Aphrodisiacs past and present: A historical review

P. Sandroni

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

87 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

The drug Viagra (sildenafil) has drawn public attention to aphrodisiacs. The search for such substances dates back millennia. Aphrodisiacs can be classified by their mode of action into 3 types: those that increase (1) libido, (2)potency, or (3) sexual pleasure. Various substances of animal and plant origin have been used in folk medicines of different cultures; some have been identified pharmacologically, allowing for understanding of their mechanisms of action. For increasing libido, ambrein, a major constituent of Ambra grisea, is used in Arab countries. This tricyclic triterpene alcohol increases the concentration of several anterior pituitary hormones and serum testosterone. Bufo toad skin and glands contain bufotenine (and other bufadienolides), a putative hallucinogenic congener of serotonin. It is the active ingredient in West Indian "love stone" and the Chinese medication chan su. The aphrodisiac properties are likely of central origin, as are the other effects of the drug. For increasing potency, Panax ginseng, used in traditional Chinese medicine, works as an antioxidant by enhancing nitric oxide synthesis in the endothelium of many organs, including the corpora cavernosa; ginsenosides also enhance acetylcholine-induced and transmural nerve stimulationactivated relaxation associated with increased tissue cyclic guanosine monophosphate, hence the aphrodisiac properties. For increasing sexual pleasure, cantharidin ("Spanish fly") is a chemical with vesicant properties derived from blister beetles, which have been used for millennia as a sexual stimulant. Its mode of action is by inhibition of phosphodiesterase and protein phosphatase activity and stimulation of β-receptors, inducing vascular congestion and inflammation. Morbidity from its abuse is significant. The ingestion of live beetles (Palembus dermestoides) in Southeast Asia and triatomids in Mexico may have a basis similar to cantharidin. It is of paramount importance for the physician to be aware of the options available to help his or her patients, and to advise them in using the correct drugs while avoiding "miracle" remedies that could be potentially harmful.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)303-307
Number of pages5
JournalClinical Autonomic Research
Volume11
Issue number5
StatePublished - 2001

Fingerprint

Aphrodisiacs
Cantharidin
Libido
Pleasure
Beetles
Bufanolides
Bufotenin
Pharmaceutical Preparations
Bufonidae
Anterior Pituitary Hormones
Ginsenosides
Southeastern Asia
Triterpenes
Panax
Middle East
Love
Irritants
Phosphoprotein Phosphatases
Cyclic GMP
Chinese Traditional Medicine

Keywords

  • Aphrodisiac
  • Folk medicine
  • Viagra (sildenafil).

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Neurology
  • Neuroscience(all)

Cite this

Aphrodisiacs past and present : A historical review. / Sandroni, P.

In: Clinical Autonomic Research, Vol. 11, No. 5, 2001, p. 303-307.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Sandroni, P 2001, 'Aphrodisiacs past and present: A historical review', Clinical Autonomic Research, vol. 11, no. 5, pp. 303-307.
Sandroni, P. / Aphrodisiacs past and present : A historical review. In: Clinical Autonomic Research. 2001 ; Vol. 11, No. 5. pp. 303-307.
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