40 Aphrodisiacs From Around the World – Does Sleep Make The List?

If couples are looking to spice things up in the bedroom, an aphrodisiac may do just the trick.  An aphrodisiac is a substance that can boost libido or sexual desire.  The word is derived from the Greek word ἀφροδισιακόν (aphrodisiakon), which means “pertaining to Aphrodite,” the Greek goddess of love.

While aphrodisiacs were originally sourced from mythology, folklore, and superstition, modern-day aphrodisiacs are based on science and can relate more to one’s current lifestyle. This includes sleep. In fact, a 2015 study found that women who got an extra hour of sleep were 14% more likely to have sex the next day.

In this infographic, we’ve got all types of aphrodisiacs from across the globe. They range from common ones like oysters to lesser-known substances like cobra blood. And don’t forget about getting sleep and exercising — two easy and free ways to boost that libido.

40 Aphrodisiacs From Around The World - Mattress Clarity

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Mythology, Legend, And Aphrodisiacs

Many types of seafood are considered aphrodisiacs because, in Greek mythology, Aphrodite emerged from the ocean on a seashell vessel. She was also associated with sparrows, compelling Greeks to consume sparrow brains to ignite lust.

In the Middle Ages, the Law of Similarities deemed that “like causes like.” Thus, suggestively shaped or textured foods such as asparagus, oysters, and ginseng earned aphrodisiac titles. During this time, many aphrodisiacs were banned because they were often used in love potions. Herbs and spices like cinnamon, cardamom, pepper, saffron, and vanilla became forbidden.

Legend has it that ancient Aztec ruler Montezuma guzzled over 50 cups of chocolate before visiting his harem. Casanova is rumored to have seduced a virgin by slipping a raw oyster into her mouth.

While these aphrodisiacs owe their status to myths and legends, some do have scientific merit. Aphrodisiacs that stimulate the nervous system, create warmth in the body, and loosen inhibitions may have genuine effects on the sex drive.

Traditional Ayurveda medicine herbs, such as ashwagandha, also have some promising clinical studies. A study on Tongkat Ali extract (also known as “Malaysian ginseng”) has shown that daily supplementation “improves stress hormone profile and certain mood state parameters,” which may help shield the body from the detrimental effects of modern-day chronic stress — and less stress makes it easier to get in the mood.

Ancient, Traditional, Or Rare Substances

Many aphrodisiacs have stood the test of time. While some Old Wives’ Tales have been disproven, there are some ancient aphrodisiacs that science backs up.

Ambergris is one example. This substance actually comes from the intestines of Sperm Whales. Over the centuries, ambergris has been used in perfumes, medicines, and foods as well. While it is rare, expensive, and illegal in the U.S., studies have shown that it can increase testosterone levels.

Yartsa Gunbu, also known as the “Viagra of the Himalayas,” is a fungus that has been thought to increase virility. It is extremely expensive and has even lead to fighting in Nepal. A 2016 scientific review found that the fungus can increase testosterone, sperm levels, and sperm mobility.

Other rare aphrodisiacs include illegal substances like Casu Marzu, a cheese with living maggots inside. Yeah, gross. Then there is fugu which comes from toxic pufferfish. Fugu can make people feel euphoric but, according to the BBC, it is more dangerous than cyanide.

Common Food And Herbs

If someone is looking for a natural aphrodisiac, they don’t have to try something as extreme as cobra blood or maggoty cheese. They can find plenty of aphrodisiacs at their local restaurants and supermarket.

Most people have probably heard the rumor that oysters can help with the libido. Does science support this? According to a 2005 study, it does. Mollusks such as oysters contain amino acids that increase testosterone levels.

Red wine has also been proven to help improve female libido. A 2009 study showed that women who regularly drink moderate amounts of red wine score higher for sexual desire and sexual function.

It could also be as simple as taking a trip through the produce section. Asparagus can cut down on ammonia levels, which can help increase sexual interest. Watermelon contains L-citrulline, a non-essential amino acid can help with erectile dysfunction.

Also, if people have more of a sweet tooth, chocolate also has some aphrodisiac properties. Studies show that cocoa stimulates blood flow to below our torso.

Sleep And Sex

Lifestyle choices, namely sleep, can have big impact on arousal and sexual functioning. As mentioned above, a 2015 study showed that women who slept well were 14% more likely to engage in sexual activity the next day.

However, this is not the only study to find a connection between healthy sleep and arousal. For instance, a recent study found a strong association between sleep problems and sexual function in adults over 60.

RELATED: Best Mattress For Sex

So, if people want a healthy sex life, they need to get a healthy amount of sleep. How much sleep do people need, though? According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), adults between 18 and 60 years of age should be getting seven or more hours of sleep each night.

To get deep, restful sleep, make sure to practice good sleep hygiene. This means keeping the temperature cool and dark as well as maintaining a solid sleep schedule. Also, keep light-emitting technology out of the bedroom, as that can greatly disturb one’s sleep.


If couples need something to add the fire back into their relationship, one of these aphrodisiacs could work. Of course, people are going to be a lot safer using something natural like fruits, vegetables, or seafood. And, of course, don’t forget to get healthy sleep!

Other Resources For Good Sleep

Joe Auer

Joe Auer is the editor of Mattress Clarity. He mainly focuses on mattress reviews and oversees the content across the site. He likes things simple and takes a straightforward, objective approach to his reviews. Joe has personally tested nearly 250 mattresses and always recommends people do their research before buying a new bed. He has been testing mattresses for over 5 years now, so he knows a thing or two when it comes to mattress selection. He has been cited as an authority in the industry by a number of large publications. When he isn't testing sleep products, he enjoys working out, reading both fiction and non-fiction, and playing classical piano. He enjoys traveling as well, and not just to test out hotel mattresses! Joe has an undergraduate degree from Wake Forest University and an MBA from Columbia University.