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In hot pursuit of aphrodisiacs

Dr. Billy Goldberg:
What ever happened to good old-fashioned romance? Oysters and champagne are passé as people reach for more exotic aphrodisiacs. The pursuit of a sex boost had a deadly result for one New York man after he ingested an aphrodisiac made from toad venom. This poor soul ate a product meant for the skin, and unfortunately it contained a chemical that had effects similar to the heart drug digitalis, which can cause irregular heart rate, nausea and vomiting.

What a terrible way to go.

Aphrodisiacs are by no means a new invention. The name comes from Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of love and beauty, and throughout history many products have been believed to stimulate sexual desire – from rhino horns to snails to the beetle-derived "Spanish fly." Viagra is mistakenly thought of as an aphrodisiac, but rather it's a treatment for ability (impotence), not desire.

Unfortunately modern pharmaceutical companies have yet to find that magic little potion to increase sexual desire. Just this month, a highly touted compound, Bremelanotide, originally known as PT-141, was shelved as an aphrodisiac by its company Palatin Technologies. This nasal spray showed remarkable promise stimulating the desires of both men and women, but it also raised their blood pressure. Don't give up hope. The company has another compound, PL-6983, that they're banking will take its place.

In the meantime, you will have to rely on the old standards such as alcohol, chocolate, roses or Barry White music. A search of the word aphrodisiac in my medical database revealed 197 scientific articles. But after reviewing several, I realized that there is very little data demonstrating that many of the herbal preparations available work in humans.  I will admit that a variety of things such as Cihuapatli, the Mexican zoapatle (Montanoa tomentosa) or Curculigo orchioides rhizomes (Golden-eye grass) have created some pretty horny lab rats.

Once, in Jamaica, I tried a roots-based tonic, Baba Roots, that claimed to be a "front-end-lifter," but I can't say that I felt any "lift." John Layfield, a former professional wrestler turned Fox News business commentator, is embracing this Caribbean folklore as he peddles Mamajuana Energy, his own version of an herbal elixir from the Dominican Republic.

Don't bet on it. However, if you are feeling really adventurous, you could travel to Beijing and visit the Guolizhuang restaurant, where chefs specialize in a range of penis and testicle dishes derived from dogs, donkeys, sheep, horses and seals  -- all thought to boost libido.

I think I'll stick to the oysters.

Mark Leyner:
I have to confess that I'm absolutely baffled by this subject. The whole idea of aphrodisiacs is so alien and remote to my life as a man that I wonder if I can conjure up even a single insightful thing to say. Ingesting toad venom to get an erection? I think about sex about 10 trillion times a day. It is mind-boggling to me – as sex-obsessed as I am – that I would ever take something that would cause me to think even more about it.

Who needs toad venom?

There's not a single part of a woman's body that doesn't arouse me. I don't even need to see or think about the standard erogenous zones. Every inch of a woman is erotic to me, including the internal organs. How many thousands of hours did I squander as a teenager, shuttered up in my room, lecherously ogling my transparent female figurine, with all the incredible libido-inflaming anatomy and viscera visible to my hungry eyes?  The lungs, the pancreas, the sigmoid colon, the adrenolumbar vein…  Yikes!

I actually think I need some sort of "anaphrodisiac" – something that would actually inhibit my libido.

For most men, thinking about their grandmas – dead or alive – should usually result in an almost instantaneous decrease in tumescence. 

But when I think about my grandmother, the image of mah-jongg tiles immediately comes to mind. And along with the memory of those tiles, comes the memory of the fleshy, heavily freckled arms of the buxom women – my grandmother's friends – shuffling those tiles in the brutal sun in front of their cabana at the swim club…  Obviously going down that road will do me no good at a time like this.

I did see a psychiatrist once about all this. More out of curiosity than any alarm. After 45 minutes of regaling him with an anecdotal history of my libido, he concluded that, to an unusual degree, I cathect everything – that is, I inject almost every object in the world with libidinal energy.  He ventured the opinion that I might be stuck in some infantile stage of polymorphous perversity.

As he was talking, I was absently fondling a golf ball I'd found on his desk.  The ball was inscribed with the word "Effexor." It was one of those promotional trinkets left behind by some pharmaceutical sales rep.  Rolling the ball in my hand, I couldn't help but picture Jang Jeong or Meena Lee or Shi Hyun Ahn or any one of the many South Korean lady golfers who've become such a dominant force in the LPGA.

Even typing the words "dominant force in the LPGA" is highly arousing to me right now.

Toad venom?  For me?  I don't think so.

Do you have a favorite aphrodisiac? Vote!