Do Aphrodisiacs Actually Do Anything To Lift Your Libido? Here's The Deal

Named after the Greek goddess of love and beauty, Aphrodite, aphrodisiacs have long been believed to enhance sex drive and performance. A 2001 historical review published in Clinical Autonomic Research unpacked the history of aphrodisiacs as well as their importance in cultures. The researchers found that aphrodisiacs are broken into three groups based on what people believe they can improve: libido, potency, and sexual pleasure. From toad skin to blister beetles, to less stomach-turning things like ginseng, human beings have tried to find the ultimate formula that's going to work wonders — maybe even miracles.


But the big question is: do aphrodisiacs actually work? If your libido is currently in the gutter, for all the myriad of reasons that sex drives can be lacking, will eating two dozen oysters cause you to bounce back like a 15-year-old straight boy who just saw naked breasts for the first time? Will consuming the insides of blister beetles induce an erection or tidal wave of natural vaginal lubrication as you've never known? That's what we're going to find out.

Do aphrodisiacs work?

Short and complicated answer: yes and no. According to the Cleveland Clinic, what it really comes down to is whether or not you want them to work. It should go without saying that the human brain is extraordinary. It weighs three pounds and has 100 billion neurons that are constantly hard at work carrying information all over our bodies and back to the brain again. Unless you're a neurologist or member of the scientific community, trying to understand the full power of the brain is mind-boggling. This leads us to something called the placebo effect, which occurs when someone believes something so deeply that they're able to reap physical benefits simply from their belief.


"Desire is physical, psychosocial and relational, and involves a lot of variables," psychotherapist and sex therapist Nan Wise told BBC. "If you believe a food increases desire, the psychology of the placebo effect affects our capacity to get turned on or off."

Similar to mind over matter, when we put our entire brain power into something, the results are basically what we've willed into existence. If you eat everything under the sun that's ever been labeled an aphrodisiac, and you believe it will work despite science proving that it doesn't, you will have far better results than the person who thinks aphrodisiacs are a sham.

What actually boosts libido and sexual performance

If aphrodisiacs are dependent upon the placebo effect, it begs the question that what, if anything, actually does boost sex drive, potency, and performance. Well, according to a 2013 study published in Spermatogenesis, ginseng has been found to improve performance, so that covers potency. A 2008 study published in CNS Neuroscience and Therapeutics found that maca, a plant from Peru, helped increase the sex drive of a small percentage of women who were on libido-suppressing antidepressants. While these two studies offer promising results, similar outcomes are few and far between.


If you want no-fail, no-placebo-effect-required ways to boost your libido and sexual desire no matter your gender or sexual orientation, it's best to stick to things that actually deliver. Per Medical News Today, keep your anxiety in check, exercise, eat right, sleep enough, focus on foreplay (especially if you're struggling to orgasm), ditch the cigarettes, limit your alcohol intake, and if need be, turn to sex therapy.

Sexual desire comes and goes. As great as it would be to have foods or herbs to turn to, human sexuality is far more complicated than that. It involves the connection between the brain and body, and downing a bunch of oysters and dark chocolate can't cure that. As for potency? Sure, there are herbs that allegedly help, but more than anything, it's lifestyle. However, if you believe that certain things you consume spark something in you, then lean into it.