Nature's Aphrodisiacs

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  • Copyright: 1999-06-01
  • Publisher: Dell
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Love potions and other ancient secrets... From India comes an Ayurvedic tonic for renewed sexual vitality...deep in the Amazon, a tree produces Brazil's most popular stimulant for men....Now you can discover these and dozens more natural aphrodisiacs! From foods and supplements that boost levels of sex hormones to homeopathic remedies for specific dysfunctions to love potions that stimulate desire, this unique guide brings you information from around the world on substances and techniques that safely enhance sexual pleasure without prescription drugs. Find out about: The potent chemical that gives power to licorice, the real "food for love" The magic effects of a Chinese concoction called "Hindu magic pills" An amino acid proven to boost sexual arousal in women Sensual promises and real effects of DHEA and royal jelly "Burning love," the incense said to enhance desire in all who breathe it The yoga pose that "turns on" sexual feelings...and more

Author Biography

Deborah Mitchell is a writer and editor whose medical and health-related articles have appeared in consumer and professional journals.  She was the ghostwriter for <b>The Good Sex Book</b>, and author of five other books, including <b>The Natural Health Guide to Headache Relief</b>, <b>Natural Medicine for Back Pain</b>, <b>Natural Medicine for PMS</b>, and <b>Natural Medicine for Weight Loss</b>. She is also the author of another book in the Dell Natural Pleasures series:  <b>Peak Performance: A Guide to Total Sexual Fitness</b>. <br>She lives in Tucson, Arizona.


Chapter One: Sexual Desire: Turned On, Turned Off, or Tuned Out?

What Is an Aphrodisiac?

Many people think of an aphrodisiac as a substance that enhances sexual passion, and they are right. But aphrodisiacs are much more than that, and they are becoming increasingly popular as men and women struggle with a lackluster libido.

For thousands of years, men and women in cultures around the world have used a wide variety of substances and participated in rituals for the purpose of increasing sexual desire, attracting lovers, and improving fertility. Aphrodisiacs were named after Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of fertility, desire, and beauty. She appears in other ancient cultures as well: as Venus to the Romans, Ishtar to the Babylonians, and Astarte to the Phoenicians. Aphrodite reportedly had many lovers and was also the mother of Eros, the god of love. Based on this strong sexual association, ancient peoples worshipped their goddess of love and credited their love potions with additional powers, including the ability to increase fertility, improve sexual vitality, lure back lovers who strayed, and find the perfect mate.

In this book we look at ways to stimulate sexual passion and desire with natural aphrodisiacs. Now as in the past, aphrodisiacs may be food, beverage, homeopathic remedy, herbal formula, flower essence, aroma, or specific physical activity. Each of these areas is explored in its own section in this book. One chapter is even dedicated to some of the more curious and bizarre items touted as love potions as well as a few that can cause unpleasant, or deadly, side effects.

Do Aphrodisiacs Work?

The answer to this question is, despite protest from the mainstream medical community, yes, albeit a qualified yes. Here's how this answer was reached.

For decades, modern Western medicine has viewed any remedy that does not fit within its scientific guidelines as quackery and those who advocate or dispense such products as frauds. Aphrodisiacs are certainly high on the list of products most physicians discourage their patients from taking. In 1982 the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) even issued a statement saying there was no scientific evidence to verify the claims made by manufacturers of over-the-counter aphrodisiacs.

Yet recently some researchers have been subjecting traditional love potions to scientific scrutiny. And to their surprise, some of the claims of increased sexual desire make sense--scientific sense.

For example, damiana is an herb that has been used by native Mexican women for centuries as a prelude to sex. (See Chapter 3.) Chemical analysis of the plant reveals that it contains several alkaloids that stimulate the sex organs, increase circulation, and relax tense muscles. There is also scientific justification for the use of chocolate as an aphrodisiac. In addition to the energy boost people get from the sugar and caffeine in chocolate, it also contains the amino acid phenylalanine, which increases the brain's levels of one of the body's own natural aphrodisiacs, phenylethylamine. (See Chapter 5.)

These are only two examples of the many aphrodisiacs Nature has provided for us. This book explains the latest research, where applicable, on natural substances that may enhance your libido as well as any reported claims and anecdotal findings.

Why Do We Need Aphrodisiacs?

Two groups of people can benefit from aphrodisiacs. One are those men and women who have normal levels of sexual desire but who sometimes want to enhance their libido or add more excitement to their lovemaking. Perhaps you and your partner are tired of the same old routine and want to try a different approach. Maybe you have a new sexual partner and want to start "fresh." Or maybe you want to surprise your partner with something neither of you have ever tried together.

But a large group of people have low levels of desire most or all of the time. They, too, are looking for safe yet exciting ways to boost their libido. Aphrodisiacs can help people in both categories.

