Foods, supplements, relationship techniques and lifestyle practices all add up to a great sex life.
Most of us hope to have great sex long into our lives. Fortunately, traditional natural medicine has thousands of years of practical experience to prove that we can. Practitioners of Asian medicine, in particular, have been working on this issue for a long time and have come up with some good methods to keep you able in the amorous arts. Everyone has heard about The Kama Sutra, the ancient Indian text that it is an extensive treatise on the subject.
According to Indian philosophy, the goal of life is to experience and master the balance of four complementary areas, which, taken together, make up the fulfillment of a lifetime. The first three sound fairly tame—righteous practices, enjoyment of material possessions and spiritual aspiration. But the fourth area might be the most misunderstood. Kama is romantic and sexual love and all its associated pleasures of the senses. Practicing all four leads to a meaningful and joyous life in this world and helps us move on to spiritual freedom, according to The Kama Sutra. The erotic life is an important, integrated element of the human life, as important as eating.
Most people enjoy sex and hope their romantic life will continue indefinitely, but about 30 million American men suffer from erectile dysfunction (ED), and there’s a general sense that sexual desire, performance and pleasure, in men and women, will unavoidably wane as we age, much to our disappointment. Perhaps a little waning is inevitable, but the physical degeneration can be much less than we might think.
To keep the fires burning, though, first we have to restore and balance the bodily functions that have been taxed by the wear and tear of daily life. Marks of aging all come from, in one way or another, shortage of the body’s “juices,” from arthritis (with lack of joint fluids) to fatigue (with lack of endocrine hormones) to menopausal difficulties (with vaginal dryness). Rejuvenating your sexual spark includes lifestyle and dietary support and herbal medicine that strengthens, purifies and nourishes body tissues to bring back the glow of youth—the “juiciness.”
Sex rejuvenation comes in two forms: lifestyle and medicine. Attending to both keeps you healthy, passionate and affectionate. This is a total body and mind makeover, and may take awhile, so let’s get started with some everyday tips for staying in the mood.
1.Healthy Does as Healthy Is
Sexuality is a part of overall health. You can’t be sexy if you’re not healthy. First and foremost, take a good look at your diet and lifestyle, and tune up what you can.
Good sex requires a healthy diet, plenty of healing sleep, consistent exercise and thoughtful stress management. Consider minimizing some factors that impede fulfilling bedroom activity—excess alcohol, saturated fat and refined carbohydrates. For an extended sex life, keep your blood sugar in the normal range.
2.The Key? Science Says It’s a Good Relationship
The good news is that making love three times a week can make you look 10 years younger, claims David Weeks, a clinical neuropsychologist at the Royal Edinburgh Hospital in Great Britain. In his study, a vigorous sex life was the second most important determinant of how young a person looked, behind only physical activity in keeping aging at bay.
But casual sex doesn’t count. Sex with different partners did not slow the aging process in the study. The sex doesn’t work without a good relationship, the researchers say. What works is a relationship that is very supportive and empathetic, in which both people are physically and emotionally compatible.
3. Look on the Bright Side
Sex can be a lot better when couples stay on each other’s good side. In contented marriages, couples speak at least five times as many positive statements to and about each other and their relationship as negative comments, according to research conducted by marriage expert John Gottman, Ph.D., of the University of Washington. Making a conscious effort to keep up this ratio of supportive chat (“We laugh a lot,” in place of “We never have fun”) creates a rich climate of positivity.
4. Stay in the Moment
It seems pretty obvious that men and women are different, but often we don’t act like we remember it. They say the first step to success in life is to show up. But especially for women, that’s just the first step. To have satisfying sex, your awareness needs to be in your body, not spinning in circles with responsibilities or anxieties about work or the kids. To lose yourself in the act of love, you need to be present mentally and emotionally, too.
Consider some quick tips for clearing the mental desktop and remembering to be in your body: go for a walk together first, take a bath together, stay in bed a bit longer to be close and talk, start with a mutual massage and look in each other’s eyes when you talk.
5. You Get What You Wish For
Talk with your partner about what you want. Discussing your hopes for a better sexual relationship heightens the libido. One hang-up buster is the “Wishing Bowl.” Sitting together, write out a list of sexual things you’ve wanted to try. Discuss each wish and put it in the bowl. (It takes humor, honesty and a positive attitude.) Make regular dates to take a wish out of the bowl and act on it. Even if you don’t actually have a chandelier, just talking about swinging from it might build anticipation and emotional closeness.
6. Cool It
The body ages and dries in proportion to the metabolic rate. “Hot” activities, such as anger, age and dry the body more rapidly. Any practice that will calm the body, mind and metabolism will delay loss of healthy tissue tone and lubrication. To have better sex, shun becoming angry. Meditate, avoid conflict, and avoid drugs and alcohol. Trauma, grief, mental stress, physically draining work and hunger don’t help, either.
