An aphrodisiac is an agent which is used in the belief that it increases sexual desire. [ [http://www.thefreedictionary.com/aphrodisiac Definition at thefreedictionary.com] ] The name comes from "Aphrodite", the Greek goddess of sensuality.Throughout history, many foods, drinks, and behaviors have had a reputation for making sex more attainable and/or pleasurable. However, from a historical and scientific standpoint, the alleged results may have been mainly due to mere belief by their users that they would be effective (i.e., the placebo effect). In particular, medical science has not substantiated claims that any particular food increases sexual desire or performance. [ [http://www.fda.gov/fdac/features/196_love.html Article on aphrodisiacs at the US Food and Drugs Administration website] .]

Some aphrodisiacs gain their reputation from the principles of sympathetic magic, for example oysters, due to their shape. The same factor explains the trade in the phallic-looking horn of the rhinoceros, a trade which is seriously endangering the animal. Other animal-based aphrodisiacs gain their reputation from the apparent virility or aggressiveness of the animal source, such as tiger penis (a reputation which is similarly endangering to that species).

Aphrodisiac drugs


Libido is clearly linked to levels of sex hormones, particularly testosterone. [cite journal |title=The effects of testosterone on the cavernous tissue and erectile function |author=R. Shabsigh| date=1997|journal=World J. Urol| accessdate=2007-07-11| pmid=9066090 | volume = 15 | pages = 21 | doi = 10.1007/BF01275152] When a reduced sex drive occurs in individuals with relatively low levels of testosterone [cite journal|title=Transdermal testosterone therapy improves well-being, mood, and sexual function in premenopausal women.|first=Rebecca |last=Goldstat| coauthors=Esther Briganti, Jane Tran, Rory Wolfe, Susan R. Davis|journal= Menopause|volume=10|issue=5| pages=390–8 |date=September 2003 |accessdate=2007-07-11|pmid=14501599|doi=10.1097/01.GME.0000060256.03945.20] (e.g., post-menopausal women or men over age 60 [cite journal| title=Dose-dependent effects of testosterone on sexual function, mood, and visuospatial cognition in older men |date=2005| journal=J Clin Endocrinol Metab.| first=P.B. |last=Gray| coauthors=A.B. Singh, L.J. Woodhouse, T.W. Storer, R. Casaburi, J. Dzekov, C. Dzekov, I. Sinha-Hikim, S. Bhasin|pmid=15827094| accessdate=2007-07-11] ), testosterone supplements will often increase libido. Approaches using a number of precursors intended to raise testosterone levels have been effective in older males, [cite journal| title=Effects of androstenedione-herbal supplementation on serum sex hormone concentrations in 30- to 59-year-old men| accessdate=2007-07-11| pmid=11725694| first=G.A. |last=Brown| coauthors=Vukovich MD, Martini ER, Kohut ML, Franke WD, Jackson DA, King DS.|date=2001|journal=Int J Vitam Nutr Res] but have not fared well when tested on other groups. [cite journal| title=Effects of anabolic precursors on serum testosterone concentrations and adaptations to resistance training in young men.| accessdate=2007-07-11| first=G.A. |last=Brown| coauthors=Vukovich MD, Reifenrath TA, Uhl NL, Parsons KA, Sharp RL, King DS.|date=2000| journal=Int J Sport Nutr Exerc Metab |pmid=10997957] Other anabolic steroids such as trenbolone which mimic the effects of testosterone may also cause increased libido in users, although side effects such as testicular atrophy are likely to decrease libido, possibly permanently, following prolonged use of these hormones.


