June 8, 2001
New York - A nutritional supplement has been shown to significantly improve women's sexual desire and overall satisfaction, according to a recent study published in the May issue of the Journal of Women's Health and Gender-Based Medicine.
The supplement — which contains ginkgo, ginseng, damiana, L-arginine and 14 other vitamins and minerals — offers a nutritional approach to female sexual health, including the enhancement of sexual desire, said lead researcher Mary Lake Polan, MD, PhD, MPH, professor and chair of gynecology and obstetrics at Stanford University School of Medicine in Stanford, California.
L-arginine is an essential amino acid that works to increase levels of nitric oxide in the body, which can increase blood flow and potentially act as a signal molecule for sexual arousal, she explained. Gingko, ginseng, and damiana also have a long history of traditional use for overall well-being. "There are a lot of herbal supplements that are marketed for sexual functioning, but to our knowledge this is the only nutritional supplement for women that has any clinical testing behind it," Polan said.
In addition to the published research in the Journal of Women's Health and Gender-Based Medicine, Dr. Polan presented the findings on Sunday at the annual Congress on Women's Health and Gender-Based Medicine in Washington, DC, and she will also make a presentation at the World Congress of Sexology in Paris, France, June 24-28.
In their double-blind study of 93 women between the ages of 22-73 years who indicated they were lacking in sexual desire, 46 women received the nutritional supplement and 47 received a placebo. The participants used the Female Sexual Function Index questionnaire to rate their level of sexual functioning before and after treatment.
At the end of 4 weeks, 62% of the group that received the supplement reported greater satisfaction with their overall sex life compared with 38% in the placebo group. Additionally, 64% of those in the supplement group reported improvement in their level of sexual desire compared with 43% in the placebo group. Of the women nearing menopause who took the supplement, 91% reported an increase in the frequency of intercourse compared with 20% in the placebo group. Participants also indicated improvement in degree of clitoral sensation, reduction of vaginal dryness, and satisfaction with sexual relationship.
With no adverse effects reported, Polan said, the supplement is clearly an option for some women, but she pointed out that it is not a panacea. She advised women and their physicians to speak openly about sexual dysfunction, noting that it is critical to have a medical professional conduct a full evaluation, because sexual dysfunction has several different etiologies, including a physical condition or adverse effect of medication that can be managed medically, or it could stem from relationship issues that can be addressed by counseling. "We still don't have a magic bullet," Polan noted. "But the supplement does give women more choices. It's a real product with real value."
Female sexual dysfunction — low libido, slow arousal, difficulty reaching orgasm, and painful intercourse — occurs in about 43% of women. While that exceeds the number of men who report sexual dysfunction — 31% — there is a lack of treatment options for women, Polan said. Many postmenopausal women benefit from hormone therapy, but not everyone can or wants to take estrogen. Other products come with adverse effects. Androgen gel may cause excessive hair growth and, according to Polan, should only be taken with a doctor's involvement. And the testosterone patch, which is not currently approved by the US Food and Drug Administration, may cause acne or growth of facial hair.
Polan said the study is one component of a much broader research issue — the brain's influence on sexual functioning. Currently, Stanford has put together a multidisciplinary team that includes members from radiology, urology, gynecology and psychology to initiate a study on how the brain functions in relation to sexual arousal.
The nutritional supplement used in the study is marketed by The Daily Wellness Company under the trade name ArginMax.
J Womens Health Gend Based Med. 2001;10(4):389-409