As cisgender males age, it’s not unusual for them to experience a decline in libido. And while it’s not something most talk about, it is something they think about. A lot. Fortunately, people are opening up about it more now than ever, and as a result, there’s plenty of information out there as to what you can do to increase the activity in your bedroom.
It’s important to note that low libido is typically just a momentary loss of interest in sex. This can be partly physical: overall health, genes, testosterone level, weight, fitness, and age are all potential contributing factors to a slump. But there’s also an emotional component: stress, relationship difficulties, alcohol consumption, and smoking could also cause a drop in libido. Fortunately, there are vitamins and herbal supplements available that may help support libido. Below, we will take a look at what the research says about the most popular options.
Not all supplements will work for everyone, but the following have the most evidence available when it comes to supplements for male sex drive. Just because there are studies that show positive effects does not mean it will work for you. Your healthcare provider should be your go-to guide for sexual health, including drive and desire.
Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant that can help combat oxidative stress. Stress is often an issue contributing to lowered sex drive, so supplementing with vitamin C can be helpful. It can be found in oranges, lemons, grapefruit, strawberries, cruciferous vegetables, tomatoes, bell peppers, and white potatoes. It is also readily available in supplement form, Vitamin C is water-soluble, too, so any that your body doesn’t use is excreted in urine.
Low vitamin D levels have been associated with low testosterone levels. A pilot study of apparently healthy men found an association between lower vitamin D levels and sexual function, and the lower the vitamin D status, the more notable the incidences of erectile dysfunction and changes to orgasmic function and sexual desire. More research is needed to understand the direct links between vitamin D and libido, as well as the impacts of vitamin D supplementation to address the issue.
Vitamin D can come from exposure to the sun, though not everyone can rely on getting enough sunlight exposure year-round. Foods like salmon, mackerel, tuna, egg yolks, fortified cereals, and milk are good sources of vitamin D. It is also available in supplement form.
The thyroid is an important gland for metabolism, but it’s also essential if you want to have a healthy libido. Sexual function challenges are present in 63% of men with low thyroid function, and up to 77% of men with overactive thyroid function. Disruptions to normal thyroid function are associated with erectile and ejaculation changes and impaired libido. The relationship between the thyroid and sexual health is largely because of thyroid hormone requirements for sex hormone levels.
Thyroid wellness is complex and not supported by one supplement only, but by a balanced approach to diet, lifestyle, stress management, and physical activity. Genetics and family history can also play a major role in whether or not you’re likely to deal with thyroid hormone changes. The good news is that it’s easy for healthcare providers to test thyroid hormone levels and to address imbalances.
For a thyroid to function optimally, it needs certain nutrients that can largely come from your diet. Selenium is one of them. It has antioxidant properties, but also supports healthy thyroid hormone synthesis. Research has found that by addressing underlying thyroid challenges, sexual health can also be supported. Brazil nuts, walnuts, almonds, beef, tuna, red snapper, cod, and whole grains are all excellent sources of selenium. Most people get adequate selenium from food, but it is available in supplement form as well.
Omega-3 fatty acids are necessary for maintaining various aspects of our health, including sexual, reproductive, and nervous system wellness in adults. Supplements and dietary intake of omega-3s may support healthy semen and other sperm parameters in men. However, a direct impact on libido is unknown.
Dietary sources of omega-3s include salmon, cold water fatty fish, and fish oil supplements. Additionally, for individuals who follow a vegan or vegetarian diet, have seafood allergies, or simply prefer to avoid the "fishy" aftertaste, vegan Omega-3 supplements sourced from algae can provide a suitable source of omega-3 fatty acids.
Saffron is a Southeast Asian spice that has been credited with supporting libido and sexual function in cis males. Saffron is thought to work by supporting nitric oxide synthase activity in vascular endothelium and the production of nitric oxide, which plays a key role in blood flow. A systematic review and meta-analysis of research on saffron found that it can support erectile function, though does not have a clear impact on semen or other male sexual health parameters. The studies included did have variable designs, so more research needs to be done to confirm the effects on libido.
Fenugreek is an herb with variable uses, and based on Ayurvedic tradition, one of them is healthy libido support. There are not large clinical trials proving this, although a small study of 60 healthy males found that fenugreek supported healthy libido, including sexual arousal and orgasm. Participants took 600 mg per day of fenugreek in a double-blind, placebo-controlled study design. Over the course of 6 weeks, fenugreek supported sexual desire better than placebo without testosterone levels changing outside of a normal range. As with any supplement, check with your doctor first. Fenugreek has the potential to interact with some medications, including those that affect blood clotting.
Maca is a sweet root vegetable known in South America as “the Peruvian Viagra.” Improved sexual desire was observed in men aged 21-56 years who received maca in either 1500 or 3000 mg serving sizes. Compared to placebo, maca improved sexual desire, and did not alter testosterone parameters. A small randomized controlled study found that maca could also support sexual desire that was caused as a side effect of other medication. However, recent research has questioned the overall effectiveness of maca, since there are many broad health claims made about it. Larger studies are needed to conclusively determine how maca affects sexual function.
