Zestra: promise and problems
posted: 06/08/2006 12:00 am
Dear Dr. Myrtle,
My nurse practitioner sent me to pick up some Zestra Feminine Arousal Fluid. Why don’t you offer it?
Zestra, in my opinion, is a product promoted with astounding claims of efficacy with very little positive scientific support.
In a nutshell, the Qualilife Pharma Company has taken pure essential oils with a mild topical anti-inflammatory effect (Borage Seed Oil & Evening Primrose Oil), added a biologically weak estrogen (angelica, aka dong quai) and a dollop of skin irritant (coleus, from the mint family), and preservatives (Vit C, Vit E). Rubbing these essential oils on genitals for five minutes prior to sexual intimacy is likely to cause an increased awareness of the vulva because a) you’ve just rubbed your genitals for 5 minutes, and b) you’ve just rubbed potentially biologically active oils on your very sensitive genital lips, clitoris, clitoral hood, and vaginal opening.
Rubbing a vulva for five minutes prior to intimacy is an event worthy of applause for most women. However, is there benefit from using a very highly-priced oil mixture?
Consider the following questions:
- Is there an arousal advantage for using this oil?
You can read the studies yourself by searching on Google. I am very unimpressed with the only major study with 20 female participants. First, the presence (n=10) or absence (n=10) of female sexual arousal disorder had no impact on the "effectiveness" of use--in other words, the women reported increased awareness of their genitals after rubbing for five minutes whether or not they reported difficulty in sexual arousal. This is what you would expect if you asked women to rub menthol on their genitals. Had there been a true effect for arousal, one would have expected a differential improvement in those with arousal disorder.
Secondly, why should anti-inflammatory oils have an effect on sexual arousal? There is no evidence that borage and evening primrose oils even have a significant positive effect when used topically for people who suffer from skin inflammations, such as eczema. (See Takwale et al. (2003) BMJ. Dec 13;327(7428):1358-9.)
- Is there an arousal advantage to using estrogenic herbal compounds on the genitals?
Here I feel most strongly that women should not be applying estrogenic compounds to their bodies without consulting a health care provider. Dong quai (angelica root) has been shown to enhance breast cancer cells (see, at the least, Lau et al (2005) Menopause Nov-Dec;12(6):734.), earning a caution from several major scientific sources. Additionally, dong quai has not been shown to be effective in reducing menopausal symptoms (see Low et al (2005) Am J Med Dec 19;118 (12 Suppl 2):98.)
- Is there any harmful consequence to using Zestra?
- You’re likely to go broke, because this stuff is very expensive.
- Your genital skin may become irritated with the direct application of essential oils to half-thickness skin of the inner vulvar lips and opening of the vagina.
- For those worried about, diagnosed with, or surviving breast and gynecological cancers, it should be very low on your priorities list to be rubbing an estrogenic oil on your self.
- For those who use latex barriers (condoms & latex sheets), these essential oils can dissolve the latex, leaving you exposed to pregnancy and/or sexually transmitted infections.
- The internal clearance of essential oils is not well studied, and it is unclear that sufficient studies have been undertaken to determine how much of this material will travel inside of the vaginal space, and how long it will take to clear back out.
There are many things that you can do to increase your sex drive (libido), your sexual arousal, and sexual satisfaction without Zestra. Giving yourself permission, and making the time to explore yourself is a great start. Rubbing with a sexual lubricant safe for genital use for five minutes (at least!) prior to further sexual intimacy is a great next step.
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