An unfulfilling sex drive can take a toll on you, especially if you’re having trouble getting aroused. If you’ve felt like your sexual escapades are leaving a lot to the imagination, it’s worth exploring alternatives to help get your mind and body in the mood for love.
But where do natural aphrodisiacs fit in the picture? Let’s peek at what they can do for your sexual wellness and if they even work.
What is an Aphrodisiac?
Aphrodisiacs have a long, interesting history. The word comes from the Greek word “aphrodisios,” referencing the goddess of love, Aphrodite.
If that name doesn’t ring a bell, she’s the one emerging from the giant clam shell in Sandro Botticelli's famous 1486 painting The Birth of Venus (Venus is the Roman version of Aphrodite). She’s a total babe. But why are aphrodisiacs named after a goddess, and what are they?
Aphrodisiacs are substances that may increase sexual desire, sexual arousal, and pleasure. Essentially, they make you horny, which is why they are considered tools of the goddess of love herself.
Aphrodisiacs can be anything—a food, an herb, a drink, or even synthetic chemicals. However, ingredients with natural aphrodisiac properties are the most popular because we like to know what it is we’re putting in our bodies, right? No more horny goat weed for us, thanks.
Do Aphrodisiacs Actually Work?
But the real question is—do natural aphrodisiacs actually work? The answer isn’t so simple because there are nearly endless substances that claim to be the game changer.
To understand which aphrodisiacs work and which are all hype, you have to look at each of them and their active ingredients individually. Unfortunately, science revolving around anything sexual tends to have a moralistic lag to it, so there isn’t much research out there.
However, the available research is fascinating because it helps explain how natural aphrodisiacs may actually work, even if they sometimes function as a placebo. The brain is powerful in giving us what we need when we need it.
How Do Aphrodisiacs Work in the Body?
Because of research, we better understand how natural aphrodisiacs can impact the body—by improving blood flow, lubrication, and hormonal balance. Each factor has a different impact on how turned on we feel, how comfortable and pleasurable sex is, and how long we can last.
Blood flow is crucial for everyone’s sex life, whether you have a penis, a vagina, or anywhere in between. When you don’t have enough blood flowing to and circulating your genitals, they don’t get what they need to become physically aroused.
Certain medications like antidepressants or blood pressure meds can interfere with blood flow, impacting sexual pleasure. You may not get or stay hard or wet and may feel like your sexual performance is in the dumps. Many natural aphrodisiacs help counteract this by dilating the blood vessels, allowing more blood to flow into the areas that need it.
If you’ve been with us for a while, you know we’re lube’s biggest hype people. We can’t say enough good things about lube; it’s essential to having enjoyable, fulfilling sex.
Unfortunately, even if you’re a person with a vagina, natural lubricant isn’t a given, especially post-menopause. Some of us just don’t make enough to keep sex comfortable, and people who weren’t born female or want to enjoy a little backdoor loving don’t make any at all.
The lubrication benefits of natural aphrodisiacs won’t help with anal sex (pro tip: supplemental lubricant is non-negotiable for anal play). However, they can help increase the vagina’s ability to produce moisture.
Our hormones impact every single part of our bodies. An imbalance of hormones like estrogen or testosterone levels can have a systemic effect when it comes to our sense of arousal and how our body responds to that arousal.
These imbalances occur for many reasons, like age or the side effects of some medications. Certain natural aphrodisiacs can help stimulate the release of specific hormones that can increase your arousal, like dopamine and oxytocin.
Aphrodisiac Foods and Supplements That Boost Sexual Desire
Ok, let’s talk specifics. Out of all the options for natural aphrodisiacs on the market, which ones do what they say they will do?
Let’s start with the sexiest of the natural aphrodisiacs—chocolate. Have you ever heard someone say chocolate was “better than sex?” The ties between cacao (the base of most chocolate) and sex are lengthy and well-known, likely because of its potential to increase blood flow to the genitals.
But you don’t just have to eat it! Some people believe that you can also enjoy the benefits of cacao topically (like our Awaken Arousal Oil, which contains cacao essential oil). Think of cacao as a sexual stimulant—sounds fun.
CBD is a newcomer to the natural aphrodisiac market but has made a big splash in sexual health. There isn’t a lot of long-term research on it yet, but people are abuzz with excitement about its potential.
If you’re unfamiliar with CBD, it’s a natural chemical found in the hemp plant. However, CBD’s potential health benefits won’t be mind-altering, unlike other cannabis byproducts. The chemical simply interacts with the receptors of our built-in cannabinoid system, which impacts many of our essential bodily functions.
That potential is why it appears in so many sexual aids, like lubricants. While we may not have the science yet, CBD can do things to the body that may help get you in the mood.
Maca is a Peruvian superfood powder, although it also has potential as a natural aphrodisiac. When ingested, it’s thought to increase libido and sexual desire. Most of the studies on maca have been on animals, though, so it will require more human studies to say definitively.
You’ve likely never heard of Tribulus, and if you looked at the spiny vine, you probably wouldn’t guess it could have properties to help turn you on. However, this Mediterranean plant is one of the few natural aphrodisiacs that has been scientifically researched, showing the possibility of increasing the level of certain sex hormones and helping to get you in the mood.
Ginkgo Biloba has a lot of different uses, and many people rely on the herb as a mood enhancer. However, its ability to increase blood flow (especially for people with a penis) makes it a potential aphrodisiac.
People who use Ginkgo Biloba say that it has helped make them more turned on and more able to achieve orgasm, but the science to prove that isn’t there yet.
And finally, ginseng. Red ginseng is a staple in traditional Chinese medicine, although its potential as a natural aphrodisiac has only been studied in people with penises.
It’s been used to help with erectile dysfunction but may also interact with certain medications like blood thinners, so use it with extreme caution.
Do Aphrodisiac Foods and Supplements Have Potential Side Effects?
When it comes to side effects, each of the natural aphrodisiacs has its unique list. One of the most crucial factors to take into account is whether or not the specific food or supplement you’re interested in trying will interact with any of your current medications or health issues.
The only person who can genuinely evaluate that is your primary care provider, so check with them before starting on anything new.
You may also experience GI symptoms with new herbal supplements, especially nausea or diarrhea. Introduce them slowly to give your body time to adjust and to monitor for an allergic reaction. Improving your sexual function is all well and good, but not if diarrhea is in the mix.
Natural aphrodisiacs can offer you a way to help get you in the mood without relying on synthetic chemicals. When combined with other ways to help increase your sex drive, like using lube and getting in the right headspace, you can turn your sex life and sexual wellbeing around in no time. Never settle for a less than fulfilling sex life!
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