Our Greenhouse

Are Prescription Drugs affecting your Sexuality? 

by Monica Wilde
January 2015

 

If your libido is low, you've lost interest in sex or if you are experiencing problems such as male erectile dysfunction or female lack of arousal, don't just try to bury the issue, feeling stressed and depressed about it. It may well be that a prescription medicine that you are taking is to blame!

In the clinics and via our help desk, we are often asked about the safety of herbal supplements for loss of libido, erectile dysfunction and other problems affecting both male and female sexuality. I haven't analysed this but suspect that in about 90% of cases the underlying issue is that the enquirer is taking a prescription medicine for which sexual dysfunction is a known side effect. And often not just one, but two or three, leading to a compound effect that not even the most potent sexual enhancement pill could negate. Herbs like Damiana (Turnera diffusa), Horny goat weed (Epimedium sagittatum), Tribulus terrestris, Maca, do help to increase libido although they are not instant fixes like sildenafil (commonly known as Viagra). There are however a couple of points to note.

Firstly, if you buy it please do make sure you are buying it from a reputable supplier. A lot of 'natural' enhancement supplements come in from Asia and are herbs deliberately mixed with (contaminated by) cialis, sildenafil, caffeine and other stimulants by companies wanting to make a quick buck under the "natural" label. Like nightclub "party drugs" its a gamble as to what has been put in it - sometimes you'll be ok but sometimes you're not so lucky.

Secondly, be aware of any other medications, (including prescription medicine, over the counter medicines and supplements) that you are taking as there is the potential for them all to interact and cause unwanted side effects. For example, if you take horny goat weed (pictured) concurrently with a drug to lower your high blood pressure, then you need to watch that your blood pressure does not become too low as there may be a cumulative effect. Some herbal boosters come in very high doses and can cause dizziness. Dizziness is also a known side effect of some heart drugs so read your medicine label first and if it also causes dizziness then be very careful. Damiana will also lower blood glucose levels and should be treated with caution if concurrently taking diabetes medications.

Horny goat weed However, it is futile to take a herbal libido preparation if the effect is completely counteracted by any prescription drugs that you are taking. Many drugs, including the widely prescribed Omeprazole and Simvastatin, are known to cause impotence, erectile dysfunction and loss of interest in sex, as recorded side effects. We get a lot of enquiries from both men and women where omeprazole in particular is the culprit. If you are taking 2, 3 or more drugs with this side effect then any issues you may be experiencing will be compounded. There is little point taking any herbal booster while still taking these drugs, as it is likely that nothing will happen - the herb being 'outnumbered' so to speak and any effect will be cancelled out.

Many of the common prescription drugs do have natural alternatives that don't have these side effects. Hawthorn reduces high blood pressure, strengthens the heart muscles and dilates blood vessels, red rice yeast and policosanol reduce cholesterol, willow herb & nettle root are excellent for enlarged prostate and there are at least seven particularly effective herbs in the treatment of GERD/GORD instead of omeprazole.

Our recommendation

We DO NOT recommend though that you just stop taking your prescription medicines and start self-dosing.
We DO recommend that:

  • If you prefer to stay on prescription drugs, speak to your doctor about the side effects and ask him or her to look into switching you to another medication with less side effects. This may take a bit of trial and error as no drug manufacturer may have ever tested your particular cocktail of drugs together.
     
  • Alternatively, go and see a qualified medical herbalist. We can help you find a qualified herbalist in your area or arrange for a telephone consultation if there is no herbalist near where you live. They are properly trained and can help you (ideally working with your doctor if you have a cooperative doctor) to find the right balance for you. This may well be a combination of less drugs, but with some herbs to provide the other supporting therapy. This is a really worthwhile investment in your health as taking lots of different drugs together can really decrease your quality of life in your older years.

Below is a chart of prescription medicines with known side effects on libido and erectile function.

Antidepressants

MainLY PRESCRIBED FOR

Possible SIDE effect on sexualITY

MAOI antidepressants
(eg moclobemide, phenelzine)
Depression Decreased sex drive, impotence, delayed orgasm, ejaculatory disturbances
SSRI antidepressants
(eg fluoxetine)
Depression Decreased sex drive, impotence, delayed
or absent orgasm, ejaculatory disturbances
Tricyclic antidepressants
(eg amitryptiline)
Depression Decreased sex drive, impotence, delayed
or absent orgasm, ejaculatory disturbances

Antiepileptics

MAINLY PRESCRIBED FOR

POSSIBLE SIDE EFFECT ON SEXUALITY

Carbamazepine Epilepsy Impotence

Antihypertensives

MAINLY PRESCRIBED FOR

POSSIBLE SIDE EFFECT ON SEXUALITY

ACE inhibitors
(eg enalapril, lisinopril)
High blood pressure, heart failure Impotence
Alpha-blockers
(eg prazosin, doxazosin)
High blood pressure, enlarged prostate Impotence, ejaculatory disturbances
Beta-blockers
(eg atenolol, propranolol and including timolol eye drops)
High blood pressure, angina, glaucoma Impotence
Calcium channel blockers
(eg verapamil, nifedipine)
High blood pressure, angina Impotence
Clonidine High blood pressure Impotence, decreased sex drive, delayed or failure of ejaculation
Methyldopa High blood pressure Impotence, decreased sex drive, ejaculatory failure
Thiazide diuretics
(eg bendroflumethiazide)
High blood pressure Impotence

Antipsychotics

MAINLY PRESCRIBED FOR

POSSIBLE SIDE EFFECT ON SEXUALITY

Phenothiazines
(eg chlorpromazine, thioridazine)
Psychotic illness

Ejaculatory disturbances, decreased sex
drive, impotence

Risperidone Psychotic illness Impotence, ejaculatory disturbances

Cholesterol medicines

MAINLY PRESCRIBED FOR

POSSIBLE SIDE EFFECT ON SEXUALITY

Fibrates (eg clofibrate, gemfibrozil) High cholesterol Impotence
Statins (eg simvastatin) High cholesterol Impotence

OTHER MEDICINES

MAINLY PRESCRIBED FOR

POSSIBLE SIDE EFFECT ON SEXUALITY

Benzodiazepines Anxiety and insomnia Decreased sex drive
Cimetidine Peptic ulcers, acid reflux disease Decreased sex drive, impotence
Cyproterone acetate Prostate cancer Decreased libido, impotence, reduced
volume of ejaculation
Disulfiram Alcohol withdrawal Decreased sex drive
Finasteride Enlarged prostate Impotence, decreased sex drive,
ejaculation disorders, reduced volume
of ejaculation
Metoclopramide Nausea and vomiting Decreased sex drive, impotence
Omeprazole Peptic ulcers, acid reflux disease Impotence
Opioid painkillers (eg morphine) Severe pain Decreased sex drive, impotence
Prochlorperazine Nausea and vomiting Impotence
Propantheline Gut spasm Impotence
Spironolactone Heart failure, fluid retention Impotence, decreased sex drive
© Napiers Herbals Ltd 2014 • Edinburgh and Glasgow • Herbalists and Medical Botanists since 1860
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