Aphrodisiacs, Myth or Reality?

A Chinese Medicine Perspective

If the levels of Viagra advertising and sales are any indicator, modern men are still very actively searching for aphrodisiacs. As for women, a few voices have been heard protesting against bias and lack of research to find a female equivalent of Viagra. They want their own!

Our means might be a bit more sophisticated and “scientific” than witchcraft, potions and aphrodisiacs but not by much. Men are willing to risk the health of their heart and overlook the fine print that comes with Viagra. The old age quest remains the same: how to awaken and keep alive that obviously often flickering light of sexuality. Glossy magazines continue to feature regular articles on sexual secrets and never seem to exhaust the topic.

To the risk of sounding rather boring I would like to infuse a few ounces of common sense mixed with a few drops of Chinese Medicine

  1. Health and sexuality go hand in hand. This is the basic tenet and there is no short cut. Lack of energy, lack of breath, fatigue, weak heart, weak lungs and wheezing, constipation or diarrhea, migraines, bloating or acid reflux are all guaranteed killers of any remotely romantic “performance”. Women often complain of lack of lubrication (yin), pain or infections, men of flaccidity, lack of erection or premature ejaculation (yang). While dryness and lack of libido are often the most apparent problem for women, lack of energy and erection the most apparent one for men, the process of hormonal imbalances in both sexes is actually pretty similar. While these problems obviously increase with age, a surprising number of young people also experience sexual problems due in great part to the decline of our foods and overall health. Emotional conflicts, social pressures, double messages, shame, ignorance and high risk behaviors also contribute to very unhealthy cocktails of sexual dysfunction hidden behind the romantic ideal façade.
  2. According to Chinese medicine, Liver, the “Wood” aspect and Kidneys, the Water aspects are the two systems most directly associated with sexuality. The liver provides the blood and cholesterol for the making of hormones as the “upward” energy necessary for erection and arousal. Herbs that free the Liver and nourish Liver blood are therefore basic for sexual performance. The first effect of stress is to stagnate the liver. Free and Easy Wanderer, a Chinese formula to free stagnant liver energy is therefore a common remedy included in the panoply to restore libido. The Kidneys are the source of fertility, procreation and sexual energy. Ovaries, prostate and the health of our reproductive organs are all dependent on our kidney and adrenal health.
  3. It is not surprising therefore that “aphrodisiac” herbs in the Chinese medicine tradition are most often tonics for the liver and Kidney. I am including a few of those herbs below. If you are just tired and bit under the weather, these herbs might give you a needed boost. However, they are best taken for a few weeks or months to make a difference. If the problem is deeper, please seek a consultation with a Chinese Medicine practitioner as you will need an individualized protocol. Goji berries, black sesame seeds and He Shou Wu are especially good for kidney Yin. They are best taken in tea form. A touch of mint in your tea or some milk thistle will help free Liver stagnation. Formulas to nourish Liver and Kidney Yin in general will be helpful to help with lubrication and sperm production
    • Ginseng (only the best quality), clove and cinnamon are basics for energy. Tonics for Kidney Yang and formulas to free liver stagnation are especially useful for men’s sexuality.
    • A word especially about a renowned herb, probably the closest to an aphrodisiac in the Chinese pharmacopeia : Yin Yang Huo or Epidemium also known as “Horny Goat’s Weed” because it was noticed that goats who ate that weed would become sexually very active.
    • In all cases hormonal balance needs to be restored, which, in Chinese medicine, refers again mostly to Liver and Kidney balance.

While chocolate or a glass of wine might be good stimulants for our romantic evenings, they will only help if our basic health is good. By the same token, drugs and strong stimulants might also seem to help short term but will destroy stamina long term. We always have to come back to basic and seemingly boring principles: good food that will not make our belly and waist bulge, will not “dampen” our spirit while creating mucous in our body or make our blood sugar wildly fluctuate, enough oxygen in your Lung to sustain your energy, enough hydration and on and on. For your romantic evening, it is wise to choose long term health and a healthy dessert such as the one above, to guarantee that other romantic evenings may be in the offing!  

Happy Saint Valentine!