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Health & Sex

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Better Lovin' Through Biochemistry?


Romance in a Bottle?

The quest for sexual stimulants and aphrodisiacs is probably as old as the human race itself, with everything from crushed beetles, asparagus, oysters, rhino horn, ginkgo biloba, tiger testicles, and myriad other roots, potions, brews, herbs, and animal organs reputed to improve performance and/or enhance pleasure.


The latest craze is a Swedish soft drink called Niagara (get it?) that's been flying off the shelves wherever it can be found. The drink, part of a family of "energy beverages," is a fruit-flavored, blue-dyed concoction containing carbonated water and sugar spiked with the alleged herbal aphrodisiac damiana (reputed to be a plant estrogen), plus ginseng (a root commonly used in Chinese medicine), guarana (a stimulant similar to caffeine), maté (another stimulant), schizandra (a Chinese medicinal said to have aphrodisiac and stimulant properties), plus as much caffeine as an 8-ounce cup of coffee. The ingredients list alone is enough to get the heart racing.


Although the people who sell it are barred by FDA regulations from making any extravagant claims, the fact that they're pushing it as "Romance in a Bottle" is a strong hint that they want their customers to believe they're buying a six-pack of burnin' love. In other words, an aphrodisiac.


Just to get technical for a minute, it should be noted here that there's a clinical distinction between aphrodisiacs, which are reputed to enhance libido and contribute to sexual excitement, and sexual stimulants, which provide a physiologic boost that may in turn may make it possible to have better sex -- or even sex at all. Niagara and tiger testicles fall under the category of aphrodisiac. Viagra and the spicy mixture cooked up by the Yequana are examples of sexual stimulants.


The Yequana potion has at least one respected scientist convinced that "natural Viagras" are out there waiting to be found, but how do you how do you tell a real over-the-counter aphrodisiac or stimulant (if they even exist) from sex-fool's gold?


"The problem is that there are so many things that are advertised out there," says Alvaro Morales, MD, professor and chairman of urology at Queens University in Kingston, Ontario. "I recently saw at my barber's [in a magazine] an advertisement for some sort of a cream. They don't say what it is, and they say 'it's just like testosterone,' but on the other hand they say 'this doesn't contain testosterone.' So what is it?"

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