For a good 'romp in the hay' this Valentine's Day, be sure the hay is oat straw!

Wild oat straw and its seeds foster the right balance of relaxation and enhanced libido for both men and women.

milkyoatbyanne_de_courtenaySowing your Wild Oats

For their aphrodisiac effect, it's the milky sap of the green unripe grain (shown at right) that gives the most 'bang for the buck,' so to speak. Wild oats have been known to act as a noticeable sexual stimulant for horses and other animals, which seems to suggest that they have the same effect on humans of both sexes. Avena sativa extract contains an amorphous alkaloid which acts as a stimulant to the nervous ganglia producing an increase of 'ready to go' excitability of the muscles in horses and humans.

Testosterone means increased sex drive

One of the main effects of testosterone is increased libido. While often associated with males, testosterone is also produced in women's ovaries. Studies show that a low libido in either sex is most likely caused by low testosterone.

Let's get something straight here: no herb contains identical human hormones. Claims that wild yam, dang gui  or black cohosh contain estrogen are false. Similarly, wild oats contain no human testosterone. Considering that only 2% of human testosterone is in a free state, the remaining 98% is in a state bound to protein molecules. It is thought that Avena sativa acts to increase libido by freeing bound testosterone.

Because Avena sativa is a restorative, (as opposed to Viagra which is contraindicated by men who are at risk for cardiovascular disease) it is an effective and safer alternative to male-female virility drugs. Besides, not accounting for the placebo effect which is likely to be considerable with any intended sex drug, Viagra has been found to work on only 42% of the men who take it, according to published studies.

For more chronic sexual debility, one may need to take Avena extract on a daily basis over the course of several days to weeks. Over long term use, the benefit is more systemic, with oats being beneficial for lowering cholesterol (especially true of the high fiber cereal), restoring a burned out nervous system, and promoting an overall feeling of health and well being.

Avena sativa may even help your love life by getting rid of bad smoker's breath!

Bad breath is an instant turn-off and desire diminisher. This could be due to hyper-acidic Stomach Heat (as the condition is patterned in Traditional Chinese Medicine) or, very commonly, from smoking.

In the case of the latter, an effective remedy to help break the tobacco habit is Avena sativa extract. Simply take a dose of 20 to 30 drops of the liquid extract whenever you feel the urge for tobacco.

Planetary Herbal Formulas for Increasing Libido

I developed two special Planetary Herbals formulas, Avena Sativa Oat Complex for Men and Avena Sativa Oat Complex for Women.

Herbalists know that when taken in formula, herbs become more than a sum of any of its corresponding parts. When a formula is carefully blended, the sum combination of all the herbs working on different systems of the body, bringing into play hundreds of biochemical constituents, is stronger than a single herb taken alone.

Avena Sativa Oat Complex For Men has additional benefit for the prostate and the buildup of seminal fluid. It combines milky oat tops extract with saw palmetto berry, stinging nettle root, damiana, epimedium ('horny goat weed'), Asian ginseng, sarsaparilla, rosehip, cinnamon bark and ginkgo leaf extract.

Avena Sativa Oat Complex for Women combines milky oat tops with dong quai root, white peony root, ligusticum root, circuligo orchid, ginger, alfalfa, vitex seed, jujube fruit and cinnamon bark.

Remember, a healthy libido is a life-affirming indication of overall health and well-being. It is usually accompanied with a general zest and interest for life. Rather than simply trying to treat a problem such as erectile dysfunction, pain or lack of feeling during intercourse, or low libido, it is wiser to look to the cause in terms of diet, stress, emotional and other aspects that directly or indirectly contribute to our nature as vital sexual beings. Herbs such as Avena sativa can be considered a 'special food,' first for our nervous system overall and specifically for increasing sexual desire.

A libido as unwavering as the Himalayas? With the help of shilajit, perhaps!

Let's face it, when people think about Valentine's Day they think of sex. But rather than write about aphrodisiacs, I want to discuss a fabulous herb to nourish the kidneys, the root of sexual energy and power '" shilajit (pronounced, she-la-jeet).

