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Aphrodisiacs That Are a Waste of Money

If only the key to better sex were eating a particular food or taking a pill. But most supposed libido boosters don't live up to their hype.

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The world of aphrodisiacs

Unfortunately, there’s little in the way of scientific proof that supposed aphrodisiacal foods directly increase sexual desire or improve sexual performance. Two scientists from California, Elizabeth West, MD and Michael Krychman, MD reviewed all the existing research and published a comprehensive study of aphrodisiacs that work, those that don’t, and those that are too dangerous to even try. The results of their study were published in the journal, Sexual Medicine Reviews—and you can use their findings to save a little money—or in some cases, a lot of dough.

chasteberryNorth Toda/Shutterstock


Chasteberry is derived from the fruit of the chaste tree and has been used since ancient times to treat female hormonal issues. While the study authors don’t dispute that chasteberry can be helpful in reducing PMS symptoms, there’s simply no hard evidence that chasteberry is effective as a sexual enhancer.

Close up of a saw palmetto frondDiane C Macdonald/Shutterstock

Saw palmetto

Another supposed sexual enhancer derived from a berry, saw palmetto has been used to treat prostate problems. Although people claim it can enhance both male and female libido, the study authors found no studies supporting that use. Given the way saw palmetto works in the body—as an anti-androgen (an anti-male-hormone)—the study authors believe that saw palmetto is more likely to decrease libido, than to enhance it. (The good news: These 48 simple ways can really improve your sex life.)

Fresh yamKei Shooting/Shutterstock

Wild yam

The claims that topically applied wild yam extract can increase sexual arousal in menopausal women are greatly exaggerated, say the study authors. Proponents also believe it can ease menopausal issues, but you’d be better off trying these natural remedies for menopause symptoms.

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This product is a combination of arginine (an amino acid), citrus acids, menthol, and water (among a few other ingredients). It’s supposed to enhance satisfaction when women apply it topically. The authors not only doubt Alura’s efficacy but also warn that it can cause vaginal burning.

Cannabis Leaf Dew DropsTayHam Photography/Shutterstock

Cannabis-enhanced products

Smoke it, chew it, or vape it, and you’ll be randy in no time, advocates claim. Now that pot is legal in some states, there’s a growing market for commercially available cannabis products, including Foria, a topical lubricant marketed as a female sexual enhancer. However, “there are no published studies to support claims of cannabis as a sexual stimulant,” write the researchers. That said, you might want to consider cannabis as an arthritis remedy.

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Rhinoceros horn

This is a vicious myth that needs to be stamped out once and for all, considering all the carnage and harm it’s done to this magnificent species. “In Asia, the rhinoceros horn is so coveted that a horn sells for $30,000,” the study authors note. Don’t be fooled: There is no component of the horn that has any inherent sexual-enhancing property.

Tribulus terrestris (Bindii, Puncture, Caltrops, Devil) ; A unique young seeds that quite round shape with thorns & spikes, apart into 5 burs. Together with small green leaves. Hanging on stalk.pisitpong2017/Shutterstock

Tribulus terrestis

This herb is grown in Asia, Europe, and Africa, and healers prescribe it for a variety of medicinal uses, including as an anti-inflammatory. The study authors were able to find some scientific evidence that tribulus terrestris increases sperm production in men; there is even a hint that it improves sexual satisfaction in women while boosting sexual desire. However, a more recent study of tribulus terrestris raises questions. The jury is still out.

Melted chocolate backgroundAfrica Studio/Shutterstock


Although chocolate contains substances that stimulate the pleasure centers of the brain, the study authors couldn’t find any scientific evidence linking chocolate and libido. Yes, it’s tempting to consider chocolate a sexy food, the authors write, but “the myth is not supported in the existing medical literature.” That being said, a compound in chocolate has been found to help boost brain function.

Opened Oysters on metal plate with ice and lemon on dark marble background Lisovskaya Natalia/Shutterstock


Eat them because you like them or because you’re a risk taker (raw oysters are one of the 50 foods nutritionists would never eat), but don’t expect them to fire up your sex life. The zinc these bivalves deliver is essential to testosterone production, and contain amino acids that trigger production of sex hormones. Unfortunately, there is no solid scientific data to back up that oysters having a beneficial effect on sexual response or satisfaction. Next, find out which foods are killing your sex drive.

Lauren Cahn
Lauren Cahn is a New York-based writer whose work has appeared regularly on Reader's Digest, The Huffington Post, and a variety of other publications since 2008. She covers health, fitness, yoga, and lifestyle, among other topics. An author of crime fiction, Lauren's book The Trust Game, was short-listed for the 2017 CLUE Award for emerging talent in the genre of suspense fiction.