Yohimbine is the main alkaloid of "Yohimbe". Yohimbe, but not Yohimbine, is often popularly referred to as a "weak MAO inhibitor" although no sources are cited for this. Pharmaceutical preparations of yohimbine do not indicate that the drug, which is approved in the US for treatment of impotence (under such brand names as Yocon,Yohimex, Aphrodyne and Viritab), is an MAO inhibitor. Its main action is as a alpha-adrenergic antagonist, by which yohimbine may increase genital bloodflow and both sexual sensitivity and excitation in some people. Preparations of yohimbe bark are available over-the-counter and should be used with caution. The unrefined yohimbe bark contains several active alkaloids besides yohimbine. Side effects can include rapid pulse, sweating, and anxiety reactions in susceptible people. Pharmaceutical preparations of yohimbine can also produce these side effects at higher doses, but are available in standardized doses which allow the patient to dose in a controlled fashion. Some patients report a cumulative prosexual effect using the drug over time. [cite journal| accessdate=2007-07-11| date=2007| journal=Asian J Androl| title=Yohimbine in the treatment of orgasmic dysfunction| pmid=17486282 |first=A.A. |last=Adeniyi| coauthors=Brindley GS, Pryor JP, Ralph DJ.| doi=10.1111/J.1745-7262.2007.00276.x| volume=9| pages=403] [cite journal|accessdate=2007-07-11|title=Pharmacotherapy of erectile dysfunction. |journal=Urologiia|date=2000 |pmid=16856460| last=Kovalev| first=V.A. |coauthors=Koroleva SV, Kamalov AA.]


Compounds that activate the melanocortin receptors MC3-R and MC4-R in the brain are the first class of actually effective and selective aphrodisiac drugs. One compound from this class, bremelanotide, formerly known as PT-141, was undergoing clinical trials for the treatment of sexual arousal disorder and erectile dysfunction. It was intended for both men and women. Preliminary results proved the efficacy of this drug [cite journal|title=Melanocortin receptors, melanotropic peptides and penile erection.| journal=Curr Top Med Chem.|date=2007 |first=S.H. |last=King| coauthors=Mayorov AV, Balse-Srinivasan P, Hruby VJ, Vanderah TW, Wessells H.| pmid=17584130| accessdate=2007-07-11] , but the development was discontinued due to its side effect of increasing blood pressureCite web|url=http://palatin.com/news/news.asp?ID=201|title=Palatin Technologies Announces New Strategic Objectives|accessdate=2008-05-13] . The related compound PL-6983 will now be developed instead.


There is some debate in lay circles as to whether a chemical called phenylethylamine present in chocolate is an aphrodisiac. There is some evidence to support the theory that phenethylamine release in the brain may be involved in sexual attraction and arousalFact|date=December 2007, but this compound is quickly degraded by the enzyme MAO and so it is unlikely that any significant concentrations would reach the brain when phenethylamine is taken orally.

Other drugs

Stimulants affecting the dopamine system such as cocaine and amphetamines (e.g. methamphetamine, aka crystal meth) are frequently associated with hyperarousal and hypersexuality, though both may impair sexual functioning, particularly with long term use. A newer dopamine reuptake inhibitor MDPV has also been noted to have characteristic hypersexual effects.

Some directly acting dopamine agonists may also cause increased libido, although they can also cause various side effects. Pramipexole is the only dopamine agonist used in medicine as an aphrodisiac, and is sometimes prescribed to counteract the decrease in libido associated with SSRI antidepressant drugs. The older dopamine agonist apomorphine has been used for the treatment of erectile dysfunction, but is of poor efficacy and has a tendency to cause nausea. Other dopamine agonists such as bromocriptine and cabergoline may also be associated with increased libido, as can the dopamine precursor L-Dopa, but this is often part of a spectrum of side effects which can include mood swings and problem gambling and so these drugs are not prescribed for this purpose.

Drugs not considered aphrodisiacs

Some psychoactive substances such as alcohol, cannabis, [cite web | publisher = Mark Henderson, The Times | url = http://cannabisnews.com/news/8/thread8414.shtml | title = Cannabis Puts Females in the Mood for Love | date= 2001-01-29 |accessdate = 23 August | accessyear = 2007] methaqualone, GHB and MDMA can increase libido and sexual desire. However these drugs are not aphrodisiacs in the strict sense of the definition, as they do not consistently produce aphrodisiac effects as their main action. However, these drugs are sometimes used to increase sexual pleasure and to reduce sexual inhibition.

Anti-erectile dysfunction drugs, such as Viagra and Levitra, are not considered aphrodisiacs because they do not have any direct effect on the brain, although increased ability to attain an erection may be interpreted as increased sexual arousal by users of these drugs.

Aphrodisiac foods and herbs

Some natural items purported to be aphrodisiacs when ingested, or applied to the body.

