Sexual function is an important yet often overlooked aspect of our health. It can become a concern during adolescence and early adulthood when sexual maturation and bodily changes are increasingly obvious (1). It’s also during this time that young people explore sexual desires and arousal, which build their sexual character and behaviour (1). It may also be their first time to have intimate relationships, which can define how they react to others (2).
Improving and maintaining sexual function throughout your life can positively affect your total well-being. Optimal sexual health also helps build intimate relationships and make individuals feel healthier, happier, and more satisfied with other people (3).
There are many ways to improve sexual function. Exercise and diet, for instance, are essential in having a healthy body, which then affects sexual health. Vitamins taken in through diet or supplementation also help provide the nutrients that your body needs for sexual wellness. Among these nutrients is ashwagandha. Let us first identify what ashwagandha is and what properties it possesses to promote wellness.
The power of ashwagandha
Also known as Withania somnifera, ashwagandha is a medicinal plant traditionally used in Ayurvedic medicine as a Rasayana or a herb used to rejuvenate. It’s used to address different concerns in sexual health, sleep, and energy (20). Ashwagandha may be added to other foods, such as milk, ghee, or honey. It may also be taken as a tea, paste, powder, or capsule (21). It can be sourced through different Vitable where it’s offered as part of our vitamin subscription.
Understanding sexual health
Sexual health is the positive approach of sexuality in relation to physical, emotional, and social relationships to others and to their communities (4). It takes into account the health of one’s reproductive system, mental health in relation to sex, and how the environment affects someone’s sexual outlook and expression (4).
Its meaning also goes deep into sexual orientation and identity. Discrimination against other people’s preferences can influence the way someone views his or her sexuality, and can have an impact on the physical and mental well-being of a person. It can even prevent them from exercising their sexual freedom and choices.
Importance of sexual health
Sexual health is complex and multifaceted. Aside from making sure that you do not feel any discomfort when engaging in sexual practices, the physical aspect of sexual health should also allow you to recognise the possible illness or deficiencies that can affect your body. This awareness prevents the spread of communicable diseases and protects you from the dangers of unsafe sexual practices (5).
Good sexual health enables people to have more informed choices about their sexul activities. Practicing safe sex is also important to keep you protected from unplanned pregnancy andsexually transmitted diseases.
Good sexual health helps relationships with other people thrive on respect and understanding of their preference (7). Sexual health is also about being respectful of how others go about their sexual life and being able to enjoy the sexual experience without any prejudice.
What is sexual function?
Sexual function focuses on how your body, especially your sexual organ, responds to sexual stimuli or situations. There should be no pain or discomfort felt during sexual activity (8). Men’s sexual function includes sexual desire or libido, sustaining an erection, sexual responsiveness, sexual release related to ejaculation and orgasm, penile detumescence, or reversal of an erection (9).
The size and structure of the reproductive organ may be part of sexual function, but it does not necessarily affect its performance and purpose. Male sexual functions deteriorate in quality, quantity, and responsiveness with age and possible dysfunctions may develop (9). That’s why people should be more aware of how the sexual organs work.
Women also experience sexual desire or arousal, orgasm, response through lubrication and genital engorgement, and resolution or muscle relaxation after stimulus (10). Unlike men, they have additional concerns, such as pregnancy, the emotional factor which affects sexual functions (10), and the health of the pelvic floor (11).
Women’s sexual functions and intimacy with partner may sometimes be affected by her mental health (10). Like men, women are also affected by ageing in terms of decline in sexual functions.
Indicators of good sexual function
The sexual response cycle clues a person in if he or she is experiencing any sexual dysfunctions. The sexual response cycle refers to the series of emotional and bodily changes in the body during sexual activities (12). It also strengthens ties between intimate people as they’re able to improve or maintain their sexual interactions. The cycle involves 4 phases which are desire, arousal, orgasm, and resolution (12).
Desire relates to the urge or interest in sex (13). This manifests as an increase in muscle tension, faster heart rate, and rapid breathing. Swelling of reproductive organs for both men and women, as well as increased vaginal lubrication and penile discharge (12), are also some of the indicators of sexual function.
Arousal is the ability of a person to become physically and mentally excited during sexual encounters (13). A person may become more sensitive to touch, and the changes during desire are heightened during this phase.
Orgasm is the peak of their sexual activity. It involves muscle contraction and release of sexual tension (12). It’s the shortest of the phases and not everyone experiences it every sexual encounter.
Lastly, the resolution is when the body returns to normal (12). Recovery after sex might be different for men and women as their sexual experience has different effects on the body (12). It’s during this time that people evaluate if they experience pain or discomfort during the sexual experience (13).
Some who may not experience the cycle in sequence or skip some phases are still considered healthy. It still depends on each other’s experience. If there are deviations from what’s expected during the sexual cycle, it’s best to consult with doctors or medical professionals just to be sure of what to do next.
