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hormones, vitamins, and natural treatments

Certainly, one legitimate use of aphrodisiacs is to help men and women suffering from sexual dysfunction.  For men, the most common problems are impotence and premature ejaculation.  It used to be thought that these were caused primarily by psychological conditions, but more recent research has shown that there is a range of physical problems which can bring them on, such as heart disease, stress, hormone imbalance, etc.  Androgens (male hormones) can be prescribed for men whose low libido or poor performance are traced to deflated hormone levels in the body.

For women, low hormone levels can result in a lack of sexual interest and/or an inability to achieve orgasm.  The most obvious time for this to happen is during menopause.  Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) is now widely accepted and although, by no stretch of the imagination, can oestrogen be labelled an aphrodisiac as such, the gynaecologist I spoke to attested to the favourable effects of hormone therapy in improving sexual desire, performance and pleasure in some women.  By my original definition then, yes, hormones in the modern context can be an aphrodisiac.

Do we, in fact, need aphrodisiacs, and if so, why?  To sum up what we've found so far, aphrodisiacs serve the following purposes:

  • To increase low libido.
  • To improve sexual performance.
  • To recharge faded sexual batteries.
  • To fix physiological problems that affect sexual activity.

I certainly believe they have a valid role to play in the sexual lives of modern men and women.  However, after study and consideration, and 12 years as a counsellor, I conclude that many of our sexual beliefs and behaviours are centred in the mind rather than in the genitalia.  When we watch a sexy movie or hear 'dirty talk', we might be turned on, but is it because of the idea of what we heard and saw, or sensations in our bodies? You're likely to answer both — but which came first?  My feeling is that we tend to think sexy before we feel sexy. It's long been acknowledged that sex is nine-parts fantasy.

Dr Michael Clarke, author of Sexual Joy in Marriage, speaks of the 23-and-a-half-hour foreplay, his theory being that everything a couple does in a day, leading up to the half-hour of intercourse in bed at night, can be and should be considered foreplay.  A good relationship is surely the best aphrodisiac of all.  If you like each other and are comfortable in each other's company, sex happens naturally and effortlessly.  Those couples not in permanent relationships need not worry.  Just being with a new sexual partner is aphrodisiac enough for most of us!  So, if you play the field or are into one-night stands, you're probably in a constant state of excitement and don't need any artificial stimulation.

As with so many things in life, attitude is a key factor.  If you're into sex, you'll probably like it and enjoy it with or without help.  But there are men and women who, for a variety of reasons, cannot fully enjoy the pleasures of intimate and physical pleasure.  For them, aphrodisiacs could form part of the solution.

There are no panaceas for sexual ills — it's all trial and error.  Success depends on how strong the desire for change and improvement is.
Who knows, maybe aphrodisiacs can be mind-altering in the way that some hallucinatory drugs are.  The big question in this debate is — do they alter the mind or bring about physiological change?  Let me know how you get on if any of you decide to try bucketloads of strawberries, or something more exotic on your next overseas trip.

In the meantime, I'll opt for laughter and good food, wine and music, love and touching, to get me through the night.  Anything and everything can be an aphrodisiac if you want it to be, the touch of satin, the stroke of a lover's hand, a cool breeze on a hot evening — and what could be more sensual than a fragrant oil massage?

Whether you decide to try the contrived or the natural aphrodisiacs, whether you believe they really affect you or simply make you feel better, and whichever type interests you the most, enjoy your research into this most fascinating subject!



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