by Andrew Pacholyk MS L.Ac

Every culture has it’s own history and knowledge of aphrodisiacs. Whether it is from their own cultural surroundings or from myths, stories or objects. Even plants were labeled as such because of their shapes and textures.

Staying healthy is your best and number one bet for a great sex life! According to a Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) study reported on in February 1999, about 43 percent of women and 31 percent of men suffer sexual inadequacy for one reason or another. The reasons cited included low desire, performance anxiety, premature ejaculation and/or pain during intercourse. Interestingly, this is thought to actually underestimate the real level of sexual dysfunction in the U.S. While the study didn’t look at the specific physical causes of sexual dysfunction, the research indicated that many of the sexual concerns were likely treatable, as they are due to physical and health issues. There are dozens of natural herbal and nutritional herbs that enhance sexual drive and pleasure in both men and women, along with enhanced erections and more satisfying orgasms and climaxes?and some of them are quite powerful. These natural herbs not only enhance libido, but they enhance most aspects of the human sexual response, particularly if they are used in combination.


Androstenedione, (pronounced “an-dro-stene-dye-own”) is a metabolite of DHEA and a natural precursor of testosterone. For those whose testosterone levels may need a boost, 25-50 mg of androstenedione taken at bedtime, and perhaps again first thing in the morning, will mimic the body’s normal diurnal rhythms. The same dose may be taken 30-60 minutes before exercise (for enhanced performance) or after completion of exercise (to enhance muscle recovery and growth). Serum levels of testosterone start rising about 15 minutes after oral administration and stay elevated for around 3 hours. Blood testosterone levels usually peak in around 1 to 1.5 hours after ingestion. Because the elevated testosterone levels swiftly return to normal baseline levels, there is little risk of negative feedback suppression of the hypothalamus, pituitary or testicles.


One of the more popular supplement ingredients for sexual dysfunction is L-arginine, also referred to as arginine. Arginine is required to carry out the synthesis of nitric oxide, a compound that, working through cGMP, relaxes blood vessels and allows more blood to flow through arteries. It has been hypothesized that taking extra arginine will increase nitric oxide levels and increase blood flow to the penis. Arginine appears to offer some modest benefit for sexual dysfunction in men. A double-blind, placebo controlled trial of 50 men with erectile dysfunction tested arginine at a dose of 5,000 mg per day for six weeks. Only about a third of the participants who received arginine showed improvement, but that improvement was greater than the 10% improvement seen in the placebo group. Moreover, erectile dysfunction is caused by a variety of factors. L-arginine may be effective only in those men whose erectile dysfunction is due to low levels of nitric oxide. Studies in animals provide some evidence for effectiveness as well.

Although arginine alone has not been studied as a treatment for sexual dysfunction in women, a reasonably good preliminary double-blind trial found evidence for benefit with a combination treatment providing a daily dose of 2,500 mg of L-arginine, as well as amounts of Panax ginseng, Ginkgo biloba extract, damiana, plus numerous vitamins and minerals. In a four-week, double-blind study, 77 women with decreased libido were given either the combination of these supplements or placebo. As expected, a high percentage of participants taking placebo showed improvement. However, participants taking the product showed statistically greater improvement such as increased reported sexual desire level in 71% of participants given the treatment vs. 42% in the placebo group. Other improvements noted included: relative satisfaction with sex life (74% vs. 37%), improved frequency of orgasms (47% vs. 30%), and improved clitoral sensation (53% vs. 35%). No significant side effects were seen in either group. There have been other studies of arginine for sexual dysfunction in women, but because they were not double-blind, placebo-controlled trials, they are of little scientific value.

Avena Sativa (Oat Straw):

An extract from wild oats straw, and a rather recent entry to the field of aphrodisiacs. While oats have a long reputation of being the most energizing grain, the alleged sexual effects have not commonly been recognized in previous centuries. Avena sativa is said to free up bound testosterone in both men an women. Most positive effects of testosterone, including sex drive, are attributed to free testosterone, while bound testosterone is mainly a subject of study when enlarged prostates are the primary concern. Although not much research has been done, there is much anecdotal evidence to suggest that it not only stimulates the interest to have sex but enable more and better orgasms.


