Aphrodisiac Foods that Boost Your Libido - Dr. Axe

Fact Checked

This Dr. Axe content is medically reviewed or fact checked to ensure factually accurate information.

With strict editorial sourcing guidelines, we only link to academic research institutions, reputable media sites and, when research is available, medically peer-reviewed studies. Note that the numbers in parentheses (1, 2, etc.) are clickable links to these studies.

The information in our articles is NOT intended to replace a one-on-one relationship with a qualified health care professional and is not intended as medical advice.

This article is based on scientific evidence, written by experts and fact checked by our trained editorial staff. Note that the numbers in parentheses (1, 2, etc.) are clickable links to medically peer-reviewed studies.

Our team includes licensed nutritionists and dietitians, certified health education specialists, as well as certified strength and conditioning specialists, personal trainers and corrective exercise specialists. Our team aims to be not only thorough with its research, but also objective and unbiased.

The information in our articles is NOT intended to replace a one-on-one relationship with a qualified health care professional and is not intended as medical advice.

5 Best Aphrodisiac Foods and How to Use


Updated: June 13, 2018

Aphrodisiac foods - Dr. Axe

Most couples, at some point in their relationships, will deal with issues in the bedroom. Sure, low libidos and impotence can put a strain on sex and your relationship.

But every day matters, like whether or not your spouse unloaded the dishwasher or worrying about that presentation you have, can kill the mood, too. When that happens, you might need a little nudge to kick-start things in the bedroom. Before you turn to prescription drugs, however, you might want to give aphrodisiac foods a try first.

Believe it or not, some of these aphrodisiac foods can increase libido and help overcome impotence, and all of them can have a positive effect on arousal, desire and more. So what is an aphrodisiac exactly, and what foods make the best aphrodisiacs? Let’s take a look.

What Is an Aphrodisiac?

So what is an aphrodisiac anyway? Named after Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of love, beauty and fertility, the term “aphrodisiac” is pretty broad. Most of us think of a food or pill that’ll have us dimming the lights and feeling frisky. But, according, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, “any product that bears labelling claims that it will arouse or increase sexual desire, or that it will improve sexual performance, is an aphrodisiac drug.” (1)

Did you notice anything interesting about that aphrodisiac definition? That’s right, there’s no mention of proven claims or efficacy. Any drug manufacturer can slap on an aphrodisiac label on a product and market it as such. That’s just one of the reasons I’d advise you to steer clear of them and lean toward aphrodisiac foods instead.

Best Foods

Luckily, there are better ways to set the mood than supposed aphrodisiac supplements (though yohimbe does have studies behind its potential benefits), and they involve eating delicious foods. That’s right, it’s time to say hello to aphrodisiac foods.

Eating to get things feeling spicy in the bedroom isn’t a new concept. In fact, aphrodisiac foods date back to biblical times; they don’t call it a honeymoon for nothing. But not all foods with a reputation for getting things hot and heavy are actually aphrodisiacs. Here are the ones that have been scientifically proven to boost bedroom activity. You’ll want to keep these in the kitchen!

1. Ginseng

This herb’s popular for many reasons, and increasing bedroom activity is one of them. Both Asian and American varieties of the herb have been found to enhance libido and performance. (2) One review found that it also improves sexual arousal and can help treat erectile dysfunction. Ginseng likely affects the central nervous system, altering hormones in the process.

Enjoy ginseng in its natural form with ginseng tea. Use the fresh root, powered or dry root. Take 1 tablespoon of the root shavings or powdered root, and put into a metal tea ball. Bring water to a boil and then let the water cool for 2–3 minutes. Pour the water into a tea cup and add the tea ball, letting the tea steep for at least 5 minutes.

2. Saffron

It can be pricey, but saffron is a good option for an aphrodisiac food. The ancient spice can actually help improve sexual dysfunction. One study looked at saffron’s effect on women diagnosed with major depression. (3)

The women who were given saffron, and not a placebo, in the double-blind trial, experienced significantly greater improvements in their overall “Female Sexual Function Index,” which was used to assess sexual function. When compared with the placebo group, they also scored higher when it came to arousal and lubrication. It’s also been found to positively effect men with erectile dysfunction, so both sexes can reap the benefits of this powerful spice. (4)

Saffron threads are your best bet when buying the spice — just make sure you pass on safflower, which looks similar and is cheaper, but isn’t the real thing. Because of saffron’s strong flavor, you don’t need to use too much at once. It’s delicious when added to rice dishes like paella, as well as veggies, meats and seafood.

3. Maca

This root vegetable that you probably haven’t heard of could be the key to improving your sex life. Maca root initially was used in South America to boost fertility but eventually came to be used as a sex stimulant as well, and for good reason. One study conducted found in South Korea found that sexual dysfunction decreased in men when using maca, while sexual desire increased in both men and women. (5) Maca also improved erectile dysfunction among men significantly.

