One of the first things I tell people who want to level-up their sex lives is to add botanical aphrodisiacs to their lifestyle. The term “aphrodisiac” comes from Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of sex and love. For centuries, various foods have been used to promote healthy sexual function, including fertility, circulation, stamina and increased libido. Botanical aphrodisiacs are specific plants, herbs or flowers known to increase sexual desire and sexual pleasure. We absorb the nutrients from the plants when we eat them, inhale their aroma, or put them on our skin.
Think of botanical aphrodisiacs as sexual wellness fuel for the body. Each plant has its own chemical makeup (like DNA) that can impact several regions of the body and brain. In fact, some essential oils can cross the blood-brain barrier (only about 2% of pharmaceutical medicines can do this) and can therefore more directly interact with brain cells to elevate mood or desires.
However, improving your sex life or boosting your libido requires a holistic approach that involves multiple factors: deep connection with self or partner, healthy sexual energy, and so on. Botanical aphrodisiacs can help you take a holistic approach to sexual wellness by providing the body with nutrients both inside (foods or aromatherapy) and outside the body (topical products). Many women are surprised to learn that any topical products you put on your vulva skin, for example, will absorb into your bloodstream within seconds. This is why it’s important to use clean, plant-based intimate care products.
Below are four of my personal favorite botanical aphrodisiacs you can eat, inhale, or use on your skin for a better sex life.
Maca (Lepidium Peruvianum)
Maca is a superfood primarily known for its libido boosting abilities in women. The root originates in Peru and has been eaten for centuries as a nutrient-dense food to increase energy, libido and fertility for centuries. Today, maca is considered a superfood, high in nutrients that promote sexual hormones and sexual function. It is also an adaptogen, which means it helps to counteract stress in the body and is great for energy. You can eat maca root in tablet form, but my favorite way is to add organic maca powder to smoothies a few times a week for an extra sexual wellness boost that tastes great.
Damiana (Turnera Aphrodisiaca)
I first heard of Damiana as a child when my parents would order tropical drinks in Mexico with it—go parents! Damiana is an ancient Mayan aphrodisiac native to Mexico, Latin America and the Caribbean. Several studies show that it can promote circulation and increase libido. It has also been shown to be anxiolytic, which means it helps reduce anxiety and depressive symptoms, so it is a great option to help you shake off sexual anxiety or jitters. Besides a tropical damiana drink on vacation, you can enjoy this beauty by using a few drops of essential oil in the diffuser, adding a few dried leaves to your tea, or—probably my favorite method—by using topical products, like this Bloomi Arousal Oil, in erogenous zones.
In terms of plant-based aphrodisiacs, the cannabis (or hemp) plant is by far one of the more popular options right now. Our endocannabinoid system (ECS)—a communication system that interlinks our organs and body systems to regulate homeostasis and cellular healing in the body—creates its own cannabinoid-like chemicals. These cannabinoids help regulate sleep, mood, reproduction and sexual function. In fact, a recent study in the Journal of Sexual Medicine found that people who masturbated and orgasmed had higher levels of endocannabinoids in their system. This is why products with CBD, a cannabidiol and natural compound in the cannabis plant, can significantly enhance our arousal and sensations to help mimic the natural “high” we feel during sex. I personally prefer topical products with full-spectrum oil (which means the isolate is extracted from the entire hemp plant) because it can better promote vasodilation, healthy blood flow and natural lubrication.
Rose (Rosa Damascena) Essential Oil
Ever notice how you instantly feel good after smelling a bouquet of roses? Roses have a pleasant aroma and are primarily known for their aphrodisiac and emotionally uplifting properties. It’s a great essential oil to throw in the diffuser when you need an emotional recharge or want to build intimacy. Rose essential oil has also been shown to alleviate PMS symptoms, so it can be especially great to try the week around your period—a period-sex game-changer.
A nationally respected sexologist and social impact entrepreneur, Rebecca works with womxn, couples and teens to help them navigate a variety of sexual wellness topics and find holistic ways to maximize their sexual agency. She is the founder of Bloomi, the first online multi-brand marketplace for intimacy to revolutionize the sexual wellness category.