By Dr. Amber Merrick, N.D.

Is there any truth to an aphrodisiac?

Across all cultures, religions, gender and age, humanity is interested in having better sex.  It’s important to the survival of our species, to bring us closer together, and because people like it! Plain and simple!  To that end, humanity is constantly searching for anything to improve our sex lives and sexual experience.  But does anything specific really work?

First of all, what is an aphrodisiac?

An aphrodisiac is anything that stimulates sexual desire, be it food, drink, music, etc.  The word is derived from Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of love, beauty, pleasure, and procreation.  A lot of foods and herbs have been touted as having aphrodisiac properties through the years.  The following is a list that you may want to try tonight:




Pretty standard on a list of aphrodisiacs…but they work!  Oysters contain copious amounts of zinc (approximately 20mg per oyster according to the USDA), a mineral important for the production of testosterone, which has been linked to a higher sex drive.

Chili pepper

Capsaicin, a chemical found in spicy peppers, increases blood circulation and stimulates nerve endings so you’ll feel more aroused.


The vitamin E in avocado helps your body produce hormones like testosterone, estrogen, and progesterone, which circulate in your bloodstream and stimulate sexual responses like clitoral swelling and vaginal lubrication.


A classic choice, one in which most women will agree. Dark chocolate containing 70% cocoa may help increase dopamine levels, your brain’s pleasure chemical.  A rise in dopamine lifts mood, relaxes, and improves the body’s response to stimulation.

Red Wine:

Red wine contains resveratrol, an antioxidant that helps boost blood flow and improves circulation before and during intercourse.  A 6 oz glass per day is typically what I tell my patients to enjoy.



Maca Root

This herb cultivated from the Andes has been used for centuries to stimulate sexual arousal.  Maca’s high iodine and zinc content support sex hormone balance.  Further, women who took maca root in a 2008 study in the CNS Neuroscience journal reported improved sexual experiences and satisfaction.

Tribulus terrestris

Studies of women who use this herb report greater desire, arousal, vaginal lubrication, more intense orgasms, and satisfaction (DARU Journal of Pharmaceutical Sciences, 2014).  Tribulus stimulates androgen receptors in the brain making the body much more responsive to sex hormones. It also helps to reduce stress, anxiety, and depression.

Ashwaganda Root

The Kama Sutra mentions ashwagandha as a potent igniter of passion and desire; however, its popularity presently has more to do with its effect on libido and sexual satisfaction. The herb may increase blood flow to the clitoris and other sexual organs, creating an intense sexual experience.  This herb is also helpful for stress, relaxation and thyroid function.

There are also many herbs and supplements for stress, relaxation, hormone balancing and/or mood if any of these are impacting sexual health and arousal.  Talk to your ND or other functional medicine practitioner for advice.


Relaxation and Imagination

The BEST aphrodisiac is feeling healthy, well rested, and stimulating your mind!  Have a chat with your partner about what you really enjoy… hands down they are going to love it!  Michael Hines, creator of, and partner in crime of yours truly, says, “Communication is key.  Sex is one of the most intimate things you can do with another person.  If you’re comfortable having sex with someone, you should surely be comfortable enough to communicate with your partner about your preferences, desires, and fantasies.”  Nicely said!  If you like long romantic kisses, foreplay, lap dances, or anything a little more risqué, talk about it with your partner.


Why is sex important anyways?

This may be up for debate in your household, but there is a of good evidence that orgasms are very beneficial for your health.

Mood and Relaxation

An orgasm will release oxytocin, the “love hormone” which leaves one with a feeling of warmth, relaxation and well-being.  The sexual hormones that are released during intercourse may lower rates of depression, anxiety, and suicide.  Additionally, a study by scientists at Groningen University in the Netherlands found that when women experience an orgasm, the amygdala, the part of the brain associated with fear and anxiety, shows little to no activity.

Further, the subsequent drop in blood pressure and sedative effect of some neurochemicals released from an orgasm can improve sleep.  A study by Ellison reported that 32% of US women masturbate in order to fall asleep.

Pain management

A study by Beverly Whipple, found that women’s pain tolerance and pain detection increased by 74.6% and 106.7% respectively, when those women masturbated to orgasm.  Love those endorphins!

Immune function

Regular sex is linked to higher levels of the antibody immunoglobulin A, which may protect us from common colds by boosting the immune system.  Further, in men, a study in Germany found that an orgasm could increase the number of circulating leukocytes (white blood cells) important for immune function.

Oxytocin has also been shown to possibly prevent breast cancer cells from developing into a tumor. And don’t forget the foreplay! Breast and nipple stimulation produces even more oxytocin.

Brain and Memory

Orgasms will get your blood pumping, and that includes circulation to your brain! Rutgers researchers recently asked female subjects to masturbate while lying in a MRI machine that measured blood flow to the brain. When the subjects had an orgasm, it increased blood flow to all parts of the brain, increasing oxygenation and nutrient availability to their brain cells.


Sex will increase DHEA and human growth hormone, hormones that can improve elasticity of the skin and blood vessels.  A 10-year study by Dr. Weeks at the Royal Edinburgh Hospital, found that those who reported having sex 50 percent more than other respondents looked 7-10 years younger than their actual age according to study volunteers.

