herbal aphrodisiacs shaped into a heart with heart-shaped cookie cutters

The Herbal Aphrodisiacs in Your Spice Cabinet & How to Use Them | A Beginner’s Guide

Herbal aphrodisiacs are no magic love potions, but they do help to support our ability to better experience intimacy and pleasure. When it comes to opening ourselves up to the pleasures of life, herbs can play an important role in our sex lives.

What is an Aphrodisiac?
Do Herbal Aphrodisiacs Work?
How Do They Work?
The Whole Body Approach to Sexual Health
5 Herbal Aphrodisiacs Already in Your Spice Cabinet (+ 5 Bonus Herbs!)
Delicious Recipes Using Aphrodisiac Herbs
The Many Ways to Use Them

Final Thoughts on Pleasure
Resources & Further Reading

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single stem dried pink rose used as an herbal aphrodisiac

What is an Aphrodisiac?

First and foremost, aphrodisiacs are not magic love potions that turn people into love zombies. Although, I can’t think of a better kind of zombie.

In the simplest of terms, aphrodisiacs are substances that help to stimulate sexual desire and pleasure, increase potency, and/or enhance performance. They can be taken internally or applied topically and work via a variety of physiological and energetic mechanisms.

dried pink wild roses and rosebuds for medicinal uses as an herbal aphrodisiac

Do Herbal Aphrodisiacs Work?

Here’s the thing: magic love potions don’t exist.

It’s not so much about the physical act of sex and how these plants might enhance that sacred union with oneself or another either.

Instead, it’s more about how these plants can help support you physiologically, emotionally, energetically, and mentally so that ultimately you are in a more open and available space to actually experience the pleasures of life, and more specifically, sex.

Just as is the miracle of life itself and all the minute details that have to fall into exact and perfect position for us to be happy, healthy, and functioning humans (a status defined differently for everyone), there’s a lot that goes into our sexual health.

While our sexual organs or genitals get the spotlight, they’re really just the face on the poster. In reality, there’s a whole production crew behind the scenes working to make sure everything is in its place for the big performance.

Using herbal aphrodisiacs can help to make sure that everything behind the scenes is in order to earn that standing ovation.

Yea, I just said that. 🙂

So, yes, herbal aphrodisiacs are scientifically proven to work, perhaps just not solely in the way you thought.

four dried pink roses on a single stem used as an herbal aphrodisiac

How Do Herbal Aphrodisiacs Work?

Herbal aphrodisiacs work in different ways and by several different mechanisms. It’s truly a whole body effort.

Topical vs. Systemic Herbal Aphrodisiacs

Topical aphrodisiacs are applied externally and usually work by slightly irritating the skin which naturally helps to increase blood flow to an area.

Systemic herbal aphrodisiacs are ingested and may also increase blood flow to the sex organs. In addition, they may also work to increase the nutrients needed for sexual function.

Some herbs may have more of an affinity to the actual reproductive organs. Others may work more to support the endocrine system, including the adrenals, making sure that all the hormones involved in sexual desire, potency, pleasure, and performance are being made or excreted, and done so at the right times. And still, others act more on our nervous systems.

Immediate vs. Cumulative Effects

Many of the herbs considered to have aphrodisiac properties are also considered tonic or adaptogenic herbs and have more cumulative effects. These herbs are known for helping the body better cope with stress as they are used over a longer period of time.

They have a unique tonifying or restorative effect on the body, nourishing our nervous systems, adrenal systems, and more. Ultimately, these tonic or adaptogenic herbs contribute to whole-body health.

And in doing so, we sleep better, are better able to nourish ourselves, have better resistance to infection, disease, and inflammation, etc.

When we’re healthy, we’re naturally able to better experience pleasure simply because the distractions (ie. stress, inflammation, nutrient deficiency, etc.) aren’t there to prevent us from doing so.

In contrast to these tonic herbs that have more slow-acting, cumulative actions, there are also herbs that have more immediate effects.

These may include herbs that help to incite a mild and short-lived euphoric state (like damiana) or an immediate stimulation of blood flow (like guarana or catuaba bark), both of which contribute to an enhanced pleasure experience.

