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Sexual happiness lies in the kidneys : TCM

Sexuality is not widely considered a healthcare issue, but sexual desire can be a powerful source of healing and personal growth. When it is suppressed, diminished or dysfunctional, it can have negative effects on wellness. Sexual energy and passion make up a portion of our qi and feed positive aspects of our overall welfare. Men and women’s sexual health can be greatly enhanced by principles inherent in Chinese medical philosophy.

According to The Merck Manual, half the men between 40 and 70 experience Erectile Dysfunction (ED) at some point. ED is diagnosed when a man has consistent trouble developing or sustaining an erection for successful sexual intercourse.

Also known as impotence, it is a condition that is stressful, affects self-confidence and can contribute to relationship problems. However, it is also a condition that, in many instances, is treatable.

Traditional approach to treatment

From a Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) perspective, the ability to develop and maintain an erection is primarily the responsibility of the kidney and liver, with involvement from the heart and spleen, which are closely related.

The kidney’s main function is to store “jing”, an essence that contains all the critical ingredients needed to make new life, and controls the maturation of sexual instinct. Insufficient kidney jing, qi or yang therefore, affects sexual function directly. As the liver meridians pass around the external genitals, a stagnation or obstruction of liver qi can also reduce a man’s ability to achieve and maintain an erection.

Another organ that often plays a part is the heart. Since sexual function is dependent on a man’s psychological state, deficient heart qi or heart blood as a result of anxiety or stress, for example, can result in ED. More men in the age of 30 to 40 falls in this category.

Proprietary formulations to boost the kidneys

In general, herbs that tonify the kidney meridiens are helpful in boosting sexual health. For example, kidneys and lungs meridiens, kidneys and heart meridiens, kidneys and liver meridiens, etc.

Erectile dysfunction (ED) is defined as the persistent inability to attain and maintain an erection that is sufficient to permit satisfactory sexual performance (1). The current pharmaco-therapeutic research in ED focuses on underlying endothelial dysfunction as the root cause for ED and introduction of phosphodiesterase type 5 inhibitors to potentiate nitric oxide (NO) action and cavernosal smooth muscle vasodilation, has revolutionized modern ED treatment over the past two decades (2).

In contrast to Western Medicine, the traditional and complementary medicine (TCM) aims at restoration and better overall bodily regulation with medicine to invigorate qi (energy) in vital organs such as kidney, spleen and liver; to enhance physical fitness, increase sexual drive, stabilize the mind and improve the overall situation resulting in natural and harmonious sexual life (3).

While Western medicine emphases the link between cardiovascular function and ED, TCM places importance on liver and kidney ailments as causative factor for development of ED. Western medicine involves a step-wise approach by targeting the relevant organ systems to treat various clinical symptoms; but TCM focuses on restoring the balance between various organs to achieve harmony and holistic approach to inner sense (4). The following article reviews our current understanding regarding the philosophical approach, and evaluates the evidence surrounding various ED therapies between mainstream Western medicine and TCM .

TCM’s principle of treatment

Sexual dysfunction has been evaluated in ancient literature of TCM in terms of subjective sensation and the actual sexual performance (3). In TCM, methods and matters related to direct sexual activity is described in terms of “ten motions”, “seven impairments” and “eight benefits”, which asserted that the ideal intensity and frequency of sexual activity should be moderate. TCM is all about balance, to achieve better overall regulation of the yin and the yang.

The aim of treatment of ED using TCM is not for the end point of a penile erection but rather for a natural and harmonious sex life. TCM aims to achieve regulation in terms of the man’s anxiety, fatigability, changing hormonal levels, insomnia and gastroparesis. Medicine to invigorate qi can enhance physical fitness, and medicine to warm the kidneys can regulate sex hormones, increase libido, invigorate the spleen, regulate the stomach and improve general well-being (3). Medications used to treat a “stagnated liver” provide tranquilization and helps to stabilize the mind, hence improving mental processes and emotional wellness. As a result, the patient’s overall condition and quality of life is improved.

The treatment of ED using TCM ties in with the treatment of late-onset hypogonadism (LOH). LOH occurs due to the breakdown in coordination between the heart and the kidneys, deficiencies of the spleen and kidney (yang), deficiencies of the liver and kidney (yin) and deficiencies of the kidney (yin and yang). The endocrine function of the pituitary and gonads becomes disordered with age due to a depression of overall function. This results in accumulation of free radicals and other toxins that cannot be relieved solely with male hormone supplementation.

Warm yang can energize kidneys to benefit the body, remove toxins, invigorate qi and promote blood circulation. Free radicals are removed, blood fat regulated, cardio-cerebral blood flow improved and again the key here is to improve the function of the digestive, respiratory and endocrine systems, hence regulating the body in every aspect holistically (4).

In addition to TCM, aphrodisiacs have also been used for the treatment of ED. An aphrodisiac is defined as any food or drug that arouses the sexual instinct, induces venereal desire and increases pleasure and performance (5).

References

  1. Montorsi F, Adaikan G, Becher E, et al. Summary of the recommendations on sexual dysfunctions in men. J Sex Med 2010;7:3572-88. [Crossref] [PubMed]
  2. Hatzimouratidis K, Salonia A, Adaikan G, et al. Pharmacotherapy for erectile dysfunction: Recommendations from the Fourth International Consultation for Sexual Medicine (ICSM 2015). J Sex Med 2016;13:465-88. [Crossref] [PubMed]
  3. Ma WG, Jia JM. The effects and prospects of the integration of traditional Chinese medicine and Western medicine on andrology in China. Asian J Androl 2011;13:592-95. [Crossref] [PubMed]
  4. Zheng XF, Li P. Clinical thinking on acupuncture-moxibustion treatment of partial androgen deficiency in aging men. Shanghai J Acupunct Moxibust 2006;25:28-9.
  5. Malviya N, Jain S, Gupta VB, et al. Recent studies on aphrodisiac herbs for the management of male sexual dysfunction–a review. Acta Pol Pharm 2011;68:3-8. [PubMed]