A review of plant-derived and herbal approaches to the treatment of sexual dysfunctions

J Sex Marital Ther. May-Jun 2003;29(3):185-205. doi: 10.1080/00926230390155096.


Despite the increasing availability of effective conventional medical treatments, plant-derived and herbal remedies continue to provide a popular alternative for men and women seeking to improve their sex life. Nevertheless, the efficacy of most herbal agents in treating sexual problems remains uncertain. Therapists and consumers alike would benefit from an increased understanding of commonly used herbal agents on the market, their purported or supported effects, and their potential side effects. To this end, we cataloged the major prosexual herbal agents currently sold in several representative health food stores. We also specify the sexual problem purportedly ameliorated by each herbal agent. Finally, we evaluate eight herbal agents commonly promoted for the treatment of sexual problems. This evaluation includes a review of the research supporting the use, efficacy, dose, adverse effects, contraindications, and possible mechanism of action of each. We conclude by commenting on the quality of current research, pointing out gaps in our knowledge, and noting the need for rigorous research and product control to adequately address questions regarding the efficacy of these agents.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Brassica
  • Female
  • Ginkgo biloba
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Olacaceae
  • Panax
  • Phytotherapy* / methods
  • Plant Extracts
  • Plant Preparations / pharmacology*
  • Plant Preparations / therapeutic use*
  • Plants, Medicinal*
  • Serenoa
  • Sexual Dysfunction, Physiological / drug therapy*
  • Sexual Dysfunction, Physiological / prevention & control
  • Tribulus
  • Turnera
  • Yohimbine


  • Plant Extracts
  • Plant Preparations
  • Yohimbine
  • saw palmetto extract