Sexual dysfunction describes a wide variety of health problems, both physical and psychological. In men, sexual dysfunction can manifest as erectile dysfunction. In women, it can manifest as vaginal dryness, which can lead to pain during intercourse. In both genders, sexual dysfunction can take the form of low libido and difficulty reaching orgasm.
The causes of sexual dysfunction vary and can include menopause, old age, trauma from sexual abuse, prescription medications, stress, medical conditions, psychiatric disorders and hormone imbalances. Treatment for sexual dysfunction may include prescription erectile dysfunction drugs for men and estrogen therapy for post-menopausal women.
Alternative and adjunct therapies are often used either in place of mainstream therapies or to supplement them. For example, sexual concerns can be treated with supplements like vitamin C, fatty acids, panax ginseng, gingko biloba, or maca root. Acupuncture is another alternative therapy that is gaining traction in the scientific community for improving symptoms of sexual dysfunction.
Acupuncture: A Multi-Purpose Alternative Therapy
Acupuncture, a key component of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), is the practice of inserting very thin needles into the skin at strategic points on the body. According to TCM, inserting needles into certain points restores the flow of qi, or life force, through your body. Many practitioners of acupuncture in the West may not necessarily believe that it has anything to do with qi, but rather that the practice stimulates nerves, muscles and connective tissue to help the body produce natural painkillers and to improve blood flow. The most common use of acupuncture is to relieve pain.
Acupuncture for Low Libido
A recent study, conducted at the Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center and published in the journal Menopause, provides evidence that acupuncture is effective for menopause symptoms. Menopause occurs when a woman stops having menstrual periods around the age of 50, and this is accompanied by side effects like mood swings, low libido, hot flashes and more.
This study examined 209 women between the ages of 45 and 60 who were going through menopause. Half of the women were assigned to receive acupuncture for six months, while the other half received no treatment. The participants recorded the frequency and severity of all of their hot flashes and night sweats. Additionally, they completed questionnaires every two months asking about their menopause symptoms, mental health, sleep habits and other aspects of quality of life.
After six months, the acupuncture-treated group had 36.7 percent fewer hot flashes than they did before treatment. In contrast, the group that did not receive acupuncture during these six months saw a six percent increase in hot flashes. Even after another six months had passed, the women who received acupuncture still had 29.4 percent fewer hot flashes than they did before treatment. In other words, the benefits of acupuncture continued for another six months after treatment stopped.
Although hot flashes are not directly related to libido, both hot flashes and low libido are side effects of menopause. It is quite possible that acupuncture helps reduce other symptoms of menopause besides hot flashes. Though more research is needed on this topic, one study in particular stands out in terms of more direct evidence for acupuncture for low libido.
The study involved people who were suffering from low libido caused by antidepressants. Antidepressants causes sexual dysfunction at very high rates, with some figures being placed as high as 90 percent. Volunteers in the study underwent acupuncture procedures for 12 weeks. They also answered questionnaires every week assessing depression, anxiety and sexual function. At the end of 12 weeks, female volunteers had a significant improvement in their sex drive and males had significant improvement in sexual function, depression and anxiety.
How to Maximize the Benefits of Acupuncture
Combining multiple therapies can accentuate the benefits of acupuncture for low libido. Of course, the foundation for recovering from any health condition and for feeling your best is to have a healthy lifestyle. Eat right, exercise regularly, get enough sleep and reduce stress. In addition to acupuncture, you may like to try practices such as meditation or yoga, or natural herbal supplements like panax ginseng, gingko biloba and maca root.