A Gentlemen’s Guide to Aphrodisiac Supplements That Actually Work




Content furnished by Examine.com – A compendium of unbiased information on supplements and nutrition. Research compiled by Sol Orwell and Kurtis Frank.

Aphrodisia?

So what’s aphrodisia? Although the more scientific phrase would be libido, aphrodisia is a term used to describe an intense state of sexual desire. Dropping some word etymology on you, the word aphrodisiac is derived from the Greek Goddess of Pleasure, Aphrodite.

You can measure aphrodisia scientifically?

In order to test how effective something is in increasing (or decreasing) aphrodisia, we need some kind of measurement. There are two methods generally used:

  1. In rats (usually, and in this case, male) the drug is given for a few days and then a ‘receptive female’ is placed into the cage. The researchers then count how fast and frequently they copulate by a variety of parameters (mounting, intercourse, ejaculation speed and how long between rounds the rats take). A fun job really.
  2. Since there are ethical problems in doing a double-blind study on humans (as really it would need to be measured through voyeurism), we usually just ask people taking the aphrodisiacs to fill out self-report surveys (How satisfied were you with your sex lately? Did you have sex more frequently? Etc.)

You can then compare the horny rats or self-proclaimed horny humans either to baseline (their activity level before taking aphrodisiacs) or to a control group given placebo.

Yohimbine Plant

Yohimbine Plant

So what works? In humans?

Given the amount of aphrodisiacs in existence (there are a lot – our ancestors were obsessed), only a few have legitimate evidence:

  • Maca1,2,3 works if you keep taking it (one dose won’t do anything, one dose for 30 days will)
  • Yohimbine4 works on an as-needed basis. Yohimbine is commonly used as a fat burner, so it does raise your heart rate.
  • Fenugreek5
  • Some convenient evidence for Eurycoma Longifolia Jack, aka Malaysian Ginseng or Tongkat Ali. I say convenient as there is evidence, but it’s all from people involved with the sale of the herb. It’s also expensive.

On the flip side, while popular, there is no evidence that either DHEA supplementation6,7,8 nor Velvet Antler9 (of Mr Ray Lewis fame) work.

There isn’t a lot of human evidence. I guess most of it is going to more important stuff, like cancer or cardiovascular disease. That being said, rat studies are cheap and account for almost all of the actual research conducted.

Let’s use Tribulus Terrestris is the reference compound – it’s (by far) the most popular aphrodisiac and ‘testosterone booster’ on the market:

  • Tribulus increases mounting frequency by 24-27% and Intromission frequency (how frequently the female rat gets just the tip) by 19-22%10

Does ~25% increase sound good? Not for rats. The most potent aphrodisiacs in Examine’s database currently are:

  • Pedalium Murex, a berry that actually looks like tribulus, increased mounting frequency by 125%. Even better, it actually boosted testosterone as well11
  • Toothache plant increased mounting frequency 110% and intromission frequency 350% with an increase in the Penile Erection Index (how rigid the rat’s boner is; it’s something you get the undergraduate students to measure) by 202%12
  • Paederia Foetida increased mount frequency by 231% and intromissions by 222%13
  • Anacyclus Pyrethrum increased mount frequency up 165% intromissions up 213%14
  • Bulbine Natalensis, with one study had it outperforming Viagra when it came to aphrodisia (but not with the Penile Erection Index)15

These need human studies performed – they were 5-10x better than tribulus. Imagine a boner 200% more rigid?

A lot of those are testosterone boosters, no?

Yes, actually. There are two reasons for this:

  • Testosterone itself positively influences libido in both sexes,16,17 and anything that significantly boosts testosterone will then induce aphrodisia more frequently and stronger.
  • You can spike a supplement with aphrodisiacs that actually don’t influence testosterone, and people will buy them because “It must be working, I feel horny”

Interestingly, for the aphrodisiacs that do work in humans the majority of them do not influence testosterone. Fenugreek, Maca, Eurycoma (this one is really debatable) and Yohimbine do not influence testosterone while Muira Puama just hasn’t been looked at. Tribulus Terrestris, the most popular ‘testosterone booster’ has repeatedly failed to influence testosterone in humans.18,19,20

Conversely, the 5 more powerful aphrodisiacs mentioned in animals all increased testosterone levels (with Bulbine Natalensis being fairly potent). Most likely these have both direct aphrodisiac effects and indirect via increasing testosterone (to explain their potency). It would be akin to taking Fenugreek while on a really small cycle of testosterone.

