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Spicing up sex by consuming foods and plants might work

Kathleen Blanchard's picture
Food and sex

Food researchers find foods and spices really can enhance sexual performance. Investigators at University of Guelph have found scientific evidence that it really is possible to "spice" up your sex life.

Massimo Marcone, a professor in Guelph's Department of Food Science, and master's student John Melnyk explored the effect of spices as aphrodisiacs in an analysis of hundreds of studies to sort out if food really can enhance sexual performance.

The researchers say they've sorted out fact from fiction to find ginseng and saffron boost sexual performance. Other purported aphrodisiacs like chocolate and wine may make people feel amorous, but it''s all psychological.

Natural products that enhance sex found in large study

The researchers say they've uncovered natural products that enhance sex without the side effects - something they say is needed.

"Ours is the most thorough scientific review to date. Nothing has been done on this level of detail before now." There is a need for natural products that enhance sex without negative side effects, Melnyk added. Currently, conditions such as erectile dysfunction are treated with synthetic drugs, including sildenafil (commonly sold as Viagra) and tadalafil (Cialis).

In their review, the researchers looked at consumable aphrodisiacs that have a physical effect and those that seem to have a psychological effect on sexual enhancement.

They found that panax ginseng, saffron and yohimbine improve sexual function.

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When it comes to chocolate and wine, the effects on sex are just psychological. Alcohol impedes sexual performance but increases sexual arousal.

"It may be that some people feel an effect from certain ingredients in chocolate, mainly phenylethylamine, which can affect serotonin and endorphin levels in the brain," Marcone said.

Spanish Fly and Bufo toad can be toxic and the researchers warn it's best to stay away from either. Rather than enhancing sex they can have the opposite effect.

In the study, the aphrodisiacs cited "were shown to relax corpus cavernosum smooth muscle tissue in animals, improve erection quality in humans and animals, or increase sexual behavior and satisfaction in humans and animals."

The findings, published in the journal "Food Research International", are the first to show foods and spices can enhance sexual performance.

The study found nutmeg, cloves, garlic, ginger, and ambergris, formed in the intestines of the sperm whale, are linked to increase in animal sexual behavior.

The researchers also note it's too soon to recommend specific substances for improving sex. More studies are needed to find exactly how food and plants can enhance sexual performance in humans and more detail about how the substances work.

Food Research International: doi:10.1016/j.foodres.2011.02.043
"Aphrodisiacs from Plant and Animal Sources – A Review of Current Scientific Literature"
John P. Melnyk and Massimo F. Marcone