Although aphrodisiacs are based more on cultural myths than fact, their allure continues to this day, as people still experiment with them to pep up their sex lives.
Throughout history, people all over the world have tried certain foods, beverages, drugs, and chemicals in the hopes of being bestowed some magical aphrodisiac powers. The fact that some look similar to men's and women's genitals, or are even derived from animal sex organs, was no accident. Named after Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of love, beauty, and fertility, aphrodisiacs are substances that supposedly elicit sexual desire and arousal, enhance sex drive and sexual "performance," and extend sexual energy.
The most famous reputed aphrodisiac of all is Spanish Fly. Made from ground-up beetles of the Lytta vesicatoria species. Its active ingredient, cantharidin, irritates the bladder and urethra, causing increased blood flow to the genitals and sensations of warmth there, but can permanently scar urethral tissue and infect the genitourinary tract. It may lead to an abnormally prolonged or constant erection (priapism) or an engorged vulva and vagina, both of which are often painful. Spanish Fly can be poisonous or even fatal with prolonged use.
The following have been believed to be aphrodisiacs at one time or another:
Oysters and clams. Other seafood resembling sex organs are also often thought to be aphrodisiacs.
Ground rhinoceros horn. The term "horny" was apparently coined from this "sexual enhancer."
Bananas, celery, asparagus. Also other phallic foods Honey. It's reminiscent of sweet vaginal fluid.
Strawberries and champagne
Chillies, curries, and other spices and spicy foods. They make the heart beat faster and produce perspiration, which commonly occur during sex.
Raw bull's testicles
Yohimbine - an extract from the bark of the West African yohimbe tree
Although more human research is needed, results from animal studies indicate that it may have the potential to be particularly helpful for men who have difficulties maintaining an erection. It's not as likely to enhance sexual arousal or desire.
According to a review by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), however, no purported aphrodisiac has been scientifically proven to be effective at meeting its claims. In fact, as in the case of Spanish Fly, some can be harmful and even potentially dangerous. It's also important to remember that, because aphrodisiacs, similar to other herbal supplements, are not regulated by the FDA, it can be hard to know exactly what you're getting when you pick up a bottle of "liquid love/lust" from your local sex shop. If you do decide to give store-bought aphrodisiacs a try, make sure you know enough about all the ingredients and buy from a company with which others have had good experience.
Sometimes drugs are used as aphrodisiacs. Alcohol, marijuana, cocaine, amphetamines, and barbiturates, for example, help reduce or remove inhibitions and/or produce pleasurable feelings and sensations that could lead one to feel sexually aroused. However, instead of this intended outcome, decreased or no sexual response and functioning could occur, often when taking moderate or larger amounts, or from long-term usage. Dependency and other more serious harms can also result. In addition, people's judgment is often impaired, leaving them more vulnerable to sexual assault, as the recipient or perpetrator.
Another drug, amyl nitrate (aka "poppers"), apparently intensifies and prolongs sensations of orgasm, probably by increasing blood flow to the genitals and distorting time perception. But, it can also cause dizziness, severe headaches, unconsciousness, and a drop in blood pressure that could become dangerous.
Regardless of whether or not aphrodisiacs work, the power of suggestion, psychologically and emotionally, is key. If one believes using any particular substance, alleged aphrodisiac or not, will help enhance his or her sex life, and s/he is receptive to that longing, then it can help bring about sexual desire and arousal, at least in the short-term. Of course, a good night's sleep, time, privacy, confidence in your contraception, self-confidence, and a turned-on partner may do the same thing.
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