Studies show that at least a third of women around the world experience low libido, aka low sexual desire or low sex drive. At the same time, around 20 percent of men experience low sex drive at some point in their lives. Whether the issue is sudden or has been manifesting for a while, it makes sense that you’d want to learn how to get your inner fire back and burning. One of the most common methods to do so is by taking a libido supplement. But do libido supplements actually work?
It depends on the pill or supplement you take and the active ingredients it contains. However, certain natural ingredients — including adaptogens and herbs revered in Ayurveda and Traditional Chinese Medicine — show clinically demonstrated benefits to boost libido across all genders.
Keep reading to understand symptoms of low libido and its primary causes. Then, we’ll recap clinical research demonstrating which sexual health enhancers actually work and learn how to increase libido naturally.
Symptoms of Low Libido
If you experience low libido, there’s a decent chance that you’re well aware of it. But for those who may be unaware or unsure, low libido is typically marked by:
- Lacking interest in sexual activity, whether solo or with a partner
- Having less interest in sexual activity than usual
- A lack of sexual desire or arousal
- Feeling dissatisfied or stressed before or during sexual activity
- Being concerned about your low sex drive
What Causes Low Libido?
Before we dive into if and how libido supplements work, it’s important to be aware of the main causes of low libido.
Stress can negatively impact everything from your skin, immunity, mood, sleep, and energy levels… all the way to your sex drive.
When the adrenals produce excess cortisol due to ongoing stress, sex hormones and neurotransmitters essential for a healthy libido get suppressed.
Stress can lead to low libido since it affects the body both psychologically and physiologically. In other words, it may impact how you feel about sex as well as your body’s responses to sexual thoughts and activity.
A 2014 study published in the Journal of Sex & Marital Therapy found that stress negatively impacts men and women, yet sometimes in different ways. Daily stressors were linked to lower sexual satisfaction for men and women, as well as lower reported sexual activity for women. In addition, women’s sexual functioning scores were more closely tied to stress and depression than were men’s scores.
Whether triggered by stress, life events or stages, genetics, or medical conditions, hormonal imbalances have a major bearing on your sex drive and can cause a decreased libido. As a 2010 review explains, sexual function — i.e., the body’s response to sexual stimuli — hinges upon a complex interaction between various hormones and neurotransmitters. Meanwhile, sexual desire — i.e., the motivation and drive to engage in sexual activity — results from a delicate balance between inhibitory and excitatory pathways in the brain.
Inhibitory roles are attributed to:
- Serotonin, a neurotransmitter that modulates everything from mood and reward to appetite, aggression, and sexuality
- Prolactin, a hormone that rises with pregnancy and lactation yet is also associated with issues in sexual function
Excitatory roles are attributed to:
- Dopamine, a feel-good neurotransmitter linked to feelings of motivation, satisfaction, and pleasure
- Estrogen and progesterone, female sex hormones that can promote a healthy libido when balanced
- Testosterone, a male sex hormone that fuels sexual drive and performance
In short, elevated levels of inhibitory activity, lower levels of excitatory activity, or both have the potential to cause decreased libido.
Any number of things can trigger these imbalances, including:
- Fluctuating estrogen and progesterone levels throughout your menstrual cycle
- Pregnancy and the postpartum period, as hormones are constantly in flux
- Perimenopause and menopause, both of which decrease the production of estrogen and can thus reduce your sexual drive
- Health conditions such as polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) and endometriosis
- Certain medications including hormonal birth control and antidepressants
Additional Causes of Low Sex Drive
Many causes of low libido are linked to each other and can create a domino effect. Additional things that can lead to low libido include but aren’t limited to:
- Alcohol or drug use
- Relationship issues
- A lack of self-esteem or confidence
- A lack of physical activity
How Do Libido Supplements Work?
Mechanisms for action will vary based on the libido pill or natural libido supplement at hand. Generally speaking, they’ll address one or more causes that contribute to low sex drive.
For instance, Sex Dust® packs a blend of adaptogens and herbs that target stress to support healthy hormonal balance and libido.*
Supporting hormones is one of many benefits of Shatavari root. Shatavari is a root adaptogen traditionally used in Ayurvedic medicine to support healthy hormonal balance. A 2018 review in The Journal of Human Pharmacology and Drug Therapy explains that Shatavari can help mitigate the effects of stress by reducing oxidative stress and boosting antioxidants in the body. The review also notes that Shatavari may improve outcomes for women with ongoing hormonal imbalances and thus make progress to address low libido.
Additional research shows that this libido enhancer is linked to sexual wellness benefits for women such as providing moisture to dry issues of sex organs — i.e., supporting vaginal fluid and lubrication — and by outright increasing sex drive.
