What are aphrodisiacs?
The word "Aphrodisiac" is derived from Aphrodite, the name of the ancient Greek goddess of love. It refers to drugs that arouse or increase sexual desire or excitement. These agents enhance the sexual drive, performance and lead to greater sexual satisfaction. They cause an increase in libido and sexual interest. They are sometimes used in the treatment of impotence.
Which drugs are used as aphrodisiacs?
A number of prescription drugs may act as sex stimulants. These include levodopa (l-dopa), bromociptine, amantadine, naloxone, pergolide, and imipramine.
For men, sildenafil citrate, better known as Viagra, is approved for the treatment of impotence. Clinical studies have shown that sildenafil citrate corrects erectile dysfunction problems in 60 to 70 percent of men. Viagra is a commonly used drug to facilitate a male erection in conjunction with sexual stimuli.
Arginine is also taken by men and women to enhance sex organ sensation and performance. Arginine works as well in women as it does in men. Prostaglandins have also been used as a local aphrodisiac agent. The role of oxytocin as a potential aphrodisiac in women is also being investigated.
How do they act?
These drugs act by enhancing the sex organ sensation and performance. They improve the blood flow to the male sex organs, thus improving the male libido. A similar response in women may also produce an increased sexual stimulation. Arginine works directly in the area of the genitals, whereas the other supplements act on the brain. Prostaglandins can be directly applied to the penis by injection or by a small solid insertion into the urethra. This is the most effective locally active aphrodisiac.
What are their uses?
Aphrodisiacs are primarily used to help men and women suffering from sexual dysfunctions. For men, the most common problems are impotence and premature ejaculation. It was previously thought that these were caused primarily by psychological conditions, but more recent research has shown that there is a range of physical problems, such as heart disease, stress and hormone imbalance, which can cause sexual dysfunction. Androgens (male hormones) can be prescribed for men with low libido or poor performance.
For women, low hormone levels can result in a lack of sexual interest or an inability to achieve orgasm. This happens mostly during menopause. Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) is now being accepted for its favourable effects in improving sexual desire, performance and pleasure in some women. Hormones in the modern context can be an aphrodisiac.
Aphrodisiacs serve the following purposes:
- To increase low libido.
- To improve sexual performance.
- In the treatment of impotence
- To treat physiological problems that affect sexual activity
What are their side effects?
The side effects of these aphrodisiacs include irregularities of the rhythm of the heart, suicidal tendencies, mental disorders and tremors. These medications must be used under medical advice.
The drug Sildenafil citrate has some side effects, which last for a few minutes to a few hours after taking the drug. These include dilation of blood vessels in other parts of the body, causing headaches and fainting. Other side effects such as facial flushing, upset stomach, blurred vision and sensitivity to light usually occur with high doses.
Who should not take Sildenafil?
It should never be taken by men who are using nitrate drugs, like nitroglycerine that is used for the treatment of chest pains due to heart disease. This could lead to a sudden drop in the blood pressure to unsafe levels.
There are additional warnings about use of the drug by individuals with cardiovascular disease. Caution is specifically advised for men who have had a stroke or heart attack or life-threatening arrhythmia in the past 6 months, those with significant low or high blood pressure or those suffering from a disease causing degeneration of the retina.