So although there is definitely a link and more testosterone is better, it would be incorrect to say something that makes you horny increases testosterone. Even placebos can make you horny, but they won’t increase your serum testosterone.

Is that all there is to aphrodisiacs, rat sex?

Practically speaking, no. Humans are more complex than rats, and while the above aphrodisiacs can get your libido going, other things can get in the way.

Firstly (this is for the men), if you do not normally wake up with morning wood then your circulation probably sucks. Increasing circulation will allow more blood to get to your junk when you need it to be there, and why some of the most recent erectile dysfunction ‘fixing’ agents, rather than a quick-fix like Viagra, are blood flow enhancers (L-Carnitine, Pycnogenol and Grape Seed Extract, Arginine and Citrulline).

For those who are unaware, the outside of an erection is soft tissue and noncontractile (similar to your liver or spleen) whereas the contractile part is inside; when contracted, it prevents blood flow to the penis and thus prevents an erection. When relaxed, blood flow is normalized between the penis and the rest of the body. This is why an erect penis is paradoxically relaxed, and why your junk might get harder during sex (adrenaline raises blood pressure, which means more pressure in your junk).

Another thing preventing some people from fulfilling their most wild and potentially questionable desires is anxiety. There are two go-to reference compounds for reducing anxiety: Kava Kava extract (which is definitely proven to reduce anxiety) and alcohol (a popular choice). Interestingly, Kava Kava has a history in which it was brewed as a drink and consumed to reduce anxiety and induce hallucinations. It’s basically herbal alcohol (complete with the chance of liver toxicity, yay!).

Beyond that, almost anything with the tag of ‘Adaptogen’ reduces anxiety; Panax Ginseng and Ashwagandha are definitely the most popular (the latter being somewhat questionable21), and at least one study suggests that Ashwagandha is synergistic with alcohol.22

In the end, you need to make sure you have the desire, can get it up, and then keep it up.

So what’s the ultimate aphrodisiac combination?

  1. Assuming you have a healthy diet and exercise routine (since that itself does wonders for sexuality) consider either a Maca and Fenugreek combo (if you want evidence proven in humans) or go with one of those 5 potent animal study herbs if you’re experimental. Regardless of your choice, you can use yohimbine on an as needed basis 30-45 minutes before sexual activity (assuming you do not have anxiety issues and are not using any anti-depressive or anti-psychotic medication)
  2. Men, if you have a bad heart and poor circulation (if you do not have morning wood or if masturbating leaves you out of breath) then get something to aid in circulation. A combination of Pycnogenol or Grape Seed Extract (they are basically the same thing, no need to take both) paired with Citrulline (Arginine if you’re cheap) will help with circulation, and you can take it with a water extract of Terminalia Arjuna for the heart (optional). This information will benefit, but is not as important, for women.
  3. Both genders, if you have sex-related anxiety then either take Kava Kava or chase some Ashwagandha with a few shots. Pairing Kava Kava and Alcohol will definitely work, but try to seek out an extract of Kava Kava known as WS-1490 (whatever the heck causes liver problems in Kava Kava, it is most likely not in this extract).

If you hit all three bullets and said “Damn, this is going to be expensive” then just use the cardiac support for now and see a doctor; if you’re lucky (or not?), then you’re low in testosterone and can get some replacement therapy.

As for what to eat before activity? Just have something that doesn’t make you feel grotesque.

The diet-aphrodisia interaction is all in the head, even oysters have no evidence to support their placebo aphrodisiac effect.

