By Sharon Krum
Copyright 2004 Times Newspapers Limited
The Times (London)
January 17, 2004, Saturday
Ditch the Viagra -the best night of sex you will ever have could be
waiting in the herb section at the health food store. Sharon Krum
On paper Ellen Kamhi has all the attributes necessary for a successful
career as a porn star. She talks about sex with abundant enthusiasm
although, she points out, she prefers to perform it. She can’t look at a
banana or cucumber without referencing its anatomical equivalent. And
when she contorts herself into yoga poses she’s not seeking serenity but
So it’s understandable that there is both surprise and disappointment
when people learn that Kamhi is no X-rated starlet but a middle-aged
nurse and practitioner of holistic medicine whose real and abiding
fetish isn’t sex (though she rates it highly) but food and herbs.
“I’ll never criticise modern medicine. There is definitely a place for
it in our lives,” says Kamhi, who has been dispensing herbal remedies
from her New York natural health practice for 30 years. “But I believe
herbs, vitamins and foods used in specific quantities can be as potent
as prescription drugs, yet with fewer or no side-effects. So when you
have a health problem, you should always look to nature first.”
Which brings her to sex, or rather, dysfunctional sex, which Kamhi
claims has become the new “it” disease of the pharmaceutical
industry.Given that people love sex and don’t look like giving it up any
time soon, new drugs that restore libido (for menopausal women) or
enhance performance (for impotent men) are a veritable licence to print
In the US, ten Viagra pills cost about $ 150 (£81), leading many men to
order, via the internet, from Mexico, lowering the cost by 30 per cent.
Though Kamhi understands the rush to bring prescription drugs into the
bedroom, she insists that there is no need. In her new book The Natural
Guide to Great Sex: Improve Your Love Life with Nature’s Alternatives to
HRT and Viagra, she promises that sustained erections and heightened
arousal can be found inside the supermarket and health food store.
“Everybody wants great sex, so I understand this obsession with
pharmaceuticals,” says Kamhi, 52, who certainly looks like a walking
advertisement for natural supplements, with glowing skin and an energy
level double most women her age. “But you have to calculate the cost.
HRT we now know has serious implications for cancer. An adverse reaction
for Viagra is headaches, strokes, in some cases death.
“Foods and herbs have fewer side-effects. The difference is that people
have to be patient. Some herbal remedies work instantly; some take a
month or longer. But they do work,” she claims. Unbelievable? She swears
it is all based on science.
Interestingly, some men who seek out Kamhi don’t even exhibit symptoms
of sexual dysfunction, their problem is simply too much Sex and the City
and Britney Spears videos. “Younger men today are bombarded with sexual
images in the media, making their expectations enormous. They expect
fireworks every time and think they are not performing adequately, when
really they are having just fine sex.”
But for men experiencing genuine impotence, Kamhi treats them with the
herb yohimbe, which she says provides a similar level of stimulus and
blood flow to the penis as Viagra:
“Yohimbe is bark stripped from a tree in West Africa. It stimulates
circulation to the genitals and will become active within an hour of
use.” Kamhi insists that all her recommendations have been verified by
scientific studies done in Germany, the US or the UK.
Korean ginseng, she maintains, also works well as a stimulant directly
“Studies have shown an increase in the duration of erection. But taking
Korean ginseng on an ongoing basis will also increase testosterone
For general male sexual wellness, she recommends oysters (no, it’s not a
myth, she claims), which are high in zinc. “It is often low in men who
have sexual dysfunction. Adding foods high in zinc, like oysters, as
well as pumpkin seeds and pine nuts, is essential for a healthy sex
life.” As are oats, the bane of many a childhood breakfast. “Oats
sex drive. They contain zinc, proteins and minerals needed to produce
healthy seminal fluids. Men should eat a bowl a day.”
They should, Kamhi also instructs, use ginger and cayenne pepper in
their food before sex. “They are warming herbs and increase circulation
to the genitals.”
And now for the don’ts: carbs, fats, alcohol and fish and chips. “When I
was in London in May, I was shocked how much bread and fat the English
eat. Carbs and fats lead to hardening of the arteries, which decreases
circulation to the genitals.” Fried foods, she argues, particularly a
regular diet of fish and chips, contain trans (hydrogenated) fats, which
decrease testosterone and increase abnormal sperm (in animals). Alcohol,
she points out, lowers sexual response, although most men know this. “If
men want great sex they should stick to a diet high in vegetables and
fish and low in carbs and fats. And they should eat oats.”
