Welcome to The V, our weeklong series devoted to all things sex and reproductive health. This is a safe space free from “taboos,” because there’s no reason anyone should feel awkward talking about their bodies. That said, we’ll be clearing up any misinformation on the subject, starting with this huge misnomer: The “V” in this case doesn’t refer to the vagina, but the vulva, which is the anatomically correct term for external female genitalia (including the opening of the vagina). Stay tuned all week for need-to-know guides on birth control, tips for taking your orgasm to the next level, real-life stories about endometriosis, and everything in between.
“The first thing I ask anyone seeking my help for low libido is, ‘How is your mood?'” says Nayak. It’s worth some introspection: Even if you don’t feel actively upset or anxious, any underlying stress can keep you from being totally present—and that’s key to feeling the most pleasure possible.
But if you’ve done some soul-searching and don’t know why you’re feeling anxious, there could be other physiological factors at play. “If the person is stressed, I next explore if they may have further underlying issues, such as low adrenal function, nutrient deficiencies, or underlying metabolic/genetic issues that contribute to mental state,” says Nayak. “I also address the more obvious possibility of hormonal imbalances in both men and women that may be the root cause of low libido.” The good news: Those issues can be addressed through some of the remedies below.
If you’re otherwise in the mood to have sex, it can be immensely frustrating when your body doesn’t seem to get the memo—and worrying why you’re not enjoying it as much as you could be doesn’t exactly lend itself to enhancing the moment. But just as there are many factors that contribute to a low libido, there are many ways to give it a boost—and a lot of them are quick fixes you can try at home.
To find out more, we spoke with Tara Nayak, ND, a naturopathic doctor who specializes in hormonal imbalances. Below she shares some of the common causes of a low libido, as well as her favorite natural ways to get your body and mind back on track.
It’s important to think of a low libido just like any other imbalance in your body, says Nayak—which is why scrutinizing your overall well-being never hurts. Consider your diet: Have you been consuming a lot of sugar lately, or relying on takeout meals? “Eating a wholesome diet free of processed foods is the best foundational approach,” she says.
“There are some foods that have been long considered aphrodisiacs,” says Nayak, and many of them have modern research to back them up. Her picks include maca, chocolate or cacao, and oysters. Try brewing this cacao-maca blend from Moon Deli with some warm almond milk for a take on hot chocolate that’s sure to get you in the mood.
In addition to maca and cacao, there are are a variety of herbs shown to give a sluggish libido a lift—but keep in mind that they’re not one-size-fits-all. “Which one is best depends on where the underlying issue stems from,” says Nayak. “If it’s stress, an adaptogen blend with stimulating adaptogens, such as ginseng, may help. If it’s anxiety, a calming adaptogen blend of herbs, including ashwagandha, may do the trick. In the case of a less-than-optimal adrenal function, herbs to support the adrenal gland, such as licorice, have helped many.”
It can be a delicate balance for sure—these herbs are considered plant medicine, after all—so Nayak recommends working with a naturopath or doctor to determine the right formula for you.
It sounds obvious, but it’s still worth noting that it’s going to be that much more difficult to focus on feeling good if your mind is elsewhere. “I absolutely prescribe mindfulness—specifically breathing—practices to anyone needing a libido boost,” says Nayak. “This improves sexual experiences both alone or with a partner. It encourages a deeper connection between physical sensation and the mind. By practicing mindfulness and doing breath work surrounding sexual experiences, one can focus on their desires and pleasure through connecting body and mind. These positive, more deeply connected experiences can increase the desire for more.”
And it doesn’t have to be complicated: If you find yourself feeling distracted while doing the deed, simply return to your breath—or better yet, your partner’s. And on that note…
If you’re not flying solo, remember that if one of you is feeling off, it should absolutely be a joint effort to enhance the experience for both of you—even if it takes some practice. “My quick tip for partners is to try to synchronize your breathing during sex for an intensified experience that’s not focused on climax but more so on pleasure and connection,” says Nayak.
But mark our words: When you work on building that foundation for genuine connection and mindfulness, the rest will almost certainly follow.