Shilajit isn't actually a single herb; it's actually a medicinal organic substance. Composed of humus and organic plant material, shilajit is an exudate that's pressed out of layers of rock in Nepal and other high mountains. Think of India as an island millions of years ago as it bumps into the Eurasian continent to form the Himalalyan mountains. As the land collides and the seabed pushes upward, it produces lush jungles that become trapped by layers of rock and soil. Gradually this transforms into humus, a dense, viscous and mineral-rich organic mass that becomes food for new plant life. This is shilajit. 

Over time the shilajit is exposed to freezing winters, hot summers and erosion from monsoon rains. In summer the shilajit 'flows' out from between the cracks of layered rocks and the Nepali people repel down cliffs at 10-12,000 feet to collect it (in fact, it's getting harder to find so people have to climb higher and higher as supplies are being exhausted at normal locations). Supposedly, it was discovered by observing white monkeys migrate there to chew on it during the summer months.

If you're thinking of petroleum now, you are not far off. Michael and I both remember watching trucks tar the streets when we were young and we'd see kids follow them to pick up asphalt bits to chew. In fact, its English name is 'asphalt' and its odor and taste are strongly reminiscent of that and those days.

It's been said that 'There is no disease on earth which cannot be cured by shilajit.' In fact, the word "shilajit" means 'destroyer of weakness.' Certainly it is an adaptogen beneficial for memory and cognition, an immune support and anti-ulcer, anti-inflammatory and antioxidant. Its main indications are for the kidneys, genito-urinary tract and diabetes (it stabilizes blood sugar). As well, it potentiates the actions of other herbs with which it is taken.

And in fact, it has traditionally been taken with milk for libido and sexual power '" voila! The Valentine's Day connection!

Recently, Michael found a pure brand of shilajit and all of us taking it noticed increased energy. One person's ear ringing disappeared, while another experienced improved kidney function. Try Tattva or Banyan Botanicals as sources for obtaining it.

In Traditional Chinese medical terms, shilajit, as a Kidney tonic and  probably an Essence (Yin,Yang and Blood) tonic '" supports Kidney functions such as improved short term memory, reduced tinnitus, increased sexual drive and endurance, strong bones and so on. And because strong Kidney energy supports good lung function, it's been reported to improve bronchial symptoms as well. It has a slightly warming energy, although it seems fine for use in those with yin deficiency and yin deficiency fire.

The key about shilajit is only using the highest quality. The processing of raw shilajit is very important; otherwise it contains free radicals and possible mycotoxins and fungal toxins. Further, it needs to be a standardized extract containing at least 50% fulvic acids (its primary active ingredient) and 1% Dibenzo-alpha-Pyrones. Where shilajit is obtained also indicates its potency as it reflects the plants of that area. Some include abundant white clover, which makes it beneficial for the skin.

Dosage is 300-500 mg per day, although some have reported taking 1,000 mg per day with excellent results. Since it stays in the blood for 12-14 hours, taking it twice a day is sufficient. If you experience detox reactions, usually loose stools or mild diarrhea, fatigue, headaches and skin rashes, then consume lots of water and decrease the dose until the symptoms disappear; after, gradually increase the dose again.

Supposedly, shilajit needs to be taken for two months before realizing full results (and Valentine's Day is only three weeks away), but those of us who recently tried it, experienced immediate improvement of symptoms along with increased energy. Imagine what will happen after two months! So get started on your shilajit today and have an even better Valentine's Day!

Ashwagandha plant from www.biology.washington.edu/Ashwagandha root (Withania somnifera) is considered a most important herb in Ayurvedic medicine. Its ability to serve as a tonic and adaptogen in many of the same ways as Panax ginseng is used in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) is well known. It is one of the best herbs for building libido and fertility for both men and women. Unlike Ginseng, Ashwagandha is easily grown and the roots require only a year to harvest, and so is relatively inexpensive.

A recent study by Indian researchers released in December of 2008 and published in Fertility and Sterility in 2009 has supported the well known benefit of Ashwagandha as a male sexual tonic.

Infertility is defined as the failure of a couple to conceive after 12 months of unprotected sexual intercourse. It affects 15% of all couples with approximately 50% of these having detectable male partner abnormality, usually of low sperm count and lack of sperm motility. 

In general, there is a lack of specific medically effective therapies for male infertility. However, both Ayurvedic and Chinese herbal medicine as well as other systems of traditional herbal medicine around the world offer many effective options. The Ayurvedic herb Ashwagandha (sometimes known as Indian ginseng) is one such option, and that a modern scientific study has been found to be effective is of great value.