Women mercifully are spared a return to porridge but Kamhi says there
are foods and herbs they too should ingest daily to increase or restore
“Unlike men, women have a real shift towards a decreased sex drive as
they age due to the decline in hormones,” she says. “But there are
and herbs that can increase libido and support the production of
oestrogen to reduce hot flushes, just like HRT.”
Soya, of course, is considered a magic pill for women in menopause but
Kamhi warns them to tread lightly. “One ounce a day of soya milk or
foods is fine. But too much can interfere with thyroid function.” Much
better is to have one pomegranate a day, a fruit which she says contains
a form of oestrogen called oestrone.
Similarly, fennel contains oestrogen-like oestragole.
When it comes to great sex, Kamhi says that along with soft lighting and
a Barry White CD, herbs and minerals are a woman’s best friend. She
believes the mineral arginine can increase arousal of post-menopausal
women. And that the herb damiana, taken daily, can help a 50-year-old
feel like a newlywed.
But when daily maintenance isn’t enough and it’s time to break out the
nuclear weapons, Kamhi says that directly before sex women should
partake of yohimbe: “It can increases circulation to the genitals,
elevating sexual response. And magnesium before sex increases
circulation to female sex organs and can stimulate a stronger orgasm,”
she claims. Vitamin E, she swears, is a woman’s best friend when it
comes to vaginal dryness. “Women should eat avocados, rich in vitamin E,
and can use it intra-vaginally (using bottled oil) for lubrication.”
People have long used the dinner date as a prelude to seduction but
Kamhi says the reason why some meals end badly and others in the bedroom
all comes down to the menu. She instructs all cooks to light candles
then serve a smoothie made of vanilla (the smell is an aphrodisiac),
soya milk (for the phytoestrogens) and banana (potassium for sex drive)
laced with 30 drops of liquid extract yohimbe, damiana and ginseng.
Follow with oysters on the half shell and asparagus (for its phallic
overtones). Dessert should be limited to chocolate which, as all good
chocoholics know, can stimulate the production of endorphins -feel-good
Then, once in the bedroom with your hormones racing, Kamhi advises you
spend five to ten minutes doing yoga before hitting the sheets. She is
not joking: “Studies have shown that certain yoga postures can be
powerful before sex. For men, a shoulder stand drains blood out of the
lower body and releases stagnation in the genitals. For women, the
butterfly pose (see panel) directs energy to the genitals and opens up
the area often blocked by emotional issues.”
I delicately ask Kamhi, whose boyfriend is 59, how much of her own
advice they have taken as a couple. She is more than happy to talk about
her sex life, brag actually. “We have tried everything I recommend in
the book. We did the yoga positions, took the herbs and ate the foods,
and I have to say, we had great sex!”
“My boyfriend said the yohimbe worked as well as Viagra, and taking
damiana, I could definitely feel a difference. I’m telling you, the best
night of sex you will ever have is waiting for you at the health food
The Natural Guide to Great Sex: Improve your Love Life with Nature’s
Alternatives to HRT and Viagra, by Ellen Kamhi, Godsfield Press, £12.99,
is published this month * People with chronic medical conditions, such
as high blood pressure, or those using prescription medications should
consult a doctor before using any herbs for sexual health.
BEST YOGA POSITION FOR SEX
Butterfly pose: this sitting stretch focuses on the inner thighs and
opens the genitals, heightening the sensitivity of this area.
1 Sit up straight on the floor.
2 Breathe deeply. Using your hands, hold the soles of your feet
together, and pull heels to within 12cm of your body.
3 Gently bounce knees up and down, 2-4cm, for two or three minutes.
Use liquid extracts of the following, which are available in most health
Ginseng, ginger, oat, damiana, muira puama, passionflower.
Combine 20 drops of each extract in one-quarter cup of warm water. You
can add one half-ounce of Amaretto or some other flavored liqueur.
RECIPE FOR LOVERS
FENNEL, ORANGE, POMEGRANATE AND PINE-NUT SALAD
1 fennel bunch, thinly sliced stalks and bulb
1 orange, sliced into wedges (skin removed)
1 whole pomegranate
20 pine nuts
15 mint leaves
In a medium-size salad bowl, combine cut-up fennel and orange slices.
Scoop all the flesh out of the pomegranate and mix with the fennel and
Sprinkle the pine nuts and mint leaves on top of the mixture. Serve
within one hour of preparation.
(You’ll need an extra bowl to spit out the pomegranate seeds after
sucking off the red flesh.)