Cute lady munching off a chocolate tablet. Little does she know that it doesn't have any aphrodisiac effect whatsoever.

Aphrodisiacs  have been used to improvement sexual performance and desire for thousands of years now, but which of them are really effective or simple old waives’ tales? Researchers from University of Guelph claim they’ve conducted the most elaborate study to date as far as aphrodisiacs are concerned.

“Aphrodisiacs have been used for thousands of years all around the world, but the science behind the claims has never been well understood or clearly reported,” said researcher Massimo Marcone. “Ours is the most thorough scientific review to date. Nothing has been done on this level of detail before now.”

This is actually a meta-study, meaning that researchers have went through hundreds of studies that tackle aphrodisiac, selecting only those that qualify under some very exigent scientific criteria, before compiling them in a list.

What really works? Well, researchers are pretty convinced that improvements in sexual function can be made with three plants: panax ginseng, saffron and yohimbine (a compound from yohimbe trees in West Africa). Regarding aphrodisiac plants that enhance sexual desire, only two such plants were found: muira puama and maca root (both from South America). When talking about drugs like Viagra, researchers warn that while they indeed treat erectyle disfuctions, they don’t increase ones libido whatsoever.

“There is a need for natural products that enhance sex without negative side effects,” co-researcher John Melnyk contends. “Drugs can produce headache, muscle pain and blurred vision, and can have dangerous interactions with other medications.”

Convinced that chocolate gets you going where you need to? Well, I hate to break to you, but chocolate, researchers say, has absolutely no aphrodisiac effect. “It may be that some people feel an effect from certain ingredients in chocolate, mainly phenylethylamine, which can affect serotonin and endorphin levels in the brain,” Marcone said.

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Marcone said that the findings support the use of plants for sexual enhancement but urged caution as “there is not enough evidence to support the widespread use of these substances as effective aphrodisiacs.” He also warned people to stay away from other supposed aphrodisiacs such as Spanish fly and Bufo toad. “While purported to be sexually enhancing, they produced the opposite result and can even be toxic,” he stressed.

The paper will be published in Food Research International.

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