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Sparking Desire

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Sex is good medicine. Medical research confirms the importance of a satisfying sex life for staying youthful and health.

Sex is good medicine. Medical research confirms the importance of a satisfying sex life for staying youthful and healthy. But for many people, a chronic lack of sexual desire stands in the way of experiencing the physical and emotional benefits of a good, loving sexual relationship.

Here is an alphabetical list of some of the natural products available at your local health food store that promise to spark your sexual fire. Be patient, though. It may take six to eight weeks to show a noticeable effect on your love life.

Aromatic oils are natural libido boosters if used in dilute amounts. There's no need to overdo it (less is more when it comes to aromatic oils). Ylang ylang, sweet orange, cinnamon, vanilla, and frangipani are just a few of the oils you may find turn you on.

Ashwaganda (Withania somnifera), an Ayurvedic herbal medicine from India, is used traditionally by men as an aphrodisiac. Sometimes called Indian ginseng (though not a true ginseng), ashwagandha helps all systems of the body adapt to stress more easily. An article published in Alternative Medicine Review in 2000 found that ashwagandha possessed "rejuvenating properties" and appeared to have a positive effect on the endocrine, cardiopulmonary, and central nervous systems. Dosages ranging from 400 to 1,000 mg per day of ashwaganda extract with one to two percent withanolides are generally recommended.

Cordyceps sinensis, an exotic mushroom originally from China, appears to increase libido by elevating testosterone levels. The daily dosage of 2,000 to 4,000 mg has also been shown to increase energy levels, reduce fatigue, and improve oxygen use.

Cranberry extract is not directly a libido booster, but it alleviates and protects against urinary tract infections in men and women which indirectly improves sexual desire. Take 400 to 500 mg cranberry extract, twice daily.

Damiana (Turnera diffusa var. aphrodisiaca) leaf is used traditionally by women in Mexico as a botanical aphrodisiac. Women using damiana anecdotally report increased interest in sexual activity, less anxiety and depression, and deeper relaxation. Damiana is considered most effective for post-menopausal women, possibly due to its progesterone mimicking activity. Drink two or three cups of tea made with two to four g of dried leaf or take two to four mL of liquid extract daily. Pregnant women should consult with a qualified herbalist before using damiana.

Ginkgo biloba leaf extract increases circulation and blood flow to every part of the body. Naturally, that includes the genitals. Choose a standardized extract with 24 percent ginkgo flavone glycosides and six percent terpene lactones. To increase circulation to all the right places, take 120 to 160 mg daily.

Maca (Lepidium meyenii) is both a food and an aphrodisiac from Peru. This radish-like plant enhances virility and fertility and improves energy, stamina, and endurance. A study published in Urology in 2000 reported a substantial increase in male sexual prowess due to maca. Generally available in capsules containing 500 mg of maca powder, the average recommended dosage is six to 10 capsules. Maca is also available as an extract.

Muira puama, a folk medicine aphrodisiac from Brazil, nicknamed "potency wood," is listed in the British Herbal Pharmacopoeia as a treatment for male impotence. Women seem to be getting great results, too. Muira puama was found to elevate low sex drive in both younger and older women in a clinical trial conducted by the Institute of Sexology in Paris in 2000. The women using the herbal formula reported more frequent sex with greater intensity and satisfaction, increased sexual desire and fantasies, and more profound orgasms. Take 500 mg daily.

Panax ginseng is a true ginseng and derives its name from the Latin word, "panacea" meaning "all-heal." Ginseng has a long, traditional history of use as a sexual stimulant and energizer for both men and women. The sexy effects of ginseng are attributed to its ginsenoside components, which act positively on the central nervous system and gonadal tissues. Ginsenosides are proving especially helpful to men with erectile dysfunction. The Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences reported in 2002 that ginsenosides act in a similar, but safer, way to Viagra to regulate the release of nitric oxide and promote stronger, longer-lasting erections. Used alone or included in herbal formulations, Panax ginseng is the best sexual tonic for putting shine on lacklustre libido. For best results, choose a brand of Panax ginseng with a standardized extract of four to five percent ginsenosides. A daily dosage of 100 to 300 mg is recommended.

Spices can literally spike your libido. Nutmeg and cloves were found to stimulate sexual interest in men, while women responded to the estrogenic effects of fennel and anise. Add these spices to your food often.

Sex, Love, and Health

Brigitte Mars, herbalist, raw food educator, and author of Sex, Love, and Health (Basic Health, 2002), says raw nuts and seeds, sea vegetables, black sesame seeds, avocados, and pomegranates are her favourite "sexy" foods.

Appearing more like a sex goddess than a grandmother, Brigitte delicately pushes a strand of her long, silver-blond hair from her glowing face and calmly says, "Sexual energy is extra energy. Nourish the entire being and enhanced libido will follow. The best aphrodisiac is to be truly and deeply in love."

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