Better Lovin' Through Biochemistry?
Romance in a Bottle? continued...
Morales tells WebMD he knows of three herbals reputed to have sexual stimulation properties, but that only one -- yohimbine -- appears to have any merit. He says that ginkgo biloba and ginseng are also alleged to be sexual stimulants, "but from what I've read in the literature, neither is effective."
Unlike most other nonprescription products, yohimbine, derived from an African tree, has been extensively studied, and appears to have a modest effect on erectile function in some men by increasing the flow of blood into the penis and decreasing outflow that can cause the organ to lose rigidity.
Morales says he believes yohimbine is effective, but in just a small number of patients. "In patients with severe erectile dysfunction it's a totally useless drug, but patients with modest problems ... tend to respond better," he says.
Hope Springs Eternal
When it comes to the question of aphrodisiacs, however, we're on a lot shakier scientific ground. The clinical evidence for the existence of true aphrodisiacs (apart from human hormones) is about as convincing as the proof that Elvis still lives. That hasn't stopped people from trying, though:
Typing the word "aphrodisiac" into a web search results in close to 70,000 hits -- a large number of which point to web pages where some huckster somewhere is trying to make a buck off the nookie challenged among us.
Consider the following list, selected from a web site called "Johan's Guide to Aphrodisiacs": alcohol, animal genitalia, animal products, chan su, fruits and nuts, ginkgo, muira puma, onions, oysters, perfume, pine nuts, plants, snake blood, Spanish fly, spices, vegetables.
One of the ingredients listed above, a South American herbal derivative called muira puma, has been looked at by a Jacques Waynberg, MD, a French sexologist, who reported in two separate studies that the drug appears to increase libido in about 62% of men who had complained of lack of desire.
But for most other alleged aphrodisiacs, those who have lost that lovin' feelin' have to rely on anecdote, rumor, folklore, or superstition, and that can be dangerous to the user or to the others. Spanish fly, for example, a legendary aphrodisiac said to be have been used by the Marquis de Sade prior to an orgy, is a toxic compound made from the dried and crushed bodies of blister beetles found in Southern Europe.