Herbs that act on the brain and elevate mood
It is important to remember that the 'sexual state of mind' is a result of the complex interaction between the sex hormones and the neurotransmitters in the brain such as dopamine and serotonin. These two areas, i.e., sex hormone function and our mental state are normally seen as separate entities. However, women will be only too aware of the effect that shifting levels of oestrogen can have on state of mind and mood etc. At the menopause, for example, as oestrogen levels decline, it becomes essential to consider both aspects of mood control, nervous and hormonal together, as a whole, rather than different bits! Testosterone, as we mentioned, is the primary sex-drive hormone in both sexes and has a major effect on mood and sexual desire and again has to be factored into the restoration of a sexual 'mind set'.
Some of the herbs that are most useful in this category we have already encountered, such as:
The phyto-oestrogenic herbs (specifically for women at menopause) to replace falling oestrogen levels. See the section 'Herbs with sex hormone-like chemicals'.
The most powerful anti-depressants per se are Tribulus/Mucuna/Ashwagandha combinations. Remember, all the herbs that enhance testosterone levels will have a powerful effect upon motivation and mood. See the section 'Herbs that optimise testosterone levels'.
Something that should go without saying is that good quality food is essential to the maintenance of our mood. Eat rubbish and you'll feel like rubbish! A couple of the most important areas to concentrate on from a pro-sexual point of view are amino acids derived from protein and essential fatty acids found in seed and nut oils. Go to the section 'Herbs that raise eicosanoid levels'. One of the most important pro-sexual amino acids is arginine which promotes nitric oxide production. It is found in all meat, fish and dairy produce but the healthiest sources are the vegetable sources such as:
Lentils | garlic | onion | sunflower seeds | soya/tofu | Peanuts | spinach | spirulina | watercress | sesame seeds | pumpkin seeds | oats | wheatgerm | beans
Many of these foods have other pro-sexual components and activity of course.
Other individual herbs in that act on the brain and elevate mood include:
Damiana (Turnera diffusa)
An interesting herb from America that has a continuous history of use as an 'aphrodisiac'. One of the names used for it by the Mexican Indians included 'lets the shirt of the man be removed'! An obvious allusion to its aphrodisiac effect. Other names given to the plant included women's names, again telling us that this herb was used as an aphrodisiac, particularly beneficial for women. In my experience, it does seem to be a herb best suited to women. The part of the plant used medicinally is the whole herb; stems and leaves. Damiana was also an important ingredient in the Aztec emperor Montezuma's closely guarded secret love brew that he would drink before visiting his harem. Damiana was in fact called Turnera aphrodisiaca until crusty botanists decided the name unsuitable for their plant naming system! One of the primary features of the use of Damiana is that it has a mild sedative an euphoric effect. The indigenous peoples of the Americas knew this and the herb was often smoked for this effect. This effect by itself is a useful aid to better sex as it enhances mood and removes anxiety. Damiana helps capture the mood.
This herb comes from traditional Chinese medicine and is once again loaded with those steroid shaped saponins that we have spoken about a lot. It is classed as a Qi tonic along with herbs such as Panax ginseng and as such is seen as a major tonic and restorative herb. So, just from this adaptogenic angle it could be a useful herb but it has also been shown to have an anti-anxiety and mild sedative effect along with a blood pressure lowering effect. It is particularly useful in adrenaline driven anxiety and exhaustion states.
As a final word in this section, it is worth noting that some of the above herbs would useful in helping to treat 'performance anxiety' in men, damiana and Zizyphus for example, but interestingly, the 'kidney yang tonic' such as Epimedium and Cordyceps are also used to treat premature ejaculation. In terms of 'performance anxiety' in a woman, damiana and Zizyphus would be useful, but also consider hops as it is a great anti-anxiety herb and also phyto-oestrogenic.
Herbs that raise eicosanoid / prostaglandin levels
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