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  health > alternative > story page AIDSAlternative MedicineCancerDiet & FitnessHeartMenSeniorsWomen

Aphrodisiacs: Love potion #9 or nothing sublime?

July 28, 1999
Web posted at: 10:43 AM EDT (1443 GMT)

In this story:

An appetite for sex

Herbs of love

Spanish fly: legendary but dangerous

Stick with what you know works


By Deb Levine, M.A.

Other reputed aphrodisiacs
  • Rhinoceros horn
  • Deer antler
  • Chocolate
  • Truffles
  • Clove
  • Sandalwood
  • Alder bark
  • Damiana
  • Gypsyweed
  • Rose petals
  • Patchouli
  • Muira-Puama and Catuaba (Brazilian herbs)
  • (WebMD) -- Aphrodisiacs, agents that arouse or increase sexual response or desire, are one thing that crosses all barriers -- race, culture, ethnicity, age -- making it unanimous: We all want to have better sex.

    If you looked hard enough, you could find an authority for almost any folk belief about the stimulating properties of a substance. The Food and Drug Administration, however, has determined that all over-the-counter aphrodisiacs are ineffective. Scientific warnings aside, people still follow their heart's desire in search of the perfect catalyst for love.

    An appetite for sex

    The phrase "you are what you eat" has special meaning when it comes to foods purported to be aphrodisiacs. One category of foods thought to increase sexual drive and performance are foods that resemble genitalia. Eggs and caviar may come to mind, as well as asparagus, celery and onions. Clams and oysters also lay claim to aphrodisiac qualities because of their shape and texture. Oysters, in fact, are high in zinc -- a nutrient that was lacking in people's diets at one time; eating them could improve a nutritionally deficient diet, thus improving a person's overall health and increasing his or her sex drive.

    Spicy foods have long been considered to be sexual stimulants. There is some scientific truth to this claim in that foods that are heavily spiced often contain capsaicin, the active ingredient in cayenne pepper. Eating capsaicin can cause a physiological response -- increased heart rate and metabolism, sometimes even sweating -- that is quite similar to the physical reactions experienced during sex.

    Okra is another reputed vegetable of love. Rich in magnesium, it's a natural relaxant. It's also full of iron, folate, zinc and vitamin B, all nutrients that keep your sex organs healthy.

    Herbs of love

    An herb very commonly associated with love is ginseng. Some say ginseng is an aphrodisiac because it actually looks like the human body. (The word ginseng even means "man root.") Studies have reported sexual response in animals who have been given ginseng, but there is no evidence to date of ginseng having any effect on humans.

    Yohimbe is an herb found in Africa and India that for centuries has been thought to possess aphrodisiac qualities. It works by stimulating nerve centers in the spine, thereby improving the capacity for erection without increasing sexual excitement. These days, some call it the herbal Viagra. Unfortunately, there are side effects, some very serious, of yohimbe, which include anxiety, weakness, overstimulation, paralysis and hallucinations.

    Spanish fly: legendary but dangerous

    No discussion of aphrodisiacs would be complete without mention of Spanish fly, the most legendary of the love drugs, but also the most dangerous. Spanish fly, or cantharides, is extracted from dried beetle dung. Reported sexual excitement after taking Spanish fly stems from its ability to irritate the urogenital tract, causing a rush of blood to the genital area. And that's the upside. The dangerous downside: Spanish fly is a poison that burns the mouth and throat, and can cause urinary infections, scarring of the urethra and, in some rare cases, death.

    Stick with what you know works

    Aside from the groundbreaking release last year of Viagra, there have been few laboratory studies on aphrodisiacs. Sights, sounds and scents within your reach are the best precursors for a romp in the hay. Nothing can compare with the sight of your partner's lips parted in a smile, or the scent of his hair, or the sound of those three words, "I love you."

    Copyright 1999 by WebMD, Inc. All rights reserved.

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