The word alone, Aphrodisiac, conjures up images of rose petals strewn across a bed, a luxurious steamy bath afloat with jasmine and lavender blossoms, chocolate covered cherries, the scent of ylang-ylang and sandalwood hanging in the air. They are a powerful tool in the theater of Love Medicine, giving Kapha the center stage while settling Vata and stoking Pitta in support of a pleasurable and sensual experience. Who better to assist us than The Plants?
Plants have long been masters of the medicine of Love. They use their many tools, scent, color, shape, to attract a variety of pollinators and seed-carriers to themselves, us included. Long ago, many of them joined the club of Aphrodisiacs, teaching us to use the tools we have to attract a mate and fully enjoy the experiences we share.
What are Aphrodisiacs?
Today, we tend to think of Aphrodisiacs as stimulating the sexual centers of our minds or the reproductive organs of our bodies. That kind of thinking is relatively new, though. Long before our modern culture began to focus on ever narrowing windows of view, we looked at the Medicine of Love with a wide-angle lens, recognizing all those plant allies who helped us prepare for the sensual experience of Making Love as Aphrodisiac.
Aphrodisiacs were, and truly still are, those plants who help us settle our minds and nerves or Vata, stoke our passions or Pitta, and enjoy the physical experience of sensual pleasure or Kapha of our bodies. Today we may not be able to clearly trace the chemical actions of many of the Aphrodisiac club to their action on our sexual centers or reproductive organs because many of the plants who made the club long ago work on a broader spectrum to prepare us for the joy of a good romp in the hay, so to speak. We can, however, look at a higher-level of herbal actions Aphrodisiacs have in common and how those herbal actions or qualities can contribute to our individual lives to work the magic of Love Medicine for us.
Relaxation and Stress Reduction: Nervines, Anti-spasmodics, Chill Herbs
Our ancestors drew upon plants like Lavender to help relax the muscles and reduce stress and tension. That relaxation in turn helped to ease the mind into the now, allowing one to be present and experience the pleasure Love has to offer. Modern science may not be able to directly trace Lavender’s action to the sexual centers of the mind or body, but try adding a few drops of Lavender essential oil to the diffuser the next time you’re planning on enjoying an intimate session of Love-making and see if it doesn’t help you be just a little more present and enjoy the experience just a little more.
Other Chill herbs include a variety of adaptogens, like Schizandra, Astragalas, and Hawthorn. These plants teach our bodies and our minds to regain balance on an ever-changing set. In the theater of Love, adaptogens are like the costume designers and set designers off-stage, working daily to help us find the peaceful point of balance we’ll need to be truly present when the opportunity to make a little Love arises.
Stimulation and Energizing: Stimulants
Reducing Stress is just part of the work of the Aphrodisiac club. Stimulating herbs, like Shatavari or Ashwaghanda, have long been connected to the theater of Love. They have been used like Ginseng, to promote long-lasting energy and support fertility for both men and women. Eleuthero, Maca, and, of course, the Ginsengs are all part of the club.
Other less obvious stimulating herbs that made the Aphrodisiac club long ago include those we think of today as being quite hot in nature: Cayenne, Ginger, and Cinnamon come to mind most readily. Cinnamon, for instance, has long been used to spice food and drink. It makes the cut in recipes both old and new. Stephanie Tourles includes Cinnamon in a variety of her love potions for both its sweet flavor and its ability to stimulate the circulatory system.
A healthy heart requires good circulation, both metaphorically and quite literally. Many of the stimulating herbs in the Aphrodisiac club help improve circulation overall, as does Cinnamon and Cayenne, or in more targeted areas, as does Ginger. Better circulation makes it easier to engage in the pleasures of making Love longer and with more presence and focus.
Digestion and Sweetness: Soothing, Stimulating, Carminative
At last, our modern favorites among the Aphrodisiac club are those that taste and smell good. Many of those tasties are also good for the digestive system, like Cacao, Spearmint, and Vanilla. They incorporate a touch of bitter and sometimes sour with a whole mess of sweet.
Vanilla as an aphrodisiac is common knowledge in modern culture, as is Cacao. Vanilla masks a touch of bitter with an alluring fragrance and a soft, balancing flavor, kind of like Spearmint’s sweet-stimulating fragrance that covers up a nip of bitter. The bitter in Cacao is right there, undeniable and unashamed, even though we usually cover it up with loads of sweetness through dairy or sweeteners.
No matter which herb you look at, actually, among the digestive set there’s usually at least a hint of bitter and if not, there’s a nip of sour instead. In either case, those bitter and sour flavors help to ensure digestion goes smoothly, so as to not distract from the Love Making at hand.
Sweetness…do we really need to analyze how sweet flavors and sweet scents contribute to Love medicine? Both the floral and the earthy sweet flavors set the stage for pleasure and relaxed enjoyment.
The Medicine of Love and Aphrodisiacs
Love Medicine is the medicine of desire, true, but it’s also the medicine of health, peace, and balance. Aphrodisiacs contribute in a myriad of ways to making Love the best act of the play. Understanding the many nuances and backstory to each helps us prepare well for the main event as well as care for ourselves in-between performances. That is the true power of the Aphrodisiac herbs; they help you make Love a way of life rather than a one-act play, creating a life filled with readiness for sensual pleasure of any kind when it arises and with the energy and balance to deepen the experience and ensure it will last a lifetime.