An aphrodisiac is defined as any food or drug that arouses the sexual instinct, induces veneral desire and increases pleasure and performance. A lot of natural substances have historically been known as aphrodisiacs in Africa and Europe, like yohimbine and the mandrake plant, as well as ground rhinoceros horn in the Chinese culture and “Spanish fly” which is actually toxic.[2,3]
Even in today’s culture, there are certain foods that are used as aphrodisiacs, including strawberries and raw oysters. Chocolate, coffee, and honey are also believed to have aphrodisiac potential. Although these natural items are claimed as aphrodisiacs, there is no or little scientific confirmation supporting those assertions.
CAUSES OF IMPOTENCE
Sexual dysfunction is a serious medical and social symptom that occurs in 10-52% of men and 25-63% of women. ED, the main reason of male impotence, is considered as one of the most important public health problems, since it affects a great percentage of men. ED is defined as the consistent inability to obtain or maintain an erection for satisfactory sexual relations. An estimated 20-30 million men suffer from some degree of sexual dysfunction. It occurs commonly in middle-aged and older men. Impotence occurs in 50% of men with diabetes mellitus. Atherosclerosis is the cause of approximately 40% of ED in men older than 50 years.
Sexual dysfunction is also caused by various factors such as psychological disorders like anxiety, depression, stress, fear of sex, neurological disorders, stroke, cerebral trauma and Parkinson’s disease, penile diseases like phinosis, peyroniesetc.
Other organic causes include chronic renal failure, hepatic failure, multiple sclerosis, Alzheimer’s disease, sleep apnea and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
Chronic alcohol abuse and cigarette smoking also adversely affect sexual potency. Decrease in hormone level with age, systemic diseases like cancer also influences sexual ability. ED is also associated with some therapeutic agents like antihypertensives, antipsychotics, antidepressants, and drugs for diabetes mellitus.[10,11,12]
Tuberous roots of Chlorophytum borivilianum (CB) (commonly known as safed musli) (family Liliaceae) possess immunomodulatory and adaptogenic properties and are used to cure impotency, sterility, and enhance male potency.
Mondia whitei is from the Periplocaceae family has been used by many traditional medicine practitioners for the management of ED. It is used to increase libido and also for the management of low sperm count.
Tribulus terrestris (TT) is a flowering plant belongs to the family Zygophyllaceae, native to warm temperate and tropical regions. Administration of TT to humans and animals improves libido and spermatogenesis.
Crocus sativus L., commonly known as saffron, is a perennial stem less herb belongs to the family Iridaceae and is widely cultivated in Iran and other countries, including India and Greece. In traditional medicine, saffron is recommended as an aphrodisiac agent.
The dried kernel of broadly ovoid seeds of Myristica fragrans Houtt. (Nutmeg) of the family Myristicaceae has been mentioned in Unani medicine to be of value in the management of male sexual disorders.
Phoenix dactylifera (date palm) of the family Palmae is a native to North Africa has been extensively cultivated in Arabia and Persian Gulf. The date palm pollen (DPP) is used in the traditional medicine for male infertility.
They observed that the consumption of DPP suspensions improved the sperm count, motility, morphology, and DNA quality with a concomitant increase in the weights of testis and epididymis. The date palm contains estradiol and flavonoid components that have positive effects on the sperm quality.
From the study, it was concluded that DPP seems to cure male infertility by improving the quality of sperm parameters.
Lepidium meyenii (Maca) belongs to the family Cruciferae is a Peruvian hypocotyl that grows exclusively between 4000 m and 4500 m in the central Andes. Maca is traditionally employed in the Andean region for its supposed aphrodisiac and/or fertilityenhancing properties.
Kaempferia parviflora belongs to the family Zingiberaceae is a native plant of Southeast Asia, is traditionally used to enhance male sexual function. However, only few scientific data in support of this anecdote have been reported. The results showed that all extracts had virtually no effect on the reproductive organ weights even after 5 weeks. However, administration of the alcohol extract significantly decreased mount and ejaculatory latencies when compared with the control.
In a separate study, an acute effect of alcohol extract of K. parviflora on blood flow to the testis was also investigated. The results indicated that alcohol extract had an aphrodisiac activity probably via a marked increase in blood flow to the testis.
Eurycoma longifolia (commonly called tongkat ali or pasak bumi) is a flowering plant in the family Simaroubaceae, native to Indonesia, Malaysia, and to a lesser extent, Thailand, Vietnam, and Laos. It has gained notoriety as a symbol of man’s ego and strength by the Malaysian men because it increases male virility and sexual prowess during sexual activities.
