How to Grow Your Own Aphrodisiacs at Home
It's no secret that boners -- getting them and keeping them -- are big business. Viagra alone earned Pfizer $1.08 billion in revenue in 2015. The US Department of Defense spent more than $41.6 million on the sex enhancer the year prior (presumably to ensure all enlisted members stood stiffly at attention). The erectile dysfunction drug market is expected to reach $3.4 billion by 2022, in part because even men who don't need boner pills pop them in some misguided quest to become "sexual supermen."
But as is the case with most pharmaceuticals, sex-enhancing drugs come with a long list of side effects ranging from diarrhea to hearing loss. Oh -- and death. Thankfully, there are all-natural herbs that are scientifically proven to stoke your sex drive (don't tell Big Pharma!) without killing you. They're also easy to grow. Here's a guide to aphrodisiacs you can plant alongside your unassuming, decidedly unsexy houseplants for 24/7 libido-boosting access.
What it is: This small shrub (also called damiana) with bright yellow, oily blossoms was used in lieu of triple sec in original margarita recipes. In the 19th century, it was included in the recipe for Pemberton's French Wine Coca -- an alcoholic patent medicine later replaced by none other than Coca-Cola.
How it works: Turnera diffusa inhibits aromatase, a compound that converts testosterone into estrogen. By blocking aromatase, turnera boosts testosterone; therefore enhancing men's and women's sex drives. Turnera also contains a potent dose of apigenin, the chemical thought to be responsible for its anxiety-reducing properties. The sensation from ingesting turnera is one of supremely relaxed horniness. Word to the wise: roll it into a joint for a mellow, sexually charged high.
How to grow it: For as relaxed as it makes you, turnera is actually pretty high-maintenance. The shrub needs eight to 10 hours of direct sunlight, warmth, damp air, and richly fertilized soil. If you live in a four-season climate, keep it in a big pot you can bring inside to a south-facing window when the weather turns.
What it is: Chlorophytum borivilianum, or safed musli, is a bright-green herb with lance-shaped leaves found in the jungles of Southern India. All of the plant's strength is in its roots; which, when ground into a powder, are known as safed musli, the key ingredient in a Hindi tonic capable of engorging any Sir Lance-a-not.
How it works: Studies found that regular doses of this herb substantially increased sexual libido, vigor, and arousal in rats. But here’s the catch: it also seriously amps up sperm count. So unless you’re aiming for a bundle of joy after you make the beast with two backs, this may not be your best bet.
How to grow it: Safed musli needs plenty of indirect light. Soil should be on the sandy side and kept moist. This plant is closely related to the spider plant and requires similar attention.
Yin yang huo
What it is: This Chinese herb translates to “horny goat weed,” and is frequently the main ingredient in those sketchy behind-the-counter boner pills at bodegas. The plant itself is deciduous and found throughout Asia and in parts of the Mediterranean. Appropriately, its leaves are heart-shaped, and its four-petaled flowers can be white, pink, red, or yellow. Yin yang huo also goes by the name(s): barrenwort, bishop's hat, fairy wings, horny goat weed, rowdy lamb herb, and randy beef grass. Pick your favorite.
How it works: Yin yang huo contains icariin, a kind of PDE5 inhibitor that coaxes blood flow into smooth muscle. Sildenafil, the active ingredient of Viagra, is also a PDE5 inhibitor, and works precisely the same way as horny goat weed, it's just a whole lot more potent. As it happens, the original purpose of Viagra’s clinical trials were to test its viability as a heart medication by increasing cardiovascular blood flow. Presumably, someone was brave enough to stand up and confess that the medication seemed to have another effect.
How to grow it: Horny goat weed prefers a cool climate and shade, and grows anywhere from 6in to a foot (the plant, not you). Its roots demand richness, so add a few inches of peat moss or compost on top of the soil. Keep it moist, and trim away any leaves that crumple during the colder months.
What it is: A Nigerian native, this 1-3ft-high, yellow-bulbed shrub has been a folk medicine favorite for centuries in Africa and the Middle East.
How it works: Ingestion of this plant raises the concentration of testosterone in the blood -- so much that your balls actually swell. That makes fadogia agrestis supplements popular among athletes and bodybuilders who use steroids. The compounds in fadogia agrestis are similar to the pituitary-produced luteinizing hormone (LH), which stimulates Leydig cells, the male body’s chief maker of testosterone. In women, the release of LH induces ovulation. Fadogia agrestis is thought to be most effective as an aphrodisiac for men suffering from low testosterone levels.
How to grow it: Fadogia agrestis needs minimal watering and loamy soil. The plant will do great if kept indoors on a windowsill with good light. To get it in you, boil the stems in your tea.
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John Marshall is a writer based in New York. His hobbies include shooting pool, neglecting house cacti, and writing short biographies about himself. Follow him down alleyways, or @brunodionmarsh.