There are many herbs which are classed as aphrodisiacs; however, they act in different ways and produce different effects. Some herbs have more a physical effect, working primarily by increasing blood flow to the genitals, and others work more on an emotional level by relieving stress, and calming the mind.
Some herbs are fast-acting, and others work best when taken on a long-term basis. When taken regularly certain herbs act as a general tonic on all levels, increasing overall energy, stamina, and sexual desire.
Read the information on the specific herbs contained in Part One and Part Two of this article to help determine which aphrodisiac herbs are best for you. Before working with any of the mentioned aphrodisiacs make sure to read about general considerations for using aphrodisiac herbs.
General Considerations for Using Herbal Aphrodisiacs:
In the beginning, try one herb at a time for 1-3 weeks. Once you know its effects take a few days to a week off, then try another, or continue using the herb if you liked the results. Cycling herbs in this way will minimize any potential side effects. If you start combining herbs after the initial period, reduce the dosage of each herb by about half.
Most herbs are available in powder form, capsules, tincture, or other extracts. Choose a form which is best for you. Remember that extracts are usually concentrated and a smaller dose is required. Use the suggested dosage as a general guideline; it is safest to start with a low dosage and gradually build up over time depending on how you feel. Women generally need a smaller dose than men.
Keep in mind the dosage given for each herb is approximate. With natural products such as herbs, it is not possible to give an exact dose that will apply to everyone. Each person will react differently to the dosages given since everyone has a unique biochemistry; factors such as sex, age, physical health, mindset and other supplements or medicines taken will affect the way an individual will respond to the herbs. Also, the potency of herbs can vary because growing conditions, processing and storage methods are not always consistent from source to source.
If experiencing side effects, lower the dose or switch to another herb with similar effects. Herbs should be avoided during pregnancy and breastfeeding unless otherwise stated as safe.
Where Can You Buy Herbal Aphrodisiacs?
You may be able to find some of the herbs in supplement shops or natural health stores. The herbs which are available in store may differ depending where you live in the world, but all of these herbs can be found online.
The best online retailers I have found for buying natural health products are:
- Mountain Rose Herbs – for bulk herbs, capsules, tinctures, and extracts
- Iherb.com – for bulk herbs, capsules, tinctures, and combinations
- The Root of the Matter – for some bulk items including maca and cacao beans
Latin Name: Withania somnifera
Other names: Winter cherry
Part Used: Root
Description: Ashwagandha is a hardy plant the requires little water or attention, it usually grows in harsh conditions where most other plants can not survive. Ashwagandha is native to India, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, and Pakistan.
History: Ashwagandha has been used in traditional medicine for over 4000 years. Ashwagandha has always been one of the most commonly used plants in, being prescribed for a broad range of conditions.
Aphrodisiac Properties: Use of Ashwagandha as an aphrodisiac is often debated, but some studies indicate that ashwagandha increases nitric oxide production which dilates blood vessels to the genitals, thereby increasing the engorgement of the sexual organs.
In Ayurveda use of ashwagandha is more often promoted for men, but it is just as useful for women. Ashwagandha can be helpful to improve sexuality because it is a powerful adaptogen. This means that it regulates bodily functions, restores overall vitality and stamina, increases endurance, and strengthens the body. Ashwagandha helps to calm the mind, ease anxiety and relieve stress. In some people, this is enough to improve sexual desire and put one in a better mood for making love.
Research had shown that Ashwagandha improves the quality of semen. Combined with its overall strengthening properties, this makes ashwagandha very useful in cases of infertility.
Other Uses: Ashwagandha is used as a rasayana (general tonic) in Ayurveda. It is adaptogenic, enhancing both physical and mental health. It’s rejuvenating properties slow aging and it is said to extend life. It boosts the immune system, has anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory effects, and has been studied for the treatment of cancer.
Ashwagandha stabilizes mood and relaxes the mind making it beneficial for those with anxiety, depression, or other mental ailments. It is also shown to improve memory. It is often prescribed for nervous exhaustion, and for any condition where strength needs to be restored. Because of its anabolic properties it can help to increase muscle mass.
Dose & Usage: The root is commonly found in powdered form. Take 2-5g daily. Ashwagandha can also be found in standardized capsules or tablets, the higher the percentage of withanolides, the less you will need. The highest percentage available is about 5%.
