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Foreplay, cuddling, kissing, champagne, and oysters may all help prepare you for intimacy. Some essential oils have aphrodisiac properties and can get you in the mood.

Research suggests several kinds of essential oils may have aphrodisiac properties when inhaled before or during intimacy. In fact, it’s known that some strong odors can trigger erections and that women with a stronger sense of smell tend to have more orgasms during sex.

Here’s a rundown of essential oils you may want to introduce to the bedroom.

Certain plants have been used to boost male and female sexual desire, performance, and pleasure for centuries. However, little scientific research has explored how essential oils may benefit a person’s sex life.

While it’s not possible to say any essential oil is an aphrodisiac, there are some properties of essential oils that can be linked to a more positive sexual experience.

1. Clary sage

Scientific studies suggest clary sage can help ease issues with women’s reproductive systems, such as painful menstrual periods. Research has also shown that clary sage can decrease stress hormones when used as an essential oil.

While there’s no clear evidence of its mood-boosting properties, it’s possible clary sage could help set the mood for sex.

2. Lavender

Inhaling the scent of lavender has been found to significantly decrease anxiety and stress. This resulted in high levels of relaxation, which could benefit sexual experience.

3. Sandalwood

Researchers have found that women who inhaled sandalwood essential oil and its main compound during sex reported increased mood and higher levels of desire than those who did not.

4. Ylang ylang

Research suggests that inhaling ylang ylang essential oil is associated with feelings of euphoria, and helps relieve depression. One study even demonstrated that applying ylang ylang oil to the skin can improve self-esteem.

While there’s no clear scientific link between ylang ylang and sexual experience, evidence suggests it can improve mental health. And because mood is linked to sexual experience, it’s possible that ylang ylang is a good essential oil for sexual stimulation.

5. Carpolobia

In Africa, men often chew the stem and root of carpolobia to get to the plant’s oil before sex to boost their performance. However, there is no clear scientific understanding of how carpolobia essential oil affects male sexual performance.

6. Casimiroa edulis

Scientists have found that oil from the casimiroa edulis plant, commonly called white sapote, can increase sexual behavior and ejaculations in male rats. In Central America and Asia, the seeds from this plant that contain a potent oil are commonly consumed as an aphrodisiac.

More research is needed in humans to determine the aphrodisiac effects of casimiroa edulis oil.

7. Eurycoma longifolia

Studies suggest eurycoma longifolia, also called tongkat ali or pasak bumi, increases male rats’ ability to have erections and also boosts the sex drive of rats hesitant to have sex. In Malaysia, this plant has a reputation for being a powerful male aphrodisiac. More research is needed to investigate these benefits in humans.

8. Fadogia agrestis

Scientists believe oil from the fadogia agrestis could be a powerful aphrodisiac for men. In their research, they have found it slowed the speed at which male rats ejaculate during sex, increased their testosterone levels, and significantly increased the size of the rats’ testes.

9. Lepidium meyenii

Research suggests that maca root and its oil does not seem to effect levels of reproductive hormones in men. But researchers have found that men using maca oil reported increased sexual desire at the end of eight weeks of use.

So while it’s possible maca oil can serve as an aphrodisiac, how it works is not well understood.

10. Kaempferia parviflora

Kaempferia parviflora has long been used in Southeast Asia to enhance the sexual experience of men. Scientists have found that kaempferia parviflora essential oil extract appears to increase blood flow to the testes of male rats, suggesting it may have aphrodisiac qualities.

11. Mondia whitei

Research shows mondia whitei oil can boost sperm count in men by increasing levels of male sex hormones. It’s possible mondia whitei can be used as a male aphrodisiac.

12. Myristica fragrans

Myristica fragrans, or nutmeg, oil has been found to increase sex drive in male mice. It’s possible that nutmeg has the same effect on men.

13. Ginseng

Scientists think that ginseng oil releases brain chemicals linked to better erectile function in male animals and people.

14. Satureja khuzestanica

Research on male rats suggests that satureja khuzestanica essential oil can boost fertility, sperm production, and litter size in rats. The evidence that this oil can boost fertility in male humans is unclear.

15. Yohimbe

When ingested in the correct dose, yohimbe oil stimulates blood flow through the body — including to the penis — by dilating blood vessels. Yohimbe has also been found to produce a brain chemical linked to forming erections and stimulates nerves in the pelvis that boost sexual performance.

Essential oils for female stimulation

Women who have higher scent sensitivity report more orgasms than women who do not. So if you have a good nose, your sex might benefit from using essential oils.

Some essential oils with possible aphrodisiac effects for women include:

  • clary sage
  • lavender
  • sandalwood
  • ylang ylang

Essential oils for male arousal

There’s a bit more research studying how male sexual experience is affected by essential oils. Scientists have found that the following essential oils may work as aphrodisiacs for males:

  • carpolobia
  • eurycoma longifolia
  • casimiroa edulis
  • fadogia agrestis
  • lepidium meyenii
  • kaempferia parviflora
  • mondia whitei
  • myristica fragrans
  • ginseng
  • satureja khuzestanica
  • yohimbe

You can find essential oils online or in most health stores. Here are several different ways you can use essential oils to help set the mood.

On the skin

Essential oils are commonly applied directly to the skin, where they’re absorbed and from which they can be inhaled. However, most essential oils must be diluted with a carrier oil so they do not cause skin irritation.

You should never apply essential oils to your genitals, even if diluted with a carrier oil.

You can also use diluted essential oils to give your partner a massage. Doing so releases the scent of the oil while activating your partner’s muscle systems and boosting their blood flow.

Physical touch is also a strong aphrodisiac that can help you prepare for intimacy and maintain a sensual mood after sex, according to research.

Essential oil bath

You can prepare an essential oil bath by mixing three to 12 drops of an essential oil with an ounce of carrier oil, and adding it to a bathtub filled with warm water.

Stir the bath gently with your fingers to disperse the oil and also get the odors diffused in the air. You could sit your whole body into the bath, or just part of your body, such as your feet.

Research on lavender oil suggests that using it in a foot bath may slightly boost mood. Avoid getting any water from an essential oil bath into your eyes, nose, or mouth.

Diffusers

Using a diffuser is an easy way to fill a whole room with the scent of your desired essential oil.

There are several different types of diffusers. Some are machines or candle-lit devices that gently warm an oil to lift it into the air. Others, like essential oil sticks, more slowly send an essential oil into the air.

Diffusers are a good choice for people who may not want to apply an essential oil directly to their skin. Be aware of others who may be unintentionally exposed to diffused essential oils such as children, pets, and pregnant women.

Essential oils can cause an allergic reaction in some people. Read labels and avoid oils from plants to which you might be allergic.

Always use a carrier oil to dilute essential oils to avoid irritating your skin. Never apply essential oils near your eyes, ears, nose, mouth, or on your genitals.

If you notice you or your partner are having a reaction to essential oils — such as stinging or red skin — remove the oil immediately with warm water and soap.

While it’s hard to measure any clear links between using essential oils and sexual experience, there’s evidence that some essential oils may be effective aphrodisiacs. With proper safety precautions, there’s little risk from experimenting with essential oils to enhance your sexual experience.