When it comes to libido, lack of or low sexual desire is one of the most common sexual dysfunctions. As many as 43% of women and 31% of men having experienced a sexual dysfunction, from vaginal dryness to erectile dysfunction, to low libido in either partner.
There can be many causes of lagging libido - whatever they are, they can really put a dampening on relationships. According to a survey from the National Womens Health Resource Center on the impacts of low sexual desire on a relationship: 59% of women report that low sex drive puts a negative impact on their relationship and 85% of women said that low sexual desire hurts intimacy levels with a partner. For men, the stereotype is that male libido is always in over-drive. The truth is, 1 in 5 men have problems with their sex drive at some point in their life.
There can be many causes for loss of libido. For men, it is often linked to stress, aging, weight gain, professional and personal stress, lowered testosterone levels, energy problems, and issues with erectile dysfunction. For women - being stressed out, having low energy, as well as problems such as pain during intercourse, fibroids, recurring UTIs, and having gone through huge life-changing events such as pregnancy, childbirth, breastfeeding, menopause can all take a toll on libido. With pressures of our modern day society leaving many feeling overworked or burnt out, depressed and/or anxious, it is no wonder that our libidos can be lagging.
Where does our libido come from?
According to Traditional Chinese Medicine, having a juicy libido is the result of having a healthy amount and movement of Qi and Blood in your body, especially in the organ systems that affect reproduction. While the Kidney organ system is most responsible for reproduction and holds the Qi that drives our desire and sexual function, the Heart and Liver both affect reproduction - and therefore libido, in major ways.
The Kidneys are the deepest organ system in our body - known as the Root of Life. Their main functions are to store Jing ( life essence), govern reproduction and growth, nourish the bones and the brain, control water metabolism and the flow of urine, and keep the willpower strong. They hold not only our reproductive energy, but also govern our processes of aging and development through the stages of life - how well we age and how much vitality we have as we go through it has everything to do with how much Kidney Qi we have. And while declining Kidney Qi is a natural thing as we age - we can definitely use it up more quickly and rapidly and throw our Kidneys off balance with a lifestyle of overwork and overstress, or going through a severe or chronic illness. In addition, a poor diet, excessive or habitual intake of stimulants or yang tonics, too much cold food or beverages, lack of good sleep, living a sedentary lifestyle - or the opposite, having too much physical labor and strain, pharmaceutical drugs, being exposed to too many environmental toxins all significantly affect the balance and Qi of our Kidneys. To see whether your Kidneys are out of wack, check out the following list of signs and symptoms. If you have at least three of the following signs and symptoms, you have yourself a pattern.
Kidney Qi deficiency- fatigue, asthma, dizziness and/or vertigo, hair loss, urinary problems, bad posture, low back, hip, or chronic pain in the lower extremities, adrenal insufficiency, bone problems, hypothyroidism, dark circles under the eyes, a darkened complexion, memory problems, lowered libido, amenorrhea, fertility problems, congenital and developmental problems, lack of willpower.
Kidney Yin deficiency - dizziness, tinnitus, forgetfulness, sore and achy low back, hips and knees, thirst and dryness, irritability, sensation of heat and malar flush in the late afternoon to evenings, night sweating, achy joints, restless sleep, waking up at night, frequent and/or nighttime urination, scanty or dark colored urine.
Kidney Yang deficiency - soreness of low back, hips, knees, cold sensation in knees and lumbar regions, cold limbs and extremities, feeling fatigue physically, emotionally, mentally, spiritually, memory loss, difficulty with urination, incontinence, lowered libido, swelling and edema, fertility problems, lack of willpower.
The Heart and Liver organ systems also play a large role when it comes to libido. Both are extremely powerful organ systems on the emotional level. The Heart, as the Empress, is connected to the emotion of Joy. An imbalance in the Heart can express as mania, anxiety, depression, or lack of affect. Heart Yin deficiency, which can result in heat, can also lead to irritability and restlessness. The Liver, which deals with our everyday frustrations and stress, is connected to the emotion of anger. Repressed emotions and lack of expression or processing of emotions can lead to the Liver Qi getting stuck. If it gets stuck enough, heat can ensue, with rage following if there is excess, depression if there is deficiency.
While it can be said that it is a stereotype that women find emotional factors with sex and libido more relevant than men, it is our clinical experience that lack of libido in men are due to mostly Kidney deficiencies and imbalances, while libido in women runs across Heart and Liver organ imbalances in addition to those of the Kidney.
When it comes to sexual interest and arousal, certain studies have shown that while men generally respond to visual sexual stimuli, women can respond differently.One study published by the International Journal of Impotence Research showed that women are more sexually aroused by concrete, auditory, olfactory, touch and emotionally relevant sexual stimulation.
If your libido is lacking luster, Traditional Chinese Medicine can help. Because the factors affecting libido can be complex, we recommend doing some journaling or listing the reasons why you feel your libido may be waning. If you are having pain from urination or from intercourse, it is important to get a personalized assessment and help from your acupuncturist to get to the root of it. Recurring UTIs, yeast infections, sexually transmitted diseases, fibroids, endometriosis, and other problems should be assessed and treated by your acupuncturist so you can bring more balance and wellness to your sexual and reproductive organs. If there are relationship problems that impact your intimacy - couples counseling or therapy could be highly beneficial. If your diet is too full of processed foods and you easily feel bloated, distended, tired, and a lack of energy - a nutritional assessment and a change in diet could bring your libido a significant boost. If you are overwhelmed with stress, finding time to decompress, getting to bed earlier and just enjoying life would be highly beneficial. Move your body through exercise or take a vacation and much needed break from work to help free up stress, stagnation, and frustration.
Improves overall sexual wellness and has been recommended by traditional Chinese herbalists for centuries. Ginseng is an adaptogen well known for reducing fatigue and stress, which will allow muscles to relax more easily. *This is a warming herb, so take caution if you are one who experiences irritability and gets hot easily.
Along with providing sexual vitality benefits, this epimedium can boost immunity and fight fatigue. Specifically for men, this herb is proven to increase sperm production and stimulate sensory nerves. *This is a warming herb, so take caution if you are one who experiences irritability and gets hot easily.
This plant is well known for treating depression and poor sexual function. Ginkgo biloba also acts as an aphrodisiac, promoting the blood vessels to relax and increase blood flow. Because it supports the Kidneys, it also enhances brain health. Among the other conditions it is known for treating are anxiety, depression, schizophrenia, asthma, PMS, ADHD, memory loss, and insufficient blood flow to the brain.Studies have suggested that gingko could help reduce the occurrence of dementia, Alzheimers, cardiovascular disease, and stroke.
Tribulus is commonly found in libido-boosting supplements on the market. It is known to raise testosterone levels and boost sexual desire. In Chinese Medicine, it promotes blood circulation and moves Liver Qi stagnation - freeing up the movement in the Liver channel, which encircles the genitals. It also can be used for headaches, red eyes, and dizziness caused by Liver Yang Rising, as well as mastitis and low milk production in women with stuck Liver Qi.
Simmer 500 mg of powered tribulus in a cup of water, stirring constantly for 5 minutes. You can add 500 mg of standardized maca to enhance the effect. This blend is particularly nourishing and is recommended for both men and women who have lowered libido.
Because this is an herb that promotes movement, it should be taken cautiously if you are extremely exhausted or fatigued, especially from chronic illness or lack of sleep. It should be paired with tonifying herbs as well.