Sex, love and passion have been a secret (or not-so-secret) desire of many figures throughout history. Even the word aphrodisiac has its own ancient ties, originally relating to Aphrodite, the Greek goddess associated with love.
While modern medicine has solved many sexual functioning issues, such as erectile dysfunction (ED) and premature ejaculation (PE), there aren’t yet any reliable medications that boost sexual attraction and desire.
Many people have turned to natural aphrodisiacs — foods and herbal extracts that you can often find in your own kitchen — to give them a much-wanted bedroom boost.
Right now, research findings on the effectiveness of aphrodisiacs vary hugely, with some foods associated with real improvements in sexual function, albeit small, and other well-known foods thought of as powerful aphrodisiacs linked to, well, nothing at all.
We’ve covered the As to Zs of natural aphrodisiacs, from historical aphrodisiacs that are largely unsupported by scientific evidence to several more recently discovered ingredients that might offer real potential.
We also discussed how modern medications for ED and PE are usually a more reliable and effective option than foods and natural products for boosting sexual function and desire.
Natural Aphrodisiac Foods
Before we get into the specifics of natural aphrodisiacs, let’s get one important thing out of the way. Many natural aphrodisiacs, including lots of famous “foods that make you turned on,” are backed up by very little high quality scientific evidence.
Most studies of natural aphrodisiac foods are small in scale, and effect sizes — at least when it comes to sexual benefits — tend to be fairly modest.
Some aphrodisiac foods aren’t even directly linked to sexual function or performance. Instead, they provide effects that may have indirect sexual benefits, such as dilating your blood vessels or promoting small changes in testosterone production or other hormone levels.
In short, it’s best to think of aphrodisiac foods as a “maybe” when it comes to improving sexual function or increasing desire, not as a proven form of treatment for sexual health issues.
Still, research into the effects of many aphrodisiacs is ongoing, and we may eventually discover foods that offer large, measurable benefits for your sex life.
In the meantime, the following 11 foods are often recognized as aphrodisiacs and sex-inducing foods, either due to their historical popularity or more recent scientific research suggesting they may offer real sex-related benefits.
Maca for Sex
Maca is a plant native to Peru that has a long history of traditional use for its nutritional benefits and supposed medicinal properties.
By the 1950s, researchers were starting to study maca as a potential natural food for improving fertility, albeit only in animals.
More modern research has found that maca may offer real benefits for improving sexual health in people who use medication to treat depression and others mental health conditions, including widely-used antidepressant drugs such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs).
For example, a study published in the journal CNS Neuroscience & Therapeutics in 2008 found that maca increased libido and and general sexual experience in people prescribed SSRIs who experienced sexual dysfunction during treatment for depression.
While this study is far from perfect, it’s a promising sign that maca may offer real advantages as a natural option for boosting sexual arousal and functioning.
Saffron for Sex
Saffron is a strong-smelling spice that originates from Iran. Like maca, it’s been tested as a food for improving sexual performance in people on antidepressants.
In two separate studies, one among a small group of males, and one among a group of females, saffron produced favorable results. In the study involving men, it reduced the severity of erectile dysfunction caused by the antidepressant fluoxetine.
In the study involving women, it improved sexual arousal and lubrication while reducing the level of pain women reported during sex. The women that participated in this study were also actively using fluoxetine to treat depression.
While the results are encouraging, it’s important to note that the studies were small in scale and were solely made up of people with depression. As such, we can’t be sure that saffron provides the same effects in people who don’t use antidepressants.
Still, it’s a great-tasting, versatile spice that might be worth adding to your pre-sex toolkit, even if only as a cooking ingredient.
Alcohol for Sex
Alcohol might not seem like the most obvious aphrodisiac, but it’s well known to make getting in the mood for sex, well, a little easier.
Drinking alcohol reduces control over your inhibitions, which may make you more likely to have sex if you’re already in the mood. It can also make socializing easier — something that could be helpful if you’re getting to know each other and want to make opening up a simpler process.
While this makes a glass of wine or two a great option for enjoying a fun night with your date, it’s also important to keep in mind that drinking too much could also end up having a negative effect on your sexual function.
As such, it’s best to drink responsibly and aim for just enough alcohol to reduce your inhibitions, not so much that you’re unable to perform when the time is right.
Do Natural Sex Supplements Work?
They say the way to the heart is through the stomach, and ultimately, your aphrodisiac of choice will likely depend on what matters most to you.
If you’re interested in naturally boosting your libido and enjoying a more exciting night with your partner, giving one of these foods a try could be an idea worth considering.
However, if you have a clinical sexual health issue, such as erectile dysfunction, you’ll likely get far better results by using FDA-approved medication.
When it comes to ED, the most effective treatments are oral medications such as sildenafil (the active ingredient in Viagra®), tadalafil (Cialis®), vardenafil (Levitra®) and avanafil (Stendra®).