* Arugula (Rocket) ("Eruca sativa")
* "Atta laevigata"
* Balut
* Borojo ("Borojoa patinoi")
* Chocolate
* Damiana ("Turnera diffusa")
* "Epimedium grandiflorum" (Horny Goat Weed) [cite web
title=Epimedium grandiflorum
* "Eurycoma longifolia" [cite journal|accessdate=2007-07-12| title=Eurycoma longifolia Jack enhances libido in sexually experienced male rats. |first=H.H. |last=Ang |coauthors=M.K. Sim| date=1997| journal=Exp Anim. |pmid=9353636] [cite journal| title=Sexual arousal in sexually sluggish old male rats after oral administration of Eurycoma longifolia Jack.| accessdate=2007-07-12| first=H.H.| last=Ang |coauthors=Lee KL, Kiyoshi M.|date=2004| journal=J Basic Clin Physiol Pharmacol.| pmid=15803965]
* "Ginkgo biloba" [cite journal|title=Nutrients and botanicals for erectile dysfunction: examining the evidence.|accessdate=2007-07-12| date=2004| journal=Altern Med Rev.| first=D.|last=McKay| pmid=15005641] [cite journal| title=Ginkgo biloba for antidepressant-induced sexual dysfunction.|accessdate=2007-07-12|date=1998| journal=J Sex Marital Ther.|first=A.J.|last=Cohen| coauthors=Bartlik B.| pmid=9611693]
* Ginseng [cite journal| accessdate=2007-07-12|date=October 2001| title=Aphrodisiacs past and present: a historical review.|first=P.| journal=Clin Auton Res.|volume=11|issue=5|pages=303–7. |last=Sandroni|pmid=11758796| doi=10.1007/BF02332975] [cite journal|title=Ginseng, sex behavior, and nitric oxide.|accessdate=2007-07-12|date=2002| journal=Ann N Y Acad Sci.| first=L.L. |last=Murphy| coauthors=Lee TJ.| pmid=12076988] [cite web
title=Single Plant Activity Query
* Kelp
* Maca [cite journal|title=Effect of Lepidium meyenii (Maca), a root with aphrodisiac and fertility-enhancing properties, on serum reproductive hormone levels in adult healthy men. | accessdate=2007-07-12| first=G.F. |last=Gonzales |coauthors=Córdova A, Vega K, Chung A, Villena A, Góñez C.| date=2003| journal=J Endocrinol.| pmid=12525260] [cite journal|title=Effect of Lepidium meyenii (MACA) on sexual desire and its absent relationship with serum testosterone levels in adult healthy men.|accessdate=2007-07-12|first=G.F. |last=Gonzales |coauthors=Córdova A, Vega K, Chung A, Villena A, Góñez C, Castillo S.| date=2002| journal=Andrologia. |pmid=12472620]
* "Mucuna pruriens"Amin KMY, Khan MN, Zillur-Rehman S, et al. (1996) [http://cat.inist.fr/?aModele=afficheN&cpsidt=3027853 "Sexual function improving effect of Mucuna pruriens in sexually normal male rats"] . "Fitoterapia", jrg.67 (nr.1): pp. 53-58. Quote: "The seeds of "M. pruriens" are widely used for treating male sexual dysfunction in Tibb-e-Unani (Unani Medicine)]
* Onion
* Oysters
* "Socratea exorrhiza"
* Spanish fly (cantharidin) [cite journal| title=Poisoning from "Spanish fly" (cantharidin).| accessdate=2007-07-12| date=1996| journal=Am J Emerg Med.|first=D.J.|last=Karras |pmid=8765116| coauthors=Farrell SE, Harrigan RA, Henretig FM, Gealt L.]
* "Tribulus terrestris" [cite journal|title=Sexual effects of puncturevine (Tribulus terrestris) extract (protodioscin): an evaluation using a rat model.|accessdate=2007-07-11|date=2003|first=K. |last=Gauthaman |coauthors=A.P. Ganesan, R.N. Prasad.| journal=J Altern Complement Med.| pmid=12804079|doi=10.1089/10755530360623374|volume=9|pages=257] [cite journal|title=Aphrodisiac properties of Tribulus Terrestris extract (Protodioscin) in normal and castrated rats.|date=2002 | journal=Life Sci.| first=K. |last=Gauthaman |coauthors=P.G. Adaikan, R.N. Prasad. |pmid=12127159 |accessdate=2007-07-11] [cite journal|title=The aphrodisiac herb Tribulus terrestris does not influence androgen production in young men.|accessdate=2007-07-11|date=2005| journal= J Ethnopharmacol.| pmid=15994038| first=V.K. |last=Neychev | coauthors=V.I. Mitev]
* Yohimbine

