Sexual activity: aphrodisiac plants in Ayurveda

Plant Review for Improving Sexual Activity and Masculinity.

The use of plant or plant-based products to stimulate sexual desire and to enhance performance and enjoyment is almost as old as the human race itself. Various herbs have been used by people of different cultures to treat conditions of male infertility or for treatment of reproductive disorders. They have also been advocated for improving sexual desire as well as sexual performance and erectile dysfunction, vasodilatation, increased testosterone level, brain monoamines, effect on pituitary-gonadal axis, and so forth are suggested mechanism for its action of these herbs. A number of herbal drugs have been validated for their effect on sexual behavior and fertility and can therefore serve as basis for the identification of new chemical leads useful in sexual and erectile dysfunction.

Male reproductive capacity was found to be deficient in nearly 50% of infertile couples according to a study carried out by the World Health Organization in 1987. Since the time of the study, the situation has become even worse, since a modern  stressful life style has enhanced the number of subject’s suffering from one form of sexual dysfunction or the other. Main factors that decrease the probability of conception in the female partner are frequently congenital, immunological, iatrogenic, or endocrine cause. Oligozoospermia, sexual, and ejaculatory dysfunction are further responsible for inability to conceive in numerous cases. Although many synthetic drugs are available and/or used to treat these problems, some of the drawbacks for these drugs include them being expensive and also their ability to provoke serious adverse effects, effective natural treatments are therefore still in demand.

The word “Aphrodisiac” is derived from “Aphrodite” the Greek goddess of love. By definition aphrodisiacs are the substance, which stimulate sexual desire. A variety of plants have been used as sex stimulants or sexual performance enhancer in traditional systems of medicine of various countries. Practitioners of Ayurveda the traditional system of medicine in India recognized the vital importance of virility and formulated Vajikarna therapy (Table 1). Modern day concept for the term “aphrodisiac” can be considered close to the Vajikarna concept defined in traditional texts of Ayurvedic medicine.

Vajikaran as a concept has been defined in the Rig Veda and the Yajurveda, the first written texts of medicine, in Ayurveda. Vajikarana herbs are also the basis for therapies recommended in Kamasutra, a treatise defining methods for appropriate sexual satisfaction amongst couples. An excerpt of the definition derived from these texts suggests that a youth in sound health taking regularly some sort of Vajikarana remedy may enjoy the pleasure of youth every night during all the seasons of the year. Old men, wishing to enjoy sexual pleasure or to secure the affections of women, as well as those suffering from senile decay or sexual incapacity, and persons weakened with sexual excesses may also use Vajikaran remedies. They are highly beneficial to handsome and opulent youths and to persons who have got many wives. According to Rasendra Sara Sangrah an ayurvedic text Vajikaran remedy makes a man sexually as strong as a horse (Vaji) and enables him to cheerfully satisfy the heat and amorous ardours of young maidens. Though in scientific terms these claims may represent a populous outlook, the popularity of Vajikaran in Ayurvedic system of medicine is nonetheless undisputed with numerous claims and textual references made to them during the course of human history.


The sexual inadequacies discussed in Ayurveda are of the following six types:

  1. A cessation of the sexual desire owing to the rising of bitter thoughts of recollection in the mind of a man, or a forced intercourse with a disagreeable woman (who fails to sufficiently rouse up the sexual desire in the heart of her mate) illustrates an instance of mental impotency.
  2. Excessive use of articles of pungent, acid, or saline taste, or of heat making articles of fare leads to the loss of the Saumya Dhatu (watery principle) of the organism. This is another kind of impotency.
  3. Virile impotency resulting from the loss of semen in persons addicted to excessive sexual pleasure without using any aphrodisiac remedy is the merit form of the virile impotency.
  4. A long-standing disease of the male generative organ (syphilis, etc.) or the destruction of a local Marma such as the spermatic cord destroys the power of coition altogether.
  5. Sexual incapacity from the very birth is called the congenital (Sahaja) impotency.
  6. Voluntary suppression of the sexual desire by a strong man observing perfect continence or through utter apathy produces a hardness of the spermatic fluid and is the cause of the sixth form of virile impotence.