In this study, 75 normal, healthy and fertile men were used as the control subjects. Another 75 men undergoing infertility screening were the experimental group. Testosterone and other sex hormones were measured during treatment. It was found that Ashwagandha served as an antioxidant, inhibiting lipid peroxidation and protein carbonyl content and thus improving both sperm count and motility. It seemed that the infertile men recovered seminal plasma levels of antioxidant enzymes along with vitamins A, C and E and corrected fructose. Treatment also significantly increased serum testosterone and luteinizing hormone and reduced the levels of follicle stimulating hormone (FSH) and  prolactin (PRL) from the pituitary that would inhibit male fertility.

Thus Ashwagandha was found to effectively reduce oxidative stress and thereby proving its traditional use as a sexual tonic for men.

Male impotency can have many causes, including physiological and psychological ones. However, many if not most cases of functional male impotency are accompanied with low sperm count and low sperm motility. While Ashwagandha can serve as an aphrodisiac in stimulating libido in both men and women, it is even more valuable when thought of as an herb that builds semen potency as well.

Photo above from www.biology.washington.edu


The third copy of
When the little bluebird
Who has never said a word
Starts to sing Spring
When the little bluebell
At the bottom of the dell
Starts to ring Ding dong Ding dong
When the little blue clerk
In the middle of his work
Starts a tune to the moon up above
It is nature that is all
Simply telling us to fall in love.

And that's why birds do it, bees do it
Even educated fleas do it
Let's do it, let's fall in love!

--  from "Let's Do It" by Cole Porter


The lyrics above and sprinkled throughout this text are from the wonderful collection of tastefully uninhibited Cole Porter songs performed by some of the greatest artists of bygone years, entitled "The Cole Porter Songbook."


If love and romance were meant only for Valentine's Day, all our babies would be born in November. Luckily, amore is in season all year long!
Sex, like eating, is a primal urge that should provide some of the greatest satisfaction and joy that life has to offer.

No one knows the true origin of Valentine's Day. Legend has it that St. Valentine was a third-century priest imprisoned by the Romans for secretly marrying young men who would otherwise have been prime candidates for military conscription under the reign of Emperor Claudius II. As for the Valentine's Day cards we exchange, another legend was that when St. Valentine was imprisoned he became enamored with his jailer's daughter and sent her love notes.

Alternatively, Valentine's Day could simply be the product of the church conveniently designating a holiday to coincide with a Roman fertility festival honoring Faunus, the Roman God of agriculture (February 15). Whatever the origin, by the Middle Ages, Valentine's Day was one of the most popular celebrations throughout Europe.

Let's Do It! (Or Maybe Not?): Sexual Taboos

Have you ever wondered why throughout civilization there have been so many sexual taboos? Could it be that the many creative expressions of humanity happen, more or less as a result of sexual repression?

If truth be known, most of us have had reason to lament the fact that just as we try to restrain, twist and contort our gustatory inclinations to deny ourselves the occasional banana split or chocolate sundae, we also try in vain to repress our eroticism. No wonder so many of us are depressed.

When grandmama whose age is eighty, in night clubs is getting matey with gigolos, anything goes!
-- from "Anything Goes" sung by Ella Fitzgerald


"Old" age is just one supposed restriction to enjoying sex.

Not so for the 70,000 residents living in some 40,000 homes who are spending their '˜golden years' at a retirement community called "The Villages" at Lady Lake, Fla. According to a recent article in Fox News, these folks are not wasting any more of their precious time in erotic self-denial. With a female to male ratio of 10 to one, it is a virtual widower's paradise where inhibitions are shed at the slightest inclination. It's not unusual to stumble upon a casual amorous encounter happening on a golf cart. Rumor has it that there is a very active black market in Viagra both for men and women at The Villages. Why not? With families raised, no need for contraception, and obligations and responsibilities to a significant other a thing of the past, I think these people are just making up for lost time.

Do we ever get too old to partake of the joy of sex? For most of us, the answer is NO. Armed with little more than some lubricant (or, in the case of folks at The Villages, an occasional half tab of black market Viagra), most of us remain good to go all the way to the end of our days. So long as we have an appetite for food, we should have an appetite for sex.

We're all alone, no chaperone
can get our number
The world's in slumber
Let's misbehave!!

