This article contains general information only and does not recommend or endorse any particular treatment. It is not intended to replace the advice provided by your own doctor or medical or health professional.
Ginger is a pungent, powerful vegetable. You can use it as a herb or spice in the kitchen to add warmth to your cooking. Or, you can tap into ancient beliefs about its libido-boosting properties and use it to add a bit of zest in the bedroom.
Queensland naturopath, Simone Matthews, uses a homemade ‘juju remedy’ featuring ginger to boost her libido.
She tells SBS she initially made a big batch of the mixture as a cold and flu tonic. The unintended consequence was that it helped remedy the drop in libido and hot flushes she experienced as part of perimenopause.
“I discovered that I just felt a greater sort of desire, to be intimate with my husband,” says Matthews. “We've been together 20 years and we just feel like we’ve just met again."
"I really believe this can be a life changing remedy in women's lives.”
Matthews' tonic is also made up of turmeric and cayenne – two spices that are traditionally believed to increase sex drive – and a quartz crystal. The tonic’s final ingredient may be a bit hard for non-believers to accept as valid. Even still, the naturopath is adamant in the power of her juju juice.
“Australia needs to know about juju remedy. Women need to know about juju remedy. Men need to know about juju remedy so that they can help their women. I really believe this can be a life-changing remedy in women's lives.”
Matthews pitches her juju as a libido-boosting tonic during episode two of SBS's new series, Medicine or Myth? The show follows everyday Australians who propose health remedies to a panel of medical experts in the hope that their alternative treatment will be selected for a real-world trial.
Ginger: a traditional aphrodisiac?
Although the panel, led by neurosurgeon Dr Charlie Teo, are a bit perplexed by the inclusion of quartz crystal in the remedy, they acknowledge that ginger has a history of being linked to libido treatments. In particular, Dr Teo says, ginger has been used as a remedy to boost male libido.
According to a 2017 study published in Translational Andrology and Urology journal, ginger is used in the East as a circulatory stimulant to help older men improve their sex drive and manage erectile dysfunction.
As described in the book Food and Culture (chapter seven, edits by Counihan and Van Esterik, 1997), back in the old days in China, people believed the way to improve sexual performance and interest was to address malnutrition. It was thought that low libido may be caused by a lack of mineral-rich foods. Warming foods like ginger and ginseng were used to strengthen the body and increase energy – even sexual energy.
Ginger (zingiber officinale) was also traditionally used as an aphrodisiac in Arabian medicine.
It’s currently used in Ayurveda, a traditional medicine native to India that’s believed to be the oldest medical system in the world dating back 5,000 years. Ayurveda recognises its potential to block excessive clotting, reduce cholesterol and fight arthritis. But ginger also gets a mention in the last chapter of the Kamasutra, India’s handbook about love and sex.
The chapter details herbs that can be used as an aphrodisiac and includes a detailed aphrodisiac recipe featuring a large quantity of ginger root (double the amount or more compared to other main spices), cinnamon, green nutmeg, black pepper beans, cloves and saffron.
The fact is, although ginger has a history of use as a folk medicine, there’s not a lot of scientific evidence about the use of ginger as an aphrodisiac in Western culture.
However, one study on diabetic rats published in the International Journal of Food Sciences and Nutrition in 2013 looked at the antioxidant and androgenic properties of ginger roots on reproductive function over 30 days. It found that the intake of ginger root decreased blood glucose levels, increased reproductive organ weights and testosterone level, and improved semen quantity.
“The best chance of having a good libido its important to not just focus on one particular herb or spice but to work towards maintaining a healthy weight."
Accredited Practising Dietitian, Anika Rouf, says although the results are promising, conclusions can not be drawn from this study because it was not performed on humans. More clinical research on ginger is needed to determine its effectiveness as an aphrodisiac.
For those who are determined to eat their way to a good sex life, Rouf suggests they adopt a nutritious and balanced diet.
“The best chance of having a good libido its important to not just focus on one particular herb or spice but to work towards maintaining a healthy weight,” explains Rouf, spokesperson for the Dietitians Association of Australia.
“Eat a balanced diet with food from the five core food groups and exercise regularly – that can help you feel good and have a healthy mind and body.”
Are alternative remedies simply a myth or do they have a place alongside modern medicine? Medicine or Myth? follows everyday Australians as they pitch their diverse and sometimes divisive health remedies to a panel of medical experts, led by Dr Charlie Teo, in the hope of being selected for a real-world trial.
#MedicineorMyth is an eight-week series airing Monday nights at 8.30 pm on SBS and then all the episodes are available on SBS On Demand.
Watch this episode here:
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