Do natural aphrodisiacs actually work?

Answer From Brent A. Bauer, M.D.

There's little evidence to support the effectiveness of most substances thought of as natural aphrodisiacs — natural substances that may enhance sexual function.

Some foods and supplements are sometimes claimed to affect libido. These include chocolate, spicy food and saw palmetto. But research has found that they usually don't work to produce a sexual response in men or women.

Some early evidence is a little more encouraging for a few natural supplements, but more research is needed. These include ginkgo, ginseng, maca and tribulus.

There's no harm in trying most foods to see if they're effective natural aphrodisiacs. But be aware that some supplements that have insect or plant extracts in them can be poisonous (toxic). For example, Spanish fly, a commonly advertised natural aphrodisiac, can cause kidney damage and bleeding in the digestive system.

Certain products sold as natural aphrodisiacs have also been found to include prescription drug ingredients that aren't listed on the label. For example, sildenafil, the active ingredient in Viagra, has been found in some products. These ingredients can be dangerous if you have certain medical conditions or take certain drugs.

If you're looking for a way to increase your sexual desire that can work, talk to your doctor. He or she may suggest proven strategies for enhancing sexual health. These may include communicating with your partner, making healthy lifestyle choices and treating any other medical conditions you have. You may also find it helpful to talk to a counselor or therapist trained in sexual concerns and relationship issues.

Aug. 11, 2020 See more Expert Answers