Since the dawn of time, humans have been looking for the perfect love potion—a quest for sexual satisfaction that has yielded some bizarre results. In Asia, people believed they could increase sexual desire by drinking the fresh blood of bats or snakes. Chinese who wanted to lift their libido often turned to powdered rhino horn, and some still do. In Europe, legendary aphrodisiacs included truffles and oysters, both of which are still popular.

Named for Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of sexual love and beauty, aphrodisiacs include any food, drink, plant, animal, or scent thought to increase sexual desire and performance. Although most aphrodisiacs are relatively harmless, some can be deadly. The most well-known is Spanish fly. A substance made from pulverized beetles, Spanish fly has been used throughout history—the Roman empress Livia (58 B.C. to A.D. 29) purportedly slipped it to members of the imperial family so they would commit sexual indiscretions that could later be used against them.

But Spanish fly contains cantharidin, a toxic chemical that in some concentrations can damage the kidneys, irritate the gastrointestinal tract, and even result in death.

Fortunately, safer, more effective ways to boost your sex drive and performance are available at your local natural products store. Check out the following supplements if you’re looking to reignite that romantic spark.

5 love potions

Supplement

What It Does

Dose

Precautions

Damiana (Turnera diffusa)

Traditionally taken by men and women to spark desire. Animal studies show that this herb also enhances sexual performance in male rats.

400–800 mg, 3x/day

May have a slight laxative effect. Do not take if pregnant.

Ginseng (Panax ginseng)

Research shows a link between ginseng and higher levels of luteinizing hormone—a key sex hormone. Studies have also found that ginseng is effective for treating erectile dysfunction. Similar effects have been found with American ginseng.

2,000–3,000 mg/day of a standardized extract containing 5 percent to 7 percent ginsenosides

May cause insomnia. Do not use if you have high blood pressure or are pregnant or nursing.

L-arginine

Increases the blood flow necessary for erections by boosting nitric oxide levels. The more blood flowing, the greater the sexual intensity.

5,000 mg/day at bedtime, increasing amount as needed up to 8,000 mg

Do not take if you suffer from herpes infections.

Tribulus (Tribulus terrestris)

Balances the sex hormones, increases blood flow to the genitals in both men and women, and improves male fertility.

200 mg/day

Avoid if pregnant.

Yohimbe (Pausinystalia yohimbe)

herb is a highly effective treatment for erectile dysfunction.

Both men and women can benefit from the way yohimbe increases desire. Clinical trials also show the 15–30 mg/day, under a doctor’s supervision

Some people have reported anxiety, dizziness, rapid heartbeat, and increased blood pressure after taking yohimbe. Do not take if you have heart or kidney disease, peptic ulcer, or post-traumatic stress disorder. Avoid if you are pregnant or nursing.

Note: Doses vary depending on individual needs. Before taking any herbs or supplements, consult with your health care practitioner.