5 TCM aphrodisiacs you need to try

Viagra alternatives in traditional Chinese medicine

Looking to heat things up in the bedroom this Valentine’s Day? Time Out scopes out five all-natural aphrodisiacs. Move over Viagra, it’s time to hop on board the TCM love train

1. Goji berries


Gou qizi, 枸杞子
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What are they? Goji berries (also known as Chinese wolfberries) are legendary in the world of traditional Chinese medicine. Native to Asia, these berries are packed full of nutrients that are said to help cure all kinds of ailments, including a dwindling sex drive.

Use Apparently, these little babies can help men with the whole, er, shebang – from testosterone and semen production to improving the quality of sperm. As for women, testosterone increases the female sex drive, too. Goji berries are also said to improve your mood, just in case the fumble under the covers fails to impress.

Available from Tongrentang pharmacies (locations around town; from 0.25RMB per gramme) and supermarkets. Goji berries are usually sold as a dried fruit; mix them with yoghurt or add them to your morning muesli to balance the tart taste.

2. Ginseng


Ren shen, 人参

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What is it? One of the most popular herbal medicines in China, ginseng has been in use for over 5,000 years (China does have 5,000 years of history after all, as you may have heard before). It’s a root that supposedly gets its Chinese name from the fact that it looks like a gnarled form of the human body – ren shen (人参) means ‘person root’ – although it looks like an anaemic squid to us. There are many types of ginseng, but Asian ginseng remains largely unrivalled when it comes to its aphrodisiac properties in TCM.

Use Ginseng is said to boost libido in men and women. It contains a magical, naturally occurring, steroid-like active ingredient called ‘gensenosides’. Apparently results include improved stamina, enhanced physical performance and increased sexual pleasure. Oh my.

Available from Tongrentang pharmacies in its root format (from 1,080RMB). Boil a small piece in water to make tea or cook it up in a soup.

3. Penis


Bian, 鞭

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What is it? Erm, exactly what you think it is: dong, schlong, love truncheon – whatever you want to call it. Historically, TCM regarded tiger penis (hu bian, 虎鞭) as a potent aphrodisiac. Fortunately for the tigers, eating tiger todger was outlawed across China as long ago as 2014 (forward thinking FTW). Not all animals are as lucky, however. A number of animal members remain prime targets.

Use Despite a crippling lack of evidence, some still say that eating penis boosts male virility. After all, there’s nothing like chomping down on a big deer dong to get the juices flowing.

Available from Penis restaurant Guo Li Zhuang in Dongsishitiao serves up platters of peen – a steal from 400RMB per person. If you know what you’re after, you can also buy individual dongs. Deer penis (lu bian, 鹿鞭), a particular favourite, goes for 1,388RMB. Dried deer penis is also available from Tonrentang pharmacies (670RMB). So all fourth bases are covered.

4. Cordyceps Sinensis


Dong chong xia cao, 冬虫夏草

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What is it? Commonly known as Caterpillar Fungus, Cordyceps Sinensis is basically a dead fungusfi lled caterpillar. Not sold? We’re not surprised. Yet despite its lack of appeal, Cordyceps Sinensis has been a highly valued commodity in traditional Chinese medicine for thousands of years thanks to its purported healing properties.

Use Depending on who you ask, Caterpillar Fungus can increase libido (especially in people above a certain age), treat erectile dysfunction, combat fatigue and increase fertility, making it the perfect addition to your sex kit.

Available from Tongrentang pharmacies (358-659RMB per gramme). We were told they’re best when cooked in chicken or duck soup for one to two hours. You can also find the creepy critters ready-to eat (6,800RMB for 30g).

5. Horny Goat Weed

Yin yang huo, 淫羊藿

Horny Goat Weed (Wiki Commons)

What is it? According to legend, Horny Goat Weed was discovered over 2,000 years ago by a Chinese goat herder. Apparently the herder noticed that his goats were, well, really horny after eating the plant. Hey, if it works for goats, it’ll do for us.

Use Horny Goat Weed is a herbal substitute for Viagra. According to Dr Wang Shi from Ming Jing Tang TCM Clinic, Horny Goat Weed gives sperm extra mobility and combats erectile dysfunction. Like Viagra, it should also enhance sexual appetites in men and women.

Available from You’ll typically need a doctor’s prescription for this one. However, Horny Goat Weed capsules are available on Taobao (of course they are).

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