Although people talk about sex, the fact is they are participating in it less and less. Several teams of sex experts, including Drs. William H. Masters and Virginia E. Johnson, (Heterosexuality), Dr. Edward Laumann and colleagues (the National Health and Social Life Survey), and Cynthia and Samuel Janus (the Janus Report) have conducted well-researched surveys of the sexual habits of men and women in the United States. And what they find is that Americans "are not having much partnered sex at all--at least not much compared to what we are told is a normal or optimal amount," say Dr. Laumann and his team. Overall, two-thirds of Americans ages eighteen to fifty-nine have sex with a partner a few times a month or less.

Although it is difficult to assign an exact number to the percentage of adults who have low or no sexual desire, some attempts have been made. The National Survey of Health and Social Living found that 33 percent of married women complained of low sexual desire, while the Janus Report showed a similar result (35 percent). When the researchers with the Janus project looked at divorce, men listed sexual/emotional difficulties as the cause for the breakup at a higher rate (48 percent) than did women (32 percent). While these figures may be interesting, the best indication of lack of sexual desire comes from the experts who help men and women with sexual problems--sex therapists and couples' counselors. According to Drs. Jennifer Knopf and Michael Seiler of the Sex Therapy and Education Program at Northwestern University in Illinois and authors of ISD: Inhibited Sexual Desire, about 50 percent of adults who live together, with or without being married, say that lack of sexual desire is a problem in their r

But how can that be? Nearly everywhere you look--in newspapers, magazines, and books; on television and on stage; in the movies and in music--there are sexual messages, some subtle, some blatant, and some just downright outrageous. Many people whisper about sex and joke about it, and some even boast about their sexual escapades to their friends. It seems like Americans are engaging in a lot of sex and enjoying it. Yet again the experts shed some light on what is really happening behind closed doors. Say Drs. Knopf and Seiler: "Most sex therapists . . . see far more patients with ISD and desire discrepancy disorders than any other type of sexual disorder and . . . these conditions are clearly on the rise."

What Is Inhibited Sexual Desire?

Inhibited sexual desire is a lack of interest in sex and sexual activity, and/or an inability to become sexually aroused or to feel sexual or "sexy." For some people the desire for sex is greatly diminished, while for others it disappears completely. The "official" clinical definition of inhibited sexual desire is a state of being in which individuals become sexually aroused or have sexual thoughts less than two times per month.

Inhibited sexual desire affects both heterosexuals and homosexuals. Some women and men with ISD engage in sexual activity occasionally, but many of them do it out of a sense of obligation to their partner or out of guilt. Such feelings only compound what is already, for many couples, a tense or difficult situation in their relationship.

Nearly every man and woman has felt a lack of sexual desire at some point in their lives, and there are a multitude of reasons for those feelings. Stress, fatigue, depression, illness, adverse living conditions, pregnancy, relationship problems, and many other factors can cause people to lose interest in sex--temporarily. But when "not tonight, dear" is repeated week after week, month after month--even year after year--then it is more than a passing lack of interest.

How to Recognize Inhibited Sexual Desire

How do you know if you have inhibited sexual desire? Read the following statements and see if any of them describe how you feel. I often or always reject my partner's sexual advances. I rarely think about sex. I rarely or never have sexual fantasies. Whenever I begin to feel sexually aroused, the next thought that enters my mind is that it's bad or dirty, or I remember an unpleasant sexual experience, or I think about something else, such as my job or something I want to do. My partner and I rarely or never agree about how often to have sex. I do not get sexually aroused by people, situations, or things that are erotic or provocative and/or I am repulsed by them. When I do have sex I do it out of a sense of obligation to my partner. I rarely or never initiate sex with my partner. I consciously avoid situations that my partner may interpret as a sexual advance. The thought of having sex makes me uncomfortable, tense, angry, disgusted, or anxious. If one or more
of these statements is true for you, you may have inhibited sexual desire. The reason(s) behind your lack of sexual desire may be physical, emotional, psychological, or a combination of these. But most sex experts agree, as do Masters and Johnson, that "sexual desire is more a reflection of psychosocial forces than biological ones." The good news is that ISD is both treatable and curable.

Types of Inhibited Sexual Desire

No matter what type of inhibited sexual desire you have, the aphrodisiacs, strategies, and techniques in this book can help you. Recognizing the type of low or completely inhibited sex drive you have can help you choose the best healing path to take and the most appropriate aphrodisiacs to enhance your efforts. There are four main types of inhibited sexual desire: primary, secondary, global, and situational.

Primary ISD Although not the most common type of ISD, this type is named "primary" because it is a lifelong absence of sexual desire. Individuals with primary ISD do not always consider their lack of sex drive to be a problem unless they partner with an individual whose sex drive is normal. Primary ISD, also sometimes called hypoactive sexual desire, may be caused by a hormone imbalance or deficiency, psychological conflicts about sex and sexuality, or physical conditions that disrupt the transmission of sexual messages to and from the brain.

Sex experts also consider chronically low sexual desire to be a form of primary ISD. Men and women with this condition have sporadic interest in or thoughts about sex--perhaps once or twice a month--and usually engage in sexual activity much less often.

