By Peter Dadzie
An aphrodisiac is a substance that increases sexual desire, attraction, pleasure, or behaviour. Such substances include but are not limited to plants, spices, foods, devices, and synthetic chemicals. The word ‘aphrodisiac’ originates from ‘Aphroditē,’ the Greek goddess of sexual love and beauty. The history of aphrodisiacs is not clear but has been part of humankind since time immemorial. In Ghana, people mostly use aphrodisiacs to prolong sexual activity, increase libido, treat erectile dysfunction, prevent premature ejaculation among others. Aphrodisiacs in Ghana come in the form of herbal