Aphrodisiacs: Increasing Sexual Desire and Capacity
By Al Link and Pala Copeland, Tantra Instructors,
4 Freedoms Relationship Tantra
Published in Tone Magazine in three installments:
Part I, January 1999; Part II, April 1999; Part III, September 1999
Are you among the millions of people worldwide who are otherwise healthy but who've lost interest in sex? Do you find it boring and routine? Are you so tired that you'd rather nap than make love? Do you think TV is more stimulating than your partner? Do you have physical symptoms, like vaginal dryness or difficulty with erection, that make sex unpleasant?
As a relationship matures it is common, but definitely not necessary, for sex to become predictable and unexciting. One of the first places to start improving your sex life is to elevate your general mood and increase your energy level. This is good advice not only for improving sex but also for most other things in your life.
According to a survey of 153 doctors conducted by Pharmatron Health Products during July and August of 1998: " Herbal supplements are now entering mainstream medical practice, with one in three primary care doctors recommending them to patients at least weekly, most frequently for people with mood and emotional complaints... About as many doctors recommend herbal supplements for fatigue and lack of energy...Doctors also practice what they preach, with one in four doctors personally consuming herbal supplements."
So, let's assume you have covered the basics. You pay attention to what you eat and take some nutritional supplements. You follow a regular routine for physical fitness. You are reasonably healthy. There are no organic health problems interfering with your sexual performance, or you have consulted a physician and they are being treated allopathically with drugs. (Note that many prescription drugs are known to interfere with sexual desire and performance. If you are taking any prescription medication, ask your doctor about such side effects. It may be possible to prescribe a different medication that won't interfere with your sex life. )
If you are not doing these things, you may consider changing your habits before you experiment with aphrodisiacs. Regular exercise, good diet and basic nutritional supplements may be all you need to revitalize you sex life.
Ideally we could also assume that you have set aside old beliefs and conditioning about your sexuality. You have moved beyond shame and guilt. You have had help in dealing with any sexual abuse or trauma. You understand and believe that sex is natural, good and wondrous. If you lack sexual skill and technique, and your imagination fails to motivate you to experiment by trying new things, perhaps a workshop or some private coaching is in order.
Even if you have done all of these things, perhaps you are still looking for more and wonder if aphrodisiacs might be it. They are definitely worth experimenting with, but be warned, many of them may have side effects for some people.
If you want to consume any item mentioned consult your physician
first. If you do decide to use them, start out slowly and experiment carefully to see how each of them works for you. Try them one at a time to see what each one does on its own and how your body responds to its use before you consume several at the same time.
What are Aphrodisiacs?
An aphrodisiac is something that increases your libido. It turns you on and increases your desire to have sex, or it may reduce your usual inhibitions about sex. Aphrodisiacs may also improve your ability to have sex. This means that under the right circumstances, almost anything could have aphrodisiac qualities, but most people think of something to eat or drink when they think of aphrodisiacs.
Aphrodisiacs are never an alternative to healthy sexual attitude, doing your inner work to remove psychological barriers to sexual intimacy, or sexual skill mastery, but they can be lots of fun.
Aphrodisiacs may also be exactly what is needed when sexual dysfunction is caused by physiological/organic causes, e.g., peripheral vascular disease, hardening of the penile arteries, diabetes mellitus, prostate enlargement, high levels of pituitary gland hormone prolactin, low testosterone, menopause and andropause (the male's version of menopause).
What do you already know about aphrodisiac herbs? Here is a short aphrodisiac quiz. The answers to the questions are at the end of the article.
- Which aphrodisiac could you say this about? "Occasionally, it causes erections even in the absence of any sexual stimulation." And, "has a reputation for producing electrifying sexual encounters..."
- What amino acid will help relax the smooth muscles in your genitals and enable a man to maintain an erection?
- Which hormone precursor did homerun hitting Mark McGwire help make famous?
- Which Greek Goddess does the name aphrodisiacs come from?
- What berry provides protection for the prostate gland?