Some newly introduced exotic foods often acquire such a reputation, at least until they become more familiar; for example:

* Artichokes
* Asparagus
* Strawberries
* Tomatoes (allegedly to the French term "pomme d'amour" as a misrendering of "pomme de Maure")Fact|date=September 2008
* Truffles
* Turtle eggs
* Mussels
* Mamey sapote Fact|date=December 2007

External links and references

* [http://homecooking.about.com/od/holidayandpartyrecipes/a/aphrodisiacs.htm Aphrodisiac Foods of Love - Cooking with Aphrodisiacs]
* Gabriele Froböse, Rolf Froböse, Michael Gross (Translator): "Lust and Love: Is it more than Chemistry?" Publisher: Royal Society of Chemistry, ISBN 0-85404-867-7, (2006).
* [http://www.aphrodisiology.com Aphrodisiology] A collection of articles and essays on aphrodisiacs.


See also

* Anaphrodisiac

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  • aphrodisiac — [af΄rə dē′zē ak΄, af΄rədiz′ēak΄] adj. [Gr aphrodisiakos, ult. < APHRODITE] arousing or increasing sexual desire n. any aphrodisiac drug or other agent …   English World dictionary

  • Aphrodisiac — Aph ro*dis i*ac, Aphrodisiacal Aph ro*di*si a*cal, a. [Gr. ? pertaining to sensual love, fr. ?. See {Aphrodite}.] Exciting venereal desire; stimulating the desire for sexual gratification. [1913 Webster +PJC] …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • Aphrodisiac — Aph ro*dis i*ac, n. That which (as a drug, or some kinds of food) stimulate sexual desire. [1913 Webster +PJC] …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • aphrodisiac — (n.) 1719, from Gk. aphrodisiakos inducing sexual desire, from aphrodisios, pertaining to APHRODITE (Cf. Aphrodite); sexual pleasure; a temple of Aphrodite, Greek goddess of love and beauty. As an adjective from 1830 (earlier was aphrodisical,… …   Etymology dictionary

  • aphrodisiac — *erotic, amatory, amorous Antonyms: anaphrodisiac …   New Dictionary of Synonyms

  • aphrodisiac — [n/adj] seductive; inducing sex amative, amatory, amorous, erotic, love drug, popper*, Spanish fly*, turn on*, wampole*; concepts 372,537 …   New thesaurus

  • aphrodisiac — ► NOUN ▪ a food, drink, or drug that arouses sexual desire. ORIGIN Greek aphrodisiakos, from Aphrodite, the goddess of love …   English terms dictionary

  • aphrodisiac — /af reuh dee ze ak , diz ee ak /, adj. 1. Also, aphrodisiacal /af reuh deuh zuy euh keuhl, suy /. arousing sexual desire. n. 2. an aphrodisiac food, drug, potion, or other agent that arouses sexual desire. [1710 20; < Gk aphrodisiakós relating to …   Universalium

  • aphrodisiac — [[t]æ̱frədɪ̱ziæk[/t]] aphrodisiacs N COUNT An aphrodisiac is a food, drink, or drug which is said to make people want to have sex. Asparagus is reputed to be an aphrodisiac. ADJ GRADED Aphrodisiac is also an adjective. ...plants with narcotic or… …   English dictionary

  • aphrodisiac — UK [ˌæfrəˈdɪzɪæk] / US [ˌæfrəˈdɪzɪˌæk] noun [countable] Word forms aphrodisiac : singular aphrodisiac plural aphrodisiacs a food, drink, or drug that makes people want to have sex Derived word: aphrodisiac UK / US adjective …   English dictionary

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