Supplements for women’s libido are on the rise

Women’s sex health has become a bigger topic of discussion—and product makers are listening. As more women shop for sex-support products, the availability of women-focused sex-health supplements is slowly growing.

It wasn’t always this way. And there’s still lots of room for improvement. “Women are still not a major target for supplement companies when it comes to sexual health, and a healthy and satisfying sex life is a cornerstone of overall wellness,” notes Maggie McNamara, marketing director at ingredients supplier Gencor (Austin, TX).

Women need sex support, too, for multiple reasons. As Annie Eng, CEO of supplier HP Ingredients (Bradenton, FL), points out, “Women who are postmenopausal experience a dramatic drop in sexual arousal as well as in vaginal lubrication response. And while the latter is expressed physically, it impacts self-esteem, which can lead to low mood and anxiety.”

Meanwhile, McNamara says, “it’s been reported that loss of sexual desire affects one in every three women and can affect adult women of all ages.”

Failing to cater to this market means supplement companies are leaving money on the table, McNamara adds, calling it a “vast market-opportunity loss.” After all, she points out, “Not only do women account for half of the population, but they are also typically doing the household shopping.”

Giving Them Something to Talk About

Some marketers—smart ones—are taking the opportunity to talk about women’s sex health. One supplement company’s advertising is stripping away the taboo around women’s sex health. In 2022, OLLY ran a marketing campaign called “Big Vagina Energy.” In September 2023, the brand kicked off a new campaign called “Redefine Sexual Health.”

Elise Crevier, OLLY’s vice president of creative, explains how the company’s culture led to these campaigns. “Women’s health is a topic near and dear to OLLY’s heart. The company has been a leader in formulating products specific to women’s needs for over a decade. We’re also a company of mostly women, many of whom are our leaders, so we are passionate about making products for women by women.”

Last year’s “Big Vagina Energy” campaign urged women not to be ashamed of their sexuality. “You’re invited to embrace your Big Vagina Energy: a movement of unapologetic confidence,” the company’s website states. “A cool, collected vibe that comes with knowing that totally normal things—like low libidos and bloated bellies—shouldn’t involve a shred of shame.” The campaign tied in OLLY’s Women’s Wellness line, whose products include Combat Cravings, Miss Mellow, Lovin’ Libido, Happy Hoo-Ha, and Beat the Bloat.

This year’s “Redefine Sexual Health” campaign, which was created in partnership with ad agency &Walsh, “is an evolution of the brand’s 2022 ‘Big Vagina Energy’ campaign, with even more disruptive messaging and visuals aimed at taking the shame out of vaginas,” a company press release states. The word vagina plays prominently in marketing visuals, which also display a diversity of women and body shapes.

Boldness was the goal, Crevier says. The company sought to tear down the “clear double standard” in how advertisements typically discuss male and female anatomy, she says. “Many major media platforms treat the word vagina as inappropriate or pornographic, silencing important conversations about women’s health and sexuality. At OLLY, we are reshaping this narrative by putting the word vagina front and center of our campaign, asserting that vagina is not a bad word.”

“We want to reduce feelings of shame that women experience around normal, everyday health concerns,” she continues. “Above all else, empowerment is a key value at OLLY, and this campaign helps us further this mission by encouraging women to have open and honest conversations about vaginal health and sexuality. As OLLY has grown and evolved over the last year, we wanted to get even more disruptive with the messaging and visuals, given that women seem to be craving that type of messaging right now.”

OLLY is now driving its advertising where its messaging is welcome. Large advertisers like TikTok and Amazon, which OLLY says still place restrictions around advertising words like vagina, “did not get OLLY’s media buy this year.” As the company states, “It was important to the team to stick with the messaging rather than water it down to appease platforms.”

Women’s Formulations

Attracting women to the sex health shelf is important. So is ensuring the quality of products they’ll find when they get there.