-- from "Let's Misbehave" sung by Eartha Kitt


Unsurprisingly, religion and spiritual practice present sexual taboos as well.

As a practitioner of Traditional Chinese Medicine, I've had various opportunities to consider the Chinese Taoist teaching that is the bane of women married to too-serious martial artists: that the male should never ejaculate for fear of losing some precious life essence. In my opinion, this is just another form of invasion of the bedroom by a restrictive society. We see evidence in some species that male energy spent as ejaculation is a prelude to death, but for humans, current scientific research shows that sex promotes health.

Let's face it: we only live once. As an herbalist, I suggest that the best aphrodisiac is when we reserve sex as the last frontier of our essential wildness. As long as it's between consenting adults, let's get the government, along with the clerics, hypocritical moralists, and ascetic martial artists out of our bedrooms - or wherever else you choose to "misbehave."

Causes for Low Libido

Just as decreased appetite is an indication of disease or impending illness, so also is a sagging libido. Nowadays, doctors not only don't inquire about a patient's appetite, but they wouldn't dare ask about one's libido. For most of us, a good appetite in all departments is a sign of wellbeing. So if that's you, perhaps you have something to rejoice about.

There are some physiological reasons for low libido. Certainly as we get on in years (despite what you might hear about some of the residents at The Villages), we can expect things to slow down as our hormones diminish. In Chinese medicine these hormones are all encompassed by the concept of Kidney Yang and Kidney Yin with herbs specifically indicated for each. Specifically, the Kidney Yang herbs support the production of all those hormones that increase our motivation in all ways, including sexual appetite. These include testosterone, estrogen, and the androgynous hormones that are necessary and present in varying degrees in both men and women.

One Kidney Yang herb used in Chinese medicine is Epimedium, aptly known as Horny Goatweed. Lesley describes this herb in her blog. I would only add that this is a common ornamental that can be purchased at most nurseries. One can periodically harvest the leaves; make tea or an alcoholic extract by macerating a good amount in a little vodka. This can then be taken in teaspoon doses once or twice a day.

The fact is, unless there are other physical disabilities such as diabetes or cardiovascular disease, there is no age limit for the world's number one pastime.

Side-effects of prescription drugs

Drugs are a major factor causing loss of libido. For example, the popular drug Proscar is commonly prescribed for Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia (BPH) - swollen prostate in common parlance. BPH usually does not occur before the age of 40, but approximately 50% of men in their 60s and 90% of men in their 90s develop this condition. It is characterized by the frequent urge to urinate, which can result in arising several times throughout the night.

Proscar and related pharmaceuticals treat BPH by altering testosterone metabolism, which in turn shrinks the swollen prostate. The drug's effect on testosterone metabolism, however, can cause diminished libido and erectile dysfunction. You could try having a "drug holiday" on weekends - that is, taking a break from your BPH drug for a couple of days - but it isn't clear if this would restore a man's sex drive. An option would be to ask your doctor whether a lower dose might solve the libido problem and still manage the prostate swelling.

So it seems that if you're suffering from BPH, you have to choose between frequent urination with normal erectile function, or a normal-sized prostate with problems getting going in the sack. What kind of a choice is that? The good news is, there are some natural alternatives to prescription drugs for BPH:

  • Saw Palmetto Berries: Extensive European research on saw palmetto, a common berry found growing in abundance in southeast United States shows that saw palmetto is equally effective to Proscar but is not known to diminish libido, cause erectile dysfunction or any other side effects associated with the drug. Just as Proscar needs to be taken over a period of two to three months to effectively shrink the prostate, so too does saw palmetto need to be taken over time (usually not nearly as long as Proscar) to achieve similar positive results. Saw palmetto comes in the form of a standardized extract of 80- 90% fatty acids and is taken at the dose of 160 mg twice a day or 320 mg daily.
  • Pumpkin Seeds: Eating a handful of shelled pumpkin seeds three times a week, or better yet daily, is an old time remedy for treating BPH. These contain protective compounds called phytosterols which may be responsible for shrinking the prostate. Like all prostate drugs and herbs these work by preventing the transformation of testosterone into dihydrotestosterone (DHT). High levels of DHT are associated with enlarged prostate. Pumpkin seeds have this action as well, but with no danger of loss of libido.
  • Other approaches such as a low-fat diet, zinc supplements, and essential fatty acids (from sources such as fish or flax oil) and another herb, Pygeum africanum, are also useful for treating BPH.