7. Hold on There, Tiger
Ayurvedic practitioners say that human sex is not simply physical mating but the union of two bodies, minds and souls and that it can be a transformative, healing experience. To rebuild sexually, aim for a month of sexual chastity, allowing the body to relax and balance. Then, for a few days, use a detoxification diet to clean out accumulated wastes, followed by foods and herbs to enhance sexual function (see suggestions on Page 29).
8. Bring in the Violins
A satisfying sexual union confers health and vitality upon you and your partner. The sex act itself is important in maintaining long-term potency and pleasure. The atmosphere should include sweet music, sweet fragrance and flowers. Around two hours after dinner is the ideal time for intimacy, as then the body’s energies are the most amenable to sex. People who come home tired from work might find their mood fresher in the morning, or prefer to wait for the weekend.
Partners should be physically, emotionally and spiritually involved with the other, and both must want to have sex. Finally, it is essential that both are satisfied.
Making love brings a lot of blood and fluid to the pelvis. Herbal medicine practitioners say it’s good to rebalance that energy by letting some of those fluids circulate back out of that area. So, afterward, urinate and then relax, perhaps with a warm bath.
9. The Diet of Love
Some delicious foods are love remedies, too. Generally, they’re sweet, oily, cool, light and easily digestible foods. Whole carbohydrates and good-quality fats are the most rejuvenating, so mildly sweet foods, including wheat, rice, seeds, nuts, milk products, ghee or good-quality raw vegetable oil (almond, sesame) and natural sugars, especially honey, rebuild tissues and restore sexual juices. Cooked, moist foods, including oatmeal, stewed vegetables, almond pudding and meat broth will help. Sexy soups could include asparagus, easy-to-digest beans (like mung and aduki) and lotus root or seed. Eat less dry food, such as crackers and rice cakes, and raw food, such as carrot sticks and salad. Some foods—often hot, spicy ones—are very drying, and might reduce the juiciness you’re trying to build. Examples include cayenne and black pepper.
10. Serve Up the Sexy Foods
Aphrodisiac onions increase stamina and sexual vigor. They also increase circulatory health, dropping blood pressure and cholesterol, which is good news for potency. Eggplant is a warming aphrodisiac that is particularly good for women. Figs and dates are traditional aphrodisiacs. Fennel seed (Foeniculum vulgare), fenugreek seed (Trigonella foenum-graecum) and parsley (Petroselinum crispum) contain beneficial natural hormones.
Some people are more alert and sexually responsive after ingesting a little caffeine. Watch it, though—caffeine is drying, and can be counterproductive over the long run. In some men, it can restrict erectile capacity.
11. Add the Finishing Touches
To replenish your sexual energy, finish each lovemaking session with a special drink of hot milk or almond milk with ghee and honey or dates and saffron (see recipe on Page 28). Add ground sesame seeds or ginger, if desired.
12. Heat Up Passion with Natural Medicines
People have long searched for herbs to make them sexier. Lately, tradition and science are meeting, and sparks are flying.
Most of these sexual tonics take a while to rev up the sex engine. Take them not right before a hot date, but daily for months.
In general, there are no known serious interactions between these natural medicines and prescription drugs. However, it’s always wise to discuss the details with your health practitioner.
13. Men: Go for Ginseng
Asian ginseng root (Panax ginseng) supports sexual energy in older people, treats impotence, and clinical trials find it increases sperm production and motility. Clinicians report that ginseng increases libido. Use 4,000 to 6,000 mg daily in capsules.
14. Shatavari: Specific for Women
Shatavari (Asparagus racemosus) is a lifelong Ayurvedic women’s tonic that rejuvenates the reproductive tract, builds blood in the body and increases sexual energy in general. Said to increase fertility and balance female hormones, it is valuable for menopausal symptoms and vaginal atrophy. Use 5 grams daily in capsules.
15. Ashwaganda: Great for Either Sex
The popular tonic herb ashwaganda (Withania somnifera) is India’s premier sexual tonic, especially for men. In a rat study published in Ethnopharmacology, ashwaganda increased production of sex hormones and sperm, with a testosterone-like effect. In another trial, ashwaganda (3 grams a day for one year) was tested in 101 healthy males, and 71.4 percent reported improved sexual performance. As a sexual tonic for women, it is combined with shatavari. Use 5 grams daily in capsules.
16. Mad for Maca
“I’m 72 years old, and I’ve got a smile on my face. I really like maca,” says Burton Goldberg, publisher of Alternative Medicine: The Definitive Guide (Ten Speed Press, 2002). “It’s an incredibly effective product,” Goldberg says. “It’s the herbal Viagra.” In Andean culture, maca is used for impotence and as an aphrodisiac. Two groups of compounds, macamides and macaenes, appear to be responsible for the herb’s effects. Use either 3,000 mg or 750 mg of the 4:1 concentrate daily.
