Fact-Checked By: Dr. Tara Scott, OB-GYN
Sex is one of the best all-natural highs that the human body can achieve. But what if we want to take it up a notch?
Aphrodisiacs are substances or foods that spark sexual feelings, sexual desire, or arousal. They can also increase sexual pleasure or enhance performance. The term “aphrodisiac” stems from Aphrodite, the Greek Goddess of love and sexuality. These substances are derived from a range of plants, animals, and minerals.
Lack of libido is an age-old problem that affects both women and men. It is common to experience a lack of libido or sexual arousal as a result of hormonal changes, hormonal birth control, antidepressants, loss of bedroom excitement, dietary intake, mental health issues, or a multitude of other reasons.
People often try to increase their sexual desire even when their baseline libido is at a physiologically normal level. That’s right, humans are so hardwired for pleasure that too much is never enough. That's because libido, like money, is something one can always use more of.
There is no shortage of different substances that have at one point or another been used as an aphrodisiac. In this article, I will discuss some of the most common and most effective natural aphrodisiacs still in use today.
Soy has been cultivated for more than 3,000 years and is used both as a food and a drug. According to Dr. Frank Lawlis, soy “...contains isoflavones, which help the vaginal area remain lubricated.”
Not all soy is created equal. Shoot for non-GMO soy with high bioavailability, such as Tempeh.
Dr. Lawlis warns, however, that women with a history of breast cancer should not eat large amounts of soy, because it contains phytoestrogens that may actually increase the risk of recurrence.
People with other estrogen-related conditions such as PCOS should also be wary. Among the most popular soy-based foods are soy milk, tofu, and soy meat replacement.Chocolate
According to a New York Times Article, the Aztecs may have been the first on record to draw a connection between the cocoa bean and arousal of sexual desire. Most scientists ascribe the potential aphrodisiac qualities of the cocoa bean to two chemicals it contains — tryptophan and phenethylamine.
Tryptophan is a building block of serotonin, a neurotransmitter involved in sexual arousal. Phenylethylamine, on the other hand, is a natural stimulant related to amphetamine; it is released in the brain when people fall in love.
Additionally, chocolate is thought to promote relaxation by increasing the binding of cannabinoid receptors to Anandamide, a natural cannabinoid. Anyone that has tried having sex while wound-up could see the utility in destressing beforehand.Oysters
Oysters have been used as aphrodisiacs for at least 2,000 years when the Roman Emperor Vitellius gorged on a thousand oysters in one sitting. Casanova, the world’s most famous lover, ate 50 oysters every morning to boost his libido.
Many believe that the oyster aesthetically resembles female genitalia, which in itself could be considered arousing.
A 2005 research paper claimed that there might be more to it than that. The paper showed that oysters contain the amino acids D-aspartic acid and N-methyl-D-aspartate, which have been found to increase the production of testosterone and progesterone in male and female rats, respectively.Truffles
Truffles are a nutritious and flavorful fungus often viewed as a delicacy and used as an effective sexual enhancer. It is likely that truffles’ aphrodisiac qualities are caused by the androstenol they contain.
Androstenol is a steroidal pheromone found in the underarm perspiration of men and urine of women. It is believed that androstenol increases sexual desire by increasing the levels of luteinizing hormone and testosterone.
Aphrodisiac Herbs:Maca (Lepidium meyenii)
Maca is an herb that grows exclusively between 4000m and 4500m in the Peruvian Central Andes. Maca is traditionally employed in the Andean region for its supposed aphrodisiac and fertility-enhancing properties.
Western cultures also use maca for a variety of reasons, ranging from bodybuilding and improving semen health to relieving symptoms of menopause.
Although there is no known pathway through which maca could improve libido, psychiatrist and functional medicine physician Hyla Cass, MD, says maca works. "In my practice, I have seen maca restore hormonal imbalance and related sexual desire and fertility in both men and women."
It may take a while to get results, however. According to a clinical trial, an improvement in sexual desire was observed with maca after 8 weeks of treatment.Cannabis
When taking some of these herbal aphrodisiacs you may ask yourself, “Do I feel it, or is it placebo?” Well, with cannabis you’re not going to have that problem. Cannabis contains THC which, like chocolate, stimulates cannabinoid receptors — but better (sorry, chocolate).
Cannabis tends to make things that already feel good even more pleasurable. According to a study, 68.5 percent of people said sex while using cannabis was more pleasurable.
Consider adding some pot to your aphrodisiac cocktail if you live in a state where marijuana is legal for recreational use. Just make sure to not operate a car or any other machinery once you are under the influence of this potent, hippy-approved aphrodisiac herb.Panax Ginseng (Red Ginseng)
Korean Red Ginseng is an ancient aphrodisiac that has been used for centuries in Eastern medicine. It is also known as Panax Ginseng, as the word Panax means “all-healing” in Greek.
While the jury is still out on whether or not it can improve cardiovascular health or bolster immunity, some small studies have shown that Red Ginseng improves sexual desire in females using a dose of 3,0000 mg per day.
Aphrodisiacs pair well with sex like a fine Merlot pair well with aged Manchego cheese. It is a fun idea to procure an assortment of these delicacies and have a pre-sex aphrodisiac tasting with your partner. The foods actually taste really good, so there is really nothing to lose on that front. The herbs I’ve listed are easy to use and generally safe, however, it is important for you to talk to your doctor if you experience anything abnormal or if you are on any other medications.