To this end, leading suppliers are offering clinically studied ingredients for women’s sex health. HP Ingredients’ newest offering in this category is Nu Femme, a proprietary branded ingredient that combines herbal extracts from Labisia pumila and one of the company’s flagship ingredients, LJ100 tongkat ali (Eurycoma longifolia). A study on Nu Femme supplementation in menopausal women was published in 2020 showing that it led to improvements in sexual function.1 “In the study,” Eng says, “women who were experiencing menopausal symptoms, including in the sexual domain of the Menopause-Specific Quality of Life Questionnaire, reported significant improvements in these symptoms.”

Gencor’s ingredients for women’s sex health include Libifem, a standardized fenugreek extract that supports “the female hormone estradiol, which boosts sexual desire and vitality2 and helps alleviate normal symptoms of menopause,”3 McNamara says.

It behooves ingredient suppliers to focus on studying sex health ingredients in women. Currently, “there are few supplement options” to this end, McNamara says, adding that “providing more products catered to women and conducting more clinical research with female-only populations will only benefit a finished-product manufacturer and the end consumer.”

Room for Growth

Broadening women’s options for sex health supplements is a work in progress. As more-direct advertising and products come online, the market could expand further. As McNamara says, “There is a growing demand for natural sexual health supplements, as they are perceived to reduce the risk of side effects. This trend toward natural supplements has become a significant driving force in the market.”

Building credibility with clinically studied ingredients will continue to be important in strengthening the market as well. “With consumers turning to natural products to aid in this area, manufacturers must create trustworthy supplements for men and women,” she says.

There’s still lots of white space in women’s sex supplements—and so many aspects of sex health to consider. For example, Eng says, “A significant cause of libido loss in women and vaginal dryness is reduced estrogen. However, most of the natural products to deal with vaginal dryness due to menopause are topicals or suppositories. There are not really many reliable dietary supplements for women’s libido and vaginal response, and therefore this is a huge opportunity for product development.”

OLLY’s Crevier says that “These conversations are essential and ongoing, and we intend to continue pushing the boundaries and challenging taboos to serve women’s health needs better.”

From the marketer’s perspective, she believes, “It’s less about how many products are on the market and more about how they are marketed. Men’s health products are often positioned as strong and powerful, while women’s wellness products are hidden in the back of the aisle, with demure pink messaging. This inequality is due to both social stigma and market trends. That being said, the need for more boldly women-focused supplements is clear. Every individual, regardless of gender, should have access to products that cater to their unique health needs and make them feel confident in what their body is going through. OLLY is determined to bridge this gap and ensure that women have the same level of support and choices when it comes to their sexual health.”

Sidebar: Pairing Up

What happens when not one but both sexual partners takes supplements? Can it improve sex health? One supplement company thinks so.

In honor of Valentine’s Day this year, U.S. vitamin and supplement company Ancestral Supplements, which specializes in beef organ supplements, introduced a product trio called Love Stack that it says increases male and female vitality. This nutrient-dense supplement stack includes 1) the brand’s Female Enhancement Mixture (FEM) supplement, 2) the brand’s Male Optimization Formula (MOFO) supplement, and 3) the company’s Grass Fed Beef Tallow supplement. These nutrient-dense supplements are said to “boost libido, energy, and performance,” the firm’s website states, calling the products “the natural way to tip the hormone balance in your favor.”

The site further explains: “The female enhancement ingredients are based on the ancestral principle that ‘like supports like’ and includes a special blend of ovary, uterus, fallopian tube, and New Zealand grass-fed beef liver and bone marrow to support a woman’s hormonal production, fertility, and libido. The male optimization formula is a one-of-a-kind blend of beef testicles, prostate, heart, liver, bone, and marrow and supports ultimate male vitality.” And of the tallow supplement, the firm says, “Tallow supports eyesight and healthy skin and bones—and increases absorption of female and male supplements.”

Corey Thompson, PhD, chief education and culture officer for Ancestral Supplements, explains that “There is also a concept in ancestral health called ‘like supports like.’ In other words, in ancient cultures it was known that if you wanted to support sexual or reproductive health, consuming the testicles of a healthy animal, or the ovaries of healthy animals, would provide direct support.”

