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Are Oysters an Aphrodisiac?

Katelyn Hagerty FNP

Medically reviewed by Katelyn Hagerty FNP

Written by Our Editorial Team

Last updated 10/24/2022

Let’s set the scene. Sit-down dinner. Seafood joint. Lovely spot. Lovelier date. 

The best part? Tonight might be the night. But you want that extra boost. You scan the menu to see what’s available and see raw oysters on the half-shell.

Now, if you’ve ever searched online or talked with your friends about food that improves sexual function, you’ve likely heard the rumors -- that oysters can result in a stronger sex drive, as well as better sex.

So, should you order a couple dozen oysters and book yourself and your date VIP tickets to the PleasureFest? Or, to the delight of anyone with Pepto-Bismol® stock, will you end up curled on the bathroom floor, praying for mercy? 

Historically, oysters are considered one of nature’s great aphrodisiacs, dating back to the times of Cassanova, according to some sources. But is there truth to any of these rumors? And also, what the heck is an aphrodisiac, anyway? 

Below, we’ve explained the potential effects that oysters may have on your sex drive, as well as the -- shall we say, mixed -- scientific evidence to support their sexual effects.

We’ve also shared some more proven options that you may want to consider if you’re interested in boosting your sex drive, increasing testosterone production or maintaining an erection.

Can Oysters Impact Your Sex Drive?

We’ll get right to it -- right now, the scientific evidence surrounding the effectiveness of oysters as a natural option for boosting your sex drive is, well, rather mixed. 

Some natural minerals in oysters seem to contribute to peoples’ suspicion that they’re natural treatments for a weak sex drive or low testosterone levels, namely the large amount of zinc in each typical serving of oysters.

Oysters also contain other ingredients that have been directly or indirectly linked to aspects of sexual health and wellbeing. We’ve talked about these below, as well as the latest research on each ingredient’s potential sexual benefits.

Zinc

Zinc is an important mineral for male sexual health. Research suggests that low zinc levels may have a negative effect on the production of testosterone -- an essential hormone for maintaining a strong sex drive.

Oysters are an extremely good source of zinc, with a typical three-ounce serving of raw oysters containing approximately three times your recommended daily intake of this vital mineral.

So, does this mean that eating oysters will increase your testosterone levels and make you feel more sexually aroused? Not necessarily. Although zinc and testosterone appear linked, there’s no clear evidence showing that eating oysters directly boosts testosterone production. 

As such, it’s best to think of the zinc content in oysters as being good for your overall health, not necessarily your testosterone levels.

Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Like other types of seafood, oysters contain omega-3 fatty acids -- a group of fats that may help to reduce your risk of dying from heart disease.

Heart disease is a common risk factor for certain types of sexual dysfunction, including erectile dysfunction (ED). However, it’s not clear that eating oysters has any meaningful impact on your erections or ability to function in bed.

Still, replacing unhealthy sources of fat, such as fatty red meat or processed deli meats, with a serving of oysters may improve your heart health over the long term.

D-Aspartic Acid

D-aspartic acid is an amino acid that plays a role in several important systems within your body, including the endocrine system -- your body’s network of glands that develop hormones. It’s one of several amino acids found inside oysters, and researchers are curious about its effects.

Some animal research suggests that D-aspartic acid may enhance testosterone levels, possibly by improving the function of the testes.

While this finding might look promising, it’s important to keep in mind that research related to the effects of D-aspartic acid in humans is very limited, with the small handful of studies available at the moment showing inconsistent results.

As such, the D-aspartic acid content of oysters is best thought of as a “maybe” when it comes to improving sexual health, not as a sure thing for increasing testosterone, enhancing blood flow or boosting your level of sexual arousal.

Oysters and Dopamine

Some research also suggests that oysters, thanks to their rich zinc content, may increase levels of dopamine in your body.

Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that controls feelings of motivation and reward. Some research suggests that dopamine may be involved in certain aspects of human sexual behavior, including feelings of motivation regarding sex and genital reflexes.

Zinc may play a major role in maintaining healthy levels of dopamine in your body. As such, it’s thought that consuming foods rich in zinc, such as oysters, may stimulate dopamine production and promote healthier sexual function and enhanced sexual pleasure.

