How do aphrodisiacs work?
Dr. Sawyer: To answer a question with a question, do supposed aphrodisiacs actually even work? An aphrodisiac is something that supposedly will increase your libido (sex drive), and legend has it that oysters are just the seafood to do the job, to the point where a man can’t order a dozen oysters in a restaurant without the waiter giving him a sideways look. As with other alleged aphrodisiacs like ginseng, chocolate (including green M & Ms!), and Spanish fly, there is usually a tiny grain of possible truth to the notion, although never enough to make a legitimate claim. Oysters are rich in zinc, a mineral assumed to be a sexual response enhancer, but that’s a far cry from being a substance that has been documented to increase libido. Many experts reckon that the only way aphrodisiacs work is the placebo effect – the idea that if you believe something improves sex for you, it’s really your imagination, not any magical properties of say, Rhino horn! This way of looking at things is pretty harmless … if you believe that a Snickers bar will get you going, so be it, that’s no big deal. Bottom line here – there’s no evidence to support the idea that any specific product exists that will increase libido …. although the joke that probably has a much larger grain of truth attached, is that the only true aphrodisiac is variety. Think about it!
Dr. Robin Sawyer is a professor of health and human sexuality at the University of Maryland. He's the author of Sexpertise: Real Answers to Real Questions About Sex and producer of four films on human sexuality. Want his answers? Send your questions to [email protected] We’ll keep it confidential.