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Some foods and supplements may help increase sex drive in people with a penis. But they may also have potential side effects and interact with certain medications.
It’s not uncommon to look for ways to boost your sex drive.
Although pharmaceutical drugs like Viagra may help people with a penis get an erection, many people prefer natural alternatives that are readily available, discreet, and likely to have fewer side effects.
Research has shown that several foods and supplements may help boost your libido and treat erectile dysfunction (ED), if that’s a concern for you.
This article lists 7 foods and supplements that may help spark your sex drive, and it provides product recommendations to help make your purchasing decision easier.
- Potential side effects: digestive irritation, liver and kidney problems, and prolonged erection (1)
- Potential drug interactions: diuretics, blood pressure medications, blood sugar-lowering medications, blood thinners, and P-glycoprotein (P-gp) substrate drugs (1)
Tribulus (Tribulus terrestris) is a small leafy plant with roots and fruit that are popular in traditional Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine (
It’s also widely available as a sports supplement and commonly marketed to boost testosterone levels and improve sex drive.
While human studies haven’t shown that it can raise testosterone levels, it appears to increase sex drive in people of both sexes.
In fact, in one study, taking around 280 milligrams (mg) of tribulus daily for 3 months was able to improve sexual dysfunction in pre- and postmenopausal females with no adverse side effects (
However, studies in people with ED show mixed results.
One older study found that taking 800 mg of this supplement daily for 30 days did not treat ED. Conversely, in another study, taking 1,500 mg daily for 90 days improved erections and sexual desire (
As such, more research is needed on Tribulus terrestris and ED.
Tribulus terrestris may help raise libido. Yet results regarding its ability to treat ED are inconsistent, so more research is needed.
Maca (Lepidium meyenii) is a root vegetable traditionally used to enhance fertility and sex drive. You can buy supplements in various forms, including powders, capsules, and liquid extracts.
A 12-week study from 2002 noted that 42% of men who took 1,500–3,000 mg of maca daily experienced an increased sex drive (
According to one research review, maca may act as a natural aphrodisiac to increase sexual desire in men. It may also help treat ED, but more research is needed (
Additionally, some evidence suggests that maca may help combat the loss in libido that may occur as a side effect of certain antidepressant drugs (
Maca may help boost libido and improve ED in people with mild symptoms.
3. Red ginseng
- Potential side effects: dry mouth, increased heart rate, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, insomnia, and nervousness (10)
- Potential drug interactions: diabetes medications, blood thinners, aspirin, chemotherapy drugs, antivirals, and certain antidepressants (10)
Ginseng — red ginseng, in particular — may aid low libido and improve sexual function.
In fact, a review of 10 studies found that red ginseng was effective at improving sexual arousal in women with menopause (
In addition, red ginseng may boost the production of nitric oxide. This is a compound that aids blood circulation and helps muscles in the penis relax. In fact, studies have revealed that this herb is significantly more effective at enhancing erectile function than a placebo (
Indeed, a review of 9 studies consisting of nearly 600 males with mild to moderate ED concluded that red ginseng, among other types, likely improves erectile function or satisfaction with sex compared with placebo. Still, the effect is small, and the strength of the included studies was mostly of low quality (
As such, more research is needed.
It’s also important to know that while red ginseng is generally well tolerated, it may cause side effects, such as increased heart rate and an upset stomach (10).
It may also interact with medications like blood thinners, so people who take them may want to consult a healthcare professional before use (
Red ginseng may boost libido and enhance erectile function, though more research is needed.
- Potential side effects: diarrhea, nausea, digestive issues, dizziness, headache, and low blood sugar (
- Potential drug interactions: blood thinners, antidepressants, chemotherapy drugs, and bronchodilators (18)
Fenugreek is a popular herb in alternative medicine that may help enhance libido and improve sexual function.
