For centuries, humans have been searching for a magic food or supplement that will boost their sex drives. Yesterday's honey and oysters are today's "horny goat weed" and Libido-Max pills.
There's only one problem with these supposed libido enhancers: There's no good evidence showing that they work.
According to a new study published in the journal Sexual Medical Reviews, many of the most popular aphrodisiac foods and supplements have either no science or only low-quality studies backing the claims they carry. The aphrodisiacs that have been adequately investigated either do no good, or more harm than good.
Here are just a few examples:
Oysters: Casanova supposedly relied on oysters, and they do contain nutrients and amino acids that theoretically aid in testosterone production and enhancing the pleasure response. But the researchers concluded, "There are no [high-quality randomized control trial] data to confirm that oysters have any beneficial effects on sexual responsivity or satisfaction."
Spanish fly: This stuff can burn the mouth and throat, scar the urethra, and, in cases of excess consumption, kill you.
Honey: It won't hurt you, but there's no data to back its use as an aphrodisiac.
Chocolate: The notion that chocolate can put you in the mood isn't backed by any medical evidence.
Horny goat weed (or epimedium): Despite the claims on the labels of the aptly named horny goat weed supplements, no high-quality studies in humans have ever been conducted.
Saw palmetto: Again, no studies here.
Ginkgo biloba: Early research suggested ginkgo biloba might help with sexual dysfunction, but a higher-quality follow-up study showed no clear benefit. What's more, there are risks. "While Ginkgo is generally well tolerated, it can cause significant bleeding risks, especially if taken with [blood thinning medications]," the researchers noted.
Ginseng: Researchers found that "there have been seven double-blind, placebo-controlled studies comparing ginseng to placebo for treatment of erectile dysfunction—review of these studies showed overall effectiveness of ginseng." But the study designs were so different, it's hard to draw any firm conclusions. "While studies in women are more limited, there has been research to show Korean red ginseng improves sexual arousal in menopausal women." But here, too, there were caveats: Ginseng can interfere with blood thinning medications and should be avoided in people with hormone-sensitive cancers such as some breast cancers.
Cannabis-enhanced products: "There are no published studies to support claims of cannabis as a sexual stimulant, and thus these products cannot be recommended at this time," the researchers wrote.
The study's conclusion? "Future randomized clinical trials are warranted before health care practitioners can recommend most aphrodisiac products. There remain some medical concerns with drug interactions, purity, reliability, and safety."
h/t Time Magazine