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Love Potion #9

Aphrodisiac, Part One - Erotic Herbs.

By Suzanne Levine

Ever been tempted to click on that email in your spam folder for the "Raging Bull Herbal Love Potion"? You're not alone. Humans have been seeking out aphrodisiacs since, well probably since we discovered sex. Ancient peoples had basic ideas. If it looked like the genitals, well then that's what it must stimulate. To set the mood for a steamy night
perhaps a phallic stew of carrots, asparagus and mushrooms, followed of course, by bananas for dessert. To arouse the ladies, oysters and dates. We now know that carrots aren't particularly erotic (at least when used as a food), but sometimes believing is all that it takes. After all, (and contrary to what some girls think about men) sexual desire begins in the brain.

An aphrodisiac can be anything that boosts sexual desire or performance. You probably immediately think of certain foods and herbs like oysters and ginseng, but did you know scents can be powerful turn-ons as well? That cinnamon bun stand at the mall smells good, right? Betcha didn't know it can help get your dough rising. Bad puns aside, we're not making this stuff up! A study has actually shown that the smell of cinnamon buns can put more puff in your pastry. Read on to learn more about sexual scents and other aphrodisiacs in our three special features:

Erotic Herbs

Herbs have been used for centuries by many different cultures to enhance sex. Only a few have been scientifically studied (the big drug companies can't patent a common herb and make Viagra-like profits off of it), but years of anecdotal evidence that they work can't be ignored. Try some and judge for yourself.

Wood and Woodies

To bring on that woody, why not try actual wood? You may not have heard of it, but muira puama is derived from the bark or root of two species of small trees in the olive family. It has been used for hundreds of years by natives of the Amazon rainforest as a powerful aphrodisiac. In fact muira puama translates as "potency wood". The guys who named it knew what they were talking about. A 1995 clinical study by Dr. Jacques Waynberg at the Institute of Sexology in France (yes, it sounds fake, but it's actually a real place - for those of you who parlez Francais) confirmed that muira puama improved men's sex drive and helped with erection difficulties. It's usually drunk as a tea or an alcohol extract prior to lovemaking. For the ladies, it's said to help relieve menstrual cramps. And if you cure your girlfriend's cramps perhaps she'll want to thank you properly.

Yohimbine is another aphrodisiac made from wood, specifically the bark of the yohimbe tree which grows in West Africa. Locals there have been using yohimbine for years to dilate Mr. Happy's blood vessels. Here in the States make sure to get yohimbine hydrochloride, the only safe form, which is approved by the FDA for treating certain types of male impotence. Yohimbine has also been scientifically studied and proven to work, however it can have unpleasant side effects and should only be used with your doctor�s approval. Never take yohimbine with foods that contain tyramine, such as liver, cheese or red wine. This combination can cause dangerously high blood pressure. Between the two "woodies" you're better off with muira puama.

Pump Up Your Circulation

If your looking to get your juices flowing (not those juices, we're talking blood here) you'll want to try ginkgo, cayenne pepper or ginger. Ginkgo biloba has been used by generations of Chinese not only as an aphrodisiac, but also to promote vigor and longevity. Scientists now know that ginkgo improves blood flow to vital tissues and organs in the body without increasing blood pressure. Not only can this improve sex, but increased circulation can also prevent memory loss and maybe even Alzheimers disease. It's best to take a small dose of ginkgo every day, but you can also take a slightly larger dose prior to the main event.

The active ingredient in cayenne pepper is capsaicin, which stimulates circulation and digestion. It can be taken as a capsule, a half hour before sex, drunk as a tea, or go the old-fashioned route and add some chili peppers to your entree to ensure your evening stays hot and spicy.

Ginger also increases blood flow to the genitals. Buy some at your local supermarket or health food stores. You can even get it pickled in the Asian food section (the ginger, not your pickle). Just keep in mind that ginkgo and ginger are both blood thinners, so don't take them with anti-coagulant drugs or aspirin.

All Night Long

If you're lucky enough to find a girl who likes to go more rounds than you do, it's good to know that ginseng promotes stamina and energy. The Chinese have long used ginseng root as an aphrodisiac, but it was also prized in India where it was used to treat impotence. Ginseng means "root of man" in Chinese.

Lusty Licorice

Here's one for the ladies. Licorice stimulates the female sex glands. It helps regulate the menstrual cycle because it contains plant estrogens. It's also high in natural starches and sugars which your body quickly converts into energy. This can help rest and strengthen your adrenal glands. Licorice comes from the root of a shrub native to southern Europe and Asia. It's even been found in the tombs of ancient Egyptian pharaohs. Licorice is naturally sweet, which is why it�s often used in candy. But don't serve your gal Twizzlers for dessert. All that's gonna give her is a sugar high. Get licorice powder or tea from an Asian market.

Un-Sexy Herbs

Spanish fly is probably the first aphrodisiac most guys think of. It's not actually a fly at all, but a ground up beetle (Cantharis vesicatoria for you entomologists out there). It only takes a few milligrams of the stuff to cause kidney failure or even death. And if that's not bad enough, it "works" by causing blisters on the inside of your penis. (Time out while we cringe.) Having your date rush you to the emergency room is definitely not sexy.

Ma Huang (ephedra) is often promoted as a weight loss product, but has also been used to heighten sexual feelings. Unfortunately it can cause heart attacks, strokes or even psychosis. Having your date drop you off at the local loony bin isn't sexy either.

Other herbs to avoid are Jimson weed, mandrake and poison nut, all of which are (surprise) poisonous.

Calling Doctor Aphrodisiac

Remember, herbs can have medicinal effects on the body. Check with your doctor if you're taking any medications to avoid potentially bad interactions. It's always safest to start with small amounts of herbs, before building up to larger ones. An herbalist can help you figure out what dosages are right for you.

That said, next time why not serve your date some pickled ginger and licorice tea? Worst case: She'll think you have the worst taste in food. The best case: She'll be so hot for you it won't matter.

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