By: Alex Shea
I remember going on a date to a restaurant and trying oysters for the first time in my life. The guy across the table from me smiled meekly and asked if I knew what oysters were. I didn’t. Turns out, they’re widely known as an aphrodisiac and for a reason beyond me, he took my meal choice as a sign that I was down to have sex. I wasn’t.
All this is to say, what in the world are aphrodisiacs? What could oysters have in them that would make you want to jump anyone’s bones?
The answer should be simple but aphrodisiacs take on a life of their own. Sometimes the reasoning behind them makes sense and other times it doesn't. It seems like anyone can make something an aphrodisiac if they believe in it enough.
What are aphrodisiacs?
An aphrodisiac is a substance that causes arousal. Derived from plants, animals, and minerals, aphrodisiacs can be food, drink, or drugs. The term aphrodisiac comes from the Greek goddess of love and beauty, Aphrodite. The search for aphrodisiacs is a tale as old as time and people have been using foods, potions, lotions, and other substances with acclaimed aphrodisiac properties to improve their sex lives for many moons.
Cultures have historically treated sexual dysfunction with aphrodisiacs. People believed potions, lotions, and scents that engaged the senses and the brain could create the best circumstances for reproduction. Nobody had research to justify these as proven aphrodisiacs that improved the sexual experience but the feeling that they could was strong enough to bypass any doubt.
It’s a mystery how anything becomes an aphrodisiac. From a simple food like a banana to a rhinoceros horn, why an aphrodisiac gets its reputation is unclear yet rests within a community’s beliefs. Romans believed sex organs from other animals were aphrodisiacs that could cure impotence so penis-havers would eat rabbit testicles and dried tiger penis. Ancient Greeks believed that the human shape of mandrake root meant it contained magical properties. Camel fat was used as lubrication, leeches to maintain an erection, and durian to increase sexual desire.
Beliefs about aphrodisiacs are like a tale that’s passed on for many generations. You don’t know if what the story says is true but it sounds like it could be. That’s enough to tell the story to someone else. It’s essential to know that aphrodisiacs aren’t the only factor in our sexual health. And that our general well-being and sexual well-being intertwine.
Anything we do with intention in our lives (sex life included) is bound to produce a positive effect.
Why do people use aphrodisiacs?
Wanting to have a healthy and happy sex life is natural, and so is the curiosity that drives someone to try an aphrodisiac. If an aphrodisiac can heighten your sexual experience, then why not try it?
You may be interested to explore aphrodisiacs to:
- Relieve pain
- Satisfy your curiosity
- Enrich your sexual experience
- Find a solution for performance issues
- Bring intention to your sexual pleasure
What forms do aphrodisiacs come in?
If you’ve searched for the term aphrodisiac, then you know how many results pop up. There are aphrodisiacs all over the world that people believe can influence arousal. Using foods, herbs, supplements, and minerals in various combinations and methods to enhance sexual pleasure is where the excitement of aphrodisiacs lies.
Many foods are known as aphrodisiacs because of their similarity in shape to genitalia. Other foods contain ingredients that cause the body to mimic how it would physically respond during sex (sweating) or they’re good for the body. A nourished body can lead to improved sexual experiences.
- Chili peppers
- Raw oysters
Adaptogens make up some of the world’s oldest aphrodisiacs used by many cultures. They’re herbs and sometimes fungi that adapt to what a particular body needs, helping the body relax and thus opening the door to pleasure.
- Chinese mushrooms
- Mucuna Pruriens
- Mandrake root
- Suma root
Note: Not all adaptogens are safe to consume, i.e Chinese mushrooms, so do your research beforehand.
Aphrodisiac supplements are derived from minerals, amino acids, herbs, and fungi with aphrodisiac properties. You can consume them as additions to your usual diet in various forms: pill, tincture, powder, and capsules. Mucuna is best consumed in raw powder form.
- Horny Goat Weed
- Ginkgo Biloba
Psychoactive substances are substances that change your mood or thoughts when you take them. They’re drugs often derived from plants and adaptogens. Most psychoactive substances are believed to depend on the current frame of mind so tread with caution.
*These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA.
How to incorporate aphrodisiacs into your life.
Sex typically involves a lot of touch. We can easily forget to pay attention to and engage our other senses during the practice. Aphrodisiacs take many forms and incorporating them into your life should feel effortless and natural. We believe that by introducing ourselves to products that honor our pleasure and heighten our senses, we can achieve greater awareness of our bodies and our experiences.
If you’re unsure of where to start, then continue reading for real-life ways to use aphrodisiacs.
Cook, bake, or drink them. When trying a food or plant aphrodisiac, fresher foods can often reap more of the properties, like with raw oysters. This isn’t a hard and fast rule, though. Plants, herbs, and adaptogens with aphrodisiac properties can be used in your morning coffee or afternoon tea pick-me-up. Rose powder blends well into coffee, teas, and other savory treats. And Suma powder makes a nice addition to bulletproof coffee.
Smoke them. You can use herbal aphrodisiacs by blending and rolling them into a sans-tobacco, herbal cigarette. Botanical Smoke blend from Anima Mundi includes the soothing power of damiana.
Show yourself love. Sometimes it’s nice to start (and end) your day with self-love. Herbs and oils that have aphrodisiac properties can get you out of a rut and into a calming state of mind.
Spice up date night. Date nights need love, too. It’s always nice to try something new or that you haven’t done in a while. Using aphrodisiacs to play with your senses is a great way to spice things up.
Create a sensual ritual. Sometimes the stress of the day can drag you down. Use essential oils, derived from aphrodisiac plants, to get you out of your head and into your body. We recommend a sensory oil that combines the healing power of crystals with the sensual properties of essentials. You can also use meditation to bring focus to and channel your energy.
What to expect.
What we consume can impact our sex life by affecting our hormones, nervous system, energy, and stress levels, according to an Indian Journal of Psychiatry study. Aphrodisiacs work by incorporating other senses we ordinarily don’t pay attention to during sex. Depending on the form of the aphrodisiac, we can actively engage different parts of our body and our mind. They affect each person differently so what you take away from the experience may vary. Using an aphrodisiac is all about perspective and intentionality. The way you use a substance and what you expect from it makes it so.
That being said, anyone can try an aphrodisiac! In an interview with Goop, London nutritionist, Dr. Adam Cunliffe says, "Aphrodisiacs make their impact using a range of mechanisms affecting the brain, blood flow, and hormones.” And that if you do feel anything, then you should feel it within the same day of taking them.
You may resonate with different aphrodisiacs at different points in your life. It’s best to manage your expectations. Whether you're trying a substance claiming to be an aphrodisiac for the first time and the 30th. Also, try to be patient. Again, filling your choices with intention can lead to good things.
Do aphrodisiacs work?
Aphrodisiacs may not turn on your arousal like a light-switch, making you all of a sudden extremely aroused and ready for sex. Aphrodisiacs also may not produce the result you crave but that doesn’t mean nothing happened. Their effects may be more subtle or they may work as a placebo effect. A placebo effect is when a substance has no physiological effect but the person consuming it experiences a positive emotional or psychological effect.
The placebo effect may happen because of how culturally rooted aphrodisiacs are. Dr. Justin Lehmiller says this is because aphrodisiacs are word-of-mouth concepts. When people have a strong belief that something can produce a desired effect, that belief may be strong enough for their body to yield said effect.
Adding your truth to an aphrodisiac can make it real because:
- The intentionality you put into using special products honors your pleasure.
- Incorporating ingredients that have ancient ties can bring reverence to your practice.
- Playing on your senses allows you to enter a sensual space through scent or taste.