A bioflavonoid called Chrysin has shown potential as a natural aromatase-inhibitor. Chrysin can be extracted from various plants. Body builders have used it as a testosterone boosting supplement. Chrysin, commonly found in the plant Passiflora coerulea, is structurally defined as 5,7-dihydroxy-flavone. Chrysin has demonstrated an ability to maximize testosterone by inhibiting aromatase activity.* Aromatase is the enzyme responsible for the conversion of androstenedione and testosterone into esterone and esterdiol respectively. Testosterone is responsible for increases in lean body mass and strength. Chrysin is also a potent antioxidant that possesses vitamin-like effects in the body. It has been shown to induce an anti-inflammatory effect. Chrysin has one other property that could add to its libido-enhancing potential. A major cause of sexual dissatisfaction among men is work-related stress and anxiety as well as “sexual performance anxiety” that prevents them from being able to achieve erections when they are expected to.


Yes, chocolate can be a pleasure herb. Compounds known as phenylethyamines work like natural neurotransmitter dopamine with epinephrine (also known as adrenalin) creating an elevation of senses and feelings of well being. So there is something to be said about that pound of chocolate for valentines day. These compounds are found in dark chocolate, NOT milk chocolate.

Damiana (Turnera Diffusa):

Damiana leaves have been used as an aphrodisiac and to boost sexual potency by the native peoples of Mexico, including the Mayan Indians. The two species used in herbal healing, both of which are referred to as damiana, are Turnera aphrodisiaca and Turnera diffusa. Historically damiana has been used to relieve anxiety, nervousness, and mild depression, especially if these symptoms have a sexual component. The herb is also used as a general tonic to improve wellness. Damiana has also been used traditionally to improve digestion and to treat constipation, as in larger doses it is thought to have a mild laxative effect. The libido-boosting power of damiana hasn’t been tested in humans, although a liquor made from the leaves has long been used as an aphrodisiac in Mexico. How damiana works as an aphrodisiac is currently not known. It’s mild stimulating properties is believed to be the catalyst for women and in men, it is said to irritate the urethra in men therefore sensitizing the penis and making it more responsive to stimulation.

DHEA (dehydroepiandosterone):

This is a natural steroid hormone, one of the hormones produced by the adrenal glands. After being secreted by the adrenal glands, it circulates in the bloodstream as DHEA-sulfate (DHEAS) and is converted as needed into other hormones. DHEA is chemically similar to testosterone and estrogen and is easily converted into those hormones. Though claims abound that DHEA stimulates sexual appetite, no well-controlled trial has investigated the effects of DHEA on sexual activity. However, preliminary research has suggested that it may help improve sexual function in men and women. DHEA has other potential uses, including the treatment of lupus. See dosage.

DIM (diindolylmethane):

This is a plant compound called an indole, and has been shown to help regulate and promote a more efficient metabolism of estrogen, and an optimal ratio of estrogen metabolites. DIM balances estrogen levels, promoting health and well-being. This powerful phytonutrient is found in broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage and Brussels sprouts, unlike other phytonutrients like soy isoflavones, has no hormonal properties in itself. Men can also benefit from DIM supplementation. Studies show it works indirectly by increasing the activity of enzymes that control estrogen production. DIM boosts levels of “good” estrogens called 2-hydroxy estrogens and reduces levels of “bad” estrogens which are 16-hydroxy and 4-hydroxy estrones. Both forms of “bad” estrogen are carcinogens, and studies show that women with elevated levels of 16-hydroxy estrone have a high rate of breast cancer. There’s evidence that benign prostate enlargement and some types of prostate cancer may be related to a buildup of estrogen in that gland, not testosterone. In overweight men because fat cells convert DHEA and testosterone to estrogen, DIM supplementation can be especially helpful. A combination of DHEA and DIM together for one month is a recommended treatment for increasing testosterone levels. See dosage.

Dong Quai (Angelica Sinensis):

Dong quai has been called the “female ginseng” and is excellent as an all purpose women’s herb. It has been used for centuries in China for regulating the menstrual cycle and easing menstrual pain and cramping. It can be used to help women regain normal menstrual cycles after taking “the Pill.” It has proven helpful for relieving hot flashes during menopause. Dong quai can be used for insomnia and blood pressure stability for both men and women. (The affect on blood pressure can be an overall lowering although sometimes it may rise slightly first, followed by a decline). It can reduce PMS and may help anemia, suppressed menstrual flow, uterine bleeding, abdominal pain after childbirth, dry intestines, chronic pelvic disorders and constipation and headaches due to blood deficiency. Dong quai helps the liver utilize more oxygen and therefore can be useful in treating hepatitis and cirrhosis. It may also help with abnormal protein metabolism. Dong quai helps dilate peripheral blood vessels, increase circulation, and has been used as a mild laxative. Dong quai contains estrogenic substances that may exert some regulating effect on estrogen levels and on estrogenic biological mechanisms. They seem to enhance estrogenic effects when estrogen levels are too low, and compete when levels are too high. This would be in keeping with the idea of a menstrual tonic. It is doubtful if dong quai has any direct estrogenic effects.