Satureja khuzestanica Jamzad belongs to the family Lamiaceae is an endemic plant that is widely distributed in the Southern part of Iran. Sulmaz et al. studied the effect of Satureja khuzestanica essential oil (SKEO) in male rat fertility. SKEO was administered orally at doses of 75, 150, and 225 mg/kg/day for 45 days through drinking water. Treated and control rats were mated with female on day 45 of treatment. SKEO significantly improved all the parameters evaluated such as potency, fecundity, fertility index, and litter size.
For many years, Panax ginseng belonging to family Aralaceae has enjoyed a reputation as one of the finest aphrodisiacs in the world. The word Panax, in fact, means “all-healing” in Greek and is thus a reference to the roots supposed revitalizing properties for the whole human-body.
Pausinystalia yohimbe of the family Rubiaceae is an evergreen tree native to West Africa, also present in Asia. It is the only herb listed in the Physician’s index reference for sexual function. Yohimbe has been widely used for more than 75 years as an accepted treatment for male ED.
The US FDA approved yohimbe as the first plant-derived drug for treating impotency in late 1980s and was dubbed the “herbal viagra” in the February 1999 edition of Environmental Nutrition In Europe.
Yohimbe is believed to be effective in dealing with ED, mainly due to its ability to stimulate blood flow by dilating blood vessels. The increase in the flow of blood to the penis helps in bringing about erections. Another manner in which Yohimbe relates to impotence is that it increases the body’s production of norepinephrone; which is essential in the formation of erections.
Studies have shown that this herb can restore potency even to diabetic and heart patients that were suffering from impotency due mainly to their diseases.
Yohimbe is also believed to act as a stimulant for the pelvic nerve ganglia and also to boost adrenaline supply to nerve endings. That leads to an increase in sexual sensation and stamina. In men without ED, Yohimbe in some cases appears to increase sexual vigor and prolong erections.
Fadogia agrestis belongs to the family, Rubiaceae possess significant aphrodisiac potential. Yakubu et al. evaluated the aphrodisiac potential of the aqueous extract of F. agrestis in Male rats.
The aqueous extract of F. agrestis stem increased the blood testosterone concentrations and this may be the mechanism responsible for its aphrodisiac effects and various masculine behaviors. It may be used to modify impaired sexual functions in animals, especially those arising from hypotestosteronemia.
Montanoa tomentosa of the family Asteraceae has an extensive ethnomedical history of use as a traditional remedy for sexual impairment. Results showed that acute oral administration of crude extracts of M. tomentosafacilitates expression of sexual behavior in sexually active male rats, significantly increases mounting behavior in genitally anesthetized animals and induces the expression of sexual behavior in noncopulating males.
Present findings provided experimental evidence that the crude extract preparation of M. tomentosa, used as a traditional remedy, possesses aphrodisiac properties.
Terminalia catappa is a large tropical tree belongs to the family, Combretaceae a significant aphrodisiac potential. Ratnasooriya et al. observed that T. catappa seeds at dose of 1500 mg/kg or 3000 mg/kg, per oral for 7 days in rats had a marked improvement of aphrodisiac action, sexual vigor. In contrast, the higher dose (3 000 mg/kg, p.o.) reversibly inhibited all the parameters of sexual behavior other than mounting.[61,62]
The seed extract of Casimiroa edulis belongs to the family Rutaceae is consumed in many parts of the world, including Central America and Asia as an aphrodisiac.
This research, thus provide preliminary evidence that the aqueous seed extract of C. edulis possesses alphrodisiac activity and may be used as an alternative drug therapy to restore sexual functions probably via a neurogenic mode of action.
In folk medicine, Turnera diffusa or Damiana of the family Turneraceae is considered as an aphrodisiac. Estrada et al. conducted a study to determine whether T. diffusa recovers sexual behavior in sexually exhausted male rats and to identify the main components in an aqueous extract. T. diffusa (80 mg/kg) significantly increased the percentage of males achieving one ejaculatory series and resuming a second one. In addition, T. diffusa significantly reduced the post-ejaculatory interval.
The results supported the use of T. diffusa as an aphrodisiac in traditional medicine and suggest possible therapeutic properties of T. diffusa on sexual dysfunction. The flavonoids present in active extract may participate in its pro-sexual effect, which is analogous to those produced by yohimbine, suggesting a shared mechanism of action.
Table 1 shows the list of plants having aphrodisiac potential.
List of plants having aphrodisiac potential