The Whole Body Approach to Sexual Health

As you can see, there’s a whole symphony of hormones, nerves, nutrients, and much more that contribute to the bigger picture of pleasure.

Our sexual health and ability to experience pleasure are a whole-body effort far beyond just increasing blood flow to our genitals.

The secret to better experiencing pleasure is really no secret at all. Eat well. Sleep well. Move your body. Find simple ways to better manage stress. Relax. Enlist herbal support.

bundle of cinnamon sticks with ground cinnamon in a small glass jar
vanilla bean orchid (an herbal aphrodisiac)
fresh ginger root sliced

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5 Herbal Aphrodisiacs Already in Your Spice Cabinet

Now that we know the general idea of how herbs can help to support a healthy sex life, here are 5 aphrodisiac herbs and spices that you likely already have in your kitchen.

GINGER (Zingiber officinale)

This is the plant for when you literally want to spice things up! Ginger is a warming circulatory stimulant and heart tonic. Any herb that has an affinity for the heart is naturally going to be good for managing a healthy blood flood and increasing circulation, a necessary happening for sexual stimulation and performance.

In Arabic medicine, ginger is commonly used as an aphrodisiac. And in India, ginger mixed with eggs and honey was a traditional treatment for impotence.

Warm things up with this Root Chakra Roll-On with ginger, cinnamon, and sandalwood essential oils. Or try this Ginger Turmeric Tea.

VANILLA (Vanilla planifolia)

The soothing scent of vanilla is enough to relax and put anyone in the mood for sexy time. A 2012 study demonstrated that vanilla showed a significant increase in arousal in rats.

While vanilla is also high in antioxidants and other health benefits, when it comes to its aphrodisiac properties, it’s all about the intoxicating aroma.

The earliest use of vanilla as an aphrodisiac is said to be in Mexico where vanilla was mixed into a chocolate drink that was commonly used as an aphrodisiac.

NUTMEG (Myristica fragrans)

Here’s another pungent, warming, and aromatic spice to get things moving. Nutmeg is well-known for its nerve-stimulating properties.

Long before modern science was at our fingertips, the Hindus used nutmeg as a sexual stimulant specifically for men. And this 2005 study showing that nutmeg consumption demonstrated a sustained and significant increase in sexual activity in rats, proves that the Hindus were on to something.

There have since been several studies implicating nutmeg’s promise of its use as an aphrodisiac in humans.

organic herbs and spices from mountain rose herbs

CACAO (Theobroma cacao)

This beautiful and otherworldly plant is another heart-healthy food. Cacao is rich in heart-protective antioxidants that help to strengthen and tone our cardiovascular systems.

Studies have also shown cacao to be a feel-good food, stimulating the release of serotonin and having a mood-elevating effect. Coupled with its stimulating properties due to the theobromine, a plant compound with effects similar to caffeine, cacao makes for a delicious aphrodisiac.

Legend tells of how Montezuma, the 16th-century ruler of the Aztecs, used to drink 50 cups of cacao before he went to visit his harem. Other historical accounts tell of cacao being used to treat sexual weakness. And a 1992 study did show that cacao caused a greater sperm count and increased testicular swelling in rats.

**PLEASURE TIP: Although, please note that the majority of the chocolate on the market contains very little actual cacao. The high sugar and dairy content may actually have an anti-aphrodisiac effect. Look for raw cacao powder to make aphrodisiac elixirs with or dark chocolate (72% or higher).

Add in a little scoop of this organic and fair-trade Raw Cacao Powder to your smoothies, oatmeal, hot chocolate. And use it to make your own aphrodisiac chocolates! Or try this award-winning Passion Chocolate Elixir.

CINNAMON (Cinnamomum spp.)

This incredibly popular baking spice was once worth more than its weight in gold. Cinnamon, like many spices, has a long and entangled relationship with humans. It’s another warming, aromatic, and energizing spice that has a long history of use as an aphrodisiac in cultures all around the world.