A 12-week study found that supplementing with 600 mg of fenugreek extract daily improved sexual function and increased testosterone levels in 120 middle-aged and older males (
However, it’s unknown whether this increase in testosterone is clinically significant.
Similarly, an 8-week study in 80 females with low libido determined that taking 600 mg of fenugreek daily significantly improved sexual arousal and desire, compared with the placebo group (
That said, very few human studies have examined fenugreek and libido, so more research is needed.
In addition, this herb interacts with blood-thinning medications, such as warfarin. If you’re taking a blood thinner, speak with a healthcare professional before taking fenugreek (
Fenugreek may boost libido by encouraging the production of sex hormones.
- Potential side effects: nausea, dry mouth, changes in appetite, anxiety, stomach pain, and nausea (
- Potential drug interactions: blood thinners (
Saffron is a delicious spice that comes from the Crocus sativus flower.
Its many traditional uses range from reducing stress to acting as an aphrodisiac, especially for people on antidepressant medications.
Some studies show that saffron could improve sexual dysfunction caused by antidepressants (
What’s more, one review of six studies reported that saffron improved erectile function, sexual desire, and satisfaction in men. However, there were significant flaws in the methods of the analyzed studies, which weakens these findings (
Additionally, a review of 5 studies in 173 people noted that saffron significantly improved various aspects of sexual pleasure, desire, and arousal, but the results among the studies varied significantly (
The effects of saffron on improving sexual function in people who don’t have depression or are not taking antidepressants are mixed (
Saffron may boost libido in people who are taking antidepressants, but its effects are inconsistent in those not taking these medications.
6. Ginkgo biloba
- Potential side effects: low blood sodium levels (29)
- Potential drug interactions: blood thinners, antipsychotics, diabetes medications, antidepressants, cholesterol medications, and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) (29)
Ginkgo biloba is a popular herbal supplement in traditional Chinese medicine.
According to some older research and animal studies, it may treat various issues, including sexual concerns like ED and low libido. This is because it can raise blood levels of nitric oxide, which aids blood flow by promoting the expansion of blood vessels (
The potential nitric oxide-boosting effects of ginkgo biloba appear to be stronger in animals and humans with conditions associated with decreased production, such as heart disease.
Ginkgo biloba may treat various aspects of sexual dysfunction because it can raise levels of nitric oxide. However, studies are inconsistent and more research is needed.
- Potential side effects: no known side effects (
- Potential drug interactions: blood pressure medications and diabetes medications (
L-citrulline is an amino acid naturally produced by your body (
Your body then converts it into L-arginine, which helps improve blood flow by producing nitric oxide to dilate your blood vessels. This, in turn, may treat ED (
For example, a small 2011 study in 24 men with mild ED and conditions associated with ED, like high blood pressure and diabetes, found that taking 1.5 g of L-citrulline daily significantly improved symptoms in 50% of participants after 1 month (
In another 30-day study in men, taking a daily combination of 800 mg of L-citrulline and 300 mg of trans-resveratrol combined with a prescription ED medication improved erectile function and hardness, compared with the placebo treatment (
Trans-resveratrol, commonly known as resveratrol, is a plant compound that functions as an antioxidant and is linked to numerous health benefits (
L-citrulline is available as a dietary supplement in capsule or powder form but is naturally present in foods like watermelon, dark chocolate, and nuts.
L-citrulline may aid men with ED because it’s involved in the production of nitric oxide.
Some supplements have evidence to support their use for boosting libido and improving erectile function.
With countless products available, though, it can be difficult to know which ones are effective and high quality.
To help you decide which product might be right for you, we rounded up several supplements using the following criteria:
- Ingredients: We selected supplements formulated with high quality ingredients that have been clinically studied for their ability to improve libido and erectile function.
- Dose: We chose supplements that provide doses appropriate for supporting sexual function.
- Third-party testing: We looked for products that have been tested by an independent lab to ensure purity and potency.
