Prof. Dr.Rajan Bhonsle, M.D.
Centuries ago, people believed that aphrodisiacs had magical powers to open the gates of divine sexual pleasures and fantasies. In almost every corner of the world people still use aphrodisiacs to rev up their sex lives. All kinds of common and peculiar foods, beverages, drugs, magical potions, and chemical concoctions have been tried as aphrodisiacs to enhance sexual pleasure, energy and drive.
Named after ‘Aphrodite’, the Greek goddess of love, beauty and fertility, ‘aphrodisiacs’ are substances that supposedly induce or boost sexual desire. Several herbs, chemicals, plants, drugs, foodstuffs, and other substances are claimed to have positive effects on the human sexual function. However, there is no scientific evidence to back this up. Also, many so-called aphrodisiacs can be potentially toxic and thus harmful. It is absolutely not advisable to try anything without scrupulously researching it first.
From asparagus to zebra tongue
Some of the popular foodstuff that people have consumed as aphrodisiacs includes oysters, bananas, asparagus, carrots, avocados, etc. People have traditionally endowed them with aphrodisiacal properties probably because of their resemblance to sexual organs. Garlic is another widely accepted stimulant. So are nutmeg and almond. According to stories, application of almond paste awakened passion in a female, just as the scent and flavour of vanilla increased lust.
Chocolate is universally appreciated as an aphrodisiac. Two chemicals in chocolate, serotonin and phenyl ethylamine, are believed to create feelings of ecstasy and unbridled bliss.
Ancient tradition and mythology
In 19th century France, bridegrooms were served three courses of asparagus at their prenuptial dinner. The Aztecs referred to the avocado tree as the ‘testicle tree’ and in Spain, Catholic priests forbade its consumption. Cleopatra, known for her beauty and amorous exploits, used aphrodisiacs like cardamom, figs, aromatherapy and pearls to enhance her sexual prowess.
In India, musk has long been believed to be a stimulating agent. In Ayurveda, shilajit, the sap of minerals derived from the asphalt rock formations in the Himalayas, is claimed to work like an aphrodisiac. Milk with a hint of saffron is drunk even today on the wedding night to supposedly set the libido on fire.
There are other more prized and deadly aphrodisiacs. For instance, rhinoceros horns are used in many cultures to perk up sexual performance. Zebra tongue and tiger penis are believed to boost your masochism.
They can be dangerous
However, the most famous and potent aphrodisiac of all is considered to be Spanish Fly, made of ground-up beetle. When consumed, Spanish Fly is supposed to create an inimitable state of euphoria. Spanish Fly makes the blood vessels around a woman’s genitals dilate and throb, giving her the false sensation of sexual arousal. Taken internally, it causes inflammation and irritation of the urinary tract, which could result in permanent damage to her urinary system. Luckily it is not available anywhere in India, only in fake products.
Yohimbine chloride – a standardised form of Yohimbine, one of the few drugs approved in the US for treatment of impotence, is found to be useful only in some cases of erectile dysfunction. Controlled studies in USA suggest that it is not always an effective treatment for impotence, and evidence of so-called increased sex drive is purely anecdotal.
Very effective drugs like Sildenafil citrate (Viagra) and Tadalafil (Forzest) are now available in India. These drugs also can’t bring about ‘artificial’ erection in a flaccid penis. These drugs are useless in those who have difficulty in getting an erection. They absolutely do not enhance libido or induce sexual desire. They help only those who get an erection ‘on their own’ but can’t sustain it long enough to perform satisfactory sexual intercourse. It is absolutely not advisable to take these drugs without proper prescription from a qualified specialist.
No such thing as an aphrodisiac
Aphrodisiacs don’t perform miracles. Actually they don’t perform at all, because there is no such thing as an aphrodisiac.
Although countless studies are being done the world over about aphrodisiacs and their effect, nobody has been able to prove successfully that aphrodisiacs stimulate sexual desire in human beings. No scientific confirmations have been made yet about chemicals permeating the hypothalamic region of the brain. It is the hypothalamus, a complex region in the brain, that controls sexual desire. Thus, it’s wrong to claim that aphrodisiacs work as stimulants and can increase your libido or solve all your sexual inadequacies.
Related reading: Hints to drop to your man to have great sex
The placebo effect
Regardless of whether or not aphrodisiacs work on the body, the power of ‘suggestion’, psychologically, is the key. If someone believes that using a particular substance, alleged aphrodisiac or not, will help enhance his or her sex life, then it can help bring about sexual desire and arousal, at least in the short term. However, this is more psychogenic and a self-suggestion, and the substance merely works as a placebo. Of course, a well-rested body, adequate time, privacy, a conducive environment, confidence in your contraception, a relaxed state of mind, and attraction for the partner may do exactly the same thing.
‘Love is the greatest aphrodisiac’ that never fails, and that has been proven time and time again. What drugs cannot do, love can do. ‘True love’ is the most powerful stimulant and aphrodisiac. If the couple does not feel for each other, they could consume all the world’s oysters, tiger penis or Spanish Fly, but it will be in vain.
Related reading: When it is the question of a happy sex life, it takes two to tango
Health is the most helpful
The second most important aphrodisiac is your health. If you are in good health, with no high blood pressure, high cholesterol or other diseases, and you are relaxed, you can lead a healthy sexual life. Then you don’t need an artificial agent to get aroused. You cannot isolate sexual health from the rest of your body.
A question people frequently ask me is, “Doctor, which is the best diet for sex?” And I often tell my patients that what is good for your heart is also good for your penis.
Don’t trust those ads
Large numbers of ads on aphrodisiacs appear in small, regional vernacular papers, all of them desperately wooing customers with promises of sexual bliss, paid for by fraudulent companies making cheap drugs, unscrupulous medical practitioners, quacks and others. After reading them, people come to me for advice. They’re shocked when I debunk aphrodisiacs and tell them something as simple as ‘good health’ ensures good sexual life. Eat the right food and lead a healthy lifestyle, and you will be naturally stimulated when have to be. Sexual desire or drive cannot be induced with the help of an outside agent; it has to come from within.