Common sexual dysfunctions
Sexual dysfunction, in general, is an issue happening during the sexual response cycle (13). Whether it’s a decline in arousal, not feeling motivated to start any sexual activity, not reaching an orgasm, or not experiencing any of the phases, it’s good to know whether there’s a problem with your body’s reaction.
Sexual dysfunction in men may more obvious compared to women’s, as their sex organs can be seen externally. Erectile dysfunction or having difficulty in sustaining or having an erection is one of men’s common dysfunctions (14). Having early or delayed ejaculation (14) is also considered dysfunction as the release may not match that of the person’s pace.
Women, on the other hand, may experience the inability of achieving orgasm or also known as anorgasmia (15). They also experience pain during sexual intercourse which might be brought about by different factors (15).
Experiencing low libido and sexual arousal is shared by both men and women and can sometimes be caused by ageing (15).
There’s a stigma on talking about sexual dysfunction, especially with men. Discussing it normally makes it easier to deal with these dysfunctions.
Causes of sexual dysfunction
Physical, hormonal, and psychological factors contribute to the development of sexual dysfunction (16). It’s possible that one or more factors may cause dysfunctions in the person. Regardless of the cause, identifying someone’s well-being is the first step to understanding it.
Physical causes are conditions in the body that contribute to the decline or inability of sexual function (16). Some examples of these are illnesses, like the heart, bladder, and kidneys diseases which are also important sexual activities. Medication to help improve these conditions may also result side effects related to sexual function (16). Poor habits, such as smoking and substance abuse can also cause a decline in sexual function (14).
A decrease or an increase in testosterone and estrogen can lead to issues with sexual function (16). We mostly see the decline of hormonal levels with age, during pregnancy and childbirth (16), and when there are issues affecting hormone production (17).
Cases of psychological disorders and sexual trauma can likewise trigger sexual dysfunction (16). Worrying about issues in relationships, pregnancy, and sometimes work, can affect a person’s sexual performance (14). With this, we can see that sexual dysfunction is not only an “internal problem.” Environmental or extrinsic factors also come into play.
Tips to improve sexual function
Just as diet and exercise are important for the overall health, they also play significant role in maintaining optimal sexual functions.
Exercise like yoga has been proven to boost overall health, including mental health (18). With each practice, meditation helps you become mindful of the things around you, which may improve your outlook in life. There are also other physical activities you can do, like running or aerobic exercise. It’s up to you which one you want to enjoy as long as you keep your body moving.
Changing the way you eat also helps improve sexual function (18). Eating the right food and cutting back on food that negatively affect your physical well-being can be a start. Partnering this with exercise and the knowledge on how to aid your dysfunctions is a sure way for better sexual health.
You can get a lot of the nutrients you need to maintain healthy sexual function through your diet. One of these nutrients is ashwagandha, which benefits men and women. While ashwagandha can be taken as a tea, it can also be taken in through supplementation.
Through it all, remember that working closely with your doctor should also be prioritised. Consultations with doctors and medical professionals help identify sexual dysfunctions in any aspect, be it physical, mental, or emotional (19).
Let’s take a look at how ashwagandha benefits men and women, as well as how it aids in maintaining our overall health.
Ashwagandha benefits for men and women’s sexual function
A study wanted to determine the effects of ashwagandha on women’s sexual functions (22). It was observed that subjects who took ashwagandha had significantly higher sexual function indicators scores compared to those who took a placebo. These indicators included arousal, lubrication, orgasm, satisfaction, and successful sexual interaction (22).
Zooming in on ashwagandha benefits for men, let’s look into several reports. Ashwagandha is included in several studies which aim to review how medicinal plants affect men’s sexual performance and virility (23). Specifically, the herb was found to have helped improve sperm activity and count, increase antioxidant levels, and decrease stress related to the thought of possible infertility (23).
Among the ashwagandha benefits for men is that it’s used as an aphrodisiac (20). Foods considered as aphrodisiac affect people by arousing their sexual instinct and increasing their sexual performance and sensation (24). Including this medicinal plant in your diet can assist in improving sexual functions for a better sexual health.
Ashwagandha benefits for men also include boosting testosterone levels. Testosterone affects sexual function by managing men’s sexual drive as well as bone and muscle mass, and other important functions in the body (25). One study observed that by using the supplement, patients experienced increased testosterone levels (26). In a similar study, aside from increased hormonal levels, the experiment resulted in some of the participant’s partners getting pregnant (27).
Other ashwagandha benefits for men and women
Ashwagandha also helps promote a refreshing sleep, maintain and support energy levels, and improve mental focus.
