Sexual Health: 5 ingredients to watch

Article

Sexual dysfunctions are commonplace, but there are nutraceuticals that can help.

Photo © AdobeStock.com/Gstudio

Photo © AdobeStock.com/Gstudio

In 2015, I was honored to be asked to write the chapter “Sexual Dysfunctions and Nutraceutical Therapy: An Examination of Human Research” for the textbook Nutraceuticals and Functional Foods in Human Health and Disease Prevention (©2015, CRC Press). Within that chapter, I discussed research on several different nutraceuticals used to treat sexual dysfunctions. In this article, I will provide a brief review of some of the research I presented in that chapter.

Research from various sources indicates that about 40%-45% of adult women and 20%-30% of adult men have a least one sexual dysfunction, including erectile dysfunction (ED), hypogonadism/low testosterone, low estradiol, and sexual dissatisfaction.1 A range of nutraceuticals may be helpful in these instances, including D-aspartic acid, fenugreek, Eurycoma longifolia, vitamin D, and dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA).

D-aspartic acid

The amino acid D-aspartic acid is found in the nervous and endocrine tissues. In human clinical research2, 3.12 g of D-aspartic acid daily (with vitamin B6, folic acid, and vitamin B12) was shown to significantly increase blood concentrations of luteinizing hormone by 33.3% (P < 0.0001) and serum testosterone concentrations by 42% (P < 0.0082).

Fenugreek

Fenugreek (Trigonella foenum-graecum) seeds have a history of use in Ayurvedic and traditional Chinese medicine. In human clinical research, a daily dose of 600 mg of a proprietary fenugreek extract was shown to increase free testosterone by 98% (double that of the placebo group)3 and improve sexual cognition, sexual arousal, sexual behavior, and orgasm4. Additional human research has shown that another fenugreek extract increased sexual functioning in women (600 mg/day)5.

Eurycoma longifolia

Eurycoma longifolia Jack is an herbal medicinal plant of southeast Asian origin (Malaysia, Thailand, and Indonesia) commonly known as tongkat ali. Human research has demonstrated that a proprietary extract of E. longifolia (100-600 mg/day) was able to increase total testosterone levels6,7,8 and improve sexual wellbeing9.

Vitamin D

Outright vitamin D deficiency is present in up to 41.6% of the U.S. population10, while vitamin D insufficiency (i.e., lacking sufficient vitamin D) is present in up to 77% of the population11. This is problematic considering that lower plasma levels of vitamin D are associated with lower testosterone levels, while higher levels of vitamin D are associated with higher testosterone levels12,13. In a randomized controlled trial, vitamin D–deficient men received either 83 mcg (3332 IU) vitamin D daily or a placebo. Results showed that total testosterone increased by 25%.14

DHEA

Dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) is produced in the adrenal glands and testes. DHEA can be transformed into testosterone and/or estrogens in a cell-specific manner in a large series of peripheral target tissues15. In human clinical studies, 50 mg/day of DHEA demonstrated effectiveness in men with erectile dysfunction16,17, increased the frequency of sexual thoughts and sexual interest in women18, and increased total serum testosterone in both elderly men and women19.

Conclusion

Sexual dysfunctions are commonplace, but there are nutraceuticals that can help. This article presented data demonstrated the efficacy of D-aspartic acid, fenugreek, Eurycoma longifolia, vitamin D, and DHEA for sexual dysfunctions. Due to space limitations, I wasn’t able to review the many other nutraceuticals that also have good research to support their use for these purposes but may be able to do so in a future article.

About the Author

Gene Bruno, MS, MHS, RH (AHG), is a certified nutritionist and registered herbalist with 42 years of dietary supplement industry experience. With a master’s degree in nutrition and a second master’s degree in herbal medicine, he has a proven track record of formulating innovative, evidence-based dietary supplements. Mr. Bruno currently serves as both the vice president of scientific and regulatory affairs at NutraScience Labs and professor of nutraceutical science at Huntington University of Health Sciences.

