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From keeping it spicy in the bedroom to feeling alive, your libido is an important marker of more than just your sexual health.
That’s right. Your libido has a lot to say about how well your body is functioning, and being too high, low, or nonexistent are major signs on the roadmap to wellness.
So how can we read these signs, what can we do when our libido is less than optimal, and how can we use this information to promote happiness and healthy aging? Read on to learn this, as well as how we can replenish our bodies for increased happiness, vibrancy, and immunity. And, yes, for a healthy libido.
Healthy libido versus healthy body
While we tend to assume a healthy libido means you regularly desire sex, a better definition is this: having a healthy libido is one that is constitutionally appropriate for you.
What does that mean?
It means that if we have low or no libido because we are depleted, sick, elderly, or have a vāta imbalanced constitution, this would be considered appropriate or even healthy, because having sex in these conditions is not.
If your health is compromised in some way, the last thing you should be doing is potentially reproducing and giving away ojas. This stuff is responsible for your deep health and vibrancy and gets depleted from emitting sexual fluids.
In short, if you want to have a healthy libido, you need to address your overall health and build up your ojas.
What the hell is ojas, and how is it related to sexual health and libido?
I was hoping you would ask!
Ojas (“vital essence”) translates to “that which invigorates” and is reflected by our inner strength, immunity, and vibrancy.
“Just as bees collect honey from the nectar of flowers, the digestive fire collects ojas from the essence of all the tissues of your bodies.”
Ojas is the seat of your “prāṇa,” or life force. It permeates the entire body and is closely connected to the heart, the primary seat of ojas.
It is of two main types:
- Refined: Located in the heart, said to consist of eight drops.
- Unrefined: Permeates in the entire body; its normal quantity is about a handful.
When you run out of ojas, you die. That’s how important it is.
How can having “excessive” sex cause you to lose ojas and thus age prematurely?
Your body is an amazing machine and will do whatever you ask of it—but not for free and only up to a point. A great example is caffeine. While you might feel energized for the moment, caffeine is actually an energetic credit card. Caffeine pulls on the deeper reserves of our body, like our organ energy, to give us that energetic “boost.” This means we are actually depleting ourselves further when we rely on coffee for energy instead of a healthy lifestyle.
Okay, enough with the coffee analogy; how the heck does that relate to having sex, ojas, and premature aging?
Similar to what happens to our bodies with coffee, when we force our bodies to give out more sexual fluids than they are equipped for constitutionally, we pull from our ojas. As mentioned, this stuff is critical to life function. We want to replenish rather than deplete this. When we deplete, we are drawing on deep reserves that take a long time to build up. This is a gateway for disease as well as premature aging.
How does this relate to sex and libido?
Our sexual fluids, called shukra in Sanskrit, are the most refined essence of the body after ojas and are said to transform into ojas. Thus, special care is given to how much we are giving away, because having sex depletes you of both ojas and shukra.
When your body is taxed, your reproductive function including your libido gets taxed and shuts down—not only as a protective mechanism as producing offspring is one hell of an undertaking, but also because there wasn’t enough nourishment reaching that tissue. It’s like the field that’s furthest away from the river drying up first.
This is also why when people are really sick, underweight, or excessively active, their reproductive functions quit working, like gymnasts not getting their periods or underweight women having a hard time carrying their pregnancy to term.
Having unsatisfying or excessive sex taxes your natural stores of ojas, which can age you prematurely, reduce your immunity, and have all kinds of unwanted side effects.
It is precisely this principle that has given rise to many misunderstood yet famous sexual practices, such as men withholding semen in order to conserve shukra, to increase ojas and extend lifespan. Women are thought to live longer in part because we absorb sexual fluids of our male partners through sex, but even so, having excessive orgasms isn’t good for women either.
Nowadays, unprotected sex other than with a monogamous partner comes with risks, and if you’re using protection like condoms, neither party can absorb the sexual fluids of the other, which makes this type of sex depleting for both parties pretty equally in the modern age.
Now, there is an exception to sex being depleting, and it involves love and satisfaction. That’s right! When sex is full of love and leaves both parties deeply satisfied and connected, this can actually increase ojas and leave you replenished instead of depleted. This is the kind of sex we should all be striving to have.
To summarize: having excessive or unsatisfying sex can deplete you of ojas, while love-filled, satisfying sex is awesome and restores your ojas.
So what does it mean if I have a really high or really low libido?
