A healthy sex life can be a vital component of feeling happy, healthy, and fulfilled for many adults, but problems with sex can be hard to talk about or find solutions for. Luckily, in many cases, acupuncture and herbal medicine can help.
In my clinic, I treat both men and women for symptoms of low libido, or loss of desire to have sexual relations. From a Chinese Medicine perspective, low libido can be caused by numerous reasons: it can be caused from a weakness in the yang energy of the body, which is the fiery, passionate, active energy. It can also be a weakness of the yin energy, the counterpart to the yang energy, which is the part of our energy that anchors us. Sometimes when the yin is weak, our energy is too scattered to be able to muster up the drive for sexual intercourse. Low libido can also be a function of either fatigue (a weakness in the body’s energy) or stress (which causes the energy to knot and be hard to unwind, which is necessary for enjoyable sex to take place.) Based on your individual symptoms and presentation, your acupuncturist will decide which treatment method is most suitable for you.
For women, the most common cause of pain during sexual intercourse is vaginal dryness. This is especially common in women as they go through menopause, and the vagina does not lubricate as easily anymore. This dryness can cause intense discomfort during the act of intercourse. From an acupuncture perspective, this is a weakness in the yin energy of the body – the moistening, cool, watery energy. Acupuncture and particularly herbal treatment in this case focus on nourishing the yin and promoting moisture.
Women can also experience pain during intercourse due to certain infections such as herpes, yeast infections, or trichomoniasis, which can cause a burning or stinging sensation during sex. There are herbal remedies that can be very effective at clearing these infections from the body and reducing symptoms. I often prescribe herbal washes and rinses to patients with these conditions with very good results.
More serious conditions, such as vulvodynia and pelvic inflammatory disease, can also cause intense pain or discomfort with vaginal penetration. Acupuncture can be a supportive therapy for these conditions, and is appealing to many women because of its non-invasive nature – we can treat pain in the vagina and pelvis by needling points on the thighs, lower legs, and low abdomen. Herbal medicine is often necessary with these longer-term conditions, as well.
Erectile Dysfunction refers to the inability to achieve or sustain an erection. There are numerous causes of ED, including stress, age, certain medications, chronic illness, fatigue, or diminished blood flow to the penis. Treatment with Traditional Chinese Medicine often focuses on both nourishing the yang energy of the body and increasing blood flow to the penis. Additionally, for many men, there is an emotional piece to the ED – either initiating the problem or arising from it. The acupuncture and herbs also work to help the mind and body function more smoothly together to achieve erection without anxiety.
Once the erection is achieved, many men experience Premature Ejaculation (PE). The American Urological Association reports that around 30% of men experience PE on average. Again, there are many factors that can lead to PE, including certain medications, stress, anxiety, or certain neurological factors. Acupuncture and Herbal Medicine work to address whatever the underlying cause of the PE is – sometimes this is related to energy being blocked and not flowing properly, while other times it is related to a weakness – the body’s inability to hold in the fluid as long as it “should.” As with treatment of ED, treatment of PE works on both the biological and the emotional aspect of this issue.
Having a healthy and fulfilling sex life is multifaceted and includes a healthy diet, successful management of stress, getting enough sleep, and feeling emotionally secure with your relationship or sexual encounters. Acupuncture and Herbs can help better your sex life by helping you manage each of these aspects – by improving metabolic function and regulating cravings, by reducing feelings of stress and tension, and by promoting sleep. They can also support you in working through whatever emotional issues are at play for you – individually or as a couple – around sex. Acupuncture and Herbs can also be a useful therapeutic tool when these other factors seem right but sexual problems are still arising. So give acupuncture and herbs a try – you and your partner will be glad you did.