Is there something like a perfect aphrodisiac? The number 1 herb that will enable ever-enduring boners, zero refractory period and out-of-control libido?
Here are my current thoughts on this topic.
Before pharma drugs were invented (drugs like PT-141, viagra, apomorphine, etc.) people used naturally found things of plant and animal origin to boost their libido, vigor, stamina, etc.
Since travel wasn’t as sophisticated as now, you couldn’t just order a multi-herb libido booster on Amazon. You had to use what was locally available to you. If you lived in Bulgaria, you had Tribulus, if you lived in Nigeria, you had Fadogia and so on.
How aphrodisiacs work
Aphrodisiacs work through a variety of different mechanisms and most of them work via unidentified mechanisms. Common pathways include upregulation of nitric oxide (NO) production, being an anti-oxidant, increasing DHEA, testosterone, DHT and dopamine, lowering prolactin, cortisol and estrogen, etc.
Some aphrodisiacs increase testosterone whereas others don’t. A common example is Tongkat Ali vs maca. Tongkat Alit has been shown to increase testosterone and dopamine and boost libido and sexual function. Maca doesn’t increase testosterone, but works as a good adaptogen and stimulates the dopamine and noradrenaline pathway and has cannabimimetic effects (R, R).
Just because something doesn’t increase testosterone doesn’t mean it’s not a good libido and sexual booster.
In general, something that increases NO, DHEA, DHT, testosterone, dopamine and noradrenaline and lowers estrogen, prolactin and cortisol should be effective.
Herbs that stimulate the release of endorphins, as well as bind to opioid receptors, can enhance pleasure.
Herbs that increase serotonin and GABA will mostly have inhibitory effects on libido.
Tribulus Terrestris – indigenous to Southern Europe, Southern Asia, Australia, and Africa (most important is the saponins, specifically protodioscin). The best source is from Bulgaria.
Fenugreek – indigenous Iran to the North of India (It doesn’t increase prolactin or lower DHT as commonly thought).
Fadogia Agrestis – Nigeria.
Tongkat Ali – Indonesia, Malaysia, and to a lesser extent, Thailand, Vietnam, and Laos.
Butea Superba – Native to India and mainland Southeast Asia.
Bulbine Natalensis – South Africa.
Horny goat weed – China
Panax ginseng – China
Cistanche – Found in the desert areas in the Mediterranean region, North Africa, the Middle East to China.
Kanna – South Africa
Safed Musli – India
Mondia whitei – Sub-Saharan Africa
Saffron – Iran
Date palm – North Africa
Maca – Peru
Thai ginseng – Southeast Asia
Yohimbine – West Africa
Montanoa tomentosa – Mexico and most of Central America
Damiana – Southern Texas in the United States, Central America, Mexico, South America, and the Caribbean
Muira puama – Brazil
Catuaba bark – Brazil
Betel nut – Southeast Asia and the South Pacific islands
Bitter orange – Eastern Africa, Arabia, and Syria, but is also cultivated in Spain, Italy, and North America.
Kratom – Southeast Asia, mainly in Thailand and Malaysia.
Kava – Native to Western Pacific islands
Ashwagandha – India
As you can see, these herbs are found all over the world, and where they were found, there they were used.
What’s most important
The dose of the active ingredients is the most important.
- Saponins, specifically protodioscin, in Tribulus Terrestris
- Macamides in Maca (Peruvian sources should have ample amounts)
- Ginsenosides in Ginseng
- Withanolides in Ashwagandha
- Eurycomanone in Tongkat Ali
- Icariin in Horny Goat Weed
Best option: A herb that is standardized for its active ingredient at the right dose. E.g. >100mg protodioscin per day, >8mg eurycomanone per day, etc.
Second best option: Get a herb that is sourced/harvested from where it was originally used, such as Maca from Peru, Tribulus from Bulgaria, Tongkat from Indonesia, or Malaysia, etc. Just make sure you’re taking the right dose as well. A lot of multi-herb products will underdose each herb. For example, 1 serving is 200mg Ashwagandha, 100mg Tongkat Ali, 3mg boron, etc. The right doses should be 600mg Ashwagandha, 600mg Tongkat Ali and 10mg boron per day. Such a multi-ingredient product would thus be less effective.
Herbs aren’t the only aphrodisiacs out there.
Food is as well. The most commonly known example is oysters.
Other examples include:
- Mandrake fruit – The fruits of the mandrake were called ‘apples of love’ and the plant associated with both, Aphrodite, the Greek love goddess as well as Circe, the sorceress.
- Kebob (barbequed beef) is considered a strong aphrodisiac by Middle Eastern people. It could be speculated that this may be true because of its very high protein content that increases body vitality as a whole and therefore increases energy to perform sex.
- Eggs, particularly those of the passers (sparrow family).
- Grains of the pine tree (pine pollen or date palm pollen) were incorporated into libido-boosting diets, usually together with honey (R).
- Onion seed (Chinese chive seed extract is a good option).
- Spice like anise, nutmeg and chili.
- Tea is considered a good aphrodisiac in Eastern cultures
To optimize libido and sexual capacity, I always start with diet. In general, whole foods with animal foods are the most important. Namely beef, lamb, organ meat, dairy, eggs, oysters and other shellfish, then other foods like honey, fruits and if desired, starches and vegetables.
From there, it doesn’t really matter which aphrodisiac you add. Some people will respond better to some than others, so at the end of the day, it comes down to trying a few and seeing which ones you like the most. Just make sure you get a good product of course.
In general, I’ve found that with an optimized diet and lifestyle, my libido and sexual function are in tip-top shape and I don’t need any herbs.
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