If your libido is really low, it means your body is depleted. What causes depletion? All kinds of stuff! Poor diet, wrong or no exercise, stress, drugs (both legal and not), the list goes on and on.
A healthy libido is a symptom of a healthy body, not a cause
If you want to have a healthy libido, the best way to go about it is by increasing overall wellness and building ojas. So much of how we feel is tied to this, and the benefits of having a healthy body are innumerable; a healthy libido is just a happy side effect. Not to mention if you are healthy, you are more likely to look desirable and be able to satisfy your libido through attracting mates.
What if my libido is really strong?
If your libido is really strong but you have a weak constitution, then there is an underlying imbalance in your body that needs to be addressed. Why? Because having a lot of sex when you are weak physically depletes your shukra and thus your ojas, which we discussed, and can have detrimental health impacts long-term. Would a Western physician agree with this? Probably not—but that’s why you’re here, isn’t it? Because you are interested in a different paradigm of health.
If your libido is strong and your body is strong, I’m less worried about you. However, no matter who you are, releasing sexual fluids depletes ojas and shukra—and this is when certain foods and herbs come into play to help us build it back up.
How to replenish ojas
Ayurveda is kind and gives us remedies for the depleting aspects of sex so that we can continue to stay balanced even after the fact. What are these remedies, and how can we use them? (Please note these are not substitutes for a healthy, ojas-promoting lifestyle, but are useful addendums.)
There are some wonderful foods that increase ojas, including ghee, mangos, dates, soaked then peeled almonds, avocados, and organic cooked and spiced whole milk.
Deep meditation and having a strong purpose in life are also incredible for replenishing our deep immunity.
Herbs can also help, with some specific remedies given for after sex to help replenish all the juice you just lost. These include:
Ashwagandha: Literally translated to “smell of the horse,” this herb is known for imparting sexual stamina and virility. How can you use it? A really nice way to bolster your body after emitting sexual fluids is to have some boiled then spiced milk with ½ tsp ashwagandha.
Shatāvari: Probably the most mispronounced popular herb in Ayurveda (the long “a” is in the middle, not at the end), this gem translates to “100 husbands.” While I personally find the idea of 100 husbands to be less than desirable, you get the picture. This herb is great for women to take after sex, as it builds up the body. You can use it the same way you use ashwagandha.
So how much sex should you be having?
Now that we have laid down the foundation of why and what kinds of sex are depleting versus replenishing, let’s get back to the conversation about what’s constitutionally appropriate.
As we age, libido decreases naturally because your body is slowly but surely deteriorating, and producing sexual fluids is a resource-intensive endeavor for your organism. Forcing your body to have sex because you don’t want to admit you are getting older is just plain old silly. This does not mean you can’t have sex just because you are older—to the contrary. This is a commentary on honoring the state of your libido and health. If you are feeling vibrant and lustful, by all means, go for it.
Why is it more important for older people to conserve their sexual fluids? If your sex drive hasn’t decreased with age, especially over 60, and you feel happy, healthy, and energized, then in my opinion, it’s fine to go ahead with having constitutionally appropriate sex. If, however, you aren’t “feelin’ it,” that’s also totally cool.
Sixty and older marks the vāta stage of life, and having sex is a vāta-increasing activity. For those who don’t know, vāta is the bringer of death and decay and depletion of ojas, and about 80 percent of all disease comes from vāta dosha in the end, which is why we are so obsessed with managing it in Ayurveda, especially in the later stages of life.
If you are naturally thin, dry, anxious, get sick easily, and have variable energy, you probably have a vāta imbalance and should only have sex one to two times a month. Does that bum you out? Then go get healthy and work on pacifying vāta and ojas.
If you run hot, are fiery, medium build, and have a strong libido, you are probably a pitta person and can have sex healthily one to two times a week. If you are addicted to sex or feel like you need it more, you probably have a pitta imbalance and need to cool down.
If you have a sturdy build, never get sick, are emotionally stable, and generally happy, you can have sex a lot—like three to five times a week—without too much worry. Kapha, you lucky dog, you.
Please note these recommendations change seasonally as well.
Summer = less sex because we are at our weakest due to having decreased digestive capacity.
Winter = more sex because we are at our strongest due to having increased digestive capacity.
To sum it all up…
A healthy libido is a marker of a healthy body, and there are no long-term shortcuts to wellness. When we are depleted, we can use herbs and ojas-promoting foods to support not only our libido, but our overall health and vibrancy. So let’s get healthy, get sexy, and keep the ojas going strong for years to come.