Valentine's Day is Coming: A look at supplements that could help rev the libido

Aphrodisiacs for the bedroom

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With Valentine's Day right around the corner, we've had a surge of people asking us what supplements they can take to help rev up their libido. Luckily, there’s a whole category of supplements available: aphrodisiacs.

Instead of focusing on muscles and fat loss, aphrodisiacs are supplements marketed to improve your love life. Aphrodisiacs are named after the Greek goddess of love and pleasure, Aphrodite, but unlike the goddess, these supplements cannot cause you to fall in love. Despite all the marketing, there are no compounds that are capable of such a mind-altering effect after oral supplementation.

The majority of these supplements are libido enhancers. Like with most supplement categories, it takes a bit of research to figure out which of these compounds work and which are a waste of your money.


Enhancing the libido

Supplements that enhance libido rarely undergo rigorous scientific examination. Though most of the supplements listed below have some evidence to support their effects, even the very best options have only been the subject of a couple studies.


Promising supplements

Maca and fenugreek are two of the best-researched libido-enhancing supplements. Both require at least a week of supplementation to provide benefits. Maca has been specifically shown to work for women, an often-overlooked population when it comes to libido enhancement.

Similar supplements include Tribulus terrestris and eurycoma longifolia jack, though there has only been one human study done on each of these herbs. There is, however, animal evidence that supports the results found in human studies, suggesting these herbs may be useful supplements to improve libido.

Supplements that are able to improve libido immediately after oral supplementation are rare and often come with unwanted side effects. Yohimbine has been shown to improve libido, but it should not be supplemented by people using medication for heart and brain conditions. Alcohol can also be an effective spur-of-the-moment libido enhancer for some people (in moderate doses) because it provides a small boost to testosterone and reduces inhibition. But this effect doesn’t work for everyone. Some people experience a small reduction to testosterone after imbibing alcohol, or no effect at all. This unpredictability, combined with alcohol’s health risks, make it unsuitable as a long-term testosterone booster and libido enhancer.


Ineffective supplements

There are many more herbal supplements marketed as libido enhancers, but if they’re not one of the four listed above, there’s a good chance the supplement is just marketing hype. Have you heard of DHEA, Ginkgo biloba, L-DOPA, or velvet antler? All of these supplements have been marketed as libido enhancers, despite evidence suggesting they are ineffective as oral supplements.

Even foods traditionally associated with romance and love turn out to have a limited effect on libido once they’re studied. Rose, used in aromatherapy, and chocolate (sometimes supplemented through cocoa extract) may have mild relaxing properties, notably for women, but these effects contribute more to stress reduction than libido enhancement.

There is no evidence to suggest eating oysters before bed improves performance, though if you’re low on zinc, oyster consumption could alleviate a deficiency, which can negatively affect several hormones that influence libido.

Visit the Examine.com page to find out more about supplements marketed as testosterone boosters.


Cautionary note: stimulants in the bedroom

Some people choose to introduce stimulants into the bedroom for special occasions. These supplements should be used cautiously, not just in terms of safety, but due to their potential effect on performance.

Apart from pharmaceutical options like Viagra, stimulants are generally not recommended for bedroom use. Ephedrine has been found to increase sexual arousal when supplemented by men and women, but other stimulants like nicotine, rather than influencing arousal, reduce perceived stimulation.

Any substance that increases diastolic blood pressure or increases the risks of cardiovascular damage should not be used with Viagra. For example, there are numerous case studies on marijuana use resulting in a heart attack when combined with Viagra, since marijuana increases diastolic blood pressure.


Spend your money wisely

Don’t let the marketing get to you. Chances are, you’d be better off spending your money on an extra-romantic dinner.

Before introducing a new supplement into the bedroom, talk to your partner. People taking medication or with chronic heart conditions should talk to their doctor before supplementing for the bedroom.

Have fun, and stay safe this Valentine’s Day!

For a step-by-step breakdown of supplements proven to work synergistically for increased libido check out our human effect matrix for libido here.


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