Get in the Mood for Love: Herbal Aphrodisiacs
With Valentine’s day around the corner, what better time to highlight some sexy time herbs also known as herbal aphrodisiacs?!
When it comes to herbal aphrodisiacs, you have your stimulatants (e.g. ginseng, rhodiola, codonopsis, eleuthero) and then the more relaxing herbs (e.g. ashwagandha, schizandra, maca). Depending on the herb, person and dosage, someone may feel the effects after one use and other herbs work over time with continued use.
Aphrodisiac herbs nourish the nervous, heart, and reproductive systems on both physical and energetic levels. Physically, they tonify the body and support balanced function, enhance physical desire (libido), and improve performance. Energetically, they balance and love up the heart and sacral chakras and increase pleasure. You may notice that many of these plants are also nervines — plants that are relaxing to the nervous system — and this is part of their aphrodisiac effect. By calming stress and soothing tension in the mind and heart, they enable one to focus on other more sensual and pleasureful pursuits. Let’s get to know some herbal aphrodisiacs and then enjoy them as food and medicine!
One thing to remember is low libido is likely the result of something else – hormonal imbalance, stress, fatigue, psychological reasons, just to name a few. This is where adaptogens can be really supportive and why you will find a lot of the aphrodisiac herbs are also in the adaptogen category.
By no means is this a complete list of libido boosting herbs. However, I wanted to highlight some of the tastier aphrodisiac herbs that can be added to smoothies, teas, lattes (coffee & herbal) or healthy dessert recipes.
Firstly what is an aphrodisiac? An aphrodisiac is defined as any food or drug that arouses the sexual instinct, induces veneral desire and increases pleasure and performance. This word is derived from ëAphroditaeí the Greek Goddess of love and these substances are derived from plants, animals or minerals and since time immemorial they have been the passion of man.
A lot of natural substances have historically been known as aphrodisiacs in Africa and Europe, like yohimbine and the mandrake plant, as well as ground rhinoceros horn in the Chinese culture and “Spanish fly” which is actually toxic. Even in today's culture, there are certain foods that are used as aphrodisiacs, including strawberries and raw oysters. Chocolate, coffee, and honey are also believed to have aphrodisiac potential.
Aphrodisiacs can be classified by their mode of action into three types: Those that increase libido, potency, or sexual pleasure. Fundamentally, and for the most favorable results, stimulating the libido is a threefold process:
1. First, we must be well nourished, and our bodily functions and organs in good health.
2. Secondly, our nervous system needs to be balanced, bringing us back into a parasympathetic state of rest and relaxation.
3. Thirdly, our blood and bodily fluids need strong circulation flowing freely to grant us excitement and eager feelings of ecstasy and eroticism.
4. Remember, if you do not have any of these herbs, worry not! Worrying only decreases libido! Anything that heightens your senses can be considered an aphrodisiac. You have a jasmine tree growing outside? Use it to bring scent into the environment. Smell and taste can be amazing ways to bring sensuality into your life, regardless of their chemical actions on the body. Similarly you can light a candle to set the mood or listen to some calm music as well!
Rose (Rosa rugosa): While not an aphrodisiac, rose is a beloved medicine for the heart. Roses are used to heal and open the energetic heart chakra, yielding a soft but strong heart that is open yet protected. Rose is such a loving plant and is a wonderful addition to any love potions meant for others or just for yourself. They are balancing to hormones, aid in circulation, and cooling to energies of heat in the liver. Roses are a wonderful ally and are easy to infuse into your favorite carrier oil to enjoy during a massage.
Damiana (Turnera diffusa): Known for its aphrodisiac reputation, damiana is also a nervine that is both calming and uplifting. The phytonutrients of damiana can reduce feelings of stress and increase blood flow, particularly to the pelvic area where increased sensitivity can lead to heightened stimulation. Its flavor is bitter and spicy, and best when blended with chocolate, spices and sweeteners. There isn’t much research on damiana but there are some suggestions that is supports testosterone in men. In addition to its libido enhancing qualities for men and women, it may also be useful as an anti-depressant and digestive.
Ginseng (Panax ginseng): In traditional Chinese medicine, Panax ginseng is used as a sexual stimulant due to its antioxidant action as well as its ability to increase testosterone, supply blood to the sexual organs, and increase sexual function, potency, and sperm count. Ginseng is also a wonderful nerve tonic and energy booster.
Ginger (Zingiber officinalis): Ginger is a fiery, warming herb that stimulates circulation and energy, enhancing the “fire” in the body that invigorates the reproductive system for men and women, treating impotence due to lack of vital heat in the body. Its long reputation as an aphrodisiac is earned by its ability to stimulate circulation to the pelvic area, enhancing sexual vitality.
Hibiscus (Hibiscus rosa-sinensis): Hibiscus flowers are red, sexy, and incredibly gorgeous! On an energetic level, hibiscus is a very sensual, pleasureful plant, its diuretic properties encouraging movement and release in the sacral region while its pleasureful nature helps one open to intimate connection and receiving. It is important to note that hibiscus has anti-fertility action.
Maca (Lepidium meyenii): This hardy herb grows high in the Andes where few plants can survive the freezing temperatures, which could explain some of its benefits. With over 2,000 years of cultivation and use by both humans and animals, it has earned its reputation for boosting energy, elevating mood and enhancing libido. It’s also noted for treating menstrual and menopausal complaints–it’s known to reduce hot flashes. The taste is sweet and malt-like, and it works best as a powder or tincture. Raw powders can cause tummy upset for some folks or thyroid inhibition. In those cases, you could try the gelatinized version where the starches are removed or avoid all together.
