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Advice on Lowering Libido Raises Ire

It really should not surprise anyone that discussions about sex often elicit strong emotions. From time to time, we hear from a person who wants advice on lowering libido. Often, this arises because there is a marked difference in sexual activity between the two partners. If they could discuss the problem and come up with creative solutions, that would be preferable to trying to alter one person’s sex drive. But not all couples are willing to tackle this potentially difficult discussion.

Young Woman Asks About Lowering Libido:

Q. I’ve been in a couple of relationships, and in both I’ve been the one with a higher sex drive. I think about sex every day. To make matters worse, I have depression, so I’ve been taking a high dose of venlafaxine. It hasn’t dampened my libido.

My boyfriend says I’m pretty and sexy, but he rarely wants to make love. Trying to talk about it stresses him out, as if he has performance anxiety. I keep telling him that sex doesn’t have to be perfect, but he doesn’t believe me.

I just want a natural way to reduce my own sex drive. Otherwise, I will never recover from depression.

A. As you imply, most antidepressants may dampen desire. They can also interfere with sexual pleasure.

Unfortunately, we do not know of a reliable way to reduce libido. Although many medications have a negative impact on sexuality, scientists have not come up with accepted natural approaches that work for lowering libido. Couples therapy might help you and your boyfriend talk about this problem and possible solutions.

Could Chaste Tree Berries Help?

Tradition suggests that Vitex berries have been used for this purpose dating back centuries (Plants, Aug. 2022).  People call the European version of Vitex agnus-castus chaste tree. They may also refer to as “monks’ pepper.”

This herb can be found in health food stores. It is considered relatively safe, though some people report digestive upset, rash or menstrual changes.

Reader Is Angry at Advice on Lowering Libido:

Q. I am incensed about your response to the woman who wrote asking about differences in libido. She reported they only have sex three times a month “if she is lucky.” Her partner’s excuse was stress from work. She asked how to slow down her own sex drive.

After suggesting blood work “to rule out low testosterone” in the male partner, you told her to consider an antidepressant to lower her own libido.

Are you nuts or drug company stooges?

Hormone levels drop as we age, and this man obviously needs some kind of supplement. Perhaps he has hypothyroidism, which could cause depression and low libido.

Many Factors Affect Libido:

A. Stress can have a negative impact on sex drive. So can an imbalance of hormones such as testosterone or thyroid. That’s why we suggested he should see his doctor for a checkup of his hormone levels. Even so, that couple should not have to give up sex. He could find ways to satisfy her other than intercourse.

This woman specifically asked about a way to dampen her desire. There are no FDA-approved treatments for this purpose. Rather than leave her with no options, we noted that progesterone and antidepressants can cause low libido as a side effect, as does the herb Vitex (chaste tree berry).

Many readers were upset that we would suggest a way for her to lower her libido. Numerous others have sought advice for similar problems. It seems that many couples have a difficult time discussing sex and finding ways to negotiate differences in desire. Open communication won’t solve all such problems, but it is a good place to start.

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About the Author
Terry Graedon, PhD, is a medical anthropologist and co-host of The People’s Pharmacy radio show, co-author of The People’s Pharmacy syndicated newspaper columns and numerous books, and co-founder of The People’s Pharmacy website. Terry taught in the Duke University School of Nursing and was an adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology. She is a Fellow of the Society of Applied Anthropology. Terry is one of the country's leading authorities on the science behind folk remedies..
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  • Kamal N et al, "Traditional medicinal uses, phytochemistry, biological properties, and health applications of Vitex sp." Plants, Aug. 2022. doi: 10.3390/plants11151944
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