Masculinity encompasses sexual potency as one of its determinants. Indeed, the humiliation associated with failures of sexual performance is common across various cultures.
As a result, many men do not disclose aspects of sexual dysfunction to their physicians. This has therefore maintained the popularity of aphrodisiacs, which are substance to stimulate sexual drive or desire, for centuries.
There has been scepticism on the biological effects of aphrodisiac plants, but advances in scientific research have started to demonstrate the efficacy of traditional aphrodisiacs using animal models to elucidate their mechanism of action.
In a new study, scientists studied the influence of tiger nut (Cyperus esculentus) on sexually active male and found it stimulated sexual motivation and performance in both highly and moderately active rats.
Tiger nut ( Aya in Hausa, Ofio in Yoruba and Akihausa in Ibo) is one of the ancient food sources known to humanity and used traditionally in the Middle East to stimulate sexual arousal in men. Also, known commonly by several names such as chufa and earth almond, it is frequently given to grooms, during their honeymoons as a sexual invigorator.
For the study, two sets of sexually active male rats, highly active and moderately active, were identified depending on baseline sexual activity. Rats in each set were randomly divided into a control and treated groups.
The highly active rats were treated with doses of 1 and 2 g/kg/d of raw tiger nut powder, while moderately active rats were treated with a dose of 2 g/kg/d. After 30 days’ treatment, sexual behaviour and serum hormonal levels were measured.
Tiger nut was found to enhance sexual motivation (desire) in highly active and moderately active male rats, and to improve the sexual performance (potency) in moderately active rats. This was accompanied by an upsurge in total serum testosterone concentration in treated rats in both categories.
The researchers suggested in the 2015 edition of the BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine that the enhanced sexual desire and potency in the male rats treated with tiger nuts was partly because of a boost in their serum testosterone levels.
According to them, tiger nut could positively contribute to testosterone production and improve the erectile function because of its several components such as quercetin, vitamins E and C, and zinc.
While the exact mechanism by which tiger nut boosts testosterone levels is not entirely clear, they speculated that tiger nut act directly on testicular cells.
Studies have revealed that quercetin, a dietary flavonoid, was associated with a significant increase in testis weight, sperm quality and testosterone level in male rat.
Vitamins C and E are essential nutrient speculated to enhance testosterone synthesis and improve the erectile function. The trace element zinc is speculated to play a critical role in sexual development. Zinc deficiency was found to disrupt testicular tissue, impair sperm production, and reduce testosterone levels.
Previous experts have claimed that tiger nut extract improves sperm count and motility in male rats. Also, they said that it was protective against male infertility arising from testicular damage from lead acetate poisoning.
Additionally, aphrodisiac activity has been attributed to food plants as garlic, asparagus, bitter kola, Mondia whitei (white ginger, pako ijebu in Yoruba or atu-uhie in Igbo), Sclerocarya birrea (marula) fruit, Chenopodium album (wild leafy vegetable), and Cucurbita pepo (pumpkin) seed.
However, researchers’ assessment of Mondia whitei, Chenopodium album, Cucurbita pepo and Sclerocarya birrea extracts at a fixed dose of 200mg/kg body weight on sexual behaviour, sperm parameters and testosterone levels in adult male rats rated the root of M. Whitei the most effective in enhancing sexual activity in male rats compared to the other extracts tested.
This study, which demonstrated varying aphrodisiac activities of food plants used traditionally as aphrodisiacs, indicated leaves C. album as the least effective. This was followed by seeds of pumpkin and fruit or juice of S. birrea respectively.
Although there was no change in number of ejaculations and sperm count for all treatment groups compared to controls, all treatments increased sperm motility.
The researchers, however, said in the 2015 edition of the African Journal of Traditional, Complementary and Alternative Medicine that these food plants when used as aphrodisiacs has no deleterious effects on the maturing and already formed sperm.
That traditionally aphrodisiacs are used as formulations, combinations of two or more plants, they concluded may ensure that the different plants augment sexual function given their different effects on testosterone production, libido and erection.