For centuries every culture has experimented with natural herbs and potions to increase sexual fulfillment. The Athenians once touted rubbing arugula on the penis for more erections. For sexual stimulation, the Aztecs and Mayans used the herb damiana, which is still promoted today as a natural sex enhancer. But are the effects of these natural aphrodisiacs for men real, or is there more of a placebo effect at play?

Dr. Ray Sahelian, a physician, nutritionist and author of Natural Sex Boosters, believes that some are effective. He points out that some of us in the West would be surprised to discover that there are dozens of natural aphrodisiacs—including vegetables, herbs and nutrients—that enhance sexual drive and pleasure in both men and women.

When conducting research for his book, Sahelian tested the foods on himself, friends and family. He found that some enhanced certain aspects of the human sexual response, especially when they are used in combination.

Institutions such as the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) also compile research showing that some of these natural aphrodisiacs can be effective.


Yohimbe is a West African tree and its bark contains a chemical called yohimbine, which boosts blood circulation to the sexual organs. Yohimbe has long been used throughout the African continent as a natural aphrodisiac to stimulate sexual arousal or desire. According to the NCCAM, yohimbine's properties have been studied and it is currently recommended for sexual problems in men, including erectile dysfunction.

Yohimbe is available at herbal stores in the bark, powder or supplement form. However, the amount of the yohimbine in supplements varies widely. A standardized form called yohimbine hydrochloride is available by prescription to treat sexual problems.

Side Effects of Yohimbe

Side effects of this natural aphrodisiac include high blood pressure, headache, dizziness and insomnia. The NCCAM warns that taking large doses of yohimbe over a long period of time is dangerous. Don't take yohimbe if you have kidney problems, or you're taking MAO inhibitors or high blood pressure medications, antidepressants or phenothiazines (for schizophrenia).

Horny Goat Weed

This natural aphrodisiac gets its name from the Chinese yin yang huo, which translates loosely to "licentious goat plant." The story goes that a farmer noticed his goats became friskier after eating the plant. Horny goat weed belongs to the genus epimedium and is well-known throughout China as a sexual tonic for treating erectile dysfunction, low libido, and sexual desire in men.

According to Dr. Sahelian, animal studies suggest that horny goat weed may boost neurotransmitters or feel-good hormones, dopamine, serotonin, and norepinephrine, which play a role in sexual activity. You won't notice a difference right away when taking this natural aphrodisiac, but by the third or fourth day its effects start to kick in.

Side Effects of Horny Goat Weed

Dr. Sahelian claims that so far there are no serious side effects associated with horny goat weed, but taking it in very large doses can elevate body temperature and prompt sweating.


Used for thousands of years in Peru as a libido lifter, maca is a root vegetable that's packed with nutrients, including the amino acid L-arginine. According to some sources, L-Arginine may enhance sexual activity in men because it metabolizes into nitric oxide, which improves blood flow to the penis and boosts erections. The Mayo Clinic states that this nutrient relaxes blood vessels and may improve erectile dysfunction.  

According to Dr. Sahelian, there are several studies that show maca can be used as a natural aphrodisiac to treat impotence, improve libido (including in men with depression), increase sexual satisfaction, and boost sperm production.

Side Effects of Maca

So far there have been no reported side effects of maca root.