Oatstraw (Avena sativa): As the phrase “sowing your wild oats” hints, oats are a love potion, supporting sexual health and increasing libido not as an aphrodisiac per se but by nourishing the nerves, nourishing and moistening the endocrine glands, and freeing up testosterone. Think of oatstraw as a tonic herb that slowly builds sexual desire, performance, and sensation, amongst its other benefits as a vitamin-rich nourishing herb for the nerves, heart, and immune system.
Shatavari (Asparagus racemosus): One of the major herbs in Ayurveda for supporting and strengthening the female reproductive system. Shatavari is often called the herb for “the woman with hundreds of husbands” because it can improve vaginal lubrication and sexual energy! Shatavari is considered to promote fertility, increase breast milk, relieve menstrual pain, ease vaginal dryness and aid dry skin. It’s used as a female tonic and as a rejuvenative herb for pitta-types. Traditionally, it’s used as a powder with warm milk, ghee or honey. It can also be used as a tincture, capsule or decocted tea. It may have estrogenic effects.
He Shou Wu (Polygonum multiflorum): Another magical root that has a long history of use for longevity, blood-building, beauty, rejuvenation and as a sexual tonic. Despite it’s highly revered ability to build Jing (vital essence), fortify the body and preserve youthfulness it is not a stimulant. It’s a calming herb that can support endocrine function and bring balance to the liver and kidneys. Along with its many other benefits, are the copious reports on its potential to reverse hair loss and restore color to graying hair. Its flavor is pleasant, slightly sweet and can be consumed as a tea, capsule, tincture or powder in water or warm milk of choice.
Mucuna Pruriens Referred to as the magic “velvet bean,” this legume is commonly used to nourish the nervous system, support libido and tone reproductive organs. It contains L-Dopa, an amino acid that transforms into dopamine in the brain. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that supports many functions of the brain and nervous system from sleep to cognition and voluntary movement. It has a smoky caramel flavor making it a great addition to lattes and raw desserts.
Below are some ways you can incorporate herbal aphrodisiacs into your daily routine:
Tea or Infusion
We have the freedom to be creative with the herbs we choose and make for ourselves or our loved ones. Creating a comforting tea or infusion is one of the most simple and effective ways to flood our body with nourishment. Hibiscus is a well-rounded plant in its threefold process of nourishment, nervous system support, and fluid circulation. Make a tea with rose and cinnamon and enjoy the heart opening effects.
Herbal elixirs are usually a combination of herbs, alcohol, water, and honey, and are a delightfully sweet and inspiring way to enjoy plants. Cordials or elixirs can be added to beverages, cocktails, and desserts. An herb native to Southern India, cinnamon (Cinnamomum zeylanicum) from the Lauraceae family is popular throughout the world today. While not everyone thinks of cinnamon as an aphrodisiac, it has aphrodisiac effects through its physiologic actions on the body. Cinnamon is warming and stimulating, increases blood flow, and has the potential to lower blood pressure. A cordial or elixir is a lovely way to harness cinnamon’s beneficial effects, as it tastes delicious with honey.
A powerful way of taking herbs is through an herbal smoke. By blending and rolling your own herbal cigarettes, one can enjoy the many soothing and deeply meditative effects of herbal smoking. Being mindful of the sacredness that smoking truly possesses, one can enjoy it as a sensual treat and ritual with a lover. One such herb beloved of the Aztecs and Mayans, and loved by many herbalists and enthusiasts, is damiana (Turnera diffusa) from the Turneraceae family. Damiana is a restorative to the nervous system, bolstering exhausted nerves and fostering relaxation. It also stimulates circulation to the pelvic region, it thus activates the connection between the third eye and the sacral chakra. As a highly spirited plant ally, she is uplifting, releasing feelings of depression and anxiety. Damiana is also known to strengthen the reproductive system and restore sexual vitality. You can enjoy damiana smoked on its own or blended with complementary herbs.
A self-care practice and ritual to many, herbal bathing can be enjoyed solitary or with a lover. If you do not have access to a bathtub, this practice can be enjoyed as a foot soak.
Bathing relaxes the muscles, shifting our entire cellular body composition. When we send the message to our muscles to relax, the nervous system shifts from an active state of engagement for survival to a state of rest. When adding herbs to a bath, the therapeutic benefits can be felt by all our senses. Milky oats (Avena sativa), from the Poaceae family, is one such grass. This herb packs a gentle yet powerful punch of nutrients including iron, calcium, potassium, and vitamins A, C, E, B, and K. Milky oats is deeply nourishing and restorative to the hypothalamus gland and overall nervous system in relation to our reproductive organs as well as softening to the skin and nourishing to nails and hair. When preparing an herbal bath, treat it as if you’re preparing to bathe in tea. Fill a natural cloth or muslin pouch with a handful of desired herbs and tie closed. Place the pouch into the bath while running hot water or hang it over the faucet tied with a string and let the hot water run through. Another option is to brew an herbal infusion on the stove ahead of time before straining and add the tea to the bathwater (cool a bit so as not to burn yourself!). For extra romance and magic, scatter organic rose petals over the surface of the bathwater.
A massage is quite possibly the sexiest and most intimate of plant-infused therapies. What better way to create a safe space, charge up your sexuality, and direct tender devotion to yourself or a lover! Many herbs infuse well in oils, particularly those with less water and with more aromatic compounds. Have fun exploring the world of herbal massage by experimenting with various infused oil recipes to find one that works for you.
And if you do not wish to make your own blends of herbs, feel free to check out the three options we have for Valentine’s Day. Check out The Lovers Box here.
**As always use with caution, dose as recommended and consult your health practitioner if pregnant, on medication or have serious health conditions.