- Quality: We selected high quality supplements that are free of fillers, preservatives, and unnecessary additives.
- Reviews: We looked for supplements with mostly positive online reviews from customers.
- Price: We chose products available at a range of price points to fit nearly any budget.
- Vetting: The products on our list have been vetted to ensure that they align with Healthline’s brand integrity standards and approach to well-being. You can read more about our vetting process.
Best with maca
- Price: $
- Type: capsules
- Dose per serving: 1,900 mg per 2-capsule serving
- Directions: 2 capsules, 1–2 times daily with meals
NaturaLife Labs provides 1,900 mg of maca per 2-capsule serving, which is within the 1.5- to 3.5-g range that most studies have used for improving sexual function (
This product is certified organic and vegan-friendly. It’s also free of fillers, binders, and genetically modified organisms (GMOs).
NaturaLife reports that all its products are third-party tested for purity and potency. However, the name of the independent lab is not disclosed.
Best with ginseng
- Price: $$
- Type: capsules
- Dose per serving: 250 mg per 1-capsule serving
- Directions: 1 capsule, 2–3 times daily between meals
Pure Encapsulations Panax Ginseng contains 250 mg of ginseng extract in each capsule.
The ginseng extracts are standardized based on their content of ginsenosides, the major bioactive component of ginseng.
It’s recommended to take 1 capsule two or three times daily, for a total dose ranging from 500–750 mg.
The upper range of this dose is close to the amount used in clinical studies, which have examined ginseng in doses ranging from 800–3,000 mg (
Pure Encapsulations is a reputable company that produces a wide assortment of high quality, certified gluten-free supplements.
Products are also tested by an independent lab. Though Pure Encapsulations notes that these are third-party certified labs, the specific testing facilities are not disclosed.
Best with L-citrulline
- Price: $
- Type: tablets
- Dose per serving: 1,200 mg per 1-tablet serving
- Directions: 1 tablet, 1–2 times daily between meals
NOW Sports L-Citrulline provides 1,200 mg of L-citrulline per tablet and can be taken one to two times daily.
This product is certified by Informed Sport, meaning that it has undergone third-party testing to verify that it’s free of banned substances for athletes.
Additionally, all products are tested in-house and submitted to an independent lab to ensure safety and quality. However, the name of the facility is not available on their website.
Best with tribulus extract
- Price: $
- Type: tablets
- Dose per serving: 1,000 mg per 1-tablet serving
- Directions: 1 tablet daily with a meal
NOW Sports Tribulus contains 1,000 mg of standardized Tribulus terrestris extract.
Studies investigating the potential sexual enhancing effects of Tribulus terrestris have used a variety of different patented extracts and doses, so it’s unclear what the best dose is (
However, NOW Sports recommends taking 1 tablet daily with meals. If you prefer a smaller dose to start, NOW Sports makes a product that contains 500 mg of standardized Tribulus terrestris extract per serving.
Many sports nutrition products, especially those marketed for increasing testosterone or improving sexual function, may be contaminated with ingredients not listed on the label. In some cases, these may be anabolic steroids or their precursors (
As such, it’s always best to choose those that are third-party tested for banned substances or Informed Sport Certified, like NOW Sports Tribulus.
It’s important to consider the following factors when picking a supplement to boost your libido:
- Effective doses: Be sure to look for a supplement that contains ingredients in doses that have been clinically studied and proven effective.
- Active ingredients: Some ingredients have been shown to be particularly beneficial for certain populations, including people with sexual dysfunction caused by antidepressants or those with low testosterone levels. Look for a product that best fits your health needs.
- Third-party testing: To ensure that the contents match the label, look for products that are third-party tested. It’s also a good idea to purchase your products from a reputable supplier.
- Allergens and dietary restrictions: If you have any special dietary needs, you’ll want to read ingredient lists carefully to avoid any ingredients that may not be suitable for you.
