Original Post by Dina Cheney Updated Apr 24, 2023
Possibly spur on sex with these noshes.
While most have a few tried-and-true turn-ons that always put them in the mood—think: neck kisses, eye contact, role-playing—some believe that aphrodisiac foods can get everyone desiring sex instantly. But, "What foods are aphrodisiacs?" you inevitably and excitably ask? Well, it's worth noting that not all medical professionals believe in aphrodisiac foods and there isn't much in terms of concrete evidence and few studies supporting their benefits.
Still, if you're curious about these supposed desire-inducing noshes, read ahead. To find out what foods are aphrodisiacs, we consulted two experts: Henry David Mitcheson, MD is an herbalist, practicing physician and lead medical educator at Herbal Academy; and Kimberly Gallagher is the co-founder of LearningHerbs and the author of Aphrodisiac: The Herbal Path to Healthy Sexual Fulfillment and Vital Living.
What are aphrodisiacs?
"A lot of people think of aphrodisiacs as love potions," says Gallagher, although the truth behind aphrodisiacs is far less dramatic, according to Mitcheson: As he explains, these herbs and foods work on a cellular level to support body systems and functions that promote arousal and sexual health.
Since most foods with aphrodisiac qualities take time to work, the scene of sharing an aphrodisiac-full dinner as a prelude to sex also doesn't ring true. Most foods have to be consumed for weeks or months before their alleged benefits—including stimulating the circulatory system, promoting blood flow to the pelvic region, increased euphoria and energy and decreased anxiety—supposedly take effect.
If you're considering trying any of the below aphrodisiacs from Mitcheson and Gallagher, be sure to first confirm consent (as always) with your partner and check with your doctor for any potentially harmful interactions they can have with medications or health conditions either of you may have.
1. Damiana (Turnera diffusa)
In herbalism, damiana is a well-known aphrodisiac, says Mitcheson. This "sexy, fiery" plant native to Mexico, Central America and the West Indies stimulates the nervous system and genitals, increasing nerve impulses, desire and excitement." It can be taken in tea or capsule form.
2. Ginseng (Panax ginseng)
Over time, this root works to restore energy and stimulate the circulatory system, providing an energy boost, says Mitcheson. In Chinese medicine, it's enlisted to improve sexual performance and satisfaction, with at least two scientific studies showing efficacy for erectile dysfunction, he adds. Take it in drop or capsule form or make a tea from sliced fresh ginseng root.
3. Maca (Lepidium meyenii)
Known to improve energy, this vegetable native to the Andes in Peru has gained recognition as a support for reproductive and sexual health, says Mitcheson. Some research is provided evidence for its efficacy, with one randomized, double-blind and placebo-controlled trial showing it significantly improved self-perception of sexual desire in healthy men. Meanwhile, another study showed it lowered sexual dysfunction and improved mood in postmenopausal women. Try adding the powder (which has a nutty, sweet taste) to smoothies and oatmeal.
4. Milky oats (Avena sativa)
As the phrase, "sowing your wild oats," hints, milky oats support sexual health and increase libido, says Mitcheson. Specifically, the plant contributes to the functioning of the circulatory, nervous, and endocrine systems, he explains. Gallagher backs up his recommendation, revealing that she steeps one ounce of a mix of oat straw (the dried leaf and stem of the oat plant) and oat tops (the dried seed pods of the oat plant) in one quart of just-boiled water for four-plus hours. Then she strains and sweetens this drink and serves it over ice.
5. Ginger (Zingiber officinale)
This root stimulates the circulatory system, bringing blood to the pelvic area to enhance sexual vitality. To take it, steep slices of fresh ginger root in boiled water for tea or chop or grate it into salad dressings and sauces.
6. Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera)
This evergreen shrub promotes strength and stamina, explains Gallagher. It can also help increase libido and ease anxiety, says Mitcheson. Gallagher recommends adding the powdered form to smoothies or energy balls.
7. Cinnamon (Cinnamomum spp.)
Along with giving chai tea and applesauce their characteristic flavors, this warming spice stimulates blood flow to the skin and provides energy. Sprinkle ground cinnamon on oatmeal or yogurt, or simmer apple cider with cinnamon sticks.
8. Vanilla (Vanilla planifolia)
Pricey and aromatic, these pods from orchid plants bring on feelings of relaxation and euphoria, says Mitcheson. Splurge on a whole pod, cut in half vertically, then scrape out the seeds. Add to oatmeal or brewed tea or use to flavor homemade ice cream.
9. Cacao (Theobroma cacao)
Gallagher describes cacao as energizing and heart-opening—possibly because of the seed's chemicals, phenylethylamine and serotonin (believed to be mood boosters and mild sexual stimulants). She recommends preparing a treat for you to savor with your partner, like dark chocolate truffles.
10. Schisandra (Schisandra chinensis)
Gallagher finds the dried berries from this plant have an energizing and restorative effect. To prepare them, place an ounce in a quart jar, fill with cool water and refrigerate for a few hours. Strain and drink as an iced tea.
11. Rose (Rosa rubiginosa)
Gallagher recommends the flower for its "divine flavor and smell." She prepares an infused honey by placing unsprayed rose petals in a jar, then pouring honey on top. Top with a lid and infuse for a few days on your countertop out of direct sunlight. Eat the honey and petals right out of the jar, add to tea or spread on toast, she says.
12. Hawthorn (Crataegus)
This flowering plant in the rose family is well known for helping with heart health, notes Gallagher. She recommends adding the flowers and berries to tea. Try brewing one tablespoon each of dried damiana leaves, rose petals and oat tops, and two tablespoons of hawthorn flowers in 1-1/2 cups of just-boiled water, she says. After steeping the mixture for 15 minutes, strain and sweeten with a little honey.