Native to the Himalayas, Shilajit is an adaptogen that packs over 85 minerals and trace elements that support a range of bodily functions. As far as sexual health is concerned, Shilajit is traditionally used as an aphrodisiac and libido booster.
Shilajit can help increase testosterone levels, a sex hormone that stimulates sex drive across all genders.
One randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical study in male participants aged 45 to 55 investigated the effects of taking 250 milligrams of Shilajit twice daily for 90 days. Those who supplemented with Shilajit had significantly higher levels of total and free testosterone than the placebo group.
Epimedium (aka Horny Goat Weed or Yin Yang Huo) is a common herb in sexual health supplements to increase libido, especially for males. In Traditional Chinese Medicine it has been used not only as an aphrodisiac, but also to reduce fatigue and certain types of pain. Research shows that Epimedium may improve libido by restoring low levels of testosterone and thyroid hormones.
Its main bioactive ingredient is called Icariin, which research shows may:
- Mimic certain properties of testosterone, thus promoting sex drive and performance
- Support muscle proliferation and nerve tissues, which may be beneficial for those who have difficulty obtaining or maintaining an erection (itself another potential cause of low libido)
- Increase sexual arousal and activities
In sum, Epimedium demonstrates the potential to enhance sexual desire, sensation, and performance.
Schisandra is an adaptogenic red berry revered in Traditional Chinese Medicine as a natural libido enhancer. It has a wide range of capabilities and is traditionally used to support everything from beauty to immune function and longevity.
Among its many benefits, it may promote a healthy libido by improving outcomes for:
- Physical stamina and endurance
Simply put, Schisandra is a powerful plant that can promote sexual wellness, hormonal balance, mental health, and energy levels.
Cacao is rich in a host of minerals and antioxidants. It may help boost libido in several ways, including by:
- Stimulating the release of endorphins
- Improving mood by increasing dopamine
- Boosting energy levels
Per a 2006 study in Northern Italian women investigating their regular chocolate intake, those who ate chocolate had higher scores on the female sexual function index than those who didn't.
More recently, a 2023 randomized double-blind, placebo-controlled study of 120 healthy male volunteers aged 21 to 35 investigated the effects of supplementing with a blend of Cacao and pomegranate rinds over 56 days. Those who took either 200 or 400 milligrams of the herbal libido supplement experienced significant increases in testosterone levels as well as muscle strength. Again, since higher testosterone levels enhance sex drive and performance, natural remedies that boost this hormone — including tasty Cacao — are worthy options in the quest to improve libido and sexual performance.
Looking to add a healthy dose of cacao into your daily routine? Try our adaptogenic mushroom hot chocolate to reap the benefits of this mighty ingredient.
Native to Peru, Maca is known to support mood and energy levels. According to findings from a small double-blind, randomized controlled trial, Maca Root may help relieve sexual dysfunction induced by SSRIs (a common class of antidepressants) and promote a healthy libido. Some supplements are made with maca root for hormone balance along with its other benefits.
How Long Does It Take Libido Supplements to Kick In?
Every body is different. Once you decide to take a high-quality supplement for low libido, the time it takes to kick in will vary based on:
- The libido pill or natural supplement you take
- How often and consistently you take it
- The dosage
- Factors like health conditions, medication, and overall well-being
Some people who take Sex Dust® report feeling effects within as little as 30 minutes. Others will find that it can take up to a few weeks to start feeling the difference. (However, many realize just how powerful the adaptogenic blend is if they forget to take it or miss a subscription refill.) This natural libido supplement packs a variety of adaptogens that are most effective when taken consistently over an extended period of time.
Abide by the following tips to integrate it into your sexual wellness regimen:
- Blend 1 tsp into coffee, hot chocolate, or smoothies daily.
- After assessing how you feel, you can boost intake to 1 to 2 servings of dust at a time, up to 2 to 3 times per day.
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If you’ve been on the fence about taking libido supplements — or if you weren’t sure which the best ones were and if they actually worked — know that you have safe and effective options to choose from. Best of all, you can very well go the natural route (versus relying on pharmaceuticals) by prioritizing the ingredients above for sexual support.
In addition, you can integrate certain dietary and lifestyle practices into your routine to address the specific causes of your own low sex drive. For instance, if you find yourself stressed out day in and day out, consider healthy plant-powered foods to be your natural medicine. Of course, you can also adopt tried and true ways to destress, which can include self-care practices including everything from deep breathing and yoga to reading and enjoying a warm bath. A consistent healthy routine that serves you can work wonders for your libido, self-esteem, and beyond.
If your low libido is triggered by physical or mental health conditions or relationship struggles, it can help to talk to an expert you trust. That could include your health care team or a therapist, who can assist you to come up with a solid plan to get your groove back and improve your sex life.