Thompson states the brand’s belief that its supplemental nutrients support overall health, including sexual health. “In truth, the body has all the resources that it needs for an individual to have vital health, which includes vibrant libido and good sexual health,” he says. “It just needs the right basic nutrients to create the hormone balance and optimal nutrition to allow the body to do what it does best. The natural state of human health is to have great energy and great libido. The Love Stack provides all of those basic nutrients in abundance.”

References

  1. Chinnappan, S.M.; George, A.; Evans, M.; Anthony, J. Efficacy of Labisia pumila and Eurycoma longifolia standardised extracts on hot flushes, quality of life, hormone and lipid profile of peri-menopausal and menopausal women: a randomized, placebo-controlled study. Food Nutr. Res. Published online September 3, 2020. DOI: 10.29219/fnr.v64.3665
  2. Rao, A.; Steels, E.; Beccaria, G.; Inder, W.J.; Vitetta, L. Influence of a specialized Trigonella foenum-graecum seed extract (Libifem), on testosterone, estradiol and sexual function in healthy menstruating women, a randomised placebo controlled study. Phytother Res. 2015, 29 (8): 1123-1130. DOI: 10.1002/ptr.5355
  3. Steels, E.; Steele, M.L.; Harold, M.; Coulson, S. Efficacy of a proprietary Trigonella foenum-graecum L. de-husked seed extract in reducing menopausal symptoms in otherwise healthy women: a double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled study. Phytother Res. 2017, 31 (9): 1316-1322. DOI: 10.1002/ptr.5856
  4. Sreeramaneni, P.G.A.; Yalamanchi, A.; Konda, M.R.; Cherukuri, S.H.V.; Maroon, J.C. A proprietary herbal blend containing extracts of Punica granatum fruit rind and Theobroma cocoa seeds increases serum testosterone level in healthy young males: a randomized, double-blind placebo-controlled study. J Diet Suppl. 2023, 20 (3): 411-427. DOI: 10.1080/19390211.2022.2035037
  5. Pandit, S.L.; Yaligar, D.; Halemane, M.; Bhat, A. A proprietary blend of standardized Punica granatum fruit rind and Theobroma cocoa seed extracts mitigates aging males’ symptoms: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study. Int J Med Sci. 2022, 19 (8): 1290-1299. DOI: 10.7150/ijms.73645
  6. Wankhede, S.; Mohan, V.; Thakurdesai, P. Beneficial effects of fenugreek glycoside supplementation in male subjects during resistance training: a randomized controlled pilot study. J Sport Health Sci. 2016, 5 (2): 176-182. DOI: 10.1016/j.jshs.2014.09.005
  7. Steels, E.; Rao, A.; Vitetta, L. Physiological aspects of male libido enhanced by standardized Trigonella foenum-graecum extract and mineral formulation. Phytother Res. 2011, 25 (9): 1294-1300. DOI: 10.1002/ptr.3360
  8. Rao, A.; Mallard, A.R.; Grant, R. Testofen® (fenugreek extract) increases strength and muscle mass compared to placebo in response to calisthenics. A randomized control trial. Transl Sports Med. Published online March 10, 2020. DOI: 10.1002/tsm2.153
  9. Leitão, A.E.; de Souza Vieria, M.C.; Pelegrini, A.; da Silva, E.L.; de Azevedo Guimarães, A.C. A 6-month, double-blind, placebo-controlled, randomized trial to evaluate the effect of Eurycoma longifolia (tongkat ali) and concurrent training on erectile dysfunction and testosterone levels in androgen deficiency of aging males (ADAM). Maturitas. 2021, 145: 78-85. DOI: 10.1016/j.maturitas.2020.12.002
  10. Chinnappan, S.M. George, A.; Pandey, P.; Narke, G., Choudhary, Y.K. Effect of Eurycoma longifolia standardized aqueous root extract–Physta on testosterone levels and quality of life in ageing male subjects: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled multicentre study. Food Nutr Res. Published online May 19, 2021. DOI: 10.29219/fnr.v65.5647

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