Are there any natural aphrodisiacs that actually work for both men and women?
The Downs side: That all depends on what you mean by “aphrodisiac,” and what you mean by “natural.” If your idea of an aphrodisiac is a love potion with the power to make a person wanton and insatiable, that’s one thing. If you’re thinking of something that improves sexual function or enhances the sexual experience, that’s something else. And would an aphrodisiac be natural only if you could pick it in a garden, or would it be natural if it were a compound processed without the use of any petrochemicals?
Let’s say, for simplicity’s sake, that an aphrodisiac is a substance that arouses sexual desire. And let’s define “natural” as something that’s not made in a laboratory.
Any drug that stimulates the central nervous system can excite sexual desire. Drugs that depress the central nervous system also can arouse desire by relaxing inhibitions. This means a plethora of recreational drugs could properly be called “aphrodisiacs.”
But if we’re looking only for natural aphrodisiacs, we have to eliminate sexy stimulants like cocaine and Ecstasy. Marijuana is natural by definition, and it has aphrodisiac effects for some people, but most would say that getting stoned doesn’t necessarily make them horny. Alcohol is totally natural, and there’s no argument that a couple of drinks can make you feel frisky. More than a couple tends to have the opposite effect, however. Then there’s caffeine. Many people, myself included, would call it a necessity of life, not an aphrodisiac, but it is a stimulant and it is natural, so for our purposes here it counts.
What about the fabled Spanish fly? Well, that’s a real thing, and it’s natural: It’s merely crushed beetles. Cantharidin, the active chemical in Spanish fly, is supposed to achieve its aphrodisiac effect by inflaming and irritating the genitals. That irritation should arouse a great desire to scratch the itch, literally. In that sense, it works, but probably not in a way that you’d enjoy. It’s also a deadly poison. Take just a tad too much, and you can end up with kidney failure.
All these things can help to arouse a desire for sex in various ways, but none of them really creates desire. Only one thing does: the hormone testosterone. It’s an abundance of testosterone that makes men, especially young men, the sex fiends that they are. Testosterone is less central to female sex drives, but still is an important factor.
The pharmaceutical industry has tried, and so far failed, to get testosterone supplements approved as a treatment for low libido—i.e., an aphrodisiac—in women. But testosterone is currently available by prescription for men with “low T” (a term coined by drug marketers). As a man ages, and as he becomes worn down by stress, monotony, and bad habits, his testosterone level decreases, and so does his mojo. Synthetic testosterone by prescription isn’t natural by our definition, but you can maintain or restore healthy testosterone levels without it.
It all comes down to staying in good physical health, feeling good about yourself, and keeping your sexual pilot light lit: Never neglect your sex life to the point that it becomes routine and boring. Even if you’re happily monogamous, and have no intention of straying, keep flirting with attractive people. Researchers have found that for heterosexual men, simply talking to an attractive woman increases testosterone levels. For both men and women, successful flirting, even if it doesn’t go anywhere, confirms that you’re sexually desirable, and that may be the best aphrodisiac of all.
The Pet doctor: An aphrodisiac is any substance that increases sexual desire, and there are plenty of them around. For example, there are a number of natural scents that have been found to increase desire; licorice and cucumber were the most effective in triggering a sexual response in both women and men. Vanilla, peppermint, cinnamon, and jasmine have also been shown to enhance sexual desire, particularly in women. Look for perfumes, shower gels, and air fresheners that include those scents. The smell of banana nut bread has also been found to be an aphrodisiac, so get that scent in your house by baking (or reheating) some loaves and she’ll be in your bed before you know it.
There are also many herbs that have been found to enhance libido, such as yohimbe bark, arugula, tribulus, damiana, ginseng, ginkgo biloba, kelp, balut, borojo, maca, and, of course, horny goat weed. Consult a specialist in natural medicine before consuming these herbs in large quantities, as they can be dangerous if not taken properly.
Certain foods have been shown to increase libido in both sexes. For example, oysters are known aphrodisiacs. They are high in zinc, a mineral used in the production of testosterone. Oysters also contain dopamine, another libido-enhancing chemical that increases motivation for all pleasurable activities, including sex. Indeed, most seafood is good for your libido, particularly fish, which are rich in omega-3 fatty acids. In moderation (and when it doesn’t interfere with your ability to get a good night’s sleep), caffeine also increases dopamine. This may be why research shows that coffee drinkers are more sexually active than non-coffee drinkers. But don’t overdo your java or caffeine-enhanced colas—too much caffeine will act as a vasoconstrictor, reducing your erection.
Chocolate, long viewed as the original aphrodisiac, not only has an ap pealing taste, it contains phenyl ethylamine, or PEA, con sidered the “love chemical” due to its effect in triggering sexual desire. It also contains theobromine, a substance similar to caffeine. These are some of the reasons men have traditionally used chocolate to put their women in the mood for sex. But too much chocolate will cause a spike in blood sugar and then make her crash, so a little goes a long way. Cheese also contains PEA, as do apples and almonds. Stock your pantry with chocolate-covered apples and al mond bars and a selection of fine cheeses.
In addition to the libido-enhancers mentioned above, foods that improve circulation can help you increase genital arousal. These include olives, olive oil, garlic, nuts, and beans. Ginger root also improves circulation, and it stimulates nerve endings, intensifying sexual sensations. It’s a natural pain reliever as well. Men in India rub ginger paste on their wives’ temples to eliminate that pesky “headache.” If you like spicy food, use chili peppers to heat up your sex life. They contain capsaicin, which stimulates nerve endings to release chemicals that raise the heart rate and trigger the release of endorphins.
Finally, nutmeg has been empirically proven to stimulate libido in male rats by increasing their erections and mounting frequency when consumed for seven days. Why not give it a try and see if it does the same for you or your partner? Of course, lab-rat research is not always applicable to humans. According to a new study, male mouse tears are aphrodisiacs to female mice as they contain a sex pheromone called ESP1, which makes female mice more receptive to mounting. Unfortunately, having your girlfriend swallow your tears is not likely to have the same effect.