References

  1. Lewis RW et al. “Epidemiology/risk factors of sexual dysfunction.” The Journal of Sexual Medicine, vol. 1, no. 1 (July 2004): 35-39
  2. Topo E et al. “The role and molecular mechanism of D-aspartic acid in the release and synthesis of LH and testosterone in humans and rats.” Reproductive Biology and Endocrinology, vol. 7 (October 27, 2009): 120
  3. Unpublished study. “Human clinical trial report: Effect of Testofen® on safety, anabolic activity and factors affecting exercise physiology.” Gencor Nutrients (Anaheim, CA); 2008
  4. Steels E et al. “Physiological aspects of male libido enhanced by standardized Trigonella foenum-graecum extract and mineral formulation.Phytotherapy Research, vol. 25, no. 9 (September 25, 2011): 1294-1300
  5. Unpublished study. Rao A et al. “Influence of Libifem, a specialized extract of Trigonella foenum-graecum (fenugreek) on sexual function, hormones and metabolism in healthy menstruating women, in a randomized placebo controlled study.” Gencor Nutrients (Anaheim, CA); 2012
  6. Tambi MIBM et al. “Standardised water-soluble extract of Eurycoma longifolia, tongkat ali, as testosterone booster for managing men with late-onset hypogonadism?Andrologia, vol. 44, Suppl. 1 (May 2012): 226-230
  7. Unpublished study. Tambi MIM et al. “Water-soluble extract of Eurycoma longifolia Jack soluble extract as a potential natural energizer for healthy aging men.” Specialist Reproductive Research Center, National Population & Family Development Board, Ministry of Women & Family Development, Malaysia; 2000
  8. Talbott S et al. “Poster 32: Effect of Eurycoma longifolia extract on anabolic balance during endurance exercise.” Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition; 2006; 3: S32
  9. Ismail SB et al. “Randomized clinical trial on the use of PHYSTA freeze-dried water extract of Eurycoma longifolia for the improvement of quality of life and sexual well-being in men.” Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine. Published online November 1, 2012.
  10. Forrest KYZ et al. “Prevalence and correlates of vitamin D deficiency in US adults.” Nutrition Research, vol. 31, no. 1 (January 2011): 48-54
  11. Ginde AA et al. “Demographic differences and trends of vitamin D insufficiency in the US population, 1988-2004.” Archives of Internal Medicine, vol. 169, no. 6 (March 23, 2009): 626-632
  12. Nimptsch K et al. “Association between plasma 25-OH vitamin D and testosterone levels in men.” Clinical Endocrinology, vol. 77, no. 1 (July 2012): 106–112
  13. Wehr E et al. “Association of vitamin D status with serum androgen levels in men.” Clinical Endocrinology, vol. 73, no. 2 (August 2010): 243-248
  14. Pilz S et al. “Effect of vitamin D supplementation on testosterone levels in men.” Hormone and Metabolic Research, vol. 43, no. 3 (March 2011): 223-225
  15. Labrie F et al. “Is dehydroepiandrosterone a hormone?Journal of Endocrinology, vol. 187, no. 2 (November 2005): 169-196
  16. Reiter WJ et al. “Dehydroepiandrosterone in the treatment of erectile dysfunction in patients with different organic etiologies.Urology Research, vol. 29, no. 4 (August 2001): 278–281
  17. Reiter WJ et al. “Dehydroepiandrosterone in the treatment of erectile dysfunction: A prospective, double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled study.” Urology, vol. 53, no. 3 (March 1999): 590-594
  18. Arlt W et al. “Dehydroepiandrosterone replacement in women with adrenal insufficiency.” The New England Journal of Medicine, vol. 341, no. 14 (September 30, 1999): 1013-1020
  19. Villareal DT et al. “Effects of DHEA replacement on bone mineral density and body composition in elderly women and men.Clinical Endocrinology, vol. 53, no. 5 (November 2000): 561-568
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