When I have male patients come into the office seeking help with erectile dysfunction or female patients with low libido issues, I am often surprised by their adverse reaction to some basic health and lifestyle questions. It really should not be a huge stretch of the medical imagination to connect getting three to four hours of sleep per night, and then not feeling all that frisky the next day – just ask any new parent.
TCM preaches looking at human body as a fully integrated system, with what happens to the parts affecting the whole and vice versa. Thus before looking at a potentially injured branch, we want to see what’s going on with the whole tree.
Sleep, diet, and of course, stress levels, all play a very active role in the levels of sexual desire of individuals. Relationship issues get thrown into this pot as well, making the entire subject a great lens through which to view your overall health. What happens though, when we have for all intents and purposes, a healthy human being, in a positive relationship situation, with low stress levels (we’ll pretend they live in Switzerland), and he or she still has libido issues?
TCM breaks sexual difficulties down into two separate categories:
- Difficulty achieving arousal
- Difficulty maintaining arousal
The best way to describe the differences in these two situations is to use your car as an example:
- Do you have difficulty starting your engine?
- Halfway to your destination do you run out of gas?
In situation one, there is a lack of “spark”. In situation two, there may be plenty of spark, but someone doesn’t have enough “fuel” to keep the fire going.
Difficulty in achieving arousal, for both men and women falls under the heading of “yang deficiency” or a lack of yang. Yang is the upward, outward, explosive, more male of the energy systems and if it has been all burned up through poor diet, lack of sleep, stress, or otherwise living in an adrenalized state, then simply adding some yang tonics should do the trick. (while the patient hopefully addresses the underlying lifestyle issues)
Difficulty in maintaining arousal, again for both men and women is most likely a combination of “yang deficiency” and “qi deficiency”. Qi is the energy that we use every day.
Per Thomas Boldt, licensed acupuncturist, “When you wake up in the morning and feel great, you are full of qi. When you wake up in the morning and feel like going right back to sleep, you are not.” Winnie the Pooh and Mr. Boldt would get along famously.
TCM has fantastic herbal remedies for both situations. Let’s take a look at a few:
Yin Yang Huo or Horny Goat Weed:
The name pretty much gives this one away, and it’s a fantastic herb that can be taken by itself by both men and women. Yin Yang Huo is said to tonify or strengthen both the yin and the yang of a person, so this is a great herb for both sexes. If we boost up someone’s yang without addressing their yin as well, we may dry them out – you don’t want to suddenly blare Metallica at full blast without making sure there’s a little bit of Marvin Gaye in there too. Ya feel me?
Yin Yang Huo is a leaf that can be steeped into a tea all by itself and enjoyed throughout the day and/or right before the lights go out (or stay on). Unlike its Western counterpart, drinking a glass of Horny Goat Weed tea will not leave you squirming in your seat or with the ability to break blocks of ice without the use of your hands. It will however, put a little bit of umph in your evening when needed.
Wu Wei Zi or Schizandra:
More specifically for the ladies, Schizandra or Wu Wei Zi is a famous tonic herb used by Chinese royalty for decades. Wu Wei Zi is said to astringe or keep vital fluids from leaking out of the body. It can be added to the above herb or taken singly as well. It’s slightly on the bitter side and a little bit goes a long way flavorwise.
What should you do if you don’t have access to a licensed herbalist or herb store? Not an issue. TCM, like most holistic medical systems, believes heavily in the use of food as a means of modifying internal situations.
Paul Pritchford in his great book Healing With Whole Foods, advocates both sexes adding any of the following into their diet to spice up the noontime quickie:
- Fenugreek Seeds
- Fennel Seeds
- Anise Seeds
- Black Peppercorn
- Ginger (dried preferred)
- Cinnamon Bark
- Black Beans
Astragulus and Ginseng:
If endurance is more of an issue than being able to get out of the gate, adding Astragulus (Huang Qi) and/or Ginseng (Xi Yang Shen) to any of the above herbs and spices will help you get to the end of the event in good measure!
Please remember that no system in your body works in isolation; so if your libido is low, take a look at your whole health picture. Remove all of the useless societal judgments placed on a decreased sex drive and do some research and experimentation. Most importantly, communicate with your partner what you’re going through and be open to thinking outside of the box. Go get some.