17. Yohimbe: Proven Results for Sexual Performance
Scientific studies conducted on yohimbe bark (Pausinystalia yohimbe) since the 1930s have confirmed noted effects on sexual performance. Yohimbe is tricky to use, as the effective dose sometimes produces side effects. With a single dose intended to inflame passion, you might get more amorous but also become a bit jittery and sweaty. To be on the safe side, start with 200 mg in one dose, not late in the day, and increase each dose gradually until results stabilize. Most men will not be comfortable with a dose higher than 2 grams a day.
18. The Stinking Rose: A Traditional Aphrodisiac
Aphrodisiac garlic (Allium sativum) is a major Indian sex medicine. It increases circulation, erectile force, desire and semen production. Garlic is so good at enhancing sexual energy that some traditions advocating celibacy forbid its use. Use a large dose of 5 to 10 grams daily, deodorized if desired.
19. Ginkgo for ED
Men with ED have responded spectacularly to ginkgo (Ginkgo biloba). In one study, patients with a history of unsuccessful drug treatment took a modest dose of 60 mg a day of ginkgo extract for 12 to 18 months. Fifty percent had their potency restored. It also treats delayed or inhibited orgasm, especially in women. Use up to 270 mg of standardized extract a day.
20. Tongkat Ali: Good for Overall Well-Being, Too
Tongkat Ali (Eurycoma longifolia Jack) comes from Malaysia, where it is called, ahem, “Ali’s walking cane.” Tongkat Ali has a reputation for increasing libido and erectile function, noticeably increasing libido within several hours. Many animal studies have shown testosterone increase, but human studies so far are few.
Energizing Tongkat Ali is best avoided later in the day. Expect results with 40 to 100 mg of the 100:1 extract daily over several weeks.
21. Velvet Bean for a Libido Boost
Long used in Ayurvedic medicine, velvet bean (Mucuna pruriens) is one of the most popular aphrodisiacs of India. It is one of the primary remedies for ED, symptoms in postmenopausal women and for low libido in either gender.
The seeds contain the amino acid l-dopa, a precursor to dopamine, a potent brain chemical important in mood, sexual function and proper erections. L-dopa is an effective inhibitor of the hormone prolactin, which can cause erection failure. Use 2 to 6 grams daily in capsules.
22. Gokshura: An Ayurvedic Standout Herb
Gokshura seed pod (Tribulus terrestris), also known as tribulus, is an Ayurvedic sexual building standout that promotes urine flow and soothes the membranes. Animal studies confirm increased sexual functions. Use 6 grams daily in capsules.
23. Horny Goat Weed
Epimedium grandiflorum is commonly known as horny goat weed. (It’s called yin yang huo in Chinese.) The herb got its unusual name after Chinese farmers noticed that their goats became more amorous after eating it. It’s a major aphrodisiac herb in East Asian herbalism—a yang tonic. Horny goat weed has an affinity for the pelvis, and helps balance the energy in that area by reducing congested fluids and promoting circulation. It is a diuretic and anti-inflammatory herb that traditionally increases libido, relieves back pain and boosts energy. Use 5 grams daily in capsules.
24. Healing Jelly
Amla fruit (Emblica officinalis) is the basis for Chyawanprash, the famous Ayurvedic rejuvenating jelly. Into a base of fresh amla fruit, more than two dozen other synergistic herbal ingredients are added, including ghee, sugar cane juice, honey, clove and cinnamon. Chyawanprash is so popular in India that this formula comprises 50 percent of total sales of natural medicines there. In the United States, it is available at most health-food stores.
As a mild all-around health tonic, Chyawanprash can be used by people of all ages. It is good for almost any weakness or as a general energy supplement. For a traditional sexual rejuvenation medicine, stir 1 tablespoon Chyawanprash into warm milk or spread on toast, daily.
25. Improve Circulation
Pine bark extract, also known as called pycnogenol, has an extensive reputation for increasing circulation. In one study, after the third month of taking pycnogenol, 92.5 percent of the men had normal erections.
The amino acid l-arginine is used for men with ED. It enhances the action of nitric oxide, causing blood vessels in the genitals to dilate. It works even better when combined with other genital circulation enhancers, including pycnogenol and yohimbe. Several human and animal studies have shown l-arginine helps guard against impotence. Use 3 grams a day. •
Karta Purkh Singh Khalsa is a health educator who lives in Eugene, Oregon. His newest book, The Way of Ayurvedic Herbs (Lotus Press), is soon to be released.