Several further studies found that middle-aged men who have more orgasms (2 per week) died at half the rate of those who had less than 1 orgasm per month. Another 20-year study found that women who reported a higher frequency of orgasms lived longer than those women who reported being less sexually fulfilled.

Happy Valentine’s Day my loves…GET IT ON, for your health of course!!


Here’s a Little Recipe:

A little trip to St. Lawrence market yesterday inspired a Valentine’s day appetizer for two, with fresh oysters from Malpeque Bay, PEI.  Try it when you want to set the mood:

Oysters with mignonette sauce

A dozen oysters

2 shallots minced

¼ cup rice wine vinegar

1 tbsp red wine vinegar

Pinch of sugar

Pinch of sea salt and fresh ground pepper


Mix all ingredients and keep in refrigerator for up to 6 hours

Serve a spoonful on each oyster with lemon and hot sauce if desired

Check out YouTube for how to shuck your oysters, or ask your helpful fishmonger who sells you the oysters for tips.

Amber Merrick eating a happy meal at German McDonalds

By Dr. Amber Merrick, N.D.

Kale at McDonald’s? What is this world coming to??

The CBC recently posted an article comparing the nutritional content of McDonald’s new “Asiago Crispy Chicken Salad” with kale to a Double Big Mac and the news is not great.  The new kale salad (with dressing) has more calories, fat and sodium than a Double Big Mac.  Yikes…but is it really?

Thank you to CBC for raising awareness regarding nutritional content.  However, if faced with the decision of what to eat at McDonalds, the kale salad is still probably a better choice.  I applaud McDonald’s for trying to add nutrient value to some of their menu options.  McDonald’s is an easy target as it is high up on the “fast-food” chain but they are not the only ones directly responsible for the obesity epidemic.  There are plenty of other calorie-laden, sugar packed, saturated fatty, preservative filled fast food, processed snack companies world-wide!  McDonald’s has a lot of haters, and is top o’ the list when we think about rising health care costs, chronic disease and obesity.

But adding kale to the menu? Brilliant!!  Let’s not take a crap on kale folks…it’s a “trendy superfood”, but this is what makes kale SUPER:

  • Nutrient dense – Kale is full of vitamin A, C, K and B vitamins, Iron and Calcium, just to name a few. It is one of the most nutrient packed foods per calorie, which makes it SUPER!
  • High fiber – Kale can help keep your bowel movements regular and can help lower cholesterol
  • Low glycemic index – Kale is a great addition if you’re trying to manage weight and decrease blood sugar
  • Antioxidants – Kale contains cancer-fighting and anti-aging nutrients like quercetin, sulforaphane

So, the Double Big Mac may have fewer calories, but it does not have the nutrient value the kale salad has.  Further, not all calories and fat are created equal!

An average adult should eat approximately 2000 calories per day (this will differ depending on your age, size and activity level).  In order to consume these calories, I recommend to my patients that they consume at least 1g/kg of protein per day, which is approximately 75g per day for a 160lb adult, an equal portion of carbohydrates from whole grains and starches, and unlimited vegetables and fruit.

I also recommend fats!! Fats are essential for our bodies and brains to function optimally.  The fats we need to limit are saturated fats (fats that are solid at room temperature, ie. margarine) and trans fats (found in meats, processed foods, and “hydrogenated oils”). These types of fats raise the level of “bad” cholesterol in your blood, which in return increase your risk of heart disease and stroke. We should all limit our daily intake of saturated fats to 10% of our daily caloric intake (approx. 20 grams/day for most adults), and trans fats to less than 1% if any.  Further, we should likely not consume more than 2300 mg of sodium per day according to health Canada.

Check out the comparison (CBC):


They don’t tell you much about the actual nutrient profile of each choice, however.  Bottom line, these 2 choices are comparable in all macronutrient values, but the salad has more micronutrients (vitamins and minerals), and less preservatives.  Have you seen what’s in a Big Mac?  A laundry list of preservatives in the bun alone, which in and of themselves can contribute to weight gain and health concerns.  What they didn’t include in the above comparison is the other kale options on the menu, including the grilled chicken version of the Caesar salad (drastically cutting down on carbs, fat and calories), or the Greek kale salad option.

If you are on the go, on a road trip or the kids are late for hockey, McDonald’s may be the choice tonight. But should you just get the Double Big Mac because it’s the same calorie content as the Caesar salad? I wouldn’t. That Big Mac is full of saturated and trans fats, tons of preservatives, and sodium.  If it was my choice, I’d have the Greek kale salad with grilled chicken.  It’s made with kale, a lettuce blend, red peppers, cucumber, couscous, pita chips and feta (skip the pita chips if you want). If you only use half of the dressing, here’s what that looks like:

  • 350 calories
  • 19g fat (4.25g saturated fat, 0.2g trans fat)
  • 925mg sodium (cut back on the feta if this is too high for you)
  • surprisingly not a lot of preservatives (they’re still in there though)

Check out the McDonald’s Nutrition Centre:

Stay informed and make the best choices you can! And have a happy meal once in a while… 🙂

Is there any truth to an aphrodisiac?
Amber Merrick eating a happy meal at German McDonalds
Kale at McDonald’s? What is this world coming to??