Toxicology of natural and synthetic aphrodisiacs

  • C. HessEmail author
  • A. Boehmer
Review article


Aphrodisiacs, libido or erection-enhancing supplements are widely available on the internet. The beneficial effects are controversial. Forensic toxicologists should be aware of the potential toxicities of these products because they could be given in cases of drug-facilitated sexual assault. This article presents a case report in which the defendant claimed to have administered an aphrodisiac to several women who showed strong symptoms of intoxication after consumption in an alcoholic drink. A literature research was carried out for potential substances sold in these aphrodisiac products. Synthetic substances as well as products of herbal or animal origin can be the ingredients. The main products that could cause intensive side effects and intoxication are phosphodiesterase V inhibitors (declared or undeclared on packaging), yohimbine, steroid hormones, flibanserin, gamma-hydroxybutyric acid, Tribulus terrestris, Bufo Toad, Spanish fly or Horny Goat Weed. All other products used as aphrodisiacs and described herein show less potential side effects or no studies on side effects in humans were carried out.


Aphrodisiac Toxicology Forensics Yohimbine Tribulus terrestris 

Toxikologie natürlicher und synthetischer Aphrodisiaka


Aphrodisiaka, die Libido oder die Erektion steigernde Ergänzungsmittel sind im Internet weit verbreitet und leicht erhältlich. Ob diese positive Effekte haben, ist bei einigen dieser Substanzen zumindest fragwürdig. Forensischen Toxikologen sollte die potenzielle Toxizität dieser Produkte bekannt sein, denn diese könnten in Drug Facilitated Sexual Assaults verabreicht werden. In diesem Beitrag wird ein Fall präsentiert, in welchem der Beschuldigte behauptete, mehreren Frauen ein im Internet gekauftes Aphrodisiakum verabreicht zu haben, nach dessen Konsum die Frauen heftige Intoxikationssymptome aufwiesen. Es wurde eine Literatursuche nach potentiell in diesen Produkten enthaltenen Substanzen durchgeführt. Synthetische Substanzen, natürliche Produkte, aber auch Substanzen tierischen Ursprungs können Inhaltsstoffe sein. Diejenigen Produkte, die am ehesten zu Nebenwirkungen oder Intoxikationen führen können, sind Phosphodiesterase-V-Inhibitoren, Yohimbin, Steroidhormone, Flibanserin, Gamma-Hydroxybuttersäure, Tribulus terrestris, Kröteninhaltsstoffe, die Spanische Fliege oder Horny Goat Weed (Epimedium). Alle weiteren in diesem Review beschriebenen Produkte, welche als Aphrodisiaka genutzt werden, zeigen weniger Nebenwirkungen bzw. es wurden hierzu keine Studien zu Nebenwirkungen im Menschen durchgeführt.


Aphrodisiakum Toxikologie Forensik Yohimbin Tribulus terrestris 


Compliance with ethical guidelines

Conflict of interest

C. Hess and A. Boehmer declare that they have no competing interests.

Ethical standards

For this article no studies with human participants or animals were performed by any of the authors. All studies performed were in accordance with the ethical standards indicated in each case.


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Copyright information

© Springer Medizin Verlag GmbH, ein Teil von Springer Nature 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute of Forensic Medicine, Forensic ToxicologyUniversity of MainzMainzGermany

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