Ashwagandha can provide effects within a few hours of taking it on the first day, but effects become enhanced after a few days of use. It should be taken long-term in cases where increased vitality is needed.
Because ashwagandha has a relaxing effect, it is better taken toward the evening if a person is generally more inert, but if overall energy is good it can be taken at any time of day.
General Safety, Cautions & Side Effects: Some sources indicate that ashwagandha should not be used in people with high blood pressure. Otherwise, no significant side effects or any cases of toxicity have been reported from use of ashwagandha. It is considered safe for long-term use.
Latin Name: Theobroma cacoa
Other names: Cocoa, Chocolate
Part Used: Bean
Description: The cacao tree originated in Venezuela and eventually spread North. Now cacao can be found growing throughout Central America and Mexico. Cacao obtained the name “Theobroma” which translates as “food of the Gods” because it was praised by the cultures of Central America and Mexico.
History: Mayan culture received knowledge of cacao around 300 B.C from the Olmec Indians who had been harvesting cacao for centuries. The Mayans traded cacao with the Aztecs in the 12,000’s and soon after cacao beverages became a privileged drink for the elite classes in Aztec society. Cacao was seen as a divine gift and eventually became know to have aphrodisiac properties. The Aztec Emperor Montezuma II was said to drink 50 goblets of a cacao based drink every day in order to make love to the women in his harem.
Traditionally cacao was made into a bitter beverage, by mixing it with spices, chili and water and churning the mixture into a frothy beverage. Today cacao is consumed mostly in sweetened chocolate confections and desserts.
Aphrodisiac Properties: Cacao does not have specific effects as a sex booster, it is known more as a love enhancer. Cacao alters the mood and can open the heart, giving a better sense of closeness between lovers.
Because of individual chemistry each person will react to cacao in different ways; for some it can be very arousing and in others effects may be very mild. Women, in general, seem to be more sensitive to the effects of chocolate or cacao.
The smell, taste and texture of chocolate alone can induce feelings of sensuality, but it’s specific actions come more from the chemicals present in cacao. Cacao affects mood in a pleasant way by making a person more relaxed and open to lovemaking. The phenylethylamine (PEA) in cacao stimulates the release of endorphins, neurotransmitters in the brain that improve mood and make us “feel good”. Cacao also contains the compound Anandamide, which contributes to feelings of euphoria or bliss. Cacao increases the levels and activity of serotonin and dopamine in the brain. Higher levels of these chemicals increase sexual desire, arousal, and sexual response.
Other Uses: Because cacao has mood enhancing properties, it has found to be useful in cases of depression or emotional imbalance. It can also provide a boost in mood during PMS and menstruation, when serotonin is levels are naturally lower in women. Increased serotonin is also shown to help regulate sleep and balance the appetite.
Cacao contains caffeine and theobromine: chemicals which act on the central nervous system and increase blood flow to the brain; thereby giving a better sense of alertness while decreasing fatigue.
Cacao is rich in magnesium and antioxidants called polyphenols. Magnesium and polyphenols are important for the health of the cardiovascular system. Regular intake of cacao is shown to help prevent heart disease, reduce cholesterol, and lower the risk of developing atherosclerosis.
Dose & Usage: The amount of chocolate or cacao taken will vary from person to person. Those who eat chocolate regularly know how much they like. When eating chocolate, always choose darker, more bitter varieties that contain less sugar. Plain Cacao can be made into a tasty beverage and combines well with maca for this purpose.
General Safety, Cautions & Side Effects: The level of caffeine present in cacao is modest, and most individuals won’t experience any adverse effects. In those with extreme sensitivities to caffeine or who are prone to hyperactivity, cacao should be avoided.
Latin Name: Erythroxylum catuaba, Trichillia catigua
Other names: Golden trumpet, Tree of togetherness
Part Used: Bark
Description: Catuaba is a small tree with yellow flowers that grows in northern Brazil. The species of trees that are considered genuine catuaba are Trichillia catigua and Erythroxylum catigua; however, many other species are generically called “catuaba”. When purchasing catuaba make sure it is one of these two species.