Cinnamon also contains the minerals manganese, potassium, and zinc, all of which are necessary for adequate sexual function. Its warming qualities help to produce heat in the body, stimulating digestion and appetite, both physical and sexual.

There are also reports of cinnamon oil being used topically on the genitals to stimulate sensation, although because genital tissue is incredibly sensitive, it also has the potential to turn into an unpleasant burn. Always use caution when applying herbal oils to sensitive tissues, especially essential oils.

But wait! Here are some bonus herbs! While the following herbs may or may not be in your spice cabinet, they are some of my favorite aphrodisiac herbs and are generally easily accessible.

Here are 4 more herbal aphrodisiacs that are just too lovely to not mention.

HIBISCUS (Hibiscus rosa-sinensis)

Is there a sexier flower than the hibiscus? This is another heart-health-promoting power plant rich in vitamin C and is said to be a more powerful antioxidant than green tea. Amongst its many health benefits, hibiscus has been found to help regulate hormonal body temperature, a necessity for a fulfilling pleasure experience.

wild rose with pink and white petals and single leaf used as an herbal aphrodisiac

ROSE (Rosa spp.)

This Queen of the Flowers has a long-standing association with all matters of the heart, including love. Rose is not actually considered to be an aphrodisiac (opinions vary), but due to its ability to energetically open the heart, to soften and sweeten everyday life, not to mention its intoxicating smell, it’s a perfect addition to your herbal love potions.

DAMIANA (Turnera diffusa)

This is one herb whose erotic reputation nearly precedes it. Damiana is known to be both a male and female stimulant and is often used as an aphrodisiac especially when low mood, anxiety, or depression are contributing to sexual dysfunction.

Damiana has uplifting, mood-elevating properties that can even produce mild and short-lived euphoria.

Add a bit of Aphrodite’s Syrup to your coffee or just enjoy it by the spoonful. It’s full of herbs used to inspire closeness and intimacy, promote relaxation, and is packed full of other aphrodisiac herbs like cinnamon, vanilla, and kava kava.

ASHWAGANDHA (Withania somnifera)

This Ayurvedic herb is most noted for its adaptogenic properties, its ability to help strengthen our bodies against the assault of everyday stressors. When we’re less stressed, both our physical and emotional bodies are more available to experience pleasure.

Ashwagandha is also known for its ability to balance both the male and female sex hormones that control sexual desire, libido, pleasure, and performance.

peppermint hot chocolate with ashwagandha
banana milk in glass jars on cutting board with sliced bananas
ginger-turmeric herbal honey for a warming morning sipper

Delicious Recipes Using Aphrodisiac Herbs

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How to Use Herbal Aphrodisiacs

The beauty of including herbs in your daily life is that there are so many ways to use them and so many benefits to doing so. Aphrodisiac herbs are no different.

Here are some easy ways to use aphrodisiac herbs:

  • herbal teas or infusions
  • massage oil
  • herbal cordials or elixirs
  • infused honey
  • desserts
  • herbal smoke blends or aromatherapy
  • botanical baths
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Final Thoughts on Pleasure

I hope this information got you thinking. It’s likely you’re already using spices like ginger, cinnamon, and nutmeg on a frequent basis. And if you’re anything like me, I rarely go a day without cacao.

Likewise, you probably have favorite recipes using these herbs that you’ve never, ever, ever (!!) thought about as aphrodisiacs.

I’ll leave you with one last tidbit of information:

As much as our whole body health plays into our ability to experience pleasure, it’s also a case of mind over matter.

Nearly every food on the planet, at one point in history, has been considered an aphrodisiac. And knowing how many different things go into priming our bodies for pleasure, one could argue that all nourishing foods are aphrodisiacs. It’s all in how you look at it.

Play. Experiment. Connect. Allow yourself to be moved by the simple pleasures in life.

Here’s to love, every single kind of it.

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Resources & Further Reading

herbal aphrodisiacs artichoke, chocolate, and rose

DISCLAIMER: The information given in this article is intended for educational purposes only. Always check with your health practitioner before consuming certain herbs & medicinal foods, especially if pregnant, nursing, or taking any prescription medications. 

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