Sex is usually a stress buster. But if sex itself becomes stressful, then it surely should trigger an alarm bell. The way men and women feel about sex is different. While for men, it is more of a physical reaction, for women it is all about the mind. Sexual desires in women change continuously. The changes usually jibe with the start or end of a relationship, work stress or some major changes like menopause, pregnancy or illness. In most women, it also varies with their menstrual cycle. While some women get too ‘horny’, the others see red on hearing the word.

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In addition to stress and hormones, low sex drive in women can be attributed to poor body image, low self-esteem, and a history of previous physical and sexual abuse. But most women concur that their libido is mainly a matter of hormones if all else are in place.

The hormone Estrogen and the chemical Serotonin together affect the libido in women.

Estrogens are a group of sex hormones that are responsible for the development of female sex characteristics such as breasts, pubic and armpit hair, controlling the menstrual cycle and maintaining the reproductive system. It is also responsible for the growth of the vagina to the adult size, thickening of the vaginal wall, and lubrication of the vagina. The hormone also plays a role in the balancing of the uterine mucous secretions, thus enhancing the movement of a sperm cell to an egg, enabling fertilization.An imbalance in these hormones leads to a range of unwanted health issues and physical changes.

Serotonin, known as 5-hydroxytryptamine or 5-HT is found mainly in the brain, bowels and blood vessels. It transmits the messages between nerve cells and contributes to general well-being and happiness. Its most important role is to maintain mood balance, social behavior, appetite and digestion, sleep, memory, and sexual desire. Low serotonin is known to cause depression.

Estrogen supervises the part of the brain linked to sexual development and enhances the effects of the ‘feel-good’ chemicals- Serotonin.

One of the best-known mood enhancers for women (and men) is nutmeg, also known as Jaiphal or ‘women’s viagra’. This spice has been used for centuries for its medicinal purposes both in Ayurveda and by the Greeks. In Ayurveda, nutmeg is used in medicines to increase body heat and sweeten breath. Most importantly it has been used as a treatment for low libido.

Nutmeg not only acts as an anti-depressant, but also works as an aphrodisiac by stimulating the central nervous system and warming the pubic region. It imitates the effects of serotonin. The spicy taste of nutmeg causes arousal, and the alluring aroma relaxes the body. A pinch of nutmeg can be included in the diet by adding it to desserts like cakes and kheer to give it a spicy edge. It can also be added to your coffee/tea and milk to spice up your sex life.

However, care should be taken while using nutmeg. Too much nutmeg (more than a teaspoon) can lead to dizziness, nausea, and hallucinations. Also, it may lead to abortions if taken during pregnancy.