The herb Panax ginseng has a traditional reputation for enhancing sexual function in men. One study supports this use for a particular form of ginseng: the steamed and heat-dried product called red ginseng. This three month double-blind, placebo-controlled study evaluated the effects of Korean red ginseng in 90 men with erectile dysfunction. Participants received either red ginseng at a dose of 1,800 mg daily, the drug trazodone (an antidepressant with marginal effects on erectile dysfunction) and placebo. The results indicated that red ginseng improved erectile function compared to placebo. Contrary to some reports, ginseng does not appear to affect estrogen or testosterone levels, or mimic their effects. Find ginseng granules here.

Ginkgo Biloba:

Ginkgo biloba is an herb that can improves sexual function in men. Case reports and open trials suggest that Ginkgo biloba may be an effective treatment for antidepressant-induced sexual dysfunction in both men and women. Ginkgo not only helps brain circulation but also penile blood flow. A study using a standardized extract showed 78% in regained erections which where known to be caused by poor blood flow.

Holy Basil (Tulsi):

This cortisol modulator supports normal blood sugar and promotes a healthy inflammation response. A gift from the Ayurvedic system of medicine, Holy Basil is the ultimate adaptogen. Holy Basil helps support blood sugar levels already in the normal ranges, supports detoxification, promotes healthy gastric tissue, encourages healthy immune function, and is radioprotective. It contains several biologically active compounds found to support a healthy inflammation response, including eugenol, apigenin, and ursolic acid. Holy Basil contain the most active constituents: eugenol, caryophyllenes, and triterpenoic acids, including ursolic acid and oleanolic acids. This herb also goes by the name of Tulsi

Horny Goat Weed (Herba Epimedium grandiflorum):

Yin Yang Huo in Traditional Chinese Medicine which has been loosely translated by some as “licentious goat plant” and explains why Western supplement companies have adopted the titillating name by which it is known in the U.S: (horny goat weed). Epimedium is grown as an ornamental herb in Asia and the Mediterranean region, and various species are used for medicinal purposes. The use of epimedium as a medicinal herb dates back to at least 400 A.D., where it has been used as a tonic for the reproductive system (boosting libido and treating impotence) and as a rejuvenating tonic (to relieve fatigue). Epimedium is thought to work via modulation of cortisol levels (the primary stress hormone). Under conditions of high stress, the increased cortisol levels are known to cause fatigue and depress sex drive – so bringing cortisol levels back into normal ranges is also thought to help restore normal metabolism, energy levels and libido. There is also evidence that epimedium can restore low levels of both testosterone and thyroid hormone (bringing low levels back to their normal levels) – which may account for some of the benefits of epimedium in improving libido (sex drive). Animal studies using epimedium have shown a reduction in bone breakdown, an increase in muscle mass, and a loss of body fat-each of which may be linked to the observed return of abnormal cortisol levels back to normal values (and rhythm). In a series of studies conducted in humans and animals by Chinese researchers, immune-system function was directly suppressed and bone loss was accelerated, by using high-dose synthetic cortisol (glucocorticoid drugs). Subsequent administration of epimedium extract reduced blood levels of cortisol and improved immune immune-system function (in the humans) and slowed bone loss and strengthened bones (in the animals). You can find this herb as the main ingredient in our Male Performance formula.

