For thousands of years, herbs have been used against reduced male erection and to increase the sexual drive in both sexes. Other natural substances have also proven to be beneficial and in many instances they can be a good alternative to pharmaceuticals.
The expression of aphrodisiacs is derived from Aphrodite, the name of the Greek goddess of beauty, fertility, love, and desire. The old Romans called her Venus. In actuality, Aphrodite means foam. A myth describes how she was born in the foaming ocean and therefore her name must be - the foam-born.
Aphrodite was the daughter of Zeus and Dionne and - according to mythology - generously distributed her favours among both gods and humans.
Aphrodisiacs are remedies - often exotic herbs - that are known to or supposed to enhance the sexual drive and capability. In ancient times, herbal decoctions used for this purpose were called love potions. They could be quite toxic and the aphrodisiac effect of some of these decoctions is questioned. They could contain, e.g.:
Mandrake, Mandagora officinalis. Since biblical times, the berry has been regarded as being able to strengthen the sexual instinct. Among other things, the root contains atropine which inhibits the substance of acetylcholine which is very important to the sexual drive.
Thorn apple, Datura stramonium; the seed of which is poisonous.
Spanish fly, Lytta vesicatora, which is actually not a fly but a greenish beetle which is pulverized and contains the substance cantharidin. It enhances the sensitivity of the skin and increases the blood flow to the genitals, but it can cause renal inflammation and infection of the urinary tract. It is still used, however, in small doses.
It was the former foreign minister of the USA, Henry Kissinger, who once said that power is the ultimate aphrodisiac. There seems to be a truth to this - Bill Clinton is just a more recent example of the validity of this claim. People who are not at the pinnacles of power must resort to other measures.
The number of remedies that during the course of time have been given the label of being an aphrodisiac is quite large. Many substances relieve the depression, disease, and stress which can reduce desire and in and sexual ability. These remedies are capable of re-establishing physical and mental balance and thereby re-establishing sexual desire and ability - perhaps without actually being qualified as aphrodisiacs in a more strict definition of the term.
Another aspect of aphrodisiacs is that their effects are often far from being sufficiently examined in scientific studies.
In the case of pharmaceuticals like Viagra (which can relieve impotence), which can give very quick results, herbal remedies might take a little longer in order to show their effect. However, herbs can be wider in their effects on account of their broader spectrum of active substances. Often, well-known aphrodisiacs have depression reducing effects. Herbs used against reduced sexual capability work either by improving the body's hormone production, blood flow to the genitals, or by increasing the intensity of nervous signals.
Sexuality actually starts in the brain where nervous impulses stimulate, among other things, the body's production of the signalling substance of nitrogen oxide which is vital to obtaining erection. In order for these nervous impulses to work and end in orgasm, another signalling substance, acetylcholine, is necessary. This is true for both men and women.
Herbs used as aphrodisiacs - many of which have no English names
Ashwagandha - Withania somniferum
A strengthening and non-toxic herb. Good against "bad nerves", and problems in bed. Good in combination with Skullcap
Caltrop, Tribulus terrestris
Is used by both men and women who wish to improve their physical and sexual capability. Among other things, it contains the substance Protodioscin, which elevates the body's testosterone level. Moreover, the plant is known for its ability to lighten the mood, decrease fatty blood, and reduce menstrual symptoms. Both the berries, roots, and leaves can be used but the leaves are the most effective. Dosage proposal as a single remedy: 250 - 500 mg. 3 times a day.
Catuaba - Erythroxylum catuaba
Rainforest wood from Brazil which is used in the country's folk medicine. The bark is a known aphrodisiac which can be used by both men and women. It is believed to relive pain, strengthens the nervous system and memory, and is used as a sleep aid. Catuaba also appears to have an effect against microorganisms. Dosage as tea: four cups a day. Use one teaspoon of catuaba powder to one cup of boiling water. Let it draw for ten minutes.
Cayenne - Capsicum frutescens
Produces heat and stimulates the heart. Furthermore, it contains the substance capsaicin which produces a feeling of well-being.
Cinnamon - Cinnamomum verum
Is an old oriental remedy for both impotence and frigidity.
Clavo Huasca - Tynanthus panurensis
This tree grown in the Amazon rainforest and has a long tradition for being an aphrodisiac. The bark can be used by both men and women for impotence and frigidity, respectively. It is, however, not effective in cases where the problems are caused by hormonal imbalance. It can also be used against pains and fever and has a calming effect and promotes digestion.