- Potential drug interactions: Be sure to consider whether a supplement contains ingredients that may interact with other medications you may be taking, such as blood thinners or diabetes medications, and talk with a doctor or another healthcare professional before adding any herbal products to your routine.
Several other foods and supplements are commonly promoted as libido-boosting. However, they don’t have as much supporting evidence.
Here are several foods that may boost your libido:
- Oysters: Several animal studies indicate that oysters may boost your libido and promote the production of male sex hormones, but there is no human research in this area (
- Chocolate: Although chocolate is widely believed to boost libido, especially in women, little evidence supports this (
- Nuts: Some evidence suggests that nuts, especially pistachios, may boost libido in men. However, more research is needed (
- Watermelon: This popular fruit is a good source of L-citrulline, which may help with ED. Yet, no human studies have examined watermelon intake and ED or libido.
- Chasteberry: There’s some evidence that chasteberries can ease premenstrual syndrome (PMS) symptoms in women, but there’s no evidence that it offers libido-boosting effects (
- Coffee: This popular beverage contains caffeine and polyphenols, which some studies link to a lower risk of ED. However, more human research is needed (
47, 48, 49).
- Horny goat weed: This herb contains compounds that may affect blood flow to the penis and has been linked to improved erectile function in animal studies. However, more human research is needed (
50, 51, 52).
- Alcohol: Although alcohol may help people get in the mood, it does not boost libido. In fact, a high intake has been linked to sexual dysfunction (
Due to limited human research, it’s unclear how these foods and supplements compare with pharmaceutical libido boosters like Viagra or Roman ED. Other services like Lemonaid can help you customize your own ED treatment and have your medications sent directly to you.
ED is commonly a symptom of an underlying condition.
Conditions that can cause ED include (
- cardiovascular disease
- high blood pressure
- unmanaged diabetes
- prostate or bladder complications
Other factors linked with ED include heavy alcohol use, smoking, and the use of certain prescription drugs, including some that are used to treat conditions that can cause ED, like depression and high blood pressure (
Without treating the underlying cause of ED, it’s unlikely that the condition will significantly improve, even with the use of certain supplements.
You can start by:
- increasing your physical activity
- incorporating more fruits, vegetables, and whole grains into your diet
- avoiding smoking and drinking, if you currently take part in these activities
Other times, however, ED may not resolve with lifestyle changes. In this case, see your doctor so they can discuss appropriate treatment options with you or determine whether further testing is necessary.
What foods help you get hard?
There are no foods that will make you hard, but incorporating more nitrate-rich vegetables like spinach, arugula, and beetroot into your diet can enhance nitric oxide and blood delivery to the penis, so you can be ready when the time is right.
Watermelon is also a good choice since it’s rich in L-citrulline, which your body uses to produce nitric oxide.
What drinks help you get hard?
Just as no food can directly get you hard, no drink can either. However, you can incorporate L-citrulline-rich watermelon and nitrate-rich vegetables like beetroot and spinach into a smoothie for improved blood flow.
You can also purchase beetroot juice and drink it straight — although it has a strong earthy taste alone — or add it to your smoothies.
What is an aphrodisiac?
An aphrodisiac is any food, drug, or other substance that increases sexual desire, pleasure, or performance.
Common foods and supplements reputed to have aphrodisiac effects include dark chocolate, oysters, Tribulus terrestris, yohimbine, and fenugreek, among others. The strength of the evidence to support the aphrodisiac properties of these foods and supplements varies widely.
If you’re looking to boost your sex drive, you’re not alone.
A few foods and supplements may even act as aphrodisiacs, including Tribulus terrestris, maca, red ginseng, fenugreek, saffron, ginkgo biloba, and L-citrulline.
Most of these are well tolerated and widely available, making them easy to incorporate into your daily routine.
Keep in mind some of these libido-boosting foods and supplements may interact with certain drugs. If you take medication, you may want to consult a healthcare professional beforehand.