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Sexual Dysfunction in Women

Related Terms

Female sexual dysfunction refers to problems during any phase of the sexual response cycle (excitement, plateau, orgasm, resolution) that causes distress or negatively affects a relationship.

If a cause can be found, then it can be treated. Common treatments are medicine and counseling.

Natural Therapies

Likely Effective

Mix of herbs and supplements —a combination of L-arginine, ginseng, ginkgo, damiana, multivitamins, and minerals is likely to improve sex drive, frequency, and sensations.B1-B2

May Be Effective

These herbs and supplements may provide benefit:

  • Fennel is a flowering plant in the carrot family.D1
  • Fenugreek is an annual plant.D1
  • Ginseng is a perennial plant that grows in Asia.H1
  • Maritime pine bark comes from trees that grow in countries along the Mediterranean Sea.D1

Mindfulness-based therapy brings a person's attention to things happening in the present moment without judgment. It may also provide benefit.G1

May Not Be Effective

These herbs and supplements may not provide benefit:

  • Flaxseed comes from the seed of a flax plant.D1
  • Genistein is an isoflavone.D1
  • Maca is an edible plant.I1
  • Red clover is a wild plant in the legume family.D1
  • Soy is a protein that comes from soybeans.D1

Unlikely to Be Effective

Ginkgo biloba is a Chinese tree with fan-shaped leaves and yellow flowers.C1-C2

Not Enough Data to Assess

  • DHEA A1-A3
  • Traditional Chinese medicine F1
  • Vaginal therapies E1

Editorial process and description of evidence categories can be found at EBSCO NAT Editorial Process.

Herbs and Supplements to Be Used With Caution

Talk to your doctor about any supplements or therapy you would like to use. Some can interfere with treatment or make conditions worse.

 

References

DHEA

A1. Peixoto C, Carrilho CG, Barros J, et al. The effects of dehydroepiandrosterone on sexual function: a systematic review. Climacteric. 2017;20(2):129-137. (works better on peri- and postmenopausal women)

A2. Elraiyah T, Sonbol MB, et al. Clinical review: The benefits and harms of systemic dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) in postmenopausal women with normal adrenal function: a systematic review and meta-analysis. J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2014 Oct;99(10):3536-3542.

A3. Scheffers CS, Armstrong S, et al. Dehydroepiandrosterone for women in the peri- or postmenopausal phase. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2015 Jan 22;1:CD011066.

Mix of Herbs and Supplements

B1. Ito TY, Trant AS, Polan ML. A double-blind placebo-controlled study of ArginMax, a nutritional supplement for enhancement of female sexual function. J Sex Marital Ther. 2001;27(5):541-549.

B2. Ito TY, Polan ML, Whipple B, Trant AS. The enhancement of female sexual function with ArginMax, a nutritional supplement, among women differing in menopausal status. J Sex Marital Ther. 2006;32(5):369-378.

Ginkgo Biloba

C1. Kang BJ, Lee SJ, Kim MD, Cho MJ. A placebo-controlled, double-blind trial of Ginkgo biloba for antidepressant-induced sexual dysfunction. Hum Psychopharmacol. 2002;17(6):279-284.

C2. Meston CM, Rellini AH, Telch MJ. Short- and long-term effects of Ginkgo biloba extract on sexual dysfunction in women. Arch Sex Behav. 2008;37(4):530-547.

Phytoestrogens

D1. Najaf Najafi M, Ghazanfarpour M. Effect of phytoestrogens on sexual function in menopausal women: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Climacteric. 2018 Oct;21(5):437-445.

Vaginal Therapies

E1. Pitsouni E, Grigoriadis T, et al. Efficacy of vaginal therapies alternative to vaginal estrogens on sexual function and orgasm of menopausal women: A systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Eur J Obstet Gynecol Reprod Biol. 2018 Oct;229:45-56.

Traditional Chinese Medicine

F1. Chubak B, Doctor A. Traditional Chinese Medicine for Sexual Dysfunction: Review of the Evidence. Sex Med Rev. 2018 Jul;6(3):410-418.

Mindfulness-Based Therapies

G1. Stephenson KR, Kerth J. Effects of Mindfulness-Based Therapies for Female Sexual Dysfunction: A Meta-Analytic Review. J Sex Res. 2017 Sep;54(7):832-849.

Ginseng

H1. Lee HW, Choi J, et al. Ginseng for managing menopausal woman's health: A systematic review of double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled trials. Medicine (Baltimore). 2016 Sep;95(38):e4914.

Maca

I1. Shin BC, Lee MS, et al. Maca (L. meyenii) for improving sexual function: a systematic review. BMC Complement Altern Med. 2010 Aug 6;10:44.

Last reviewed November 2019 by EBSCO NAT Review Board Eric Hurwitz, DC  Last Updated: 6/18/2020