Statin drugs and loss of libido

Millions of people in North America are presently on statin drugs making it the number one cash cow for pharmaceutical companies, but few read the small print of adverse side effects, one of which can be loss of libido. This is because statins interfere with our body's ability to create cholesterol and can cause a decrease of sex hormones with a concomitant dampening of Eros.

There is considerable controversy regarding the relation of elevated cholesterol and cardiovascular disease (CVD) because there has been no study demonstrating that high cholesterol causes CVD. In fact, studies show that nearly as many people with so-called normal to low cholesterol die of CVD as those with high cholesterol.

Cholesterol is a hormone precursor that has a strong genetic factor; some people naturally make more or less cholesterol. It is also a substance that the body manufactures as a result of stress. Be that as it may, if one wants to lower cholesterol, instead of taking statin drugs, try red yeast rice which is a more natural alternative with similar chemistry and results. Better yet, it is a far cheaper alternative to statin drugs and will not affect libido. I would still recommend taking a dose of Co Q10 along with the red yeast rice since statins are known to diminish this vital heart nutrient.


If you work out, you're more likely to make out

Finally, it seems like a no-brainer, but I have to mention that lack of physical fitness is another big factor in sexual dysfunction. It's been found that men who exercise regularly (especially with some strength training) rarely have performance problems. That's because exercise generates natural hormones that keep you youthful and able to enjoy sexual health.

What about a natural alternative to Viagra?

Viagra works by enhancing circulation to the penis enabling its erection, and may work in women similarly, by increasing blood flow to the clitoris. L-arginine is an amino acid which in itself is not a cure for impotence or sexual dysfunction, but is used by the body as a vaso-dilator, benefitting circulation and endothelial function. Endothelial cells line the inner surface of blood vessels. Erectile dysfunction and endothelial dysfunction both share the common problem of impaired circulation, for which L-arginine is effective. As such, it is a good supplement to add to an herbal program to enhance sex. The difference is that while Viagra increases the risk of cardiovascular disease and stroke, L-arginine decreases these risks and costs just pennies compared to the current market price of $15 a pill for Viagra.

Foods and herbs for enhanced sexual performance

  • Oysters: These are high in zinc which is a necessary nutrient for fertility and male prostate and sexual health. You needn't be too concerned with the fact that oysters have the peculiar ability to change sex many times during their lifespan. They have a high reputation as a sexually nourishing food.
  • Asparagus root: Asparagus, rich in hormone promoting steroidal glycosides, has a high reputation as an aphrodisiac. Both in China and India, the root of Asparagus racemosa is used to increase sperm count and nourish the ovum. Chinese herbalists believe that the Yin-nourishing qualities of asparagus root induce feelings of peace, compassion and love. Traditionally, Chinese herbalists would reserve the sweetest roots for their personal consumption. In India Asparagus root is known as shatavari, which literally means "she who possesses 100 husbands."
  • Oregano: Whether it's used as a spice on pizza or in pasta sauce, oregano leaves may help to spice up one's love life. Homeopathic preparations of oregano are claimed to sexual excitability.
  • Ashwagandha: Withania somnifera is considered the most important single herb in Indian Ayurvedic medicine. It is recommended as a rejuvenative tonic for general debility, brain fatigue, nervous exhaustion, impotence, general aphrodisiac purposes, low sperm count and lack of motility, infertility, and to prevent and treat habitual miscarriage. It works by normalizing male and female hormones. The powder can be taken in capsules, as a tablet, or as an alcoholic extract. One Ayurvedic aphrodisiac formula combines one part ashwagandha to 10 parts milk and one part ghee (clarified butter). You boil the mixture down until only ghee remains. This end product is called Ashwagandha Ghrita. The ancient texts recommend taking a heaping tablespoon of this mixture morning and evening. Eventually, one will experience a significant boost in vitality, libido and sexual stamina.
  • Maca: Lepidium meyenii is an annual plant which produces a radish-like root. The root of maca is typically dried and stored, and will easily keep for seven years. The plant is cultivated in Peru's Central Highlands, and was highly revered by the Inca. Sometimes known as Peruvian ginseng, maca's sexual boosting properties for both men and women properties are legendary. When Kris Kilham, an ethnobotanist known as "the medicine hunter" asked a native Peruvian woman why she used maca, she smiled and replied, "Well, for sex of course." Maca is a food-grade herb and the Peruvians would consume 3,000-5,000 mg of maca a day or more. For the average consumer, 4 to 5 capsules a day (1,800-2,250 mg each) is an effective dose. I recommend purchasing maca powder by the pound to take in capsules, sprinkle on food or in blend into smoothies. 