History: Catuaba has traditionally been used as a sex booster and as a cure for male impotence in Brazil for generations. A well known Brazilian legend states that “before a man reaches sixty, the child belongs to him, after sixty the child is catuaba’s.”
Aphrodisiac Properties: Catuaba is reported to enhance the ability to sustain erections and to boost desire in both men and women. Sexual function is believed to be enhanced because of the stimulation of the nervous system by certain alkaloids present in catuaba.
There have been no clinical trials on catuaba’s action as an aphrodisiac, but it’s reputation and use by many generations of Brazilian natives indicates that there are indeed some aphrodisiac qualities to catuaba.
Other Uses: Catuaba has historical use as a mind booster, and is recommended in cases of poor memory and nervousness. It is a general tonic used to treat fatigue and is often used after illness to help renew health and vitality. Catuaba has anti-bacteria and anti-viral properties, and evidence shows that it may protect against Staphylococcus, E-coli and HIV.
Dose & Usage: The recommended dose of catuaba in powder form is 1-2g daily. It is also available in capsule and tincture form. Catuaba is traditionally consumed as a tea made from the bark; 1-3 cups taken daily will give effects. It may take a few days to a few weeks to notice effects. It is said to first cause more erotic dreams, followed by an increased sexual desire.
General Safety, Cautions & Side Effects: There are no serious side effects known, but because the use of catuaba in Western society is relatively recent, there is little information available about its long-term safety.
Latin Name: Turnera aphrodisiaca, Turnea diffusa
Other names: Mexican damiana, Old woman’s broom
Part Used: Leaves
Description: Damiana is a small shrub with yellow flowers. The plant prefers dry, sunny sandy or rocky soils and is found growing in the deserts of Texas, Mexico, and Central America.
History: the Mayan civilization traditionally used damiana as an aphrodisiac. In Mexico, for centuries, it has been drunk as a tea just before lovemaking.
Aphrodisiac Properties: Damiana promotes circulation to the genitals and increases stimulation and sensitivity in the area. It is used for treating low libido in both men and women. Physiologically damiana increases sperm count in men, but seems to have more of a psychological effect in women; men may not notice so much it effects in increasing desire.
Damiana calms the nerves, allowing a more relaxed state of mind for lovemaking; it can even produce a mild euphoria in some individuals. When taken before bed it may induce erotic dreams.
Other Uses: Damiana is used as a muscle relaxant and is beneficial in pain management. It is a known mood elevator and is commonly used to relieve anxiety, depression, and mental exhaustion. Damiana is shown to balance hormones, helping women with irregular menstrual cycles and during menopause. Damiana improves digestive disorders and helps to relieve constipation and flatulence. It is a diuretic and is useful in cases of edema, prostate complaints, and urinary or vaginal infections.
Dose & Usage: Damiana is best taken in doses from 5-8g. It is available in many forms including powder, capsules and tincture, but is most commonly taken as a tea because it has a pleasant taste. It may take a few days of consuming damiana to feel the effects fully.
General Safety, Cautions & Side Effects: Damiana is considered a very safe herb. No adverse reactions or unpleasant side effects have been reported.
Ginsengs: Siberian, Asian, American
Latin Name: Eleutherococcus senticosus, Panax ginseng, Panax quinquefolius
Other names: Asian ginseng is often called Chinese, Korean or red ginseng
Part Used: Root
Description: There are three varieties of ginseng: Siberian ginseng, Asian ginseng, and American ginseng. Siberian ginseng is not technically a ginseng. It is not from the same genus and does not contain the same active compounds as the other forms of ginseng. Siberian ginseng is often used as a ginseng because it seems to have many of the same effects and properties as the “true ginseng’s” the Asian and American varieties.
Asian ginseng is grown in China, Korea and parts of Russian. America ginseng is cultivated in the cool forests of North America. The ginseng plant is a small, slow growing shrub which takes 6-7 years to produce a mature root. Because of its long maturation process ginseng is quite expensive to purchase.
History: Ginseng has been used medicinally in China for the last 5000 years. The word “panax” comes from Greek and means “cure all”. Ginseng is one of the most widely used herbs and has been used for centuries to improve sexual function in both men and women.
Aphrodisiac Properties: Ginseng directly affects the sexual organs and central nervous system, giving increased sexual desire and satisfaction. Ginseng improves erectile function, making erections last longer; it acts by increasing the production of nitric oxide in the body which helps to dilate the blood vessels of the penis allowing for more blood flow.
