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While Bill Cosby may have put Spanish fly back in the media, this catch-all term for back-of-the-magazine aphrodisiacs never really went anywhere.

A number of love potions and aphrodisiacs using this name have been available on the market for decades. Just a few drops of Spanish fly is supposed to get women in the mood for lovin’ and give men the kind of raging erections that would make a porn star blush.

In reality, most products sold as Spanish fly contain little more than water, sugar, and empty promises. The ingredient Spanish fly is named after is actually quite potent — though not in the way you’d hope.

True Spanish fly is made from blister beetles, specifically the substance produced by the beetles called cantharidin. The insect’s name is not for nothing; contact with cantharidin blisters skin.

Its use dates way back, and some of its many infamous fans included:

  • a Roman empress who used cantharidin to encourage sexual behavior worthy of blackmailing her family with
  • Roman gladiators who used it for orgies
  • queens who used it on their kings and those kings on their mistresses to spice things up

Dried beetles would be crushed and be mixed with drinks or sweets — not always to the receiver’s knowledge — and consumed to promote feelings of warmth throughout the body and swelling of the genitals. But these warm fuzzies are due to inflammation, not attraction.

Along with long-lasting erections, Spanish fly was found to cause a number of serious side effects, including death. Yes, even death, as Marquis de Sade tragically discovered in 1772 after giving sweet aniseed balls laced with Spanish fly to prostitutes who ended up dying horrible deaths from it.

Since then, the potential dangers of using Spanish fly have been well documented and include:

You can still find products called Spanish fly online and in sex shops today, though they don’t contain cantharidin or the insect. Even those that claim to be “original” Spanish fly are made of ingredients found in most other products marketed as natural or herbal aphrodisiacs, such as maca, ginseng, and gingko biloba.

Though cantharidin is not currently approved for any type of use by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), researchers are studying its effects on some conditions, including certain cancers, molluscum contagiosum, and warts.

As for those questionable products being sold as Spanish fly without cantharidin? The FDA doesn’t recognize any over-the-counter aphrodisiac products as safe or effective.

Despite flashy ads and bold claims, there’s not much evidence to support the use of aphrodisiac products. They’re ineffective at best and potentially contaminated or dangerous at worst.

But don’t despair. If you’re looking for ways to boost your libido or improve your sexual performance, there are things that you can do without wasting money or putting your health on the line.

Get more exercise

Yes, you can exercise for better sex! Unlike Spanish fly, exercise has actually been proven to increase sexual arousal in women and improve sexual performance in men. A 2018 study linked chronic exercise to improved arousal and sexual satisfaction in women.

Numerous studies have also linked exercise to a lower risk of impotence, better erections, and improved sexual function in young and older men.

How can exercise accomplish all of this? It all comes down to its association with:

  • increased blood flow
  • higher stamina and energy levels
  • increased confidence
  • better mood and lower stress levels
  • the release of endorphins
  • increased genital response

Get some sunshine

Spring fever and summer flings aren’t for nothing — sunshine really does make you frisky!

There’s evidence that just 30 minutes of sunlight increases testosterone in men with low sexual desire and causes a three-fold improvement in sexual satisfaction.

Sunshine also makes us happier because it boosts vitamin D levels, which help regulate hormones related to mood that also happen to play a role in arousal, including serotonin, dopamine, adrenaline, and noradrenaline.

And wearing fewer clothes when it’s hot out naturally makes a lot of us think of sex more, resulting in more sexual desire.

Try massage

Massage increases serotonin and dopamine. It also reduces levels of the stress hormone cortisol. Furthermore, touch feels amazing and increases intimacy between partners.

Indulging in a sensual massage with your partner will help you both de-stress and work as foreplay to get you both ramped up for sex. Some massage oil and your hands are all you need. Be sure to touch acupressure points like the scalp and feet to can take massage to another level of sexy.

Talk to your partner

Communication really is key when it comes to sexual relationships, even if it’s a casual fling. Ask what turns them on and which body parts they like to have touched.

We all have erogenous zones outside of the usual ones like the genitals and nipples. Ask what theirs are and you might be surprised! Talking provides a gold mine of information that will make sex hotter for all parties. Besides, talking about it is sure to get the juices flowing — literally.

You can’t talk about sex, Bill Cosby, and Spanish fly without talking about consent.

Consent is a must before you engage in any type of sexual contact. Period.

Herbal aphrodisiacs may seem harmless enough, but dosing someone without their knowledge is dangerous and illegal. It’s no different than slipping a date rape drug into a person’s drink.

In 2016, a man in the UK made headlines after being charged with administering a substance with intent of spiking a friend’s drink with Spanish fly. The judge concluded that he did so knowing that she didn’t consent and with the intention of stupefying or overpowering her in order to have sex.

if you suspect you’ve been given some

If you suspect that someone has given you some sort of aphrodisiac without consent, get help right away. Find someone who can help you, call the police if you feel comfortable doing so, and request to see a healthcare provider, even if the substance was supposedly “natural.”

True Spanish fly is very dangerous and nearly impossible to find these days. Products bearing the name still exist, though they’re either ineffective, potentially dangerous, or both.

If you or your partner are concerned about your low libido or sexual dysfunction, speak to a healthcare provide who can rule out an underlying medical condition and suggest proven treatments to boost your sex drive.