Healthy sexual function for both men and women leads to healthy babies, children, and future adults. One of the eight branches of Ayurveda is called vajikarana. This branch deals with aphrodisiacs, virility, libido, and all aspects of sexual and reproductive health. An aphrodisiac is any food or drink that will increase sexual desire. While wild oats and chocolate come to mind as more standard options, there are certain herbs in Ayurveda that have been used for thousands of years as aphrodisiacs with sound science to support these claims.
In Ayurveda, there are many herbal aphrodisiacs that are mentioned but five are considered the classic Ayurvedic aphrodisiacs. They are:
In This Article
Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) has been used as a sexual tonic and aphrodisiac for thousands of years, and it is still today one of the most well-known herbal aphrodisiacs. Studies have found it to support sexual health for both men and women. In male subjects, it was shown to increase fertility by improving sperm quality and motility, which is a growing concern among men. It has also been shown to support healthy levels of luteinizing hormone and follicular stimulation hormone, leading to improved fertility in men. In women, ashwagandha was also shown to increase sexual behavior, desire, and libido.
In a double-blind, placebo-controlled study, researchers worked with 50 adult men with low sexual desire. They were given 300mg twice per day of an extract of ashwagandha for 8 weeks. The study concluded that ashwagandha was able to increase testosterone levels (as well as elicit a significant perception of sexual well-being) compared to a placebo.
In another randomized placebo-controlled study, researchers studied 80 adult women without diagnosed hormonal imbalances who were reporting low sex drive. They were given 300mg of ashwagandha extract twice a day for 8 weeks. This study concluded that these women saw improved sexual health with significant improvements in sexual desire, arousal, lubrication, orgasm, sexual satisfaction, and pain.
Note: Whole root ashwagandha has naturally occurring bacterial endophytes that have been shown to increase the growth, health, and potency of the ashwagandha plant. This is why, at LifeSpa, we use the whole organic root of Ashwagandha with its naturally occurring microbiome.
More than 50 studies on shilajit (Asphaltum punjabianum) suggest that it has a positive effect on testosterone levels and adaptogenic, antioxidant, cytokine-balancing, immunomodulatory, and antidyslipidemic activities.
In one study, shilajit was given to 75 healthy adult males. For 90 days, they took a dose of 250 mg twice daily after major meals. This double-blind placebo-controlled study revealed that shilajit, when compared to a placebo, significantly increased total testosterone, free testosterone, and dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA).
Another study further demonstrated the safety and the spermatogenic nature of shilajit in 35 infertile males. For 3 months, they took 100 mg of shilajit twice daily after meals. At the 3-month mark, 28 of 35 of the subjects had significant improvement compared to the baseline related to fertility. At the study’s completion, the semen’s oxidative stress levels were dramatically decreased. Compared to baseline, serum levels of testosterone rose 23.5% and follicle-stimulating hormone rose 9.4%.
In addition, the safe use of shilajit in both men and women was demonstrated.
Shatavari (Asparagus racemosus) is also known as “woman with 100 husbands”. True to its name, it is a natural adaptogen and aphrodisiac. In Ayurveda, it is known to boost ojas. Ojas is a refined substance responsible for vitality, virility, immunity, and sexual/reproductive health. It also balances the production of cortisol. Shatavari contains estrogenic steroidal saponins and diosgenin. It was once thought that shatavari only supports healthy levels of estrogen, but studies suggest that it can also support a healthy balance of estrogen and progesterone. The diosgenin found in shatavari has been found to increase the natural secretion of progesterone.
Stress can force the conversion of progesterone into stress-fighting hormones. Under chronic stress, progesterone can be depleted as the body converts it into cortisol. This is why progesterone hormone replacement is so standard in the West. Shatavari can help replenish and produce progesterone.
In a study published in the International Journal of Reproductive BioMedicine, shatavari was used as a reproductive tonic. The results showed it boosted the production of Gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH), follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH), luteinizing hormone (LH), estrogen, and progesterone hormones.
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Gokshura (Tribulus terrestris) has been used as an Ayurvedic medicine for sexual deficiency for thousands of years. Studies show that the properties of this powerful herb have been associated with an increase in sperm production, sexual endurance, and testosterone levels. Known as ‘puncture vine’ or ‘goat head’, this herb has gained popularity over the past few years as support for testosterone levels in both men and women. It is not a hormone, as some believe. It is said that Tribulus terrestris can also help build muscle and strength, which enhances performance.
While some studies did not find gokshura to be a significant booster of testosterone, it is well-studied as a sexual enhancer, though the exact mechanism causing that impact is still somewhat unclear.
Ginseng (Eurycoma longiflora) is a native plant found throughout SE Asia and India. It is known in these regions as an aphrodisiac. It has to be used regularly and it works by enhancing the testosterone. Benefits are felt gradually over a period of time, mainly because it enhances the natural biological synthesis of testosterone. When the level is increased, health and vitality are restored. In studies on mice, it increased the amount and duration of sexual performance, with testosterone levels increasing up to 440% in some animals. In a recent study on humans, 62% of subjects showed an increase in free testosterone. It has also been shown to increase sperm concentration and motility. In some cases, Ginseng increases energy by enhancing mitochondrial ATP production by 60%.
These results were not found only in men. In one study, an increase in health, fitness, vigor, and vitality was seen alongside increased free testosterone in both men and women.
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