Homemade Aphrodisiacs

Since the evolution from asexual reproduction (one parent) to sexual reproduction (two parents), humans have gone to fantastic lengths to inspire passion. It has been suggested, for example, that the putrefied flesh of a human corpse mixed with animal and human ovaries and testes, alcohol, pimento and a dash of feces might fire up a sagging libido. Oh, and if you happen to have a crocodile penis, throw that in, too. The search for aphrodisiacs is as old as our ancestors' bones and as current as today's paper. Worldwide, certain plants and animals are being decimated because of their traditional use as sexual stimulants. Millions of dollars are spent on medical research to discover the neurotransmitter for desire, and some men think nothing of injecting a syringe into their penis. People will try anything to enhance their sex lives. Anything may include rhinoceros horn, historically considered an aphrodisiac. The notion more than likely comes from the horn's phallic shape. The "law of signatures" is an ancient belief that if something looks similar to what a person needs-in this case, an erection-that something is the ticket. Mimetic consumption applies to antlers, sea cucumbers, ginseng and snake blood, among other things. Reproductive organs from various animals also follow this logic. The penis and testicles of tigers, elk, horses, dogs, seals and rabbits find their way into the Far East apothecary. Research has shown that there is some merit to ingesting hormones from animals. But Mark Costello, third-year student at the College of Oriental Medicine, says, "I have never seen any endangered animals used in our formulas. It's illegal, and if you do find them, they're probably fraudulent." He adds, however, that "the Chinese aren't that enlightened and do use rhino horn and other endangered animals." The concern is that with the rapidly increasing public interest and consumption in Asian medicines, more and more animal parts, including those from endangered species, will be readily supplied even though their use is prohibited. In North America, bears are often killed solely for their gall bladders and paws (a culinary delicacy). Bear gall bladders earn poachers anywhere from $50 to $150 apiece and may be sold for up to $3,000 in Asia. Spanish Fly is another mythical aphrodisiac that just won't die. It supposedly turns innocent maidens into nymphomaniacs. In truth, Spanish Fly is a powerful poison. The active ingredient is the ground-up beetle Cantharis vesicatoria, found in southern Europe. It contains a blistering agent used primarily to remove warts. It is so toxic that it can induce kidney failure. Authentic Spanish Fly is illegal; products that claim to contain it are useless and, one hopes, harmless substitutes.So do aphrodisiacs exist? No and yes. Experts agree that there is no one prosexual that acts on men and women equally. But there exist countless means, from native herbs to erotica, that can fire up a flagging libido legally, safely and cheaply. Some foods touted for centuries as sexual stimulants are now being corroborated as such by scientific research. Since Pliny's day, for instance, oysters have enjoyed a randy reputation. Lots of zinc is found in this humble bivalve, and zinc helps the production of testosterone (too low a level and sexual arousal won't happen) and increases sperm production. For women, zinc helps sustain adequate lubrication. Another ancient aphrodisiac, raw honey (think honeymoon), contains B-complex vitamins that enhance sexual health for both genders. The sugar helps manufacture sperm and provides quick energy for erotic exercise. Legumes, noted for being one of many estrogen-replacement foods, were banned in Medieval convents, not for causing flatulence, but because they seemed to make the nuns a bit squirrely. Morton Walker, author of Sexual Nutrition, calls healthy foods "nutridisiacs." "It's sad," he says, "that people look for extracurricular items such as Spanish fly and black rhino horn when certain nutrients in food are beneficial to healthy libido and genitalia." For example? "Tropical fruits like pineapple, papaya, kiwi, mango, banana, citrus. These have oral chelating agents that help clean the arteries to allow for a good erection as well as allow blood into the clitoris." Jack Challem, editor of The Nutrition Reporter, a newsletter that summarizes vitamin research, reports that vitamin E, the so-called sex vitamin, has had its salacious status since 1922 when researchers found that its absence in rats caused sterility. However, it is the ability of vitamin E to stimulate the heart and therefore circulation that concerns us here. Blood flow, again. On natural remedies in general, Lehman is encouraging. "If it works and there's no health risk, spend the money and have at it." There is only one prosexual he claims has any objective evidence for efficacy: yohimbe, a West African tree bark extract. "It helps erection by stimulating the vaso-dilators of the penis as well as stimulating desire in the 'sex center,' wherever that is," he says. However, this "natural" herb can be highly toxic and should be administered only under a physician's supervision."The only true aphrodisiac is the human mind," says Gary Knapp, who owns a natural health store. "No matter how much one takes of an herbal sex stimulant, if there isn't the mental desire, there won't be any interest in sex." Regardless, he sells all manner of stimulants in his store, from the controversial Herbal Ecstasy and yohimbe to damiana sold in capsules, tea and tincture. He offers no prosexuals with animal parts. In addition, he has developed his own line of pheromones. Pheromones act on the tiny vomerona sal organ inside the nose. Our noses hold (some of) the receptors that send sexual arousal signals to the brain. "The sense of smell cannot be consciously blocked," Knapp says. "And the longer one is exposed to scent the greater the state of arousal." Knapp is proud of his growing track record of helping flagging desire in both men and women with his bottled scents. Historically, research has been biased toward the penis and its performance (or lack of), rather than the clitoris. However, the good news for women, according to Masters & Johnson, is that the woman's capacity for orgasm is not diminished with age so long as there are no health problems. In general, it seems that women have more complicated wiring than men when it comes to arousal. Or do they? Sandra, 23, told me, "I just wear tight jeans and drink lots of coffee before I see my boyfriend." Tina, 26, answered that smelling her boyfriend's sweaters gets her hot and bothered. Then there's Sara, 38, who dreamily replied, "I look at body language, facial expressions, and attitude. I sense the vibes coming from the heart...a nice butt doesn't hurt either."

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