Can a Dietary Supplement Enhance Your Sex Life?
A dietary supplement is touted to help improve sexual desire. Could it work for you?
Lisa*, a 30-year-old training manager for an Internet hardware company, felt her sex life was, well, lifeless—until she signed up to be part of a scientific study.
In the study, women wanting to improve their sex lives were given a four-week supply of either the dietary supplement ArginMax or a placebo. At the end of the study, 76% of the women who took ArginMax reported increased sexual desire compared with 37.5% of the women in the placebo group. Plus, 72% of the women in the ArginMax group reported improved satisfaction with their sex lives versus 33.3% of the women in the placebo group.
Other perks for the women on ArginMax? Increased clitoral sensation and more frequent orgasms—without significant side effects. More studies are under way.
"About two weeks into the study, I just started feeling better overall," Lisa reports. What did she notice, sexually speaking? A dramatic upswing in "readiness," leading to much more frequent lovemaking.
What Does ArginMax Contain?
ArginMax contains the amino acid L-arginine, the herbs ginkgo biloba, damiana, and Korean ginseng, and 14 vitamins and minerals.
The purported effects of ArginMax may be related to the L-Arginine, a naturally occurring substance that is believed to aid the body's production of nitric oxide. Nitric oxide helps the arteries retain elasticity, which can improve blood flow.
ArginMax May Help Men, Too
An unpublished, four-week clinical study of men with mild to severe erectile dysfunction showed the same types of results as studies in women: 87.5% of men in the ArginMax group reported improvement in ability to maintain an erection during intercourse, compared with only 22.2% in the placebo group. Plus, 75% of men in the ArginMax group reported improvement in satisfaction with their overall sex life, compared with 21% in the placebo group.
In studies of both men and women, no side effects, such as headaches, nausea, vomiting, stomach upset, visual disturbance, blood pressure alterations, dizziness, or other significant side effects were noted in either group.
What the Experts Say
These results sound promising, but they are only preliminary. And experts in the field have differing opinions about ArginMax.
"For women without a problem, there is no reason to take anything," says Mary Lake Polan, MD, PhD, chair and professor of Stanford University School of Medicine gynecology and obstetrics department. But, as one of the study's authors, she notes that there are few medical interventions for women having problems with sexual response, particularly if they're premenopausal.
Since good nutrition is important for good living, including sex, "ArginMax is a reasonable alternative," she says. She notes that the study results support the effectiveness of ArginMax in improving female sexual function and adds, "Because sexual function is such a complicated matter, I don't think any medication or nutritional supplement is a panacea, but it could help."
Patricia Schiller, MA, JD, is the director of the Marriage and Sex Counseling and Education Center, OB-GYN Department, College of Medicine at Howard University and is the founder of the American Association of Sex Educators, Counselors and Therapists. She says that body image and the way you see yourself as a sexual creature is what's important. "Nutrition is only a small part of female sexuality," she says.
Mary Camire, PhD, associate professor in the department of food science and human nutrition at the University of Maine suggests that some of the ingredients in ArginMax may improve blood flow, which could help sexual satisfaction for some women, but she's concerned that women might be "blamed" for sexual problems because they don't eat correctly.
"Diet or supplements alone aren't responsible for sexual issues. Can you imagine an insensitive partner giving a woman a bottle of supplements instead of being loving and tender?"
Howard Glazer, PhD, clinical associate professor of psychology in obstetrics and gynecology at Cornell University Medical College in New York City says, "The ageless search for substances that enhance sexual desire continues." He comments that while good nutrition generally makes for a healthier, "hornier" person, he'd like to see further research into the subject.
Chris Meletis, ND, is dean of clinical education and chief medical officer at the National College of Naturopathic Medicine in Portland, Oregon. His book, Better Sex Naturally, emphasizes the role of good health in good sex.
"At least a couple of the major ingredients in ArginMax increase blood flow. The fact that such ingredients are powerful sexual enhancers is not surprising, since a healthy blood supply and cardiovascular system is essential for ultimate function," he says. He feels that ArginMax might provide short-term sexual benefits plus potential long-term better overall health.
Although no adverse side effects were reported during the ArginMax studies, you should always consult your physician before taking any natural medicine.
Is ArginMax safe?
"Generally speaking," Dr. Meletis says, "when taken at appropriate dosages for weight, age, and health, assuming there are no drug interactions." He does add some caveats:
- Pregnancy/Nursing. Never take products not specifically recommended by a physician if you are pregnant or nursing.
- Underlying Health Conditions. If you have diabetes, kidney problems, heart conditions, or any other potentially serious concerns, don't take ArginMax without first discussing it with your doctor and/or pharmacist.
- Drug Interactions. In the book he co-authored with Thad Jacobs, Interactions Between Drugs and Natural Medicines, Dr. Meletis emphasizes that medications (natural or not) can potentially interact with others. "The herbs in ArginMax have the potential to interact." For example, a woman on a blood-thinner who takes ginkgo, which is in ArginMax, could end up with excess blood thinning.
How Much Does It Cost?
How much will the potential for improved sexual bliss run you? A one-month supply of ArginMax For Female Sexual Fitness capsules costs $39.99.
Is it worth it? It is to Lisa, who has been happy to invest less than the price of a daily latte to jump-start her sex life. What has been her husband's reaction? According to Lisa, four tiny words: "Happy, happy, joy, joy!"
* Not her real name.
Last reviewed September 2005 by Steven Bratman, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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