February 2018 – In herbalism, aphrodisiacs are thought of as foods and medicine that increase pleasure by nourishing the whole body and spirit. When we care for our circulatory, nervous, and reproductive systems, we open ourselves up to improved health and happiness. Physically, aphrodisiacs can balance hormones, increase fertility, and improve performance. Many of these plants also support our nervous systems and can lift our spirits. Herbalists use aphrodisiacs to balance the body and mind, and free their patients to pursue life’s sensual pleasures.
We spoke with Danya Mosgofian, the supplement buyer at Driver’s Market and an herbalist with her own line of alcohol-free herbal remedies, The Sultry Gypsy Herb Co, to get her take on aphrodisiacs.
“There are a lot of complexities that go into feeling in the mood for love.
So approach it holistically – body, mind, spirit. If a person is stressed, first thing you need to do is calm their nervous system. You can do that by lifting the spirits with St. John’s Wort or 5HTP that both increase serotonin. Destressing through light, friendly conversation, meditation, relaxing music, laughter as well as deep breathing. An important but overlooked tool is to get the blood flowing in the groin area. One way to do that besides exercise and a hot bath, is to sit (w/underwear) on a hot water bottle wrapped in a towel for 5-10 minutes. Good blood flow is vital to sensual and sexual pleasure. Remember Viagra works by increasing blood flow, so we can do that naturally with less risk by gentle heat application, exercise & herbs like Ginkgo Biloba and Apple Vinegar Fire Cider/Tonic. For relaxation, calming herbs like nervines including Skullcap or California Poppy – although they aren’t traditionally considered aphrodisiacs, they relax the mind and body. It’s really hard to connect with another person, much less yourself if you’re extraordinarily stressed out and tense!
Valentine’s Day is also a good time for self love. So if you aren’t with or don’t want to be with anyone at the moment, consider taking some time out to nurture yourself in whatever healthy or even slightly unhealthy (but safe) way that feeds your soul.”
If you’d like to check in with Danya about this or another topic, you can find her in the supplement aisle at Driver’s Market on Thursday evenings.
DAMIANA: An herb native to Central America, Damiana has been in use as an herbal tonic since the Mayan empire. Thought to soothe nerves and uplift the spirit, Damiana is used as an aphrodisiac, as well as to treat depression and fatigue.
MACA: A root vegetable native to the Andes in Peru, Maca is used to improve sexual health including increased fertility and desire in men and women.
GINGKO BILOBA: An extract used in Chinese medicine to treat illnesses like depression and sexual disfunction. It increases blood flow to the brain and overall body. **Check with your physician on this herb and start with low doses. Ginkgo Biloba increases blood flow to the brain. Too much might cause a headache and can counteract with pharmaceutical drugs.
AMERICAN GINSENG: An herb grown wild in Appalachia and highly prized by traditional medicine practitioners, American Ginseng is used for a whole range of medicinal purposes, including to improve mood and endurance. It has been found to boost libido in men and women.
CHOCOLATE: Known throughout the world as an aphrodisiac, chocolate releases endorphins in the brain, giving us a pleasant, high feeling. Chocolate can also increase Oxytocin, the hormone that feels rather like being in love.
* Note: In 2012, a company trademarked the term Fire Cider, and then sued three New England herbalists for using the name to sell their tonics. The three herbalists fought back, making the legal case that fire cider is a popular herbal folk remedy. The three continue their fight.
Herbalists continue to offer this remedy, now calling it ‘Root Cider’. You can find Root Cider in the Supplement aisle at Driver’s. Learn more about the Free Fire Cider movement here.
– by Caroline Parker