A herb widely used in curries may also help spice things up outside of the kitchen. New research suggests that fenugreek, which is found throughout Asia, may improve male libido. According to a trial by the Centre for Integrative Clinical and Molecular Medicine in Australia, men who took a twice daily extract of the herb saw significant improvements in their love life. Low libido is a problem for many men and the cause of much anxiety. One study based on 25,000 people in 30 countries, estimated that it affects about 18 per cent of men.
Not to be confused with impotence or infertility, low libido is described as a lack of interest in sexual activity, low sex drive, or lack of urge or desire. It is linked to depression, being overweight, and excessive alcohol intake. Some illnesses, including diabetes, and drugs including some antidepressants, may also contribute to a decline in sexual desire.
Over the centuries, many herbs and other traditional preparations have been used to boost sex drive, but few claims have survived the rigours of clinical studies. This new study looked at the effects of a fenugreek-based preparation on the libido of men aged 25 to 52 who took the extract twice a day for six weeks, while another group had a placebo pill. Within six weeks, measures of libido had increased by 25 per cent or more in the men who had the fenugreek extract, but stayed the same or decreased in the other men.
The men were required to answer a survey describing their level of libido and desire with a special scoring system to analyse changes after three and six weeks. The scores of the men who had the fenugreek all went up, with improvements recorded after just 21 days. After six weeks, the score for sexual arousal rose from 16.1 to 20.6 in the men taking the fenugreek preparation, but was just 16.6 in the placebo group.
It’s not clear how the herb works, but fenugreek seeds contain bioactive compounds which may have some effect on hormone levels because they are rich in compounds called saponins, including one called diosgenin. Research suggests this may be involved in the production of a number of sex hormones. ‘It probably works to increase testosterone or androgen levels, which decrease with age,’ says Dr Raj Persad, consultant neurologist. ‘If it’s proven to be safe, this is good news. Men with good sexual health live longer than those who without.’