A word about consumer expectations of herbs vs. drugs

Most of us are used to the promise of fast-acting drugs. While a drug like Viagra can produce a lasting erection within an hour or so, we have to be realistic when we consider our expectations of herbs and other natural supplements. Herbs bring harmony and health to the body over time. As a result, herbs' actions are accomplished more slowly but are generally longer lasting. Keep this in mind when treating any condition, but especially sexual dysfunction, with herbs.

In the heavens, stars are dancing and the mounting moon is new,
What a rare night for romancing, mind if I make love to you?

-- from "Mind if I Make Love to You" sung by Frank Sinatra

Sexual energy is a reflection of an overall state of health and well-being. A healthy sexual appetite is as natural as an appetite for food. Drugs often interfere with libido and whenever possible we are better off looking for nutritional and herbal substitutes for drugs, not only to treat sexual dysfunction, but also to treat the conditions that may cause loss of libido in the first place! With this approach, may you enjoy your lover in health and happiness not only on Valentine's Day but year-round.

With the big hype surrounding St. Valentine's Day already in full swing, many of us turn our thoughts to romance and, perhaps, aphrodisiacs. Now, I don't tend to work with the western concept of aphrodisiacs -- i.e., "Take this herb and you'll have a good sex drive." Rather, I approach the topic energetically -- i.e., "What imbalance needs correcting in the body so the sex drive can increase?"

Come On Baby, Light My Fire: The Role of Kidney Yang in Libido

In most cases of flagging sex drive, the imbalance is what traditional Chinese medicine calls "Kidney Yang deficiency." Kidney Yang is the heating/energizing aspect of the body. It encompasses both Qi -- the circulating, transforming, holding, sustaining, enduring power -- along with dryness, warmth and stimulation, as in the spark that "lights your fires," if you will.

Physiologically speaking, Yang represents the body's functions and organic processes such as warmth, libido, appetite, digestion and assimilation. Emotionally, it is the active, stimulating and outward expression of life. Because of this broad spectrum of functions, tonifying Kidney Yang not only increases sex drive and endurance, but has other benefits as well, such as reducing night time urination, coldness, cold and sore lower back and knees, white vaginal discharge, loose stools or diarrhea, infertility, impotence and frigidity.

While it might be nice to improve some of the above symptoms, what you probably really want to know about now is the impotence/frigidity part - i.e., "How can I get it on for Feb. 14?" So on to the herbs.

Herbs for Libido (with other added benefits)

There are some specific herbs that improve libido and decrease impotence and frigidity. In China, regular tonics are administered for sex drive, including "Doctrine of Signatures"-type medicinals such as male seal sexual parts (hai gou shen - now there's fodder for pillow talk!). These kinds of medicinals come with their own set of ethical and compliance considerations; luckily, there are several simple herbs which may be used instead.

Be forewarned, however: just one shot of these herbs doesn't always do the trick! Instead, you may need to take the herb for one to two weeks or more to experience results.

Contraindications for these herbs: Because these herbs are heating, they should not be taken if the person experiences any of the following:

Deficient Yin signs: night sweats, malar flush (redness and burning heat along the cheeks and nose), burning sensation in the palms of the hands, soles of the feet and in the chest, afternoon fever or feelings of heat, restless sleep, dry throat or thirst at night, agitation, mental restlessness, dry cough, dry stools, hyper-sexuality, wet dreams and/or scanty dark urine

Excess heat signs: high fever, thirst, red face, aversion to heat, restlessness, irritability, burning sensations, scanty dark urine, yellow discharges and phlegm, strong body odors and discharges, rapid pulse, hypertension, constipation, possible blood in the stool, urine, vomit, or nose, irritable and aggressive temperament, loud, commanding voice, strong appetite, heavy coarse breathing, yellow or reddish colored eyes, dry and cracked lips, heavy menses which may be early and long lasting, hot, yellowish diarrhea

Discontinue use during the summer months (May through September) unless you live in cold northern climates (then it's June through August).

