Acupuncture has been said to help ease everything from migraines to chronic pain to insomnia to depression. The traditional Chinese medicine treatment has been around for over 2,000 years, and is becoming increasingly popular in the US as people grow more interested in holistic wellness treatments and alternative forms of medicine. In an acupuncture session, a trained practitioner inserts a number of small, thin needles into your body at strategic locations meant to stimulate the “Qi” (the Chinese term for your body’s vital energy). Moving this energy through the body with minimally invasive needles (they really don’t hurt!) can lead to feelings of relaxation and a potential decrease in symptoms.
But there’s one particular acupuncture benefit that may surprise you: It can purportedly boost your sex drive, and may be especially helpful for menopausal women struggling with sexual issues. So, what exactly does acupuncture for your sex drive entail? Are the needles used on intimate areas of the body? Read on to learn all about this treatment.
How does an acupuncture treatment benefit your sex drive?
Acupuncture takes a holistic approach to the body, and this extends to sexual issues. “Sex drive says a lot about how your system is running. If your libido is low, your system is not running optimally,” says Gabriel Sher, Director of Acupuncture at ORA, a boutique acupuncture space in New York City. “This is not a newer or trendier use,” he emphasizes, as it’s rooted in the ancient principles of Qi.
What parts of the system does acupuncture for your sex drive target? Sher says it’s all about the heart and kidneys. “Working on the heart will help calm the spirit and keep the emotions balanced,” in addition to boosting blood flow, while the kidneys “are the storage house of our primal essence and govern the hair, nails, skin, and sex drive,” he explains. “When we strengthen the kidney yang energy, we increase one’s energy, libido, and essence.”
In order to stimulate the heart and the kidneys, the acupuncturist puts needles on specific areas of the body that are connected to those systems. Sher says the acupuncture points used for low libido are mostly on the legs, feet, and lower abdomen, and not any more intimate parts (phew!). This acupuncture treatment aims to increase blood flow throughout the body. Poor blood flow can have a negative impact on arousal, so addressing this issue through acupuncture may be beneficial.
How long do these acupuncture treatments take and how much do they cost?
A typical acupuncture session lasts between 60 and 90 minutes, though you don’t spend that entire time with needles in your body, as there is ample time to discuss your issues and medical history with your practitioner beforehand. The cost will vary depending on your provider and location, though it’s often around the $100 mark. Acupuncture may be covered by certain insurance plans, and can also be a qualified HSA expense. Sher recommends patients targeting libido get treatments regularly, and says appointments once a week for two to three months is ideal — “this will allow enough time to get things moving and strengthen the systems we are focusing on. After the first month, you will start feeling better, as you will get a boost of energy,” he promises.
Is there scientific backing for this use of acupuncture?
A lowered sex drive is one of the most commonly reported menopausal symptoms. There are many science-backed treatments that may help, including hormone therapy and gels targeting vaginal dryness. If you’re skeptical about the libido-boosting potential of acupuncture, it might help you to know there’s some science behind it.
A small 2016 study of perimenopausal women in the journal Sexual Medicine found that “five weeks of acupuncture therapy was associated with significant improvements in sexual function, particularly desire,” while a small 2022 study in the same journal found that women who received acupuncture for sexual dysfunction reported high levels of satisfaction with the treatment. There have also been studies showing that acupuncture is effective in easing many symptoms of menopause, including sexual ones. Sher notes that acupuncture can not only help with sexual issues, but it also has the potential to ease hot flashes and assist with sleep.
Does acupuncture target physical aspects of sexual dysfunction or mental ones?
Lowered sexual desire has both physical components (like a lack of natural lubrication) and mental ones (like feelings of depression). The great news about acupuncture for your sex drive? It can positively impact your mind and your body. Correcting a low libido is usually rooted in “a balancing of the emotional aspect and strengthening the physical aspect of one’s system,” according to Sher. “What we are doing is balancing the hormones and strengthening the kidney yang energy,” which may have an effect on both your emotions and how you feel physically. Of course, the efficacy of acupuncture can vary from one person to the next, but it’s certainly known to reduce stress and promote feelings of relaxation, which can in turn help you feel more comfortable in the bedroom.
How can I get the sexual benefits of acupuncture at home?
If the cost of acupuncture is prohibitive or you simply don’t want to get poked with needles, there are still ways to reap similar benefits at home. Sher recommends meditation and breathing exercises. He also notes that targeting a specific acupressure point may boost libido: “One point is Kidney 7, which is located on the inside of the heel, two inches above the inner ankle bone,” he explains. Try giving this point a massage. “With the thumb, press on this point, hold it for 15 seconds, and then repeat. Do this for a total of 5 minutes,” advises Sher. There are also other acupressure points you can try massaging for this purpose.
The Bottom Line
Experiencing a decrease in sex drive can feel isolating and anxiety-inducing, and may take a toll on our relationships. While sexuality is complex and there’s no one-size-fits-all solution, acupuncture may be well worth trying. After all, the treatment is based on thousands of years of wisdom!