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Low libido is a common complaint among women. It affects about 10% of women in the U.S., and up to 16% in Europe and Australia.
Most treatment options are limited to psychotherapy, antidepressants, and hormone therapy. But researchers from Iran are now suggesting that an ancient herb may provide women with relief.
They noted that as far back as 1025 AD, Avicenna's five-volume Canon of Medicine claimed that the herb Tribulus terrestris could boost sex drive in human beings. Since then a few animal and human experiments have shown it may indeed have aphrodisiac effects.
The Iranian researchers designed a randomized double-blind placebo-controlled trial to assess the safety and efficacy of Tribulus terrestris in women during their fertile years. Their study appeared in the DARU Journal of Pharmaceutical Sciences.
They divided 67 women with low sexual desire into two groups. Every day for four weeks one group received a syrup containing 3.5 mg of Tribulus terrestris extract. The other group received plain syrup.
At the beginning of the study and at end of the treatment, the women completed surveys containing 19 questions. The questionnaire was designed to report levels of their sexual desire, arousal, lubrication, orgasm, satisfaction, and pain. The answers were scored using the Female Sexual Function Index (FSFI).
At the end of the study, the women in the Tribulus terrestris group experienced significant improvement in their total FSFI scores.
How Does It Work?
Tribulus terrestris is a flowering groundcover that also goes by the names puncture vine, devil's weed, bindii, or burra gokharu.
It contains the active ingredient protodioscin which may be converted to DHEA in the body. The DHEA-boosting activity may account for the herb's ancient reputation as an aphrodisiac.
Earlier studies suggested Tribulus terrestris' effect on enhanced libido may be due to increased androgen production. Extracts of the herb have also been used to manage symptoms of low testosterone levels.[i]
The researchers noted that testosterone is currently the only treatment approved for low libido in menopausal women.
Another study showed that the antidepressant Bupropion (brand name Wellbutrin) was effective in improving women's desire. However, the researchers noted Tribulus terrestris has the advantage of improving libido without the side effects of pharmaceutical antidepressants. That's important because pharmaceutical side effects may be worse for women.
For more information visit GreenMedInfo's page on Tribulus terrestris.
i] McKay D. Nutrients and botanicals for erectile dysfunction: examining the evidence. Altern Med Rev. 2004 Mar;9(1):4-16.
[ii] Berman JR, Berman LA, Werbin TJ, Goldstein I: Female sexual dysfunction: anatomy, physiology, evaluation and treatment options. Curr Opin Urol 1999, 9(6):563–568.