EPIMEDIUM - Epimedium grandiflorum; yin yang huo

I just have to list epimidium first. After all, when you learn of its common name - horny goat weed - what more needs to be said?

Part used: aerial parts

Energy, taste and Organs affected: warm; acrid, sweet; Kidney, Liver

Actions: tonify Yang - warms the fires at the gate of vitality (ming men - Gate of Life fires)

Properties: Yang tonic, aphrodisiac, antirheumatic, antitussive, expectorant, anti-asthmatic

Dosage: 6-15 gms, infusion; steep in wine to enhance its properties

Precautions: Do not take for prolonged periods as it can damage the Yin, causing dizziness, vomiting, dry mouth, thirst and nosebleed.

Other: This genus is composed of about 25 species and is often grown as an ornamental ground cover for shady borders. Also known as "licentious (or horny) goat wort (weed)," it is commonly available from nurseries. Grow in a shaded, moist environment.

Indications: impotence, frigidity, spermatorrhea, premature ejaculation, frequent urination, forgetfulness, withdrawal, painful cold lower back and knees, dizziness, headache, hypertension, menstrual irregularity, arthritis, rheumatism, spasms or cramps in the hands and feet, joint pain, numbness in the extremities, high blood pressure, chronic bronchitis

Uses: Although epimedium has been used by the Chinese for quite a long time, it is hitting the Western market now as a sexual tonic and aphrodisiac, just as its name, horny goat weed, implies. Indeed, epimedium is used in China to stimulate sexual activity and sperm production, treating symptoms of impotence, frigidity, spermatorrhea, involuntary and premature ejaculation, frequent urination, forgetfulness, withdrawal and painful cold lower back and knees.

Now, as with most Kidney Yang tonics (and tonics in general), results take awhile to appear, so don't expect any immediate miracles like some prescription pills. At the same time, be sure to eliminate all cold/cooling foods and drinks, such as iced drinks, ice cream, raw foods, fruit juices and soy milk, as well as sugar, caffeine and alcohol, as these foods cause all the symptoms for which you want to take epimidium in the first place (sounding harder now?).

Epimidium tonifies Yin along with Yang and harnesses ascendant Liver Yang due to underlying Kidney and Liver Deficiency. All this means that it's useful for lower back pain, dizziness, menstrual irregularity, peri/menopausal symptoms, headaches and hypertension. As well, this versatile herb expels Wind-Damp-Cold, treating arthritis, rheumatism, spasms or cramps in the hands and feet, joint pain and numbness in the extremities.

Epimidium further strengthens the bones (the Kidneys rule the bones), lowers blood pressure and treats chronic bronchitis, especially when there is Coldness (white phlegm) and difficulty on inhalation. I always include it in any peri/menopausal formula along with Yin tonics.

Epimidum is traditionally said to be good taken extracted in wine (Dan Bensky, Steven Clavey, Erich Stoger with Andrew Gamble, Chinese Herbal Medicine Materia Medica, Third Edition, 2004, Eastland Press, Inc., p. 713).

For impotence, take with cooked rehmannia (Rehmanniae Radix preparata - shu di huang), schisandra (Schisandra Fructus - wu wei zi) and astragalus seeds (Astragali complanati Semen - sha yuan zi).

DEER ANTLER - Cornu cervi parvum; lu rong

I have a friend who once complained about no sex drive. She missed intimacy with her husband AND she missed him desiring her as well. Deer antler was administered and bingo! In about two weeks she walked around simply beaming.

Deer antler velvet is regarded as "an intense tonic for the Liver and Kidneys that embodies the youthful male growth of the stag" (Ibid., p. 765).

Part Used: velvet of young deer antler

Energy, taste and Organs affected: warm; salty, sweet; Kidney, Liver

Actions: tonifies Yang - warms the fires at the Gate of Vitality (ming men - Gate of Life fires)

Properties: tonic, stimulant

Dose: 3-4.5 gm, decocted; 1-3 gm powder divided into 2-3 doses. NOTE: It is very important to start off with low doses and gradually work up; otherwise symptoms of dizziness or red eyes can occur.