Nettle Leaf Extract:

About 90% of testosterone is produced by the testes, the remainder by the adrenal glands. Testosterone functions as an aphrodisiac hormone in brains cells, and as an anabolic hormone in the development of bone and skeletal muscle. But testosterone that becomes bound to serum globulin is not available to cell receptor sites and fails to induce a libido effect. It is, therefore, desirable to increase levels of “free testosterone” in order to ignite sexual arousal in the brain. A hormone that controls levels of free testosterone is called sex hormone-binding globulin (SHBG). When testosterone binds to SHBG, it loses its biological activity and becomes known as “bound testosterone,” as opposed to the desirable “free testosterone.” As men age past year 45, SHBG’s binding capacity increases almost dramatically-by 40% on average-and coincides with the age-associatedloss of libido. A highly concentrated extract from the nettle root provides a unique mechanism for increasing levels of free testosterone. Recent European research has identified constituents of nettle leaf that bind to SHBG in place of testosterone, thus reducing SHBG’s binding of free testosterone. As the authors of one study state, these constituents of nettle leaf “may influence the blood level of free, i.e. active, steroid hormones by displacing them from the SHBG bindings site.” The prostate gland also benefits from nettle. In Germany, nettle leaf and root has been used as a treatment for benign prostatic hyperplasia (enlargement of the prostate gland) for decades. A metabolite of testosterone called dihydrotestosterone (DHT) stimulates prostate growth, leading to enlargement. Nettle root inhibits the binding of DHT to attachment sites on the prostate membrane.

Puncture Vine – Tribulus Terrestris:

This herb found in the Chinese Materia Medica, Bai Ji Li (Chinese) also known as Gokshura and Gokhru (Ayurveda), traditionally has been used for sexual and kidney dysfunctions as well as colic pains, hypertension and hypercholesterolemia. It has a long standing use of being a revitalizer and energizer. Research indicates it actually may possess the ability to increase sexual desire verses just being a physical stimulant. It is a promising herb in the areas of menopause and infertility. Tribulus terrestris (tribulus) is thought to increase DHEA levels, so it has been proposed as a treatment for sexual dysfunction. However, investigation of tribulus has largely been limited to trials in animals. Bulgarian studies have shown that this herb stimulates luteinizing hormone, which stimulates the production of testosterone in men.

Muira Puama (Ptychopetalum olacoides and Ptychopetalum unicatum):

Popularly referred to as potency wood, muira puama is an old Brazilian folk aphrodisiac and cure for sexual impotence. Salves, tinctures, and other formulations are made from the trunk or roots of these two shrubs. Muira puama is typically touted for sexual potency. Despite a lack of evidence that it actually works, men continue to take muira puama to prevent impotence and enhance sexual desire. There is also little evidence to support its use for rheumatism, for which it is also often used. Muira puama is employed around the world today in herbal medicine. Early European explorers noted the indigenous uses and the aphrodisiac qualities of muira puama and brought it back to Europe, where it has become part of herbal medicine in England. It is also used in Europe to treat impotence, infertility, nerve pain, menstrual disturbances, and dysentery. In Germany, muira puama is employed as a central nervous system tonic, for hookworms, menstrual disturbances, and rheumatism. Muira puama has been gaining in popularity in the United States, where herbalists and health care practitioners are using it for impotence, depression, menstrual cramps and PMS, nerve pain, and central nervous system disorders.

Rhodiola (Rhodiola rosea)

Restores energy, supports emotional health and improves cognitive and physical performance. Growing in harsh sub-arctic climates and high altitudes of Siberia, this is the herb that has been described by Richard P. Brown, M.D. and Patricia L. Gerbarg, M.D. as “nature’s perfect energizer”: Extracts from the root of rhodiola have been the subject of intensive pharmacological and clinical investigations in Russia and Scandinavia for more than thirty-five years. The results of these studies strongly support the use of rhodiola as an adaptogen: a substance that normalizes physiology in response to stressors. As such, rhodiola provides a solid foundation for restoring and maintaining health. It promotes cognitive and physical performance, supports positive emotional states, immune function and cardiovascular health, and restores balance to the hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis. This herb is harvested after a minimum four-year growth in the forests of the Altai regions of Siberia. It is then carefully dried at low-temperatures and meticulously extracted to preserve the herb’s precious phytonutrients including rosavins, salidrosides and other biologically active compounds.

Spanish fly (Cantharides):

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.


Yohimbe is made from the bark of the Pausinystalia johimbe tree found in Africa. It contains the chemical, yohimbine, which is an FDA-approved drug that is marginally effective for male erectile dysfunction. Yohimbine is believed to act through the nervous system to increase blood flow to the penis. Most clinical studies have been conducted with yohimbine rather than yohimbe bark. These days, some call it the herbal Viagra. Unfortunately, there are side effects, and for some men can be very serious. Side effects of yohimbe can include anxiety, weakness, over-stimulation, paralysis and hallucinations.


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