Damiana - Turnera diffusa
Subtropical plant which traditionally has been used by both men and women for reduced sexual drive and infertility. Men use it against impotence and early ejaculation. It is effective in combination with other herbs. Dosage proposal as a single remedy: 500 mg. 3 times a day
Dong Quai - Angelica sinensis
Balances the female hormone system.
Horny Goat Weed
Epimedium ssp. This plant with the weird but very informative name has a long tradition of being an aphrodisiac for both men and women - especially in China and Japan. The leaves have testosterone-like effects in the body and is said to be able to increase the production of sperm and the sensitivity of the nerves. Animals which eat Epimedium have increased levels of many hormones, including dopamine. It is also a traditional remedy against kidney- and liver problems and rheumatic problems - especially in the back and knees. Its strength is measured by the content of the glycoside icarrin. Dosage proposal as a single remedy: 1 - 1.5 g. twice a day between meals. As with other aphrodisiacal herbs, the full effect of Epimedium is first achieved after 3-5 days of use. It should not be used by women who are pregnant or nursing.
Can improve a reduced blood flow to the genitals. Dosage proposal: 60 mg twice a day.
Ginseng Panax, American
Stimulates and strengthens. Counteracts tiredness. Dosage proposal as a single remedy: 900 mg. 3 times a day. When taken with other herbs, 100 mg 2-3 times a day.
Maca, Lepidium meyenii
is a foodstuff related to potatoes. Maca is used throughout Peru and other places as a remedy for strengthening sexual desire in both men and women.
Muira puama, Ptychopetalum olacoides
The tree grows in the Amazon where it has been used to stimulate sexual desire for a long time. It is primarily used by men. The bark is dried and pulverized and is consumed as a tea or in alcohol. It can also be used externally for smearing the genitals. Research has shown that up to 75% of the men that participated benefited from the muira extract. Dosage proposal when taken as a powder: 1.000 - 1.500 mg a day.
Oats - Avena sativa
Both the grains and straws can be used therapeutically. It has a strengthening effect, both physically and mentally. The sexually stimulating effect is said to origin from the ability of the oat to liberate the sex hormone testosterone in the body. For this reason it has a slightly better effect on men than women.
Scullcap - Scutellariae
Beneficial against stress, anxiety, sleeping problems, exhaustion, and impotens. Good in combination with Ashwagandha.
Shatavari, Asparagus racemosus
This plant has been used by women for childlessness and later on for menstrual symptoms. It regulates the body's oestrogen production.
Suma - Pfaffia paniculata
Is also known as Brazilian ginseng. In several countries this remedy is used against impotence and frigidity. It is known to balance female hormonal disturbances. The normal dosage is 500 mg. 2 - 3 times a day.
Yam tuber - Dioscorea villosa
Strengthens the female hormonal balance.
Yohimbe - Pausinystalia yohimbe
Well-known African aphrodisiac. It is primarily used by men. The substance has undergone scientific research and has an effect after a few weeks of use. It increases blood flow to the penis and results in a higher level of acetylcholine. It is estimated that 40% of men suffering from problems with their potency can benefit from Yohimbe.
Other important substances
Dosage: 1 - 3 g. a day between meals. This amino acid is used in the body's production of nitrogen oxide which is necessary for the ability to have an erection. It can also be beneficial in combination with other remedies. Can also be used externally in creams designed to increase blood flow to the genitals - for both men and women.
A part of acetylcholine with the effect of a necessary neurotransmitter. It can be taken as an acute remedy 20 - 30 minutes before sexual activity: 1,000 - 3,000 mg.
A flavonoid extracted from passion-flower, Passiflora coerulea. A male remedy which increases the body's level of testosterone and at the same time reduces its level of oestrogen. At the same time, the substance has a calming and relaxing effect without causing lethargy. Dosage: 1 g. twice a day.
Deer Antler Velvet - Cornu cervi pantotrichum
Has been used as an aphrodisiac for thousands of years in the East. It regulates and strengthens the hormone function in both men and women.
Precursor to the sex hormones oestrogen and testosterone. It can be beneficial in cases where the body's own production of DHEA is reduced as a result of age or disease. Dosage: 50 mg. daily
A hormone, or more precisely a nerve signalling substance according to the melatonin researcher Walter Pierpaoli. In his opinion, zinc- and melatonin supplements can prevent hypertrophy of the prostate gland which can result in sexual problems.
Vitamin B5 - Pantothenic Acid
Is important for the body's level of acetylcholine. It can be taken as an acute remedy 20 - 30 minutes before sexual activity: 500 - 1,500 mg.