Ginseng is a tonic for the entire body; it gives increased energy and vitality. It also improves the overall functioning of the reproductive system and increases male fertility.
Ginseng increases levels of dopamine and norepinephrine which help regulate mood and reduce stress, providing a more relaxed mood for lovemaking.
Other Uses: Ginseng improves overall physical and mental performance and helps to fight fatigue. It is an adaptogen, normalizing bodily functions, increasing immunity, strength, and stamina, and providing overall energizing and revitalizing of the being. It enhances athletic performance and improves cardiovascular function.
Ginseng is known to promote longevity and reduce the effects of aging. It gives more mental sharpness, improves memory, and enhances mood. It is also shown to stabilize blood sugar levels and reduce blood pressure, and may even have anti-cancer effects.
Dose & Usage: Ginseng is available in many forms including powder, capsules, concentrated paste, and as an extract found in single serving ampules. Dosage will range depending on the form; 5-10g of powder and 100-200mg of concentrated extracts are typical doses. When using a standardized product look for one containing at least 4% ginsenosides. It may take several days of taking ginseng to feel effects.
General Safety, Cautions & Side Effects: Large doses of ginseng may cause overstimulation, insomnia, or anxiety. Asian ginseng is more stimulating than American ginseng. If these side effects are experienced with Asian ginseng, try a lower dose or switch to American ginseng.
Ginseng should be avoided in cases of high blood pressure or heart problems as it may affect heart rhythm in higher doses. It should also be avoided in cases of high fever. Ginseng is anti-diuretic and should not be used if edema or disorders of the kidneys are present. Ginseng has blood thinning effects and should be avoided if taking aspirin or anticoagulants.
Latin Name: Paullinia cupana, Paullinia sorbilis
Other names: Brazilian cocoa, Paullinia, Zoom, Uabano
Part Used: Seeds
Description: Guarana is a plant with red fruit and round brown seeds. It grows in Brazil, Venezuela, and Uruguay. Wild guarana (Paullina cupana) is a creeping vine found in the rainforest, whereas cultivated guarana (Paullina sorbilis) grows in the open and takes on a shrub-like appearance. Wild guarana is rare to find, the guarana that is sold is the cultivated variety.
History: Guarana has been used for centuries in South America for its tonic effects and for the treatment of various disorders. In more recent years guarana has become a popular ingredient in energy drinks and mixtures that promote an increase in libido. In Brazilian markets, it is common to find carts selling coffee-like beverages which contain guarana.
Aphrodisiac Properties: Guarana can give one the needed energy and endurance for love making and can stimulate the mind, aiding sexual desire in this way. It is often called an aphrodisiac, but it does not have a direct effect on the genitals and is not technically a true aphrodisiac.
Other Uses: Guarana is stimulant and tonic; it aids in mental exhaustion, gives quick energy, improves concentrations and alertness, and relieves fatigue. Guarana contains 3-5 times the caffeine as coffee, but it’s stimulating effects are softer than that of coffee; it does not give the same jolt as coffee and its effects last longer.
Guarana is also used in the treatment of diarrhea, dysentery, fever, migraines and headaches from hangovers. It is diuretic and an appetite suppressant. Guarana is also used for protection from malaria, and the prevention of arteriosclerosis.
Dose & Usage: 1g of the guarana powder is an adequate dose. It can be made into a tea or taken as is. Guarana can be added to herbal combinations to provide a wider range of effects.
General Safety, Cautions & Side Effects: Anyone with high blood pressure, heart disease or sensitivity to caffeine should avoid using guarana. Larger quantities of guarana may cause insomnia, restlessness, nervousness, anxiety, or irritability. Large amounts can also induce diarrhea, headache, nausea, and heart problems or palpitations.
Horny Goat Weed
Latin Name: Epimedium grandiflorum
Other names: Epimedium,Yin yang huo, Xian ling pi, Barrenwort,
Part Used: Leaves
Description: Horny Goat Weed is a small plant found in the higher altitude regions of China and surrounding parts of Asia.
