By Ingrid Petres


Our species evolved using scent to help us survive. We recognized what was food through scent. As a flower lures a bee, an animal emits pheromones to lure a mate to propagate our species. These hormonal emissions, the breath of desire, contain all kinds of tiny chemical constituents. They have the ability to affect us immensely. When we inhale a scent the area in the brain known as the limbic system first recognizes its chemical constituents. This area deals with emotion and memory. In fact the sense of smell is the only sense that is not first routed through the thalamus. Therefore scent affects our brain chemistry even before we recognize its presence.


Western Science has an insatiable desire to prove what ancient man knew through experience. It has been able to isolate chemical constituents present in plant material and essential oils that can have an effect us in many ways. Some chemical constituents relax the central nervous system and some modulate brain chemistry potentially evoking euphoria, while some are stimulating. This may help to explain why certain aromas have been known throughout history as aphrodisiacs.


Scent is just one method for experiencing these chemical messengers. Topical application, herbal teas, extracts, herbal wines and cordials are all ways of absorbing these plants and their wonderful effects. For example, a massage oil containing essential oils when applied infuses these tiny molecules into our blood and easily circulates through what is known as the “blood brain barrier” where they impart their effects. When ingested, these chemical constituents are also absorbed into the blood.


The following, will explore several herbs and essential oils that have been utilized as aphrodisiacs throughout history and recipes including them.





Damiana: Turnera aphrodisiaca

Hot, and spicy in nature. Damiana increases blood flow to the pelvic region. It is native to Mexico where it is known as an ancient Indian aphrodisiac


Yohimbe: Corynanthe yohimbe

Stimulates the nerve synapses in the sacral area of the spinal cord. It contains an indole alkaloid, yohimbine that Western medicine recognizes as a genuine aphrodisiac. West Africans used the herb as an erotic stimulant.


Chinese Ginseng: Panax ginseng

This tonic, helps circulation, and has stimulant effects. It helps maintain Yin Yang harmony in the body according to Michael Tierra.


Cacao: Theobroma cacao 

Stimulates the central nervous system and contains phenyl ethylamine which is known to increase endorphins


Elethero Root (Siberian Ginseng): Eleutheroccocus centicosus

This tonic herb balances energy and stimulates sexual desire.


Muira Puama: Liriosma ovata

Known as potency wood in its native South America. It is known to lower sexual inhibitions and increase sensitivity to touch.


Yarrow: Achillea Millefolium

Is used in tea form by Navajo Indians 1-2 hours prior to intercourse. Yarrow is known as a vulnerary, diaphoretic and a stimulant. 


Vanilla: Vanilla plantifolia

Is prescribed in homeopathy as an aphrodisiac. It was used in ancient America as an aphrodisiac.


Maca: Lepidium meyenii

Nutritive root native to Peru where it is known for regulating sex hormones, and enhancing the libido.


Guarana: Paullinia cupana

This South American native plant is used as a stimulant. Guaranine, one of its chemical constituents is similar in chemical structure to caffeine. This tonic herb is slightly narcotic and known as an aphrodisiac.





A cordial is a lightly sweetened herbal tincture. They are delicious ways of enjoying an herb’s properties. Most often they are alcohol based, but can be made non-alcoholic if one so desires. Often a cordial includes fresh or dried herbs, and fresh or frozen fruits.


Chose what ingredients you will include.


Prepare you ingredients:

          Chop or blend fresh fruits and herbs.

          Grind dried herbs in a mortar and pestle or coffee grinder.


Put the ingredients into a wide mouthed jar and cover with enough alcohol so that the liquid covers the herbs more than an inch:

          Liquors that are 40 percent alcohol make great menstrums. Brandy, rum and vodka are all

          suitable. Glycerin can be used to make a non-alcoholic menstrum that is already sweet,

          eliminating the need to add honey.


Let this mixture sit for a week or so. It is good to agitate the jar every so often.


Strain the mixture through cheesecloth, or Cheryl’s Herbs: Mary’s Tea Bag.


Sweeten to taste (unless glycerin was used). Try 1/2 cup honey (agave nectar, molasses…whatever you like) per quart.



