Doctors claim it boosts a woman’s sex drive — but does it? And is it safe?

August 18, 2009
Volume 06    |   Issue 35

Hormones influence our muscles, bones, and sex drive. One in particular appears to have a strong effect on a woman’s interest in sex, as well as her ability to be sexually satisfied. It’s testosterone, the hormone thought of as being a man’s sex hormone.

It’s not.

Testosterone affects all of us both physically and psychologically. A Swedish gynecologist found that giving testosterone and estrogen to women with a waning sex drive increased their satisfaction and boosted their sex drive. She’s not the only one to find this. More doctors in this country are using testosterone in various forms for women with a low libido caused by hysterectomies and oopherectomies (removal of ovaries).

But not all forms of testosterone work. Researchers recently found that a testosterone patch called Intrinsa, recently licensed in Great Britain, is neither safe nor effective.

And other patches that are effective are still not safe. They can have side effects. For instance, one out of ten women in two testosterone patch trials experienced rashes, acne, hirsutism (excess facial hair), hair loss, weight gain, breast pain, insomnia, and migraine headaches. In my book, this is a high percentage of undesirable side effects!

If you’re thinking of asking your doctor for some testosterone, make sure it’s a form that is proven to be both effective and safe. Especially if it’s in the form of a patch.

But wait. There’s a better way to adjust this hormone naturally.

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Instead of using any form of this hormone, you have another option: DHEA (dehydroepiandrosterone). DHEA is a precursor to testosterone. Your adrenal glands, which are the defenders of all types of stress, make this hormone,. But with increased stressors, our bodies make less and less of it. DHEA helps the body make its own testosterone, and this form of the hormone is perfectly safe.

If you have a low sex drive and want to try DHEA, work with an experienced health care practitioner and first check your DHEA blood levels. Then use a DHEA product with guaranteed potency. Some of the supplements in health food stores are much less potent than their labels show. Hormones are complicated. So don’t self-medicate.

Your voice of reason in Women's Health,


Swedish Research Council (2004, November 23). Testosterone Improves Women's Sex Lives. ScienceDaily. Retrieved March 13, 2009, from

BMJ-British Medical Journal (2009, March 11). Thumbs Down For New Testosterone Patch To Boost Women's Sex Drive. ScienceDaily. Retrieved March 13, 2009, from /releases/20-09/03/090302213824.htm.

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