SSRIs can negatively impact all phases of sexual activity by causing decreased libido, impaired arousal and erectile dysfunction. SSRI-induced sexual dysfunction (SID-I) is considered one of the most disruptive side effects of these drugs. Seventy to eighty percent of patients treated with citalopram, fluoxetine, paroxetine, sertraline or venlafaxine report sexual problems. A plethora of treatments have been recommended to combat these effects, but there is no evidence that these remedies are effective.
Rosa damascena is a species of rose primarily grown in Iran, Turkey and Bulgaria to produce rose oil and rose water used in the perfume, cosmetics and food industries. The pharmaceutical use of R. damascena oil has a long history in Persian medicine, and is well known for its positive effects on mood, and sexual dysfunction, but this has not been supported by evidence.
A recent study therefore set out to test the hypothesis that adjuvant administration of R. damascena oil might have a positive effect on sexual problems and possibly also on depressive symptoms in male patients with MDD and SSRI-I DS. 68 depressed male patients were included in an 8-week, randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial.
All patients had been treated with an SSRI for 6 weeks before the start of the study and continued to take the same SSRI medication throughout the study. 35 patients took 2 ml/day (17 mg) of R. damascena essential oil citronellol, and 38 patients took the placebo consisting of 2 ml/day of an identical smelling oil-water solution. Depressive symptoms and SSRI SD were self-assessed using the Beck Depression Inventory (BDI) and Brief Sexual Function Inventory (BSFI), respectively. From week 4 to week 8, sexual dysfunction improved to a greater extent in the R. damascena oil group than in the control group.
Self-rated depressive symptoms decreased in both groups but to a greater extent in the R. damascena oil group than in the control group. This double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial showed that administration of R. damascena oil improved the sexual problems experienced by male patients with both MDD and SSRI DS. Finally, symptoms of depression decreased in parallel with the improvement in sexual dysfunction.