Valentine's Day is a great time to explore the sexy side of herbs. Herbal aphrodisiacs, or herbs known to heighten and increase sexual desire, have been around for thousands of years and every culture has their favorite. Aphrodisiacs not only increase libido but they also often nourish the nervous system and increase overall energy and stamina.
This Valentine's why not give one (or more!) of these herbal aphrodisiacs a try?
Damiana (Turnera diffusa)
This small shrub from Central America has quite the reputation. Once used for religious ceremonies by traditional communities in Central America, it has been banned many times through history for causing trouble with its passion inspiring properties. The Maya and Aztecs used it as an aphrodisiac, for digestive disorders, and to lift the spirits.
Damiana liquor is still made in Mexico and was the original ingredient in margaritas rather than today's standard of Tripel-Sec. Damiana was used by Eclectic physicians in the United States as a genito-urinary and reproductive tonic for both men and women. A relaxing herb, it is particularly helpful for those who are often too "in their head" to be in touch with their sensual side. You can take Damiana as a tea or add the powder to some of your favorite valentine treats.
Maca (Lepidium meyenii)
This root is a relative of broccoli and mustard and is consumed as a vegetable in its native South America. Traditionally it was also used to support balanced hormones, enhance fertility, increase energy, and as an aphrodisiac. It has adaptogenic properties and is used to increase overall energy, vitality and stamina, making it popular with athletes.
Current research has focused on its hormone balancing and fertility enhancing properties in both men and women (Melnikovova et al., 2015). Maca powder has a light sweet taste and can be added to chocolates, smoothies, and other treats for Valentine's or any day.
Ginseng (Panax ginseng)
Asian ginseng is the most famous and ancient of all the ginsengs, with over 5,000 years of recorded use. It has been revered for its ability to promote overall health and vitality and to prolong life. Ginseng is believed to both stimulate and nourish the nervous system.
As an aphrodisiac, it is use to balance hormonal systems in both men and women, support optimal blood supply to sexual organs and healthy sexual function (Hong et al, 2002).
Vanilla (Vanilla planifolia)
Since Mayan times vanilla has been revered for its fragrance and aphrodisiac qualities, where it was commonly combined with chocolate for a delicious and love inspiring drink. The Eclectic herbalists in the 1900s praised vanilla for its ability to "powerfully stimulate the sexual appetite" (Felter, 1922).
Vanilla nourishes the nervous system and helps calm nervous tension. Even the smell is considered aphrodisiac. Both vanilla and chocolate continue to play an important part in Valentine's celebrations.
Felter, HW (1922) The Eclectic Materia Medica, Pharmacology and Therapeutics, Eclectic Medical Publications: Sandy.
Hong B, Ji YH, Jun HH, Nam KIY, Tai YA (2002) A Double Blind Crossover Study Evaluating the Efficacy of Korean Red Ginseng in Patients with Erectile Dysfunction: a preliminary report, Journal of Urology, 168:5, 2070-2073.
Melnikovova I, Fait T, Kolarova M, Fernandez EC, Milella L (2015) Effect of Lepidium meyenii on Semen Parameters and Serum Hormone Levels in Healthy Adult Men: a double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled pilot study, Evidence-Based Complimentary and Alternative Medicine, Volume 2015.
Writer Erin Smith has been working with plants for 25 years and is medical herbalist and ethnobotanist. She is the creator of Plant-Passionate Living, an interactive program designed to help people find greater health and vitality through a deeper relationship with plants. Erin is the Founder and Director of the Center for Integrative Botanical Studies