Case Studies: Herbs for Women's Sexual Dysfunction

Check out two case studies involving herbs and sexual dysfunction

| July/August 2001

Maca is considered an energy, yin, and sexual tonic. 

Where does human energy, including sexual energy, come from, and how do we use it? Can human energy be expressed in different ways to be used as we choose? These are questions that have occupied my mind for many years, because I see vital energy as the key issue associated with many diseases and health concerns.

As a clinician, working with people who have low energy and/or a low sex drive can be challenging: Sexual dysfunction is often more than a purely physical phenomenon, and many complex emotional issues may be involved. Even if a physical problem is present, such as low testosterone levels, what emotional influences may be at work, affecting the body’s ability to reduce testosterone production? But sexual dysfunction is not necessarily all in one’s head, either. Lowered libido is a common symptom of anemia, or “blood deficiency,” in Chinese medicine. Hormonal imbalances, malnutrition, liver disease, heart disease, and many chronic illnesses can all disrupt normal sexual desire.

Two sexual dysfunction cases

I remember two very different patients, Rachael and Leslie. Rachael had been coming to the clinic for more than two years and originally came in for a variety of symptoms such as insomnia, poor appetite, weight loss, and general fatigue. After a few sessions, she expressed that she also had absolutely no interest in sex but told me she “had an interest in having an interest.”

Rachael’s lack of sexual energy was not surprising. After I looked closely at her tongue, felt her pulse, and noted the dark circles under her eyes and her red tongue with no coating, I made a preliminary diagnosis of a deficiency of vital energy reserve (kidney qi) and “kidney yin.” The yin substances in Chinese medicine relate to the fluids of the body as well as hormones and neurotransmitters. The kidneys store the body’s qi.

Although Rachael said she slept about nine to ten hours nightly and had a low-stress job, her energy resources were on empty. After we discussed her daily activities and health habits, I was convinced that her inactivity and highly strung nervous system, coupled with her naturally obsessive, intellectual personality and a strong desire to be successful, were good things for us to focus on. I also thought we should use herbal tonics for her kidney yin and kidney qi deficiency.

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