I'm a 54-year-old woman. What can I take to boost my libido? 

Megan Sheppard offers advice on natural health in her weekly column
I'm a 54-year-old woman. What can I take to boost my libido? 

Damiana,Turnera diffusa, is used as a herbal medicine to boost sex drive.  

Is there a herb or supplement I could take to boost my libido? I'm a 54-year-old woman who is otherwise fit and well.

A. One of the places to begin is to check the medications you currently use. Your GP can review your medications and if necessary change your prescription to something less likely to affect your libido.

There are a number of herbs with a reputation for boosting libido – some have been used in traditional cultures for centuries.

Damiana (Turnera diffusa), pictured, is a popular herb commonly thought to boost the sex drive, and is a simple remedy since you only need to take a cup of tea daily using one to three teaspoons of dried leaf per cup of boiling water. While this herb is considered to restore libido in males and females, it is important to note that there is little detailed research on the role it plays as an aphrodisiac.

What we do know is that damiana acts on the nervous system, is a useful tonic for the urinary system, has antiseptic properties, and can help to stimulate the body and mind. Herbalists often recommend it for individuals where nervous exhaustion is an underlying factor in mild to moderate depression. As a nerve tonic, it helps to address feelings of overwhelm — a common underlying issue with low libido.

Hormonal changes are another consideration, particularly in your mid-50s. Ginseng has long been considered an aphrodisiac herb for men, however, the adaptogen Panax ginseng is often prescribed to improve sexual desire and responsiveness in women. If you are able to source Panax ginseng in tincture form, then take 2ml daily.

Dong quai (Angelica sinensis) is another herbal remedy whose action is compared to ginseng. It is used as a female reproductive tonic, and is known in TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine) as a ‘warming’ herb, improving circulation in the abdomen and extremities. Some more surprising herbal remedies for female libido are more commonly used to support breastfeeding. These include the kitchen spices fennel seeds, anise seeds (not to be confused with star anise), and fenugreek seeds. These all contain compounds that act like oestrogen in the body.

I'm frequently awoken by painful cramps in my legs and feet. What would you suggest?

A. My go-to remedy for muscle cramping is magnesium. A tiny metallic ion, crucial to more than 300 enzyme systems in the body, low magnesium often manifests as poor REM sleep patterns and late-night leg cramps.

Topical application of magnesium is more effective than taking it orally when treating cramps. This is because the topical form — usually found as a spray, cream, or gel preparation — is more bioavailable and can be applied directly to the affected area.

In the long term, your dietary intake becomes crucial as to whether or not you continue to experience cramping in your legs and feet.

Other symptoms indicating magnesium deficiency include headaches, palpitations, twitching muscles, blurry vision, mouth ulcers, depression, and anxiety.

Foods high in magnesium include fish, artichokes, banana, figs, grains, prunes, dairy products, nuts, beans, beet greens, broccoli, legumes, parsnip, pumpkin, spinach, fermented soy products, squash, courgette, tomatoes, potatoes. Greens, grains, nuts, and seeds are the main contenders since they have the highest bioavailable levels compared with other foods.

Finally, make sure that you stay hydrated during the day, and keep your electrolyte levels up. Simply adding a pinch of sea salt, a squeeze of fresh lemon juice, and/or a little raw honey to your water bottle will help.

NOTE: The information contained in this column is not a substitute for medical advice. Always consult a doctor.

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