Another study published in the Journal of Ethnopharmacology found that, in male cyclists, maca supplementation improved both their cycling time and their sexual desire, quite the two-for-one deal. (6)

In women, maca has been known to help with hormone balance during PMS and menopause, which can help with the side effects of both conditions; those side effects often include a lack of interest in sex. It’s also been linked to boosting menopausal women’s moods and lowering their levels of anxiety and depression, which can lead to an increased sex drive. (7)

You can find maca in most health food stores as a powder. Look for 100 percent pure maca, ideally an organic variety. With a flavor similar to cinnamon or nutmeg, maca is great for adding to smoothies or sprinkling into oatmeal.

Five best aphrodisiac foods - Dr. Axe

4. Chocolate

Is there anything that chocolate can’t do? While there’s no definitive evidence from scientists that eating chocolate will help you enjoy your time in the sheets more, it does boost your feel-good hormones.

Phenethylamine, the stimulant that’s released in our brains when we fall in love (also known as “the love drug”), and tryptophan, which helps produce serotonin, are both found in chocolate. Eating more chocolate might help you feel a bit more loving toward your partner, which could translate into some quality time.

One study published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine did find a correlation between chocolate consumption and a higher Female Sexual Function Index score, but the researchers concluded, “In our sample women reporting chocolate consumption have higher FSFI scores than women who do not eat chocolate. However, when data are adjusted for age FSFI scores are similar, regardless of chocolate consumption.” (8)

When choosing chocolate, opt for a minimally processed dark chocolate that’s at least 70 percent cocoa. Dark chocolate has a host of health benefits and antioxidants that just don’t translate to milk chocolate.

5. Gingko Biloba

This ancient plant extract has been used for thousands of years in Chinese medicine to treat various health conditions. Now, there’s another to add to the list.

Gingko biloba has been found to significantly improve sexual dysfunction among both men and women who experienced sexual issues due to their use of selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, or SSRIs, which are commonly prescribed to treat depression. (9) The study out of the University of California, San Francisco also found that ginkgo biloba positively affected all four stages of the sexual response cycle, including desire, excitement, orgasm and resolution.

You can take gingko biloba as a supplement. It’s found in most health stores.

Bonus: Avoid Alcohol

Alcohol can help you feel more at ease and remove inhibitions, which might make it easier to feel sexually aroused. Unfortunately, that’s often where the fun ends, as drinking too much alcohol can make it difficult for your body to respond sexually; it’s why men often have trouble staying erect after drinking too much. Drinking alcohol regularly or frequently consuming large amounts of the drink can have lasting effects, as well.

A glass of wine is fine, but if you’re relying on alcohol to help put you in the mood, I suggest you try one of the aphrodisiac foods instead.

Dangers of Aphrodisiac Drugs

At best, if you take an over-the-counter aphrodisiac or sex-enhancing drug, it just doesn’t work. According to the FDA, the labelling claims on OTC drugs are “either false, misleading or unsupported by scientific data.”

But, troublingly, there could be more serious consequences. There have been a string of tainted sexual enhancement drugs. These pills can be laced with things like prescription drugs, controlled substances or untested pharmaceutical ingredients, all of which can be incredibly dangerous to your health. You can skip looking for them in the ingredients list too — they’re usually hidden.

In 2017 alone, for instance, already there have been eight public notifications made by the FDA about hidden ingredients in aphrodisiac drugs and sexual enhancement products. (10) Of course, the FDA can only advise about drugs when enough people have suffered side effects, sought out medical attention and disclosed what they’re taking. Imagine how many others likely just haven’t been reported yet? It’s just not worth the risk to your health.

Prescription drugs ordered by your doctor are a lot safer, but these aren’t cure-alls, either. People report side effects like headaches and muscle pains, and if you’re on other medications, there can be interactions. Finally, these drugs usually target things like erectile dysfunction, not a low sex drive.

The controversial botanical substance kratom is also sometimes as an aphrodisiac but more research is needed.

Dangers of aphrodisiac drugs - Dr. Axe

Risks and Side Effects

These aphrodisiac foods are all quite safe. When it comes to chocolate, keep amounts small to limit any tummy discomfort. If you take any prescription medications, consult with your doctor to make sure there won’t be any interactions.

And remember, when it comes to aphrodisiac foods, even the placebo effect can be quite powerful. Wearing something that you feel great in, being well-rested and eliminating distractions like your cell phone can work wonders on your libido and how “sexy” you feel. Add some aphrodisiac foods into the mix (perhaps a main course of paella sprinkled with saffron and chocolate for dessert) and have fun.

Final Thoughts

  • Aphrodisiacs are anything that are labeled as increasing sexual desire.
  • Unfortunately, products labeled as aphrodisiacs are not well-regulated.
  • Sex-enhancing drugs can include hidden ingredients that are dangerous to your health and safety, while prescription drugs can have side effects.
  • The safest option is to opt for aphrodisiac foods, which can naturally boost arousal.
  • Five of the best, most researched aphrodisiac foods include ginseng, saffron, maca, chocolate and gingko biloba. It’s also best to avoid alcohol.

More Nutrition