Leave it to the Italians to conduct a scientific study on sex! But that's just what a team of Italian researchers did, from the University of Pisa, in the city famous for its leaning tower. And they found that a small dose (5-10 mg) of the over-the-counter hormone DHEA improves sex drive in postmenopausal women.
The women in the study were 50 to 60, and they were divided into three groups. One group took the over-the-counter adrenal hormone DHEA, at a dose of 10 mg daily. One group took prescription hormone replacement therapy: estrogen and progesterone (1 mg estradiol and 5 mg dihydrogesterone). And one group took tibilone (a synthetic, estrogen-like hormone). At the beginning and end of the 12-month study, the women answered the "McCoy Female Sexuality Questionnaire," which asks 19 questions about sexual interest, sexual activity and sexual enjoyment. After 12 months, the women in the DHEA group had more significant improvement in their scores than the women in the other two groups — they had more interest in sex; were having more sex; and were enjoying sex more.
The bottom line is that DHEA, an over-the-counter natural hormone, can be a boon to postmenopausal women who want to boost their libido, their sexual frequency, and their enjoyment of sex.
In most women, 5-10 mg of daily DHEA is safe and health-promoting, and far safer than Tylenol or ibuprofen. In a perfect world, DHEA would be given by knowledgable health practitioners as a prescription item, because too high levels in women can trigger the growth of facial hair and acne and drive up testosterone (though at a low 5-10 mg dose, this is mostly in women with PCOS). In real life though, most physicians are, well, simply clueless about DHEA. The optimal strategy is to have your DHEA-S levels checked by a holistic physician before taking it, and it is best not used if one has breast or ovarian cancer without the doctor's OK. In most women, the health benefits of 5-10 mg a day can be considerable, and it may also decrease fibromyalgia pain over time by raising testosterone levels back to optimal.
"Effect of 1-year, DHEA therapy on climacteric symptoms and female sexuality," Genazzani AR, Stomati M, et al, Climacteria, 2011 Sep 26. [Epub ahead of print]
Jacob Teitelbaum, M.D. is one of the world's leading integrative medical authorities on fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue. He is the lead author of eight research studies on their effective treatments, and has published numerous health & wellness books, including the bestseller on fibromyalgia From Fatigued to Fantastic! and The Fatigue and Fibromyalgia Solution. Dr. Teitelbaum is one of the most frequently quoted fibromyalgia experts in the world and appears often as a guest on news and talk shows nationwide including Good Morning America, The Dr. Oz Show, Oprah & Friends, CNN, and Fox News Health.