History: An old legend states that a Chinese goat herder noticed his goats became more sexually active after eating the plant, this is how the plant got its distinct name. Horny goat weed has been used in Traditional Chinese Medicine for centuries as an effective sexual tonic, and for restoring sexual vitality and vigor.
Aphrodisiac Properties: Horny goat weed is commonly used to treat impotence and prolong erections; it increases nitric oxide levels resulting in more blood flow to the genitals and increased penile rigidity. There is evidence that this herb can also increase the production of semen.
Horny goat weed is effective in boosting libido, the plant is shown to act similar to androgens, the sex hormones that arouse sexual desire in men and women. In women, horny goat weed is shown to improve libido especially in cases of decreased desire after menopause.
Horny goat weed is shown to reduce stress and influence neurotransmitters such as dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin which are important for positive mood and sexual function.
Other Uses: Horny goat weed is recognized as an effective tonic and is used in treating poor memory and mental fatigue. Because it increases levels of serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine, regular use of this herb may help to relieve stress and anxiety
Horny goat weed is also shown to improve disorders of the kidneys and liver as well as respiratory problems such bronchitis and asthma. It is used to lower blood sugar levels and to treat high blood pressure related to menopause. Use of this herbs helps to strengthen the connective tissues and joints, and it is useful in the treatment of arthritis and weakness of the limbs
Dose & Usage: It may take several days to feel the effects of horny goat weed, most people notice mild to moderate effects starting after three or four days of use. A typical dose can range from 500mg -1.5g daily
Horny goat weed can be combined with other herbs for a stronger effect.
General Safety, Cautions & Side Effects: In higher doses horny goat weed may have a stimulating effect and could cause rapid heart rate or an increase in blood pressure. Higher doses may also cause sweating and an increase in body temperature. No significant side effects have been reported when taken in regular doses. The herb has been used safely for over 2000 years in TCM.
Latin Name: Lepidium meyenii
Other names: Peruvian ginseng (although there is no relation to the ginseng family)
Part Used: Root
Description: Maca is tuber vegetable similar in appearance to a turnip. It can be found in many colors including yellow, red, and black, but the yellow roots are preferred because they are sweeter in taste. Maca thrives in the harsh climate and conditions of the Andes mountain range of South America, growing at an elevation of 3500 to 4500m above sea level.
History: Maca has been grown for over 2000 years in Peru and has been used traditionally as an aphrodisiac and to increase fertility. It has always been a valuable staple food in the Peruvian diet and recently has become popular in the west. In Peru, it is often ground into flour and used in baking or porridge, added to blender drinks, and even sold in syrup form or in liquor.
Aphrodisiac Properties: Maca works more on enhancing libido rather than promoting erections. It improves sexual desire in both men and women. It increases energy, strength, and stamina making it a powerful substance for improving performance. Maca is an adaptogen, helping the body cope with stress and fatigue and it will assist those who have a low sex drive due to stress.
Maca is shown to increase the quality and quantity of sperm without altering hormone levels in the blood.
Other Uses: Maca is commonly used for improving energy and vitality, reducing stress, improving overall sense of well-being, and enhancing mental clarity. It is also claimed to regulate hormonal balance, stimulate metabolism, improve memory, and act as an anti-depressant. Regular intake of maca regulates secretions of the adrenals, pituitary, and pancreas. Maca also regulates ovarian function and is good for PMS and menopausal symptoms. It has also shown to be beneficial to men going through andropause.
Maca contributes to the overall health of the body and specifically the bones because it is naturally high in nutrients such as calcium, magnesium, and silica in easily absorbed forms.
Dose & Usage: Maca is most commonly available in powder form, but can also be found in capsules. It is best to buy maca in a gelatinized powder rather than powder from the raw root because the root contains oils which may cause digestive stress. A dose of 2-5g daily will produce effects within a few days. Since maca is a food, larger quantities are safe. Maca has a very nice taste and can be added to porridge, cereal or smoothies. The taste mixes especially well with cacao.
General Safety, Cautions & Side Effects: The Peruvians have safely consumed maca for over 2000 years, but it has always been taken in cooked forms and traditionally never eaten raw. Powdered raw maca root is sold in the west, but the long-term effects of ingesting maca in a raw form are not known since it has only recently started to be consumed in this way.
Read more on herbal aphrodisiacs in Part Two…
Photo: Africa Studio