However, there isn’t yet any high quality evidence to suggest that increasing your zinc intake is an effective way to increase dopamine levels, or that higher dopamine enhances sexual health or functioning.

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Are Oysters Really an Aphrodisiac?

So, when it comes to the scientific evidence to support zinc’s positive effects on your sex drive, things are, well, a little murky. The same is true when it comes to the evidence that zinc works as an aphrodisiac -- a substance that increases sexual desire or pleasure.

Part of this is because aphrodisiacs aren’t really well defined from a scientific perspective. For the most part, they’re more urban legend than hard science, with little evidence to suggest that any food -- be it oysters, figs or chocolate -- makes sex more appealing or enjoyable.

A good deal of the supposed efficacy of aphrodisiacs is viewed as being a result of the placebo effect, with our beliefs about certain foods and other natural substances likely contributing more to any sexual effects than the specific chemicals they contain.

This appears to be the case with oysters. However, don’t let it put you off. As a fantastic source of zinc and dietary protein, eating oysters can have some real benefits for your wellbeing, albeit not as much for your sexual exploits as you might expect.

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Better Options for Improving Your Sexual Function

While oysters may not be quite as good at improving your sexual health as many people appear to think, the good news is that there are proven, evidence-based options out there for improving your sexual function.

This is great, because sexual activity is one of the healthiest things we can engage in on a daily basis. 

Not only is sex enjoyable -- it’s also a mild form of exercise that can lower blood pressure, help with self-esteem, improve heart health and decrease common forms of mental illness, such as depression and anxiety.

Further, the more we have sex, the better our sexual performance usually gets. That’s one kind of workout most people would gladly make more time for. 

Currently, the most effective ways to improve your sexual function are to live a healthy life and, if appropriate, use medication to treat issues as they occur.

When it comes to improving your lifestyle for better sex, simple things like eating a balanced diet and exercising regularly can have a big impact on your wellbeing. We’ve discussed these in our guide to simple habits that can boost your sexual performance

Many of these habits may also help to increase your production of testosterone, which is one of several key factors in a healthy sex drive. They also offer other major health benefits, from your body composition to your overall quality of life. 

As for medications for better sex, ED drugs such as sildenafil (the active ingredient in Viagra®), tadalafil (Cialis®) and avanafil (Stendra®) can all make it easier to get and maintain an erection when you feel sexually aroused.

As for premature ejaculation -- another common male sexual function issue -- products like our Delay Spray for Men are much more likely to boost your performance in bed and contribute to a romantic evening than dozens of oysters. 

In short, based on the research we have available today, there are many better options out there for boosting your sexual function than oysters. If you’re concerned about your abilities in bed, or if you just feel anxious before sex, you may want to consider giving them a go.

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The Bottom Line on Oysters as an Aphrodisiac

History is replete with sensational stories of foods, spices and other natural substances that are supposedly responsible for superhuman sexual powers, from Giacomo Girolamo Casanova and oysters to ancient Greek tales of figs and dates. 

The reality, however, is that most “sexual superfoods” don’t appear to do quite as much for your sexual function as claimed, although many do offer other health benefits. 

Oysters are a great source of zinc and protein, but research on their aphrodisiac properties isn’t very convincing. As such, it seems best to enjoy them for their nutrients and taste, not solely as a source of fuel for your sexual organ.

As for improving your sexual function, you’ll likely get far better results by using evidence-based treatments for erectile dysfunction and premature ejaculation than by relying on anything you’re able to purchase from your local supermarket. 

A healthy sex life is a healthy life. No matter what, it’s critical to prioritize your sexual wellbeing, as it plays a critical role in keeping you healthy.

Interested in learning more about your options? You can learn more in our full guide to treatment options for erectile dysfunction, or access help now by taking part in an ED consultation online. 

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Hims & Hers has strict sourcing guidelines to ensure our content is accurate and current. We rely on peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions, and medical associations. We strive to use primary sources and refrain from using tertiary references.

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This article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. The information contained herein is not a substitute for and should never be relied upon for professional medical advice. Always talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of any treatment. Learn more about our editorial standards here.