Since time began, there has been a continuous quest to cure male erectile dysfunction and augment sexual function. However, there is no definite evidence to the effect of so-called natural aphrodisiacs. Harmful side effects and adulteration need to be examined before encouraging or dissuading use of such substances. Yohimbine has been found to have a mild effect on sexual performance; ginseng is also known to enhance it. But the understanding on their mechanisms needs to be ascertained. Studies of aphrodisiac use in women are rare due to lack of scientific interest until just a few decades ago; and attitudes of women toward sex needs to be investigated.
Innumerable natural and synthetic substances have been used as aphrodisiacs across the world. Instead of the expected decline in the search with the influx of medications such as Viagra (known as phosphodiesterase type 5 inhibitors or PDE5s), the inclination to find natural substances with the same effects, but with no adverse reactions, has intensified. This could be attributed to healthy men wanting to experience exaggerated levels of sexual satisfaction whereas PDE5s work only for those with compromised libidos or sexual dysfunctions. There is no scientific classification for aphrodisiacs. For practical purposes, they are studied as natural and non-natural aphrodisiacs; and the natural substances are further divided into plant and non-plant aphrodisiacs.
A 1989 FDA ruling disapproved of over-the-counter use of natural aphrodisiacs because of negligible clinical proof to support their efficacy in improving sexual function. Their safety profile is yet unknown. Moreover, most of the conducted studies involved healthy individuals or animals and not diseased or compromised subjects. Available information on their function is either assumptive or suspicious. Also, information regarding women using natural aphrodisiacs is limited and could be further explored.
The desire to enhance sexual function and satisfaction drives the need to find successful aphrodisiacs, in spite of the unsatisfactory data regarding the effectiveness of these remedies. This lack of understanding has translated into deceptive practices of contaminating supposedly natural aphrodisiacs with chemicals like sildenafil analogs. Thus, there is insufficient evidence to recommend the use of natural aphrodisiacs in treating sexual dysfunction. It’s up to the sexual medicine practitioners to educate the public on available scientific understanding of natural aphrodisiacs along with the potential risks of their use.
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Publication Journal: The Journal of Sexual Medicine, January 2010
By Rany Shamloul; Queen’s University, Kingston, Ontario, Canada, and the Cairo University, Cairo, Egypt