Aphrodisiacs are a class of compounds either natural or synthetic that increase both the desire and ability for sexual activity. In this article we will be discussing the first of the 6 different classifications of these useful compounds. The classifications include: Aromatic aphrodisiacs, adaptogenic aphrodisiacs, nutritional aphrodisiacs, direct sexual stimulants, nervine aphrodisiacs, and energetic aphrodisiacs.
What are Aromatic Herbs?
A herb is considered aromatic if it contains a volatile oil. You may have heard of this before if you are familiar with what an essential oil is. This oil is contained within the plant in small amounts, and has what we would call a high "volatility" or "excitability", which means the molecules evaporate very easily into the air. It is when these molecules evaporate into the air that our smell receptors in our nose are able to bind to them and send the message to our brains, resulting in the sensation of a "smell".
How do Aromatic Aphrodisiacs Work?
Aromatic aphrodisiacs such as vanilla, and rosewood, exert many of their effects through a part of our brain known as the limbic system. This system developed in the human brain thousands of years ago, long before we became the humans we are today. Its functions are both primal in nature, and highly complex. It is regarded as being responsible for emotions, instincts, sexual activity and desire, hunger, and memories. It is made up of the olfactory senses in the nose and various structures in the brain. It is because of this close relationship with the sensory receptors in the nose that it can be influenced by smell.
Think about what happens when you walk by a restaurant serving your favourite food, and how it instantly makes you feel hungry. Or when someone walks by with a perfume identical to what your mother used to wear when you were young, which then brings back all sorts of emotions and memories. This is the result of your limbic system interacting with the aromatic molecules around you, and translating them in your brain. This translation is then displayed as an emotion or a memory. It works in the exact same way for sexual activity.
Aromatic herbs offer actions through this limbic system, triggering various emotions, feelings, and memories. Some herbs possess aphrodisiacs qualities unique for each person depending on their history and memories, while others are universally known to trigger a response towards sexual desire. It is these universal aromatic aphrodisiacs that have been used by many of earths ancient cultures in the form of incense, baths, oils, flowers, and other live or dried plant parts. Modern day aromatherapy now has the advantage of high tech extraction processes that can extract and concentrate these volatile and aromatic components specifically from various plant species. these essential oils can then be used as is, or combined with other substances to make creams, slaves, oils, and much more.
Some Examples of Aromatic Aphrodisiacs:
Vanilla (Vanilla planifolia) originates from Mexico and central America, it is actually a beautiful orchid that is quite rare in nature. Its flowers last only a day before wilting so in that time it needs to be as attractive as possible to its pollinators. Once pollinated, a pod forms, and it is in this pod that the active aromatic chemicals are created. Vanilin is the main chemical contained in vanilla and is suggested to be mainly responsible for vanillas aphrodisiac qualities. There are however many other scents that combine to create the signature scent of vanilla, and some sources report that there are over 150 different scents in the vanilla pod! This herb has been used for ages by such cultures as the Aztecs, and Myans for its aphrodisiac qualities, and can now commonly be found in a wide range of candles, creams, and oils for this same purpose. Vanilla has been shown in lab studies to significantly increase copulation in rats (Maskeri et al., 2012), and has been suggested to increase vaginal secretions in females. In fact, the latin name Vanilla actually means "little vagina". Not sure what they were trying to say with that but it was clearly regarded to have powerful effects in that region of the human anatomy.
Rose (Rosa spp.) is a flower well known by everybody for its beauty in both appearance and scent. It has always been associated with love and sexuality. The scent in a rose is so powerful, that despite its essential oil being contained in very small amounts, our noses can pick up and react to it instantly. In fact, this powerful oil is contained in such small amounts that it takes roughly 60 000 roses to obtain just 1 oz of rose essential oil. This is why this oil generally quite expensive. Fortunately however, it does not take much for this compound to invoke feelings of love and arousal. It is thought that many of the effects that the scent of rose has on libido has to do with hormonal and regulatory effects. In the past, rose has been used to regulate menstrual cycle, improve fatigue, promote relaxation, and correct erectile dysfunction.
Rosewood (Aniba rosaeodora) is a large, evergreen tree found in the Amazon rainforest. It is in the same family as cinnamon, camphor and cassia, all of which posess similar aphrodisiac qualities. Many herbalists throughout the years have used this essential oil extracted from the wood to treat conditions such as depression, anxiety, increase hormone secretions, and of course, to stimulate sexual desire.
Ylang ylang (Cananga odorata) is the flower of a very large tree, growing up to 20 meters tall. the name means "flower of flowers" in Malayan. It possesses calming, yet arousing qualities, and has been used to treat depression, anxiety, erectile dysfunction, menstrual irregularities, and to improve orgasmic ability. In some cultures it is thrown all over the beds of newly weds for this purpose. Due to some of ylang ylangs other effects on promoting calmness and tranquility, it is extremely useful for those experiencing anxiety or stress related sexual dysfunctions.
Other aromatic aphrodisiacs include jasmine, cinnamon, ginger, neroli, patchouli, and nutmeg.
- The Sunlight Experiment
- Ali, J., Ansari, S., & Kotta, S. (2013). Exploring scientifically proven herbal aphrodisiacs.Pharmacognosy Reviews, 7(1), 1. doi:10.4103/0973-7847.112832
- Chauhan, N. S., Sharma, V., Dixit, V. K., & Thakur, M. (2014). A Review on Plants Used for Improvement of Sexual Performance and Virility. BioMed Research International, 2014, 1-19. doi:10.1155/2014/868062
- Maskeri, R., Ullal, S. D., Belagali, Y., Shoeb, A., Bhagwat, V., & Ramya. (2012). Evaluation of aphrodisiac effect of vanillin in male wistar rats. Pharmacognosy Journal, 4(32), 61-64. doi:10.5530/pj.2012.32.11