References

  1. Stone M, et al. A pilot investigation into the effect of maca supplementation on physical activity and sexual desire in sportsmen. J Ethnopharmacol. (2009)
  2. Gonzales GF, et al. Effect of Lepidium meyenii (MACA) on sexual desire and its absent relationship with serum testosterone levels in adult healthy men. Andrologia. (2002)
  3. Dording CM, et al. A double-blind, randomized, pilot dose-finding study of maca root (L. meyenii) for the management of SSRI-induced sexual dysfunction. CNS Neurosci Ther. (2008)
  4. Jacobsen FM. Fluoxetine-induced sexual dysfunction and an open trial of yohimbine. J Clin Psychiatry. (1992)
  5. Steels E, Rao A, Vitetta L. Physiological Aspects of Male Libido Enhanced by Standardized Trigonella foenum-graecum Extract and Mineral Formulation. Phytother Res. (2011)
  6. Morales A, et al. Androgens and sexual function: a placebo-controlled, randomized, double-blind study of testosterone vs. dehydroepiandrosterone in men with sexual dysfunction and androgen deficiency. Aging Male. (2009)
  7. Kritz-Silverstein D, et al. Effects of dehydroepiandrosterone supplementation on cognitive function and quality of life: the DHEA and Well-Ness (DAWN) Trial. J Am Geriatr Soc. (2008)
  8. Dayal M, et al. Supplementation with DHEA: effect on muscle size, strength, quality of life, and lipids. J Womens Health (Larchmt). (2005)
  9. Conaglen HM, Suttie JM, Conaglen JV. Effect of deer velvet on sexual function in men and their partners: a double-blind, placebo-controlled study. Arch Sex Behav. (2003)
  10. Gauthaman K, Ganesan AP, Prasad RN. Sexual effects of puncturevine (Tribulus terrestris) extract (protodioscin): an evaluation using a rat model. J Altern Complement Med. (2003)
  11. Sharma V, Thakur M, Dixit VK. A comparative study of ethanolic extracts of Pedalium murex Linn. fruits and sildenafil citrate on sexual behaviors and serum testosterone level in male rats during and after treatment. J Ethnopharmacol. (2012)
  12. Sharma V, et al. Spilanthes acmella ethanolic flower extract: LC-MS alkylamide profiling and its effects on sexual behavior in male rats. Phytomedicine. (2011)
  13. Devendra K. Soni, et al. Effect of ethanolic extract of Paederia foetida Linn. leaves on sexual behavior and spermatogenesis in male rats. Journal of Men’s Health. (2012)
  14. Vikas Sharma, et al. Evaluation of the Anabolic, Aphrodisiac and Reproductive Activity of Anacyclus Pyrethrum DC in Male Rats. Scientia Pharmaceutica. (2008)
  15. Yakubu MT, Afolayan AJ. Effect of aqueous extract of Bulbine natalensis (Baker) stem on the sexual behaviour of male rats. Int J Androl. (2009)
  16. Travison TG, et al. The relationship between libido and testosterone levels in aging men. J Clin Endocrinol Metab. (2006)
  17. Nathorst-Bas J, et al. Treatment with percutanous testosterone gel in postmenopausal women with decreased libido–effects on sexuality and psychological general well-being. Maturitas. (2006)
  18. Rogerson S, et al. The effect of five weeks of Tribulus terrestris supplementation on muscle strength and body composition during preseason training in elite rugby league players. J Strength Cond Res. (2007)
  19. Neychev VK, Mitev VI. The aphrodisiac herb Tribulus terrestris does not influence the androgen production in young men. J Ethnopharmacol. (2005)
  20. Saudan C, et al. Short term impact of Tribulus terrestris intake on doping control analysis of endogenous steroids. Forensic Sci Int. (2008)
  21. Mamidi P, Thakar AB. Efficacy of Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera Dunal. Linn.) in the management of psychogenic erectile dysfunction. Ayu. (2011)
  22. Gupta GL, Rana AC. Effect of Withania somnifera Dunal in ethanol-induced anxiolysis and withdrawal anxiety in rats. Indian J Exp Biol. (2008)

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