From the ancient Greeks concocting “nectar of the Gods” to modern pharmaceuticals, man has had an unrelenting desire to discover new aphrodisiacs to stimulate and enhance sexual performance. In Western herbal medicine, tonics were often employed to treat symptoms of poor reproductive function. Historically, these tonics were regarded with skepticism … then came Viagra.
With the widespread acceptance of the idea that male sexual performance could be pharmacologically enhanced, “herbal enhancers” for male sexual performance made their way to the market. Most so-called herbal alternatives to Viagra likely deliver only modest effects, at best. However, several herbs used in traditional Indian and Chinese Medicine, which are believed to provide support to the male reproductive system, have gained the attention of both holistic and conventional medical researchers. We introduce a few of these herbs below.
Keep in mind that herbs work synergistically with the body. Healthy dietary and lifestyle practices need to be in place or the body will not be able to make optimal use of herbal remedies. Herbs may take several weeks before beneficial effects will be noticed. Some herbs should not be taken with other medicines—consult with your personal wellness practitioner before trying any herbal tonic.
Saw palmetto (Serenoa repens) is widely used in Europe and, in the U.S., it is the most popular adjunct herbal treatment for symptoms of enlarged prostate. It has been recommended as an alternative treatment by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Saw palmetto is nourishing to the endocrine (hormone regulating) system, which includes the sex hormones and may be the mechanism by which it helps improve overall reproductive function in men.
Pygeum (Pygeum africanum) is derived from the African plum tree and has been studied in small clinical trials for its effects on prostate cancer cells and symptoms associated with benign prostate hypertrophy. It also is used in traditional medicine to boost sexual performance and treat lower urinary tract infections.
Maca root (Lepidium meyenii) is a Peruvian “super food” rich in phytonutrients, amino acids, vitamins, and fatty acids. Scientifically speaking, it is an adaptogen, meaning its properties help boost the body’s natural resistance to disease. In traditional medicine, Maca is used to balance endocrine system function, including male and female sex hormones. In animal and human clinical trials, Maca is being studied for its effectiveness on sexual desire, hormone levels, and sexual performance.