"There is no such thing as a true aphrodisiac," Dr. Ruth (Westheimer) once said. The pint-size sex expert was being literal. By definition, an aphrodisiac arouses or intensifies sexual desire, and no herb or witch's potion has been proven to do so. But why take the fun out of trying and spoil Valentine's Day? Herein lies 10 touted love tonics, from hopeless fling to sure thing.
Dr. Ruth often speaks of respecting your sex partner and understanding his or her needs. Sex need not be centered on vaginal penetration and male ejaculation. There are a variety ways to please your partner sexually. And the most meaningful sexual relationships begin with respect. Try it with your lover. It can be a real turn-on.
As reported by Johns Hopkins researchers in the American Journal of Medicine, erectile dysfunction is highly correlated with poor physical health and inactivity. More than 50 percent of subjects with diabetes and 44 percent of those with high blood pressure had trouble achieving an erection either "sometimes" or "always." Ditto for the 26 percent of subjects who reported such sedentary behavior as watching three or more hours of television per day. Those who are fit tend to have more self-confidence, too. "Being in shape, eating healthfully, not smoking and not drinking are all ways to prevent obesity, diabetes, hypertension, kidney disease, peripheral vascular disease and hypercholesterolemia - things that significantly impact blood flow," said Dr. Karen Boyle of Johns Hopkins Hospital. "I counsel all of my patients about making these lifestyle changes for 'penile health.'"
Sometimes sexual dysfunction in men and women is a result of depression, fatigue or psychological disorder. Psychiatrists, counselors and sex therapists can often serve as a powerful aphrodisiac to enhance your libido. Psychoanalysis: sounds sexy, doesn't it?
There's a reason why "natural Viagra" ads clog your email inbox. Viagra works, and scheisters are trying to cash in Pfizer's billion-dollar success story. Viagra is not an aphrodisiac, per se. One needs sexual stimulation for the drug to work. (Your heightened sexual desire is likely in place, making you buy Viagra.) Before the dawn of Viagra and similar prescription drugs about a decade ago, urologists had little success in treating erectile dysfunction with medication. Viagra increases blood flow to the penis and blocks the blood from leaving, helping men maintain an erection. There are side effects, some serious, for a small percentage of users, but guys don't seem to care.
There are several traditional herbs under study for their aphrodisiac properties, and three leading contenders are yohimbe, tribulus and maca. Any combination of these might be pulverized, capsulated and sold as "natural Viagra." Most level-headed researchers, however, will warn you to stay away from this kind of stuff. Too much yohimbe, a bark from a West African evergreen tree, can kill you, which is not the kind of stiffness most guys are after. You never know what you're getting when you buy so-called natural cures. Many drugs come from plants; aspirin was isolated from willow bark. So yohimbe and the like are being studied to see if there are medicinal properties that can be isolated and turned into a reliable treatment for sexual dysfunction.
Many foods (bananas, asparagus, carrots, avocados) are considered aphrodisiacs because they resemble the penis or testicles. Oysters resemble a vagina. The Romans placed the oyster high on their list of prized aphrodisiacs. Casanova, the legend goes, would eat 50 raw oysters for breakfast. Yet interestingly, oysters (and pine nuts, another ancient aphrodisiac) are high in zinc, which is necessary for sperm production. Raw oysters are also high in D-aspartic acid and N-methyl-D-aspartate, which increased testosterone levels in one study on male rats, which could in theory increase libido, according to Karen Boyle of Johns Hopkins Hospital. The data is questionable and mixed, but oysters do make a nice appetizer," she said.
Nope, but so what. Chocolate has phenylethylamine and serotonin, two chemicals that light up pleasure areas in the brain. Chocolate is similar to sex in that it makes you feel good. This doesn't imply, and no studies have shown that chocolate increases sexual desire. Hershey's Kisses might lead to kisses, but the passion was likely firmly in place beforehand.
Alcohol, a false aphrodisiac, merely lowers inhibitions and raises the level of one's irrationality. Even worse, booze and other party drugs such as cocaine and ecstasy (MDMA) contribute to erectile dysfunction, according to Karen Boyle, director of Reproductive Medicine and Surgery unit at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore: "These drugs effect blood flow by their actions on arteries and veins and [negatively] impact testosterone levels, and thus libido." A few drinks are fine, but relying on alcohol to get in the mood could be a sign of a deeper problem.
Not a fly and not strictly from Spain. That basically sums up the lies behind this potentially deadly aphrodisiac. Spanish Fly is ground-up blister beetle, indigenous to Europe. The beetle contains a caustic acid-like juice called cantharidin. When this stuff is ingested and eventually excreted, it causes a burning and swelling sensation in the urinary tract misconstrued as sexual stimulation. The only problem is that cantharidin is toxic, and the victims are usually women who unwittingly consume the powder in a drink. Most Spanish Fly sold today is just pepper or something to make you feel hot.
It's sad how our effort to promote the survival of our species through copious copulation has run other species to the brink of extinction. Rhino horn, prized by some as an alleged aphrodisiac, offers no such sexual power; and its (illegal) use in Chinese medicine for other ailments is questionable. The horns look a little like an erect penis, and in traditional medicine that's sometimes enough to mean that grinding them up and eating them will make one's own penis erect. At best, they contain nutrients, such as phosphorus, which gave our nutrient-poor ancestors a little more energy.