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LifeLine story about ArginMax for Women

Stalled sex drive?

Soon after my 40th birthday, I noticed something had disappeared along with my youth: my libido. I'm not the only one. A 2008 Massachusetts General Hospital study of more than 30,000 women found that 39 percent suffered from low sexual desire. Meanwhile, when I finally summoned the courage to discuss my little problem with my friends, I got enough anecdotes for an entire season of No Sex and the City: the lusty Samantha among us was now libidoless as she approached menopause; our Miranda-like working mom was too busy to get busy; the reserved Charlotte type shyly confessed she couldn't recall when she last felt frisky; and sex for the Carrie in our group, now 20 years into her relationship, had long since become sporadic and stale.

Age is definitely a factor. "Libido is connected to our levels of dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA), a hormone the body uses to produce the sex hormones estrogen and testosterone," says Susan Doughty, APRN-CNP, an OB-GYN nurse practitioner and co-founder of New England WomenCenter in Portland, Maine. As it turns out, DHEA drops dramatically—and depressingly—between age 30 and the onset of menopause. But midlife isn't the only sex drive-squelching issue. Stress and fatigue, as well as prescription drugs including antidepressants, can also diminish desire. Obviously you can't turn back the hands of time, and the best long-term solution is to address any underlying issues. In the meantime, certain herbal aphrodisiacs and sex-enhancing supplements can help. Here's a look at some key ingredients and how they work.

1. L-arginine This amino acid helps with nitric oxide production, which increases blood flow throughout your body and to your clitoris, says Mark Blumenthal of the American Botanical Council in Austin, Texas. According to research published in The Journal of Sex & Marital Therapy, 70 percent of women with low libidos reported that they were more satisfied with sex after taking ArginMax, which contains L-arginine as well as damiana leaf (see below), ginseng and ginkgo, for one month. The women in the study also saw an increase in their desire, lubrication, clitoral sensation and orgasms. Recommended Rx: 2,500 milligrams daily

2. Damiana leaf Because it reduces anxiety and inhibitions, this nervous system tonic, also known as Turnera diffusa, helps you become more relaxed and amenable to arousal, says herbalist Roy Upton, R.H., executive director of the American Herbal Pharmacopoeia in Scotts Valley, Calif. Damiana leaf's aphrodisiac abilities are also linked to one of its compounds, progestin, which is similar to the female sex hormone progesterone that drops, and dampens libido, as we head toward menopause. Recommended Rx: 1 gram daily

3. Catuaba This Amazonian aphrodisiac, which also goes by the name erythroxylum catuaba, comes from a tree native to Brazil, where tribes traditionally use it to remedy a lagging libido, impotence and nervousness (a well-known mojo-killer). The plant's active compounds, catuabine A and B, appear to act on the sex centers in the brain, says Chris Kilham, an ethnobotanist at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst and author of Tales from the Medicine Trail (Rodale), so you may experience erotic dreams when taking catuaba. Recommended Rx: 100 milligrams daily

4. Yohimbe bark extract This African tree bark extract sends blood flow to the genitals and stimulates the sensitive tissue of the clitoris, says Williams, Ore.-based herbalist Ed Smith, a founding member of the American Herbalist Guild. He warns, however, that yohimbe can cause nervousness and sleeplessness, raise already existing high blood pressure (so avoid taking it if you have heart or kidney disease), and can also negatively interact with antidepressants. Recommended Rx: 200 milligrams of a standardized extract containing 4 percent yohimbines (the plant's active ingredient) for no longer than six weeks

5. Maca Ancient Incans consumed this energizing Peruvian plant before battle or a bout of sex, says Kilham. Maca increases sexual appetite, stamina, endurance and even fertility. One 2008 study conducted at the Depression Clinical and Research Program at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston found that maca helped people with antidepressantinduced sexual dysfunction to regain their libidos. Recommended Rx: 400 milligrams daily

6. Horny goat weed Traditional Chinese medicine views low libido as a deficiency of kidney yang qi, or energy, so Upton advises taking the aptly named horny goat weed (aka epimedium) to boost kidney function and—voilà!—your sexual vitality. Recommended Rx: 250 to 500 milligrams daily

7. Muira puama A 2000 study conducted at the Institute of Sexology in (where else?) Paris found that muira puama (also known by the names Marapuama or Ptychopetalum olacoides) and ginkgo biloba, another stimulating sex herb, increased desire, intercourse regularity, sexual fantasies, ability to reach orgasm, intensity of orgasm and, therefore, satisfaction with their sex lives in women who had been experiencing low libido. Other studies show that this happy-making (and potentially baby-making!) herb from a tree native to the Brazilian Amazon also counteracts chronic stress, depression and nervous exhaustion. Recommended Rx: 800 milligrams daily

THE SEX DRIVE TEST DRIVE

How virile are the natural libido-boosting products? Our group of No Sex and the City 40-somethings took them for a spin and reported back with these results:

1. Hot Plants For Her contains maca and catuaba.

Dose: One to two tablets daily. ($33 for 60 capsules; enzymatictherapy.com)

Our test-driver says: "I knew it was working when I found myself booing the TV as Avery put his shirt back on during Grey's Anatomy."

2. Emerita Libido Formula contains maca and catuaba.

Dose: One to two tablets daily. ($33 for 60 capsules; enzymatictherapy.com)

Our test-driver says: "I knew it was working when I found myself booing the TV as Avery put his shirt back on during Grey's Anatomy."

3. Intimate Response contains L-arginine, horny goat weed and yohimbe bark extract.

Dose: One to two tablets daily for no more than 30 days at a time. ($11 for 30 tablets; sourcenaturals.com)

Our test-driver says: "I wasn't instantly transformed into a horny cougar, but I did see my libido increase after about a month."

4. ArginMax for Women contains L-arginine and damiana leaf.

Dose: Three capsules daily ($40 for 180 capsules; arginmax.com)

Our test-driver says: "Within two weeks, I started initiating sex again, and my orgasms were more intense than they'd been in years."

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