There are many factors to consider that could be contributing to low libido in men, including stress, depression, age, drugs and alcohol, low testosterone and diabetes, to name a few. It’s important to find the underlying cause of low libido before treatment begins, and this is why a certified TCM practitioner gives a detailed history by asking a lot of questions concerning lifestyle, mood, diet, energy level and sleep.
In addition, to the varying factors above, there is common testosterone decline seen in men over 50. Testosterone is a steroid hormone involved with muscle development, bone strength, fertility, libido and sperm production. When this hormone is low, symptoms include low libido, fatigue, erectile dysfunction, decrease in muscle mass, anxiety and insomnia.
In TCM the kidneys deal with sexual reproduction, libido, bone development and health. If the kidney energy is weak, it is known as yang deficiency. The kidneys contain both yin and yang energy, ideally in a comfortable balance. The yin is what is dark, cool, moist and still. Yang is hot, dry, moving, outward and bright. If there is an imbalance, as in yang deficiency, for example, the symptoms include feeling cold, a sore lower back, pale complexion, weak legs and knees. This is because yang energy is deficient (due to aging, lifestyle or poor diet) making the yin, the cooler energy, appear relative to that imbalance.
A popular formula for yang deficiency is called Jin Gui Shen Qi Wan or Kidney Pill. This formula warms and strengthens the kidneys. The advantage of taking a formula it is generally safer if one herb is particularly strong and the other herbs mitigate the effect. Taking one herb, for example ginseng, could be too warming for an individual and cause other problems such as high blood pressure, anxiety, headache and palpitations. It is best to see a qualified herbalist or TCM practitioner to get an accurate diagnosis and treatment; it is not advisable to self-diagnose and treat oneself with herbs. Acupuncture, herbs and warming moxibustion on the lower back can help with low libido, along with lifestyle changes in diet, sleep, and adding light exercise.
In addition to the above diagnosis and treatment, another common factor for low libido could be stress, anxiety or depression. TCM can treat stress as the root cause of low libido (an emotional and physical stagnation) with acupuncture and herbal formulas. Light exercise such as tai chi or qi gong could be beneficial as well.
Other common herbs and food that can help low libido include horny goat weed, ginseng, sea vegetables, bone broth, figs, bananas, lamb and goji berries.