L-arginine is an amino acid that is found naturally in the body, as well as in dairy products, meat, fish, eggs, and nuts. While there is not a large body of evidence, a review of numerous foods and nutraceuticals thought to exert influence on sexual behavior and fertility regarded L-arginine as one of a few promising supplements. A small double-blind, placebo-controlled study that paired L-arginine with adenosine monophosphate found that the group taking the intervention had improvements in erectile function, but did not have changes with sexual desire or orgasm. It’s difficult to determine outcomes from combination interventions, so more standalone studies on L-arginine are needed.
Ashwagandha, specifically in the form of 675 mg per day, divided into three doses and taken for 90 days, has shown promising results for male sexual health. Research indicated that this regimen supported male fertility, sperm concentration/motility, semen volume, and healthy reproductive hormones.
After 90 days of consistent use, participants in the study observed a notable 167% increase in sperm count, a 53% boost in semen volume, and a 57% improvement in sperm motility when compared to baseline measurements. In contrast, the placebo group saw minimal changes in these parameters.
Tongkat Ali has a lost history of use as an aphrodisiac. Clinical research on its effects is still new, but so far the data is promising. Systematic reviews and meta-analyses of clinical trials have found that participants had significant improvements in total testosterone as well as overall better sexual function. More clinical trials are needed to support current evidence.
As always make sure to ask a healthcare provider before taking a new supplement.
Saw palmetto is an herbal supplement used for supporting men’s health. It is used more frequently in Europe, and studies show that it can support various elements of men’s wellness. It contains bioactive compounds believed to help support normal testosterone balance and prostate health.
When it comes to libido, there’s not much research on how saw palmetto may affect that directly, but since sex drive is related to both testosterone and prostate wellness, saw palmetto could theoretically have an impact. Still, there’s not direct research on saw palmetto for this purpose.
Some supplements can seem promising based on animal data or cell studies, or maybe even based on small human studies. But to really understand the effects of supplements, there needs to be high quality evidence that is repeatable. The following supplements may have some preliminary or limited evidence for sexual health support, but overall, not enough is known about them to decisively list them as beneficial. Always ask your healthcare provider before you take any supplements.
Zinc: While zinc is an important mineral for healthy sperm, recent research has found that it doesn’t play a role in healthy sexual function or erectile responses.
Velvet Bean (Mucuna Pruriens): There is only one human study that used this ingredient, but it was alongside several other nutrients, so there is no way to tell whether Velvet Bean provided the benefits.
Tribulus terrestris: There are no human studies available to determine whether this herb can support libido.
Muira Puama: A pilot study with male subjects examined the effects of a dietary supplement that included Muira Puama, l-citrulline, ginger, and guarana. The results noted improvements in sexual function, but these results are confounded due to the number of ingredients in the formula.
Damiana: Reputed to have benefits for sexual health, the only data comes from animal studies, so there is not enough information to know how it would affect humans.
Yohimbe: The evidence linking Yohimbe to sexual health is weak, and most of the research has been done in combination with other nutrients such as arginine, Tribulus, ginseng, Mucuna Pruriens, and zinc.
Red ginseng: While this herb has been studied for sexual function in people born female, there are no studies assessing the impact on male sexual responses or libido.
Ginkgo biloba: Ginkgo biloba has been used to address libido in people born female, but there aren’t high-quality studies available to determine how it supports male libido.
There’s a lot of talk about aphrodisiacs like dark chocolate, oysters, and maybe even some strawberries dipped in chocolate. These have all been touted for helping to “put you in the mood.” And while many may attest to their benefits, there are a lot of other things you can do to boost your libido that don’t involve eating.
Data has shown that cisgender males who lose weight may improve sexual function. Smoking cessation, limited alcohol intake, and a healthy diet also offer a boost to the libido. Sleep and stress reduction techniques, like yoga and meditation, have also proven to be beneficial. Communication with your partner is also critical to a healthy sex life.
It may be a difficult topic to broach with your healthcare provider, but if your lack of interest in sex is more than just a passing phase due to external circumstances, it’s a good idea to explore the possibility of underlying health issues. Once they have been cleared, you can work together on finding better options and strategies.
If you’re experiencing a lower-than-usual libido, it’s important to know that you are not the only one. Plenty of cisgender males experience slumps in their otherwise healthy sex life. It is a normal progression of aging, for one, and also the byproduct of a busy life. Do not hesitate to seek out advice and guidance from your healthcare practitioner. There are many strategies, both with or without supplementation, that can help you find the libido you desire for a healthy, satisfying sex life. Remember, it’s a personal choice. You don’t have to have the libido of your friends, family members, or co-workers to have a fulfilling sex life. But you always want to be sure you’re healthy and making the best possible choices.