Secondary ISD Secondary ISD, which is much more common than primary ISD, is defined as lost interest in sex. Men and women with secondary ISD used to get sexually aroused but now rarely or no longer do; or they feel much less sexual desire than they did in the past. As you can see, this definition describes a large number of people whose sexual energy has faded.

A common trigger of secondary ISD is some sort of emotional difficulty, such as relationship problems, depression, anxiety, anger, or stress. It also can be caused by physical problems. One typical cause is fear of "performance failure," usually among men who are afraid they will not be able to get or maintain an erection. Another common cause is familiarity: A couple has been together for a long time and one or both simply don't feel the "spark" they used to feel, although the love may still be strong.

Global ISD Global ISD is the total absence of interest in any type of sexual situation or experience. This complete loss of desire is typically caused by depression, sexual trauma such as incest or rape, severe relationship problems such as abuse, high levels of stress, or physical illness. Women and men with global ISD often were told or expected to be "perfect" during childhood and grew up with a high sense of duty and responsibility and the message that pleasure was a low priority.

Situational ISD Situational ISD is the loss of sexual desire in certain circumstances or under specific conditions. New mothers, for example, may not feel like making love for a while after giving birth until they ease into the newness of motherhood. Job stress, concern over a sick parent or child, fear of aging, change in family life (i.e., a parent moves into the home), grief, divorce, unresolved anger about a relationship issue, money conflicts, and other relationship problems can cause situational ISD. Generally, once the issue is resolved or the individual or couple work to change or heal the situation, sexual desire returns.

Women and men who have any of these forms of ISD may benefit from aphrodisiacs; in some cases the help of an experienced therapist or counselor, or a physician if a physical condition is involved, may also be needed.

Desire Differences

A couple visits a sex therapist for the first time. The therapist asks each of them separately how often they have sex and how they feel about the frequency. "She wants sex all the time," the man complained. "At least two or three times a week." The woman responded, "He's never in the mood. I'm lucky if we have sex two or three times a week." Two very different views of the same experience: What the man perceives as too much sex, the woman sees as too little.

As this anecdote illustrates, differences in levels of sexual desire is another common problem many therapists see among couples. If both partners have a low sex drive, there's usually no conflict. But when one partner wants sex more often than the other, the potential for relationship troubles arises.

Partners also may disagree about the type of sexual activity they wish to share with each other. Engaging in oral or anal sex, trying various sexual positions, or having sex in different locations (e.g., in the shower or on the beach) may excite one partner but not the other.

Differences in level of sexual desire between partners usually can be remedied with good communication and counseling. The use of aphrodisiacs can help the person with less desire to more closely match the desire of his or her partner. Love potions also can add a sense of adventure and fun for couples that want to resolve their sexual differences.

Will Aphrodisiacs Help Me?

Women and men, young and old, heterosexual and homosexual, can and do use aphrodisiacs, and with much success. Aphrodisiacs are not an instant cure-all for lack of sexual desire, however. Inhibited sexual desire can be the result of many different factors and situations. (These are explored in depth in Chapter 2.) Once the cause of your sexual difficulty has been identified, you can choose the appropriate avenue to resolve it, be it self-help, counseling, or medical attention. Such resolutions are beyond the scope of this book. Regardless of the cause of your lack of sexual desire, aphrodisiacs can enhance your efforts to revive your sex drive. In some cases they can be the main motivator.

How Do Aphrodisiacs Work?

Sexual desire is largely a matter of an attraction or the "chemistry" between two people. Chapter 2 contains an in-depth explanation of how sexual chemistry works in the body, but here let's just say that aphrodisiacs are supposed to activate or stimulate those factors in your body responsible for sexual arousal. Sometimes an aphrodisiac triggers something in the mind, which in turn increases sexual response. Visualization using images or other sensory cues you find sexually stimulating, for example, begins in the mind and can translate into physical arousal. (See Chapter 9 for use of visualization.)

Some aphrodisiacs work more directly on physiological response. Scientific analysis of the controversial herb yohimbe, for example, which has a reputation for producing intense sexual pleasure, shows that it causes an increase in blood flow to the penis and clitoris. (See Chapter 3.)

The mind-body connection is an integral part of sexual arousal. In fact, some people believe that the primary reason aphrodisiacs work for some men and women is because these individuals believe they will work and that their deep-seated belief is the only trigger they need to set their physical sexual response in motion. However, as you will see in the rest of this book, many aphrodisiacs do have some definite or probable scientific basis.

Getting Help . . . Naturally

Use of aphrodisiacs should be approached with a sense of fun, adventure, and sharing. In Eastern tradition, sex is viewed as a pleasurable, intimate gift between two people. The addition of an aphrodisiac only heightens the beauty of that gift.

While there are many reasons you may be experiencing a lack of sexual desire, there are also many avenues you can take to put spark into your love life. In Chapter 2 you can read all about the reasons your sex drive may be stuck in low. After that, the rest of the book is dedicated to explaining dozens of ways you can shift your interest in sex into high gear, using natural libido enhancers.

Excerpted from Nature's Aphrodisiacs by Lynn Sonberg
All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.

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