Next Friday is Valentine’s Day, so I decided to write about some herbs that have been reported to act as aphrodisiacs. By definition, an aphrodisiac is “a food, drink, or drug that stimulates sexual desire.”
If you subscribe to the “Doctrine of Signatures,” which declares that certain plants and animals affect human organs or body parts that they resemble, it is easy to find lots of examples that support this belief. Asparagus immediately comes to mind and that belief is reinforced by the fact that many people react to a compound in this vegetable by developing a characteristic odor in their urine.
There are many species of mushrooms that resemble sex organs of both males and females. An entire fungal genus is named “Phallus,” and it contains some interesting examples of this phenomenon. Google “Mutinus elegans” for a good example.
There actually are some plants that science recognizes as libido enhancers. One plant is called “maca” (Lepidium meyenii) which has the common name of “Peruvian ginseng,” although it is not botanically related to ginseng at all.
There are at least four well- designed studies linking maca consumption with enhanced libido. The study participants consumed between 1.5 and 3.5 grams of this root crop per day for two to 12 weeks, with no reported ill side effects.
Another libido booster is bindii (Tribulus terrestris). Animal studies report increased sperm production in rats given Tribulus supplements.
Another study found 88% of women with sexual dysfunction experienced increased sexual satisfaction after taking 250 mg of Tribulus per day for 90 days.
This plant is actually an undesirable, annual weed that is also called “puncture vine” due to the burs it produces, which can inflict a nasty wound if you are foolish enough to step on them barefoot.
Gingko biloba is an ancient species of tree that is widely planted in our region for its ornamental value. I have two of them growing in my backyard and I do make a tincture from the leaves that I think has helped to cure my tinnitus. Ginkgo biloba is said to act as an aphrodisiac by helping relax blood vessels and increase blood flow.
One small study reports that ginkgo biloba reduced the loss of libido caused by antidepressant use in around 84% of participants.
Both male and female participants said they experienced increased desire, excitement and ability to orgasm after consuming 60–120 mg of the supplement daily, although effects seemed stronger in female participants.
Much of the data in this column comes from https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/aphrodisiac-foods-section3.
Red ginseng, which is a processed type of Asian ginseng (Panax ginseng), is a popular herb that may help boost sex drive and erectile function in men and sexual arousal in women.
I sometimes ingest red ginseng because it seems to help me keep more alert or awake on long drives. I keep some in my car for this purpose. I cannot say I have noticed any aphrodisiac effects from this herb, but I can testify that taking fairly large doses of wild American ginseng (Panax quinquefolius) at 3 grams dosage has a profound effect on my libido!
My experience, however, is a “first-person testimonial” and has no scientific validity. First-person testimonials are widely used to sell all sorts of products these days, especially those testimonials espoused by celebrities. I sell some wild ginseng so I guess I am guilty of that.
Fenugreek, pistachio nuts and saffron also have some science to back up claims that they too are aphrodisiacs, but what about the substances that are widely and historically claimed to do the same?
Chocolate, honey, oysters, hot chili peppers and a plant called “Horny goat weed” (Epimedium tribulus) all have been touted as aphrodisiacs but there is little science to back up the claims.
Finally, alcohol, in the forms of beer, wine and liquor, may act as an aphrodisiac by helping both men and women relax and “get in the mood,” but there is strong evidence that high doses of alcohol actually reduce arousal and sexual function. I will omit any discussion of some illegal substances such as cocaine, ecstasy or even marijuana, since this is a family-geared newspaper column!
So next Friday, for my male readers, if romance beckons, I suggest a gift of a dozen red roses, some fine chocolate, a bottle of red wine, perhaps some maca tea and a large diamond necklace.
For my female readers who are similarly inclined, I suggest buying him a large dose of wild ginseng, one medium size martini and a dozen raw oysters. The heck with science, it is Valentine’s Day!
Reach Bob Beyfuss at email@example.com.