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Can natural aphrodisiacs improve your sex life?

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Can natural aphrodisiacs improve your sex life?
Aphrodisiacs are ingredients that can increase your sex drive and improve your sex life. But how do they work? Here's how aphrodisiacs are suggested to work
Is your sex life as good as you would like it to be? If not, you are not alone. More than one in three women have low sexual desire, according to a survey of about 31,000 US women published in Obstetrics & Gynaecology. So it’s not surprising that there are thousands of herbal supplements specifically formulated for women, with intriguing names such as Sex Essentials and Libido. They promise to "bring back desire", but is it all hype?
The safety and long-time efficacy of aphrodisiacs is, at this time, unknown as much more research needs to be done. How, though, do aphrodisiacs work in theory?

Do aphrodisiacs exist?

How they work is unknown but there are “dozens of substances that can have an effect on the brain chemistry that influences sexuality,” says Dr Ray Sahelian, a physician in Los Angeles, who also has a degree in nutrition science. Sahelian, who wrote a book called Natural Sex Boosters, has tried a number of natural substances himself and contends, “There is such a thing as a natural aphrodisiac."

Examples of natural aphrodisiac

Some natural substances and scents may indeed hold promise. According to a 2008 study from India’s Banaras Hindu University, liquid extract from clove flowers (used in indigenous medicine to treat male sexual disorders) raised serum testosterone levels in mice. Also, a special concentration of black tea made from the camellia sinensis tea plant showed marked aphrodisiac activity in rats, during a 2008 Sri Lankan study found.
"It is true that some natural substances and scents may hold promise"
Perhaps even more strangely, Research by the Smell & Taste and Research Foundation in Chicago found that men had a 40 per cent increase in penile blood flow when exposed to the smell of pumpkin pie. Pumpkin pie often contains nutmeg, and in a 2005 study, nutmeg extract was found to increase desire and performance in male rats.

Other plants of interest

There are many ingredients available online, in health food stores and drugstores, and through some naturopathic doctors. Keep in mind that as non-drug supplements, these ingredients cannot legally make medical claims.
Damiana is a plant native to Mexico and the Southwestern United States. It has been used for centuries for its aphrodisiac qualities. It is used to treat impotence in men, and difficulty in achieving orgasm in women.
"Keep in mind that as non-drug supplements, these ingredients cannot legally make medical claims"
Another example is Gingko Biloba, a tree native to China. It is claimed that it can help improve blood flow and help to counteract the desire-dampening effect of some antidepressants, especially in women.
Muira Puama is a Brazilian shrub and mild stimulant. A combination of muira puama and ginkgo biloba was found to improve libido, intercourse and orgasm, according to a 2000 study of 202 women.

What about chocolate and shellfish?

Shellfish and chocolate are famed for being aphrodisiacs, but an Italian study found no difference in sexual function between women who eat chocolate daily and those who don’t. As for shellfish, a 2004 study from Italy did find that three species of Mediterranean mussels contain an amino acid that stimulates the production of hormones, including testosterone, in rats.

Pharmaceutical alternatives

Viagra is an option for men, if you are struggling with your sex drive. The drug temporarily increases blood flow to your penis. However, as with any mediation, it is very important to consider side effects.
"Viagra is an option for men, if you are struggling with your sex drive"
Side effects can include diarrhoea, dizziness, flushes, headache, upset stomach, irregular heartbeat, memory loss, painful erections, seizures, dizziness and vision changes.

Does natural mean safe?

When buying products that promise aphrodisiac properties, “it’s buyer beware,” says Stephen Maltais, a doctor of naturopathic medicine in Port Dover, Onatrio. Maltais has treated sexual dysfunction in both women and men, but he cautions, “Especially if you’re buying online, you don’t know if the product is standardised for quality and quantity.
The bottom line: Do some research before you buy. Anyone with a heart condition should be especially cautious, as some herbs can raise heart rate.  
Banner credit: Aphrodisiac (marilyna)
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