An aphrodisiac is a substance that, when consumed, increases sexual desire. Aphrodisiacs are distinct from substances which address fertility issues like impotence or secondary sexual (dys)function such as ED.
The name comes from the Greek ἀφροδισιακόν, aphrodisiakon, i.e. "sexual, aphrodisiac", from aphrodisios, i.e. "pertaining to Aphrodite", the Greekgoddess of love.
Throughout history, many foods, drinks, and behaviors have had a reputation for making sex more attainable and/or pleasurable. However, from a historical and scientific standpoint, the alleged results may have been mainly due to mere belief by their users that they would be effective (placebo effect). Likewise it is noteworthy that many medicines are reported to affect libido in an inconsistent or idiopathic ways: enhancing or diminishing overall sexual desire depending on the situation of subject. This further complicates the assessment process. For example: wellbutrin is known as an antidepressent that can counteract other co-prescribed antidepressants' libido-diminishing effects. However, because wellbutrin only increases the libido in the special case that it is already impaired by related medications, it is not generally classed as an aphrodisiac.
Classically, to be considered an aphrodesiac, a substance should:
Be administered orally
Reliably increase libido or sexual desire (no placebo effect, no diminishment of libido)
Take effect in a relatively immediate time frame (minutes or hours, not days or weeks)
Libido is clearly linked to levels of sex hormones, particularly testosterone. When a reduced sex drive occurs in individuals with relatively low levels of testosterone (e.g., post-menopausal women or men over age 60), testosterone supplements will often increase libido. Approaches using a number of precursors intended to raise testosterone levels have been effective in older males, but have not fared well when tested on other groups.
Some compounds that activate the melanocortin receptorsMC3-R and MC4-R in the brain are effective aphrodisiacs. One compound from this class, bremelanotide, formerly known as PT-141, is undergoing clinical trials for the treatment of sexual arousal disorder and erectile dysfunction. It is intended for both men and women. Preliminary results have proven the efficacy of this drug, however development was suspended due to a side effect of increased blood pressure observed in a small number of trial subjects who administered the drug intra-nasally. On 12 August 2009, Palatin, the company developing the drug, announced positive results (none of the previous heightened blood pressure effects were observed) of a phase I clinical study where trial subjects were instead administered the drug subcutaneously. Palatin is concurrently developing a related compound they call PL-6983.
As per a new study, crocin has demonstrated the properties of an aphrodisiac in rats.
Phenylethylamine (PEA) present in many food compounds as well as the human body is an aphrodisiac; however, this compound is quickly degraded by the enzyme MAO-B and so it is unlikely that any significant concentrations would reach the brain without a monoamine oxidase inhibitor. Amphetamine and methamphetamine, both phenethylamines, at high doses have been associated with hyperarousal, hypersexuality, and frequent or prolonged erections, although libido is reduced for some. Methamphetamine markedly enhances sexual desire in some individuals, and an entire sub-culture known as party and play is based around sex and methamphetamine use.
The libido-enhancing effects of dopamine agonists prescribed for other purposes has led to the development of a number of more selective compounds such as flibanserin, ABT-670 and PF-219,061, which have been developed specifically for the treatment of sexual dysfunction disorders, although none of them have yet passed clinical trials.
Some psychoactive substances such as alcohol, cannabis,[not in citation given]methaqualone, GHB and MDMA can increase libido and sexual desire. However these drugs are not aphrodisiacs in the strict sense of the definition, as they do not consistently produce aphrodisiac effects as their main action and often actually impair function (hence, Shakespeare's famed statement that alcohol "provokes the desire, but it takes away the performance"). Nonetheless, these drugs are sometimes used to increase sexualpleasure and to reduce sexual inhibition. Anti-erectile dysfunction drugs, such as Viagra and Levitra, are not considered aphrodisiacs because they do not have any direct effect on the libido, although increased ability to attain an erection may be interpreted as increased sexual arousal by users of these drugs.
This section needs more medical references for verification or relies too heavily on primary sources. Please review the contents of the section and add the appropriate references if you can. Unsourced or poorly sourced material may be removed.(December 2012)
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^"Desoxyn Prescribing Information". United States Food and Drug Administration. December 2013. Retrieved 6 January 2014. ADVERSE REACTIONS ... changes in libido; frequent or prolonged erections. [emphasis added]
^Olsen CM (December 2011). "Natural rewards, neuroplasticity, and non-drug addictions". Neuropharmacology61 (7): 1109–1122. doi:10.1016/j.neuropharm.2011.03.010. PMC3139704. PMID21459101. Cross-sensitization is also bidirectional, as a history of amphetamine administration facilitates sexual behavior and enhances the associated increase in NAc DA ...In some people, there is a transition from “normal” to compulsive engagement in natural rewards (such as food or sex), a condition that some have termed behavioral or non-drug addictions (Holden, 2001; Grant et al., 2006a). ... In humans, the role of dopamine signaling in incentive-sensitization processes has recently been highlighted by the observation of a dopamine dysregulation syndrome in some patients taking dopaminergic drugs. This syndrome is characterized by a medication-induced increase in (or compulsive) engagement in non-drug rewards such as gambling, shopping, or sex (Evans et al, 2006; Aiken, 2007; Lader, 2008).
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^Gauthaman, K.; P.G. Adaikan, R.N. Prasad. (2002). "Aphrodisiac properties of Tribulus Terrestris extract (Protodioscin) in normal and castrated rats.". Life Sci.71 (12): 1385–96. doi:10.1016/S0024-3205(02)01858-1. PMID12127159.Cite uses deprecated parameters (help);|accessdate= requires |url= (help)
^Neychev, V.K.; V.I. Mitev (2005). "The aphrodisiac herb Tribulus terrestris does not influence androgen production in young men.". J Ethnopharmacol.101 (1–3): 319–23. doi:10.1016/j.jep.2005.05.017. PMID15994038.|accessdate= requires |url= (help)