-esteem, stress and anxiety? Should we be concerned that physicians already prescribe testosterone ‘off-label’ for millions of women and that the company actually reports that over 90% of women using testosterone unapproved for this use would switch to LibiGel once it’s approved?
I am not quite sure if this is an example of irresponsible medicine or an untapped need. I would like to believe that LibiGel might be effective for certain women who have been forced into menopause due to physical conditions. On the other hand, doesn’t the medical treatment of HSDD ignore the obvious: that there are behavioral, social and environmental factors at play that testosterone therapy won’t and can’t address?
What do you think? Is this a bubble to be burst or the “re-desire” revolution? Only time will tell.Read More
Seriously, I couldn’t make this up. It seems that scientists are studying the mechanisms in the brain that are activated when a woman is aroused during orgasm…in an MRI machine. Somehow, masterbating in a confined space with an endless drone in my head, while researchers look at my brain doesn’t sound very appealing. Nor does giving them a hands up after I’ve come. The goal? By understanding what happens to cause arousal, it might be possible to teach women who have difficulty climaxing to overcome their challenges.
Now mind you, scientists have been studying orgasm through MRI for over a decade. And while I am all for research, especially for women who suffer from sexual dysfunction, well, some things are sacred.
Gimme an “O” sure. But in the privacy of my own domain with either a great vibrator or an amazing partner. Not in an MRI tube with a bunch of researchers literally waiting for the next wave.
How can anyone get turned on with this in their ear?Read More
Got sexual dysfunction? Big pharma continues to search for that magical fountain to restore your libido, desire and ‘vavoom’ in the bedroom. This time, the airways are abuzz with data from a study of rabbits. Yes, rabbits. Seems sort of appropriate that a bunny might be the one to get women back into the bedroom, doesn’t it?
Last November, I told you about the antidepressant flibensarin, which research shows may have the ability to positively affect brain receptors and neurotransmittors that play a role in sexual response. In other words, flibensarin may help boost sexual desire in women who have lost an interest in sex. Now, mind you, hypoactive sexual desire and female sexual arousal disorder, which affects up to 40% of women, are serious, distressing conditions. However, there are data that show that sexual desire cannot be put into a neat box, that the mind, body, soul and environment play key roles in women’s sexual health. Once, again, I refer back to Dr. Christiane Northrup, who I maintain, has provided a healthy, non-pharmaceutical approach to overcoming some of the key variables that play a role in loss of desire. If you haven’t checked out that post, I encourage you to do so.
And yet, the pursuit of the gold ring continues.
In the latest bit of research to reveal the “secret garden” investigators found that by stimulating the pelvic nerve, they were able to promote the release of a neurotransmitter (an endogenous chemical responsible for signals between cells and neurons in the body) called VIP (vasoactive intestinal peptide), a hormone that resides mostly in the gut but also increases blood flow. Under normal circumstances, the action of VIP is broken down by an enzyme called NEP. However, by giving the rabbits an experimental drug, they were able to block NEP, thereby allowing the VIP hormone to do its job better to increase and maintain blood flow to the genital organs.
The key takeaway messages from this highly experimental study were as follows:
1) The drug was able to block an enzyme that plays a role in preventing blood flow to the genital area during arousal, meaning that it revealed a potentially important pathway for the development of drugs that might do the same
2) This action happened without affecting the rest of the body’s cardiovascular system, which indicates it might be safe
Interestingly, in a press release, company representatives distinctly stated that the particular agent used in the rabbit study was not appropriate for further development and that the company had no interest in developing a drug for female sexual arousal disorder.
So, why did the media jump on this story?
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: sex sells.
The moral – be careful and delve deeper. Sexual desire is tricky. In women, it entails a lot more than stimulation. What’s more, do we really need another pill in the bedroom? Thoughts?Read More
A little over a month ago, I enrolled in a user study for Scentuelle™, which you may recall, is an “aroma” patch that uses a woman’s sense of smell to enhance sexual response. At the time, I wrote Scentuelle that reportedly targets smell receptors at the back of nose closest to the brain “with a sensuous blend of aromas” that mimic dopamine, a naturally-occurring chemical associated with pleasure. Manufacturers of Scentuelle claim that because it acts like dopamine, it increases happiness and by default, arousal.
Now that the user study has ended, it’s time for the reveal.
I am not crazy about product itself, but I love the company’s approach.
The Scentuelle patch is unobtrusive, so much so that you might forget that you’re even wearing it. So far as I can surmise, the strategy underlying Scentuelle is a behavioral one, which is why I am giving the product two thumbs up! (In case you are wondering, I was not approached to review this product; as I explained a few weeks ago, a friend sent me a link to the product website and while perusing the goods, I saw that they were conducting a user study, which seemed like a great strategy by which to review a product.)
If you have been following this blog, you might have read my posts on sexual desire and Dr. Christine Northrup. If you’ve not read, them, I encourage you to do so because when it comes to how we feel about ourselves and our partners and more importantly, how that translates to sexual desire, she is spot on.
Briefly, Dr. Northrup suggests that we become “ardent explorers” of our own pleasure, in essence, become our own partners in sex. Turn ourselves on and tell ourselves often that a turned on woman is irresistible. Commit to regularly exploring our pleasure potential and live our lives in ways that “excite, motivate, and turns on” other people in our lives. Become self-actualized, confident. For example,
- Think heartwarming, sexy, uplifting, kind, loving and positive thoughts about yourself and others EVERY DAY
- Strive for commitment, trust and vulnerability with your partner
- Get out of your head and into your body….regularly
Philisophically, Scentuelle appears to be taking the same approach; empowerment, fulfillment, exploration and reinforcement. The rub: the use of gentle reminders to smell the patch and think about sex, desire, your partner, senses, arousal, etc. In a Pavlovian way, the patch and its scent (which for me personally, was the largest drawback as I did not care for it) represented daily reminders to think and act. Whether or not the scent actually activated receptors in my brain is an entirely different matter and I remain unconvinced. It’s not that I don’t appreciate aromatherapy; personally, I embrace it — through candles, perfume, flower and tea. Yet, I found this particular scent so unappealing that I was not sure how it was linked to self-actualization and desire.
I like Scentuelle and I’m not bursting any bubbles. I like what the company is done and I like how they follow through. Clearly, they’ve spent a lot of time and research exploring what does and doesn’t turn a woman on.
If you are experiencing declines in sexual desire because of hormones I encourage you to try the product out. It might be the best $30 you ever spent. And if you’re not, tell your friends who are. It’s wonderful to have a natural, potentially effective solution to a waning sexual desire.
Scentuelle seduction? Yeah, I’m all for it!Read More