Of the six foregoing types of impotency, the congenital form as well as the one due to the destruction of any local Marma (spermatic cord) should be regarded as incurable, the rest being curable and amenable to the measures and remedies antidotal to their respective originating causes.


Traditional Ayurvedic treatise classified aphrodisiac in the following five categories (a few plants have been provided as references for each kind of the therapeutic class defined):

  1. Drugs which increase the quantity of semen or stimulate the production of semen for example Microstylis wallichii, Roscoea procera, Polygonatum verticillatum, Mucuna pruriens and Asparagus racemosus.
  2. Drugs which purify and improve the quality of semen for example Saussurea lappa, Myrica nagi, Sesamum indicum, Vetiveria zizanioides and Anthocephalus cadamba.
  3. Drugs which improve ejaculatory functions for example Strychnos nux vomica, Cannabis sativa, Myristica fragrans and Cassia occidentalis.
  4. Drugs delaying the time of ejaculation or improving ejaculatory performance for example, Sida cordifolia, Asparagus racemosus, Cinnamomum tamala, Anacyclus pyrethrum, Mucuna pruriens and Cannabis sativum.
  5. Drugs arousing sexual desire, namely Withania somnifera, Asparagus racemosus, Datura stramonium, Anacyclus pyrethrum, Hibiscus abelmoschus and Opium.

Knowing  the Ayurvedic basis for the role of Vajikarana herbs, it is important to understand the role of modern pharmacology and an insight into the control of the sexual behavior in the human body. Sexual arousal is dependent on neural (sensory and cognitive), hormonal, and genetic factors.

Drugs affecting sexuality can either act on the central nervous system (Brain) and/or on the peripheral nervous system. Drugs affecting the brain and presumably sex centers are generally attributed with an increase or decrease in sexual arousal. Drugs that affect peripheral nerves will not affect arousal directly but may affect sexual function. In some cases, drugs action is direct and involves chemical alteration of the neurons, which governs sexual arousal or function. Alternatively, some drugs may act indirectly by altering blood flow to the genitalia. Most hypotheses concerning the neurochemical basis of sexual behavior are derived from studies in animals, but in some cases support has been provided by clinical studies. Five major neurochemically distinct systems are supposed to work together for increasing sexual arousal. The transmitters include norepinephrine, dopamine, serotonin, acetylcholine, and histamine.

The following is a list of some of the many well-tested Ayurvedic and other traditional herbs, which have a long standing reputation as a cure for sexual dysfunction and which have been used in numerous preparations for improving sexual performance and fertility especially in case of males.