Herbal Aphrodisiac:


2 parts Berries (fresh or frozen)

2 parts Cacao Beans

2 parts Damiana

1 part Muira Puama

1 part Maca Root Powder

1/2 part Eleuthero Root powder

1/2 part Chinese Ginseng powder

1-2 Vanilla Beans





Essential oils:


Jasmine: Jasminum sambac

Narcotic, floral, and aphrodisiac. Contains a chemical constituent known as indol that has a distinct animal earthiness. Middle Note


Rose: Rosa damascena

This flower has long been associated with love.  Its scent is an immensely floral aphrodisiac. Jeanne Rose claims it has profound effects on a women’s genitalia when applied topically. Middle Note


Cardamon: Elletaria cardamomum

This warm, spicy oil promotes circulation. It is an aphrodisiac, and a stimulant. Top Note.


Vetiver: Vetiveria zizanioides

Distilled from the root of a grass this oil is grounding and nourishing. It is a circulatory stimulant yet sedative to the central nervous system. Base Note.


Neroli: Citrus aurantium

Distilled from the flowers of the bitter orange tree, this oil is calming to the central nervous system and nourishes the heart. Middle Note.


Patchouli: Pogostemon cablin

Aphrodisiac, antidepressant, grounding and balancing. Base Note.


Ylang Ylang: Canaga odorata

Highly narcotic and aphrodisiac. In Indonesia ylang ylang flowers are spread on the beds of newly married couples. Middle Note


Black Pepper: Piper nigrum

Promotes circulation and is an aphrodisiac. It is a stimulant, and promotes stamina. Top Note.


Clary Sage: Salvia sclarea

Aphrodisiac, antidepressant, euphoric, and sedative. Middle Note.


Sandalwood: Santalum album

Aphrodisiac, antidepressant, and sedative. Contains sesquiterpenes, which are known to be calming to the nervous system. Base Note


Ginger: Zingiber officinale

 Steam distilled from the fresh rhizome. This oil is a warming and stimulating aphrodisiac. It increases local circulation. Top Note.



Massage Oils:


            An aromatic massage is an effective way at encouraging relaxation and intimacy. The application of essential oils through the use of ”carrier” oil imparts the oils effect into the blood stream quickly. Many chemical constituents like terpenes, are present in the blood stream as early as 2 minutes after topical application. Most other chemicals are present in the blood’s chemistry by 20 minutes.

            When adding essential oils to your carrier aromatherapists for whole body massage use a standard dilution rate of 2.5%. This is roughly:


15 drops essential oil (from an eyedropper)

1 oz carrier (Almond, Grapeseed, etc.)

Essential Oil Mixtures: 


            Although scent is incredibly subjective, the harmony of a mixture of essential oils is detectable in a manner similar to the harmony that is produced by notes in a chord musically. In fact you will encounter many references to music when considering perfumery.

            Scents are categorized as base, middle and top notes. This refers to their characteristics as well as their evaporation rate. When creating a mixture one might include top, middle, and base note oils to create a harmonious chord.



Sample Mixture:

                                    # of drops

Cardamon (Top)                   7

Ylang ylang (Middle)            3

Patchouli (Base)                  5


Total drops =                      15


Add your essential oils to a bottle one drop at a time and shake well to incorporate.


Add: 1 ounce Grapeseed Oil







Aftel, Mandy. Essence and Alchemy. Gibbs Smith Publishers, 2004.


Lavabre, Marcel. Aromatherapy Workbook. Healing Arts Press, 1996.


Manniche, Lise. Sacred Luxuries. Cornell University Pres,1999.


Pollak, Jeanine. Healing Tonics. Storey Publishing, 2000.


Rose, Jeanne. 375 Essential Oils and Hydrosols. Frog Ltd, 1999.


Ratsch, Christian. Plants of Love. Ten Speed Pr, 1997.


Lawless, Julia. The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Essential Oils. Element Books, 1995.


Schnaubelt, Kurt. Medical Aromatherapy. Frog Ltd, 1999.


Shutes, Jade. Masters Apprenticeship Program. East-West School for Herbal and Aromatic Studies, 2007.


Tierra, Michael. The Way of Herbs. Pocket, 1998.

Back to blog

Leave a comment

Please note, comments need to be approved before they are published.