Turning You On: Which Aphrodisiacs Really Work

Aphrodisiacs are agents that have been used since ancient times in Asian, Egyptian, Greek, and Roman civilizations in order to enhance sexuality and to aid with reproduction. Some past studies have tried aphrodisiacs on animals as well as humans in experimental trials. These aphrodisiacs were derived from animal and plant sources. This current study reviewed previous literature on aphrodisiacs, and did a collation of scientific evidence on the same. Results showed that, although there is evidence of efficacy of aphrodisiacs, there have been few human studies. Future studies on humans can establish the true role of naturally derived aphrodisiacs for sexual enhancement.

Aphrodisiacs have been advocated and used for centuries by Indian, Chinese, Egyptian, Greek, Roman and Aztec civilizations. The primary use of these agents was as therapy for infertility. Another common use of these agents was to attain sexual fulfillment. These agents have been derived from plant and animal sources. Some of these include material from the Bufo toad, Spanish fly, MACA root, ginseng, saffron, cacao (chocolate), nutmeg, and other natural ingredients. Some scientific studies have even explored the actual efficacy of some of these agents. Currently, synthetic chemical agents, like sildenafil or Viagra, are used by men suffering from erectile dysfunction or an inability to maintain an erect penis for the purpose of sexual intercourse. However, drugs like sildenafil come with side effects such as heart problems, headaches, muscle aches and pains, and blurring of sight. Also, sildenafil fails to raise the libido as aphrodisiacs have claimed to do. This review was conducted to assess the scientific efficacy of various aphrodisiacs from plant and animal sources.

For this study, researchers accumulated scientific studies that explore the potential of various naturally-derived aphrodisiacs from plants and animals as agents that increase the libido and enhance sexual experiences. Studies on animals as well as humans were included. A section of the review also focuses on agents that have not been studied scientifically, but are claimed as aphrodisiacs in other non-scientific ways.

Key findings

  • The review of previous studies shows that quite a few plant- and animal-derived aphrodisiacs can be successfully used to enhance sexual experiences.
  • Animal studies reveal that agents like horny goat weed, ambrien, Panax ginseng, and muira puama aid in relaxing the great blood chambers, called corpus cavernosa, of the penis that allows blood to pool in and helps gain an erection.
  • Human studies have shown that agents like ginseng, saffron, and yohimbine improve the quality of erection. Sexual satisfaction is also raised by ginseng, saffron, yohimbiine, muira puama, and chocolate.
  • Sexual behavior in animals is increased with the use of horny goat weed, nutmeg, saffron, and ambrien.

Next steps/shortcomings
The authors write that there is a shortage of human scientific studies with many agents, including ambrien and horny goat weed. There is a lack of knowledge regarding the actual mechanism of action of many plant and animal based aphrodisiacs. Many of the human studies with these agents also did not have placebo controls, and thus could not be reported to be very strong evidence. They suggest future studies to analyze the effects of the agents in humans, and also detailed studies that analyze the actual method by which these agents act.

This study shows that many natural and ancient aphrodisiacs can potentially be used for enhancing sexual satisfaction and improving libido. Many agents have been explored in animals successfully, but the work has not been translated to humans. The authors conclude that, presently, there is no substantial evidence that supports the use of these agents in humans.  More research needs to be conducted on human subjects. The authors write that the successful use of these agents through studies may lead to a better understanding of aphrodisiacs on the physiology and psychology of humans. They write, “The discovery of effective treatments can help strengthen relationships, increase self-esteem and aid in procreation.”

For More Information:
Aphrodisiacs from Plant and Animal Sources – A Review of Current Scientific Literature
Publication Journal: Food Research International, 2011
By John P. Melnyk; Massimo F. Marcone
From the University of Guelph, Guelph, Ontario, Canada

*FYI Living Lab Reports Are Summaries of the Original Research.

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