Precautions: Do not use if you have any of the following: bleeding gums, bad breath, mouth sores and headaches across the forehead (Stomach Heat), blood in the sputum, stools, urine or vomit, coughing up of blood, bloody nose, excessive menses, or red and hot skin eruptions (Heat in the Blood).

Indications: fatigue, infertility, low sex drive, impotence, frigidity, cold extremities, lightheadedness, ringing in the ears, sore and weak lower back and knees, frequent, copious, clear urination; children's physical and/or mental developmental disorders, failure to thrive, mental retardation, learning disabilities, insufficient growth or skeletal deformities; vaginal discharge, uterine bleeding, chronic ulcerations or boils, peri/menopause

Other: When deer antler is cooked a long time, a residue collects. This is powdered into a different medicinal called antler glue (lu jiao shuang), which is used to nourish Blood, stop bleeding and tonify Kidney Yang. This powerful Yang tonic also supports Yin and Essence and tonifies Qi and Blood, thus making it very beneficial for many conditions.

CHINESE GINSENG - Panax ginseng; Ren Shen

Panax ginseng is a premier Qi tonic - building staying and holding power (get my drift?). After all, its nickname is "man root" because the shape of the root actually resembles a man.

Because ginseng tonifies the primal Qi which "underlies and supports all the Qi activities of the body, this herb is used in a wide variety of situations where a stronger primal Qi will indirectly aid in their resolution" (Ibid., p. 711).

Generally, though, ginseng has to be taken for a while to build the sex drive and sexual power. In fact, ginseng increases adrenal cortex function and stimulates the pituitary gland to produce more sex hormones. Traditionally it is taken regularly by men age 40 and over, although women may take it, too.

I remember a Chinese pharmacist once showing me a selection of very old and large ginseng roots, valued from $1,000 to $10,000 each (all truly looking like a man!). According to Michael, who studied with him, this Taoist herb teacher claimed certain wealthy Chinese and American celebrities visited him once a year for his rejuvenation technique: a week of avoiding all greasy and fried foods along with drinking the Yin tonic formula Liu Wei Di Huang Wan two to three times a day. Afterward, they'd purchase an expensive ginseng root (costing thousands), cook and eat it along with drinking the tea to rejuvenate their physical and sexual energy. It must have worked, for they returned year after year for this expensive protocol.

The most potent variety of panax ginseng is the red Korean ginseng, which has a warmer in energy, as it's prepared by steaming and then sun-dried or dried by heating.

Part Used: aged Chinese ginseng root

Energy, taste and Organs affected: slightly warm; sweet, slightly bitter; Lung, Spleen

Actions: tonify Qi

Properties: stomachic, stimulant, nutritive, rejuvenative, demulcent, adaptogen

Dose: 1-9 gms, up to 30 gms for hemorrhage shock; decoct 1 tsp./cup water; 20-60 drops tincture, 1-4 times/day; freeze-drying may increase potency

Precautions: according to Sharol Tilgner in Herbal Medicine from the Heart of the Earth, concurrent use with the drug phenezine has resulted in manic-like symptoms

Indications: all Deficiency diseases, chronic fatigue, shortness of breath, profuse sweating, lethargy, lack of appetite, chest and abdominal distention, chronic diarrhea, prolapse of stomach, uterus or rectum, palpitations with anxiety, insomnia, forgetfulness, restlessness, excellent for convalescence, debility and weakness in old age, debility, weakness, tiredness, poor appetite and digestion, emaciation, shock

Uses: As a primary herb for Deficiencies, ginseng revitalizes the body and mind, strengthening weakness, low energy and vitality, shock, collapse due to loss of blood, chronic fevers, heart weakness, debility, convalescence and weakness in old age. It promotes weight and tissue growth and increases longevity and resistance to disease.

Ginseng particularly benefits digestion and Lung function, treating lethargy, lack of appetite, abdominal and chest distention, chronic diarrhea, prolapse of stomach, uterus or rectum, shortness of breath, profuse sweating, wheezing, tuberculosis and restlessness. As a cardiac tonic, ginseng relieves palpitations with anxiety, insomnia and forgetfulness.

Ginseng may be used when the root is four years old, but it's best to harvest when it is at least seven years old, as the older the root, the more potent its medicine (and unfortunately, the more expensive it becomes as well).

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