Plant name Part used Extract used Mechanism of action
Aframomum Melegueta Fruits Aqueous extracts Improvement of sexual behaviour
Asparagus racemosus Roots Aqueous extracts Improvement of sexual behaviour
Allanblackia floribunda Stem bark Aqueous and ethanolic extract Inhibit the activity of the bulbospongiosus muscles
Allium tuberosum Seeds Butanolic extract Improvement of sexual behaviour
Alpinia calcarata Rhizomes Hot Aqueous extract Increase of sexual behaviour
and testosterone
Argeria nervosa (syn. A. speciosa Sweet) Fresh leaves, roots and flowers Aqueous, ethanol, hexane extract Improvement of sexual behaviour
Aspidosperma ulei Root Alkaloidal rich fraction Increase penile erection
Anacardium occidentale Leaf Hexane extract Increase fertility
Bulbine natalensis Stem Aqueous extract Increase hormone level
Butea Frondosa Bark Aqueous extract Improvement of sexual behaviour
Butea superba Tuber Ethanolic extracts Increase penile erection
Basella alba Leaves Terpenoid or steroid compounds Increased the blood testosterone concentrations
Boesenbergia rotunda Rhizome Ethanolic extract Improvement of sexual behaviour
Casimiroa edulis Seed Aqueous extract Improvement of sexual activity
Camellia sinensis Leaves and buds Aqueous extract Increase of blood testosterone concentrations
Chlorophytum borivilianum Roots Ethanolic extract Improvement of sexual activity
Cocculus hirsutus Aerial part Methanolic extract Spermatogenesis
Crocus sativus Stigma Aqueous extract Improvement of sexual activity
Cynomorium coccineum Roots Water  extract Increase spermatogenesis and increase sperm count
Diodia scandeus Herb Ethanolic extract Potentiates the action of ACh and adrenaline
Dactylorhiza hatagirea Tuber Aqueous extract Improvement of sexual activity
Epimedium koreanum Herb Aqueous and Ethanolic extract Improvement of sexual activity
Epimedium brevicornum Root Aqeous extract Increase Nitric oxide release
Fadogia agrestis Stem Alkaloids and Saponins Increase the blood testosterone concentrations
Ferula hermonis Root Acetonic extract Stimulated sexual motivation
Garcinia cambogia Seed Biflavonoid and xanthone Increase sperm count
Hibiscus sabdariffa Flowers Anthocyanins Increase sperm count
Hibiscus macranthus Leaves Terpenoid or steroid compounds Increase the blood testosterone concentrations
Kaempferia parviflora Rhizome Alcohol extract Increase in blood flow to the testis, Sexual behaviour
Lecaniodiscus cupanioides Root Aqueous extract Increase testosterone level
Lepidium meyenii Root Aqueous extract Spermatogenesis
Lithospermum arvense Seed Aqeous extract Androgenic
Massularia acuminata Stem Aqeous extract Stimulates male sexual maturation
Mondia whitei Root Aqueous extract Increase in the testicular weight and serum and testicular testosterone
Mucuna pruriens Seed Chloroform extract Spermatogenesis
Musa paradisiacal Root Aqueous extract Increase testosterone level
Orchis latifolia Root Aqueous extract, Powder Improvement of sexual behaviour
Panax ginseng Root Ginsenosides, saponin glycosides Increase Nitric oxide central
nervous system action
Panax quinquefolium Root Powder Facilitates male copulatory behavior
Pausinystalia yohimbe Bark Yohimbine Improves sexual behaviour and Penile erection
Peganum harmala Seed Powder Improves semen quality, Spermatogenesis and organ weight
Pentadiplandra brazzeana Root Aqueous extract Serum and testicular testosterone levels testicular cholesterol, the seminal vesicular fructose
Pfaffia paniculata Root Aqueous extract Increase serum testosterone
Piper Gnineense Fruits Aqueous extract Improvement of sexual behaviour
Psidium guajava Leaves Ethanol extract Increase sperm count
Psoralea corylifolia Fruits Aqueous extract Increase sperm counts, induces Spermatogenesis
Rubus coreanus Fruits Powder Spermatogenesis
Rhoicissus tridentata Root bark Chloroform and ethanolic extract Relaxes the corpus cavernosal smooth muscle
Syzygium aromaticum Flower buds 50% ethanolic extract Improvement of sexual behaviour
Senecio cardiophyllus Root Aqueous extract Increase the ejaculatory capacity
Securidaca longepedunculata Root bark Chloroform and ethanolic extract Relaxes the corpus cavernosal smooth muscle
Tribulus terrestris Fruits Protodioscin Androgen increasing property
Tribulus alatus Aerial parts and fruits 70% alcoholic extract Increase serum testosterone
Vanda tessellate Root, flower Aqueous and ethanolic extract Stimulates sexual behaviour
Wrightia natalensis Root bark Chloroform and ethanolic extract Relaxes the corpus cavernosal smooth muscle
Withania somnifera Root Aqueous extract Spermatogenesis
Zingiber officinale Root Aqueous extract Increase of both testis weight and serum testosteronelevels


*information from resource