A study observed that patients experienced improved sleep quality, such as longer sleeping hours, faster time to fall asleep, wakefulness, and sleep efficiency after taking ashwagandha (28). This resulted in improved sleep quality and increased mental alertness28. A similar study measured the quality of life of patients. The researchers concluded that taking ashwagandha for a better sleep also enhances their performance in daily activities (29).
Ashwagandha benefits men and women by invigorating the mind and body21 and promoting higher physical endurance (20). A study on ashwagandha has shown that it influences energy generation to support the body (30).
Included in our list of ashwagandha benefits for men and women is improved mental focus. Another study followed participants who were given ashwagandha for several days to see if there would be an effect on different cognitive and psychomotor measures (31). Results showed improvements were seen in reaction tests, card sorting tests, and several more tests, suggesting that the herb has an impact on brain activity (31).
Supporting your sexual function with ashwagandha
A healthy sexual function is a part of the overall well-being. It also helps build your intimate relationship and provides numerous benefits to both you and your partner. Ashwagandha has been known to support healthy sexual function and libido.
A Vitable subscription in Australia can help provide this supplement to support your sexual function. Vitable vitamins provide premium and quality supplements focused on different health goals. They are specially crafted into vitamin packs that support your monthly supply of vitamins and minerals. To get more out of your vitamins, you can choose the supplement that you want through custom vitamin packs.
Want to make it more hassle-free? Vitable offers a contact-free vitamin delivery service for your convenience.
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- Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. "Intimate relationships”. AIHW: Australian Government. Published Jun. 25, 2021 on https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/children-youth/intimate-relationships. Accessed on Dec. 7, 2021
- “Healthy relationships: The importance of healthy relationhip in sexual health”. Family Planning NSW. Published on https://www.fpnsw.org.au/health-information/relationships/healthy-relationships-importance-healthy-relationships-sexual. Accessed on Dec. 7, 2021
- World Health Organization. “Sexual Health”. Published on https://www.who.int/health-topics/sexual-health. Accessed on Dec. 7, 2021
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- "Women's sexual and reproductive health". Better Health Channel. Published Jun. 28, 2021 on https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/campaigns/womens-sexual-and-reproductive-health. Accessed on Dec. 7, 2021
- "Why improving sexual and reproductive health is important for health and wellbeing". Victorian Government: Department of Health. Published on Nov. 11, 2021 on https://www.health.vic.gov.au/health-strategies/why-improving-sexual-and-reproductive-health-is-important-for-health-and. Accessed on Dec. 7, 2021
- Fielder, R. "Sexual Functioning". Encyclopedia of Behavioral Medicine. Published 2013 on https://doi.org/10.1007/978-1-4419-1005-9_668. Accessed on Dec. 7, 2021
- Kandeel, F., Koussa, V., and Swerdloff, R. "Male sexual function and its disorders: physiology, pathophysiology, clinical investigation, and treatment". Endocrine reviews. Published Jun. 2001 on https://doi.org/10.1210/edrv.22.3.0430. Accessed on Dec. 7, 2021
- Agustus, P., Munivenkatappa, M., and Prasad, P. "Sexual Functioning, Beliefs About Sexual Functioning and Quality of Life of Women with Infertility Problems". Journal of human reproductive science. Published Sep. 2017 on https://doi.org/10.4103/jhrs.JHRS_137_16. Accessed on Dec. 7, 2021
- Rogers, R., Rockwood, T., Constantine, M., Thakar, R., et al. "A new measure of sexual function in women with pelvic floor disorders (PFD): the Pelvic Organ Prolapse/Incontinence Sexual Questionnaire". International urogynecology journal. Published on Jul. 2013 on https://doi.org/10.1007/s00192-012-2020-8. Accessed on Dec. 7, 2021
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- “Sexual Dysfunction in Females”. Cleveland Clinic. Published Feb. 2, 2020 on https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/9123-sexual-dysfunction-in-females. Accessed on Dec. 7, 2021
- “Female sexual dysfunction”. Mayo Clinic. Published Dec. 17, 2020 on https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/female-sexual-dysfunction/symptoms-causes/syc-20372549. Accessed on Dec. 7, 2021
- "Low Sex Drive (Hypogonadism)". Cleveland Clinic. Published Nov. 20, 2020 on https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/15216-low-sex-drive-hypogonadism. Accessed on Dec. 7, 2021
- Finley, N. "Lifestyle Choices Can Augment Female Sexual Well-Being". American journal of lifestyle medicine. Published Feb. 2018 on https://doi.org/10.1177/1559827617740823. Accessed on Dec. 7, 2021
- "7 Simple Ways for Men Over 50 to Improve Their Sex Life". Cleveland Clinic: Men's Health. Published Oct. 10, 2019 on https://health.clevelandclinic.org/7-simple-ways-to-improve-your-sex-life/. Accessed on Dec. 7, 2021
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