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Chinese Aphrodisiacs: Myth or Magic?

Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) views a healthy libido as a natural expression of a healthy individual. But, as with other lifestyle practices, moderation is emphasized. Regular exercise, prudent dietary practices, maintenance of a healthy body weight, and stress management techniques all go a long way in making sure there is enough energy and interest left over for intimacy.

However, when receptivity or response wanes, many seek supplements to regain balance or vigor. We receive our share of visitors or phone calls to the clinic for help. At least some number of folks have “heard that Chinese herbs” can improve libido, performance, duration, etc. Whether those inquiring have direct experience with Chinese medicine or not, many are familiar with the sheer number of single herbs and compounds touted for their aphrodisiacal qualities. But do they work? Newer research seems to support some claims while others are just that: claims.

Herbs with libidinous reputations are often potent yang supplements (yang tonics). Yang represents activity and therefore qi (“energy” for lack of a singular translation) of our bodies. Yang influences energy levels and drives circulation. Some herbs that fortify the yang, such as Ren Shen (人参 / Radix Ginseng) and Yin Yang Huo (阴阳霍 / Herba Epimedii) (1)(2), are known to increase the production of nitric oxide in the body which is a key component in erectile function.

Equally as important is nourishing the essence or jing (精) of the body and blood. Jing can be viewed as your savings bank: keep spending with abandon and soon enough there isn’t enough left over to meet the basic bills. We could say that Greece is a little low on jing these days (and we’d better watch it ourselves!). Herbs which support the essence or blood, such as Tu Si Zi (菟丝子 / Semen Cuscutae Sinensis) and Dang Gui (当归 / Radix Angelicae Sinensis), can have a beneficial and regulatory impact on sex hormones (3)(4).

Historically, ancient Chinese herbalists were not concerned so much with hormones (they knew of no such chemicals) as they were with their empirical effects. Modern TCM herbalists, on the other hand, learn classical methods but also strive to keep up with new data as well, as this these data are the metric by which traditional Chinese medicine is often measured in the West.

So, while researchers continue to parse the individual constituents of Chinese herbs, TCM continues to effectively address health and healing from a holistic model. With correct pattern diagnosis and application, historical claims regarding the aphrodisiacal claims of at least some herbal medicinals continue to bear fruit.

One last point. Try to obtain herbal medicinals from a reliable source and a knowledgeable practitioner. Excessive or incorrect use of many herbal medicinals, and certainly yang supplementing medicinals, can lead to unintended and unpleasant consequences.

Love Bites...

Chinese medicinal diet therapy can also help to maintain health and an amorous mood. Below are some readily available herbal foods to incorporate into your romantic dinners for those long winter nights!

Sheng Jiang               生姜
A spicy root warming to the circulatory system
Yi Zhi Ren                  益知仁
Prized by the Chinese as a female aphrodisiac
Gou Qi Zi                    枸杞子
A tart, sweet berry that supports blood and jing/essence; known across Asia as "the happy berry."
Hu Tao Ren                 胡桃仁
A gentle food that fortifies jing/essence.
Feng Mi                  蜂蜜
Used in TCM, but also prized by the ancient Babylonians. They gifted newlyweds with enough honey-mead for 30 days, one mood cycle, giving us the word "honeymoon."

References:
  1. Ginseng- http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21697859
  2. Yin Yang Huo- http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20141584
  3. Tu Si Zi-http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed?term=chinese%20dodder%20seed%20androgen%20hormones
  4. Angelica Root- http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16691630

Want to know more about traditional Chinese herbal medicine? Click here or call us at 952-767-4910!


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