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Sexuality Treatments for Women Emerge

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After Viagra, a New Sexual Revolution

Some years ago, the pill Viagra ignited a full-on revolution in men's sexuality. Are there any emerging treatments that promise a similar upheaval in women's sexuality, fueling their libido and performance? Absolutely, says Dr. Barbara Bartlik, assistant professor of psychiatry at Weill Cornell Medical College and sex therapist in the Weill Cornell Physicians Organization.

Discussing new approaches to treating female sexual disorders at the Medical College on July 8, Dr. Bartlik reviewed a body of evidence that herbal supplements like ginseng, maca and ginkgo biloba might enhance sexual function for those women who complain of low sex drive, difficult arousal, and lack of lubrication.

"Both men and women are barraged with products designed to enhance sexual function, from ads to the Internet," she said, "but most are of poor quality with only trace amounts of any potentially helpful ingredients." However, sexual dysfunction is a real problem, with 43 to 63 percent of women (and 31 to 52 percent of men) reporting decreased function or desire under various circumstances. Certain physical conditions (like high cholesterol and hypertension) and certain prescription drugs and medications (from antidepressants to antihistamines to birth control pills) play a role in dampening sex drive as well.

Dr. Bartlik is exploring the physiological, chemical and biological effects of creams and oral tablets with natural amino acids, including L-arginine, yohimbine, ArginMax (nutritional supplement blend), DHEA (cream and topical), ginseng (essential herb in Chinese pharmacopia), ginkgo biloba (used in Europe), tribulus, muira puama, maca (in the mustard family), rhodiola rosea.

The Medical Center is one of 16 research sites in the country to recruit this fall for a large clinical trial for an herbal remedy called Zestra, which promises more frequent and stronger orgasms for women. Already on the market as a "female arousal fluid," Zestra is applied topically on the genital area. However, like most herbal remedies, this product must withstand intense clinical scrutiny.

Next month, Dr. Bartlik will conduct a course on how to take a competent sexual history and diagnose sexual problems. All disciplines are welcome. There is no charge. The course will take place at New York Presbyterian Hospital, 525 East 68th Street, M Building Sub-basement, Room M007, on Oct. 17 and 24. To RSVP, call 212-821-0789 or email bdb2001@med.cornell.edu .

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