Looking to ramp up your sex drive? Or just feel a little more frisky in general? Start walking toward the kitchen.
Before we get into the details, it’s important to understand that there’s no “right” or “wrong” sex drive for females. And there definitely isn’t any kind of rule for how often people should be having sex.
Sex drives are a finicky thing. Everything from your menstrual cycle to how much stress you’re under at work can cause a slight change. But a sudden change in your libido could also be a sign of an underlying medical issue in some cases (we’ll touch on this later).
Here’s a roundup of the major foods associated with boosting the female libido, including some backed by hefty research and some that may be more folklore than science.
Certain foods, including herbs, have been shown to increase sex drive in at least a handful of studies. Just keep in mind that most of these studies haven’t been very big or rigorous, so don’t put all your hopes and dreams on them.
One more tidbit to remember when it comes to herbal supplements: Doses vary from product to product, so be sure to follow the manufacturer’s guidelines.
On that note, it’s also a good idea to check in with your healthcare provider or a pharmacist about how any of these supplements may interact with:
- prescription medications
- over-the-counter medications
- other herbal supplements
Ginkgo biloba is a popular herbal supplement that can be consumed in many forms. Preliminary research suggests that ginkgo may be effective as a natural aphrodisiac.
However, results of a study on the use of ginkgo are inconclusive on whether or not it actually boosts sexual function in females.
Looking for another easy-to-find supplement? Ginseng is one that has many potential health benefits.
A small, recent study concluded that ginseng outperformed the placebo to help combat sexual dysfunction in people using methadone. How will this affect people who aren’t using methadone? More research is needed, but it may be worth a shot.
According to one studyTrusted Source, maca may have some potential for treating antidepressant-induced sexual dysfunction in postmenopausal women. Plus, maca has historically been used to boost fertility and sexual desire.
While research is promising, a recent review notes that some of the claims surrounding maca may be a bit overblown.
Another herbal supplement that may be effective for increasing libido is Tribulus terrestris.
One studyTrusted Source assessed whether 7.5 milligrams (mg) of Tribulus terrestris extract was effective for female sexual interest/arousal disorder.
After 4 weeks, those who took the extract reported an improvement in their sexual desire, arousal, and satisfaction. The downside? It was a pretty small study that involved only 60 participants.
A popular and expensive spice, saffron is often recommended as an aphrodisiac — and early research backs it up. In one study, women taking antidepressants saw a significant improvement in sexual arousal after taking saffron for 4 weeks.
However, while this study found an improvement in sexual arousal, it did not see an improvement in sexual desire.
Red wine is a widely recommended aphrodisiac. In addition to its other potential benefits, red wine may also improve sexual function, according to a 2009 study.
However, it’s important to note that these findings were self-reported by a small sample size. Plus, other studies suggest that consuming too much alcohol may have the reverse effect on libido, so moderation is key.
Believe it or not, apples may have a positive effect on female sex drive. One study found that women who consumed an apple a day reported a better quality sex life.
While this sounds promising, this study only suggests a correlation between apple consumption and sexual health. It’s not totally clear if eating apples directly affects sexual function. Plus, there are no other major studies on whether apples may increase libido.
Fenugreek is an herb used both in cooking and as a supplement. Some research suggests it may help boost libido.
A study concluded that fenugreek may be an effective treatment to increase female sex drive. However, most of the current research on fenugreek covers male sexual health.
Foods with anecdotal evidence
While not backed by any evidence, these foods and herbs have historically been used to boost libido. Some people swear by them. Plus, you likely already have many of them in your kitchen, making them easy to try.
Chocolate is a commonly recommended aphrodisiac. However, despite its popularity, a 2006 study concluded that chocolate consumption didn’t have a significant difference on the female sex drive.
Some recommend coffee as an aphrodisiac, but — while coffee can help boost your mood — there’s no research to support this claim.
While honey is a good source of antioxidants, there’s no scientific evidence that suggests it boosts libido.
Strawberries are another popular option that some folks swear by, despite a lack of evidence.
The original Casanova is said to have started each day by eating 50 raw oysters. Males and females alike have reported increased sex drive after eating them. But again, there’s no evidence to support these claims.
Capsaicin, the active component of chili peppers, offers several health benefits, including improved sex drive.
One study did conclude that capsaicin improved sexual behavior in male rats, but there’s no research that suggests the same might be true for humans.
While saw palmetto is often recommended to boost libido in both males and females, there’s little evidence to support this.
In fact, a 2009 systematic review concluded the opposite. After looking at the data from multiple studies, researchers listed decreased libido as a potential side effect of saw palmetto usage. However, little is known about saw palmetto use by women.
Chasteberry, also known as Vitex agnus-castus or monk’s pepper, is a popular herbal supplement used for many female reproductive health concerns.
While research suggests that chasteberry may improve the symptoms of premenstrual syndrome, there’s no scientific evidence supporting its potential benefits for female sex drive.
Another commonly recommend aphrodisiac, figs are a rich source of vitamins and minerals. But the jury is out on their effect on libido.
Some believe bananas can boost libido, but again, there’s little scientific evidence to support this.
However, bananas are a great source of potassium, which aids in testosterone synthesis. While testosterone is typically seen as a male hormone, females also have testosterone, and low testosterone can negatively affect sex drive.
Potatoes are another popular aphrodisiac, despite the lack of scientific evidence.
However, both potatoes and sweet potatoes are full of potassium, meaning they offer the same health benefits as bananas.
Things to avoid
While it’s generally safe to experiment with natural, food-based aphrodisiacs, there are a few supplements you’ll want to steer clear of.
Despite their popularity, yohimbine (or yohimbe) supplements are potentially harmful. Not only are they banned in several countries, but one study discovered that most brands didn’t label the amount of yohimbine correctly or list any of the known adverse side effects on the label.
Spanish fly is another aphrodisiac that should be avoided due to its potentially dangerous side effects. Common side effects of Spanish fly include difficulty swallowing, nausea, vomiting blood, painful urination, and blood in the urine.
Keep in mind that most of what you can find today isn’t actually Spanish fly. In most cases, it’s a mixture of other herbs that don’t have proven benefits.
Different than regular honey, “mad honey” has been contaminated with grayanotoxins. While mad honey has historically been used as an aphrodisiac, side effects can include dizziness, nausea, vomiting, convulsions, headache, palpitations, and more.
An ingredient in the potentially lethal “love stone” aphrodisiac, as well as the Chinese medication chan suTrusted Source, Bufo toad is another aphrodisiac that should be avoided. It’s been documented to potentially cause hallucinations and even death.
Other things to try
Looking for other ways to boost your libido? There are plenty of options for increasing your sex drive beyond the use of aphrodisiacs or medical intervention.
Get enough sleep
Sleep is incredibly important for your health — including your sex drive. One study suggested that longer sleep duration was correlated with greater sexual desire the next day among women.
Another study emphasized the connection between sleep quality and sexual function, concluding that shorter sleep duration and insomnia were both associated with decreased sexual function.
When it comes to boosting your libido, getting enough sleep is a great first step.
Reduce your stress levels
Stress can have a negative effect on a lot of aspects of your health, including your sex drive. A recent study found a correlation between job stress and female sexual dissatisfaction, meaning any extra stress may be dropping your libido.
Taking active steps to reduce your stress levels may help boost your sex drive.
Check your medications
Certain medications may have an effect on your sex drive as well. StudiesTrusted Source suggest that antidepressants may be linked to lower sexual desire.
If you’re taking antidepressants and have low libido, talk to your doctor about how you can manage any potential side effects. You may even be able to adjust your dosage. Just make sure you don’t stop taking them without talking to your healthcare provider first.
Exercise is a fantastic way to increase your libido. One study concluded that resistance training may increase sexual desire and excitement in women with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS).
Plus, exercise is a great way to reduce stress, which we already know can help boost your sex drive.
While additional research is needed, a 2008 review concluded that acupuncture may be a potential method for boosting sex drive in women.
Plus, acupuncture may help reduce anxiety, stress, and insomnia, all of which can be underlying causes of a decrease in your libido.
If you’re not quite ready to try acupuncture, massage is a great alternative. A 2008 study showed that simply touching your partner can help reduce stress, meaning a quick massage might help boost your libido.
Believe it or not, learning to be more mindful and present can have a major effect on your sex drive.
Mindfulness is a wonderful tool for reducing stress, and research suggests that mindfulness therapy significantly improves sexual desire in women.
Yoga offers countless benefits, and improving your sex life may be one of them.
A 2010 study concluded that 12 weeks of yoga practice lead to significant improvement in all areas of the Female Sexual Function Index. Areas measured included desire, arousal, lubrication, orgasm, satisfaction, and pain during sexual activity.
Try incorporating these yoga moves into your regular yoga practice to help you reduce stress and increase your libido. You can even get your partner involved, too.
When to see a doctor
While fluctuations in your libido are perfectly normal, consider talking to your healthcare provider or a sex therapist if it becomes an ongoing issue.
The American Association of Sexuality Educators, Counselors, and Therapists (AASECT) provides a national directory of providers.
You may be dealing with hypoactive sexual desire disorder (HSDD), now known as female sexual interest/arousal disorder. It can affect anyone, and it may be a sign of an underlying medical condition.
Common signs and symptoms of HSDD include:
- little to no interest in sexual activity
- rarely having sexual thoughts or fantasies
- disinterest in sexual activity
- lack of pleasure from sexual activity