- Which natural adrenal hormone, available as a nutritional supplement, helps balance all the other hormones in the body, for both men and women, and has dramatic effects on improving memory?
- What topical cream can be used by menopausal women as part of a natural approach to hormone replacement, to help balance an estrogen dominance, assist in reducing bone loss and to build new bones?
- Which nutritional supplement can help you to stop worrying and be happy now? Hint: It is commonly misspelled as Wart.
- Which natural sedative available as a nutritional supplement can help you get a really good night's sleep with no morning after effects so you've got the energy for lovemaking?
- Which Mexican herb is "reputed to induce erotic dreams when drunk at bedtime?"
- Which adrenal hormone, available as a nutritional supplement, can increase your energy level, enhance your sex drive, decrease body fat, reduce stress and reduce ill effects of stress, enhance memory function, extend lifespan, and improve your immune function all at the same time?
- There is an antioxidant that improves circulation and "can help in cases where a man has circulation-related difficulties in getting an erection." It is also well known for enhancing short-term memory. What is it?
- Which South American aphrodisiac used in the Amazon and Orinoco basins for centuries, can increase libido, stimulate sensuality, increase sexual pleasure, and is used as a treatment for impotence and frigidity?
Here is a brief summary of several aphrodisiacs that can enhance your sexual desire, help you experience more pleasure and perform better as a lover. We explain their general properties, how to use them, and where to get them. They may be worth experimenting with, but be warned, many of the substances mentioned may have side effects for some people. Nothing we say here is intended as medical advice.
If you want to consume any item mentioned consult your physician
first. Where possible use a product with standardized extract. This means that the product is guaranteed to contain a certain percentage of the active ingredient(s). Consult labels carefully to determine quantities of all ingredients. Follow dosage recommendations on the product label.
Don't let the strange sounding names and exotic places they come from throw you off from considering the use of aphrodisiacs. These items are not any more unusual than many things now part of our regular vocabulary and consumption, for instance, aspirin.
Available in capsules and spray Androstenedione is naturally occurring in all meat as well as in the Scotch Pine tree. It is a metabolite of the hormones DHEA and progesterone, and is a direct hormonal precursor to testosterone. Androstenedione is short-acting, elevating blood testosterone levels without inhibiting the body's natural testosterone production.
Sexually, Androstenedione will be most helpful for men over 50 and for women in the menopausal cycle, because this is when testosterone levels begin to drop. "Testosterone is... 'the hormone of desire,' the substance that acts on the brain to stimulate sexual interest, sensitivity to sexual stimulation and orgasmic ability in both sexes....The most common complaint associated with declining [testosterone] levels is an otherwise unexplainable loss of sexual enjoyment..."
The hard-hitting bat of Mark McGwire with 70 home runs in a single season has put the spotlight on Androstenedione. In an August 1998 interview with Sports Illustrated, McGwire said "the company that supplies me says most of its repeat business is coming from wives and girlfriends who are very satisfied."
Androstenedione is available in spray or capsules. Recommended dosage: For men, one to four sprays (25 mg per spray) per day. For women, up to one spray per day. Capsules typically come in 50mg dosages, which may be too high for women. Women may wish to take only one or two capsules a month. Men who find Androstenedione works for them may take it daily, on an empty stomach at bedtime and/or in the morning or 30 minutes prior to sexual activity.
Long term studies of the effects of this substance have not been done. It is not available in Canada, but is available over the counter at health food stores in the US. Check with the suppliers listed at the end of this article for mail orders.
This powerful aphrodisiac is extracted from West Africa's Corynanthe Yohimbe tree. For centuries, tribes in this region have used a tea made from the inner bark in their fertility rituals. It may help to stimulate erection and enhance libido and increase physical energy in men and women.
"Most of the current medical literature on yohimbe discusses the treatment of male impotence but an impressive body of anecdotal evidence surrounds the use of yohimbe for making good sex even better."
"Occasionally, it causes erections even in the absence of any sexual stimulation."
The tincture form is recommended rather than capsules. Take one-half dropper under the tongue and hold for sixty seconds immediately before sexual activity. This is a powerful substance. We do not recommend daily or prolonged use because of possible side effects. Stay clear if you suffer from high blood pressure, heart, kidney or liver disease.
Yohimbe is available over the counter at health food stores in the US. Check with the suppliers listed at the end of this article for mail orders.
The amino acid arginine is an immune system enhancer and powerful growth hormone stimulant. It plays a role in many body tasks: wound healing, circulation and sexual function.
In response to sexual stimulation, your body releases nitric oxide (NO) in your genitals. This causes the smooth muscles to relax and blood flows into the penis resulting in erection. Both arginine and ginkgo biloba have both been shown to enhance NO levels in your body. "If sufficient NO is not produced, erection or sexual stimulation does not occur. Arginine is absolutely necessary for the production of NO....Some scientists studying these phenomena have concluded that up to 90% of all impotency can be reversed by NO (and by implication, the use of arginine)." The new drug Viagra from Pfizer increases blood flow into the penis, or into the vaginal area for women, but this drug has many known side effects and there were 69 confirmed deaths attributed to Viagra use by the fall of 1998!
Arginine should be taken on an empty stomach. You may use it daily and/or 30 minutes to an hour before sexual activity. Not for use by diabetics, orderline diabetics, pregnant or lactating women, cancer patients or persons who have had ocular or brain herpes. Available in health food stores.
The Ginkgo tree is one of the oldest living species on the planet. It has flourished unchanged for over 150 million years has been used in Chinese medicine for over 5,000 years. The leaves and fruit of the Ginkgo tree contain a variety of phytochemicals that have a wide range of clinically proven benefits. Ginkgo significantly increases blood flow to the brain thereby improving cognitive function, memory, alertness and concentration. It also improves peripheral arterial insufficiency (restriction of blood flow to the legs and other extremities, including the genitals).
"Because it improves circulation, it can help in cases where a man has circulation-related difficulties in getting an erection."
There are no serious side effects with Ginkgo Biloba. It is available at most health food stores. Large doses over a long period of time can result in irritability and headaches, so take no more than 3 grams daily in capsule or tincture form
For years, berries of the saw palmetto plant have been used to treat bladder and prostate conditions. It helps regulate testosterone levels in both women and men, supports healthy prostate function and is a good source of fatty acids. "Many herbalists regard saw palmetto berries as safe, mild aphrodisiacs; ten to twelve can be eaten daily for a cumulative effect. Their potency is increased when they are combined with damiana."
Recommended dosage is 160-320 mg per day of Saw Palmetto. Avoid if pregnant, planning pregnancy or suffering from a disease of the gastrointestinal tract. Available at health food stores.
Zinc is a mineral that may improve sensory and sexual functions as well as boost the immune system, quicken wound healing, and promote skin health. Virtually every man who lives long enough will have a problem with prostate enlargement. A man with prostate irritation will lose most interest in sexual intercourse. Several years ago I began to have prostate discomfort but have completely corrected the problem with a combination of pycnogenol, zinc, and saw palmetto.
Recommended dosage: 50 mg. Daily. High doses may lower HDL cholesterol, cause anemia and weaken immune function. Available at health food stores.
This herb from Mexico has been used by both men and women to enhance and regulate the production of sex hormones. It is considered a potent aphrodisiac. "Chemically this plant has been found to contain several alkaloids that directly stimulate the sex organs... Native Mexican women have long drunk an infusion of the herb a couple of hours before retiring to prime themselves for their men. It is reputed to induce erotic dreams when drunk at bedtime."
Damiana leaves for tea or making tincture, or tincture already prepared, is available at most health food stores.
Found in the Amazon and Orinoco basins of South America, Muira Puama has long been used "to stimulate sensuality, as a sexual enhancer, and as a treatment for impotence and frigidity....[it] appears to be milder and without the side effects of [yohimbe]." It is considered effective in restoring libido and treating erectile dysfunction.
For an aphrodisiac drink, mix 2 ounces each of damiana and muira puama tinctures in your favorite adult punch (20 serving size). Muira puama may or may not be available at your local health food store. In the U.S. it is available in tincture and capsule form. Check with the suppliers listed at the end of this article for mail order.
Natural Progesterone Cream (For Women)
Progesterone plays many roles in the body, one of them is maintaining sex drive. It is particularly important for women in the menopausal cycle. Natural progesterone is identical to what your body produces. It is derived from diosgenin in the wild Mexican yam. Natural progesterones are more biologically active and safer than their unnatural counterparts.
Progesterone is a small fat-soluble molecule, which can be easily absorbed through the skin. It is initially absorbed into the fat layers under the skin, then is diffused into the capillaries where it enters the blood stream as needed. This makes transdermal progesterone 100% bioavailable to the body. In contrast, oral supplementation of progesterone has to be taken in very high dosages to compensate for the almost 90% which will be excreted by the liver.
Use 1/4 to 3/4 teaspoon in the morning, applied to the softer parts of the body (for better absorption). Rotate the application spot on a daily basis. Because natural progesterone is identical to the body's own progesterone there are no known side effects at 20-40 mg/day. Very large dosages can result in feelings of sleepiness. Available by mail order from suppliers listed.
A supplement derived from diosgenin, the Mexican yam extract, pregnenolone is the building block for all other hormones. Produced by the body's adrenal glands, Pregnenolone may be one of our most important hormones because it seems to have a balancing effect in bringing the levels of other hormones up or down as needed. Pregnenolone is a direct precursor of both DHEA and progesterone. Pregnenolone levels dramatically drop after age 30. Research indicates that restoration of Pregnenolone to levels of healthy young adults may have dramatic positive effects on memory, mood and energy, and sexual function. Pregnenolone can be taken once daily in the morning on an empty stomach to mimic the body's normal rhythm. Recommended dosage: 10-100 mg per day. Adjust the dosage to your needs. Safety has been long established-it was used for arthritis treatment back in the 40s at very high doses with no apparent side effects.
It is available at most health food stores and can be ordered via mail.
DHEA (de-hydro-epi-andro-sterone) is a hormone naturally produced by your adrenal glands. It is usually the most abundant adrenal hormone in the body, but with age (or certain disease conditions) the levels drop. Lower levels of DHEA are associated with many of the diseases associated with aging and people with naturally higher levels are found to have lower incidence of some of these diseases (cancer, for example).
In his Wellness Institute Guide to Nutrients Dr. Julian Whitaker notes "I give DHEA to about 80% of my patients over 40 because of its health-enhancing and anti-aging benefits."
Dosage: most people over 25 can take 25 - 50 mg per day in the morning with food. This amount will bring your DHEA levels back up to the normal range for the average 25-year-old. Check with mail order suppliers.
St. John's Wort
This popular supplement has been shown to have antidepressive and antiviral properties. New research shows that St. John's Wort may actually increase serotonin production. I have a tendency to be a little hyperactive. I have never been diagnosed with adult ADD, but I find that taking St. John's Wort 3-4 times per week takes the edge off my being speedy very nicely.
Look for St. John's Wort containing 0.3% standardized hypericin extract. Avoid if pregnant or planning pregnancy. May cause photo-sensitivity so avoid strong sunlight and other sources of ultraviolet light (like "tanning booths") when taking St. John's Wort. Available in most health food stores.
Getting a good nights sleep does wonders for your sex life! Valeriana officinalis, a natural sedative that may be helpful for insomnia, leaves no morning after effects. Take just before going to bed.
Available in tablets or loose tea form at health food stores. High doses may cause paralysis and a weakening of the heartbeat. Like any sedative, may become habit-forming if used for an extended period of time. Avoid if pregnant. Available in most health food stores.
INTERNET and MAIL ORDER SOURCES of Products
Life Extension Foundation:
Vitamin Research Products (VRP): http://www.vrp.com
Aphrodite (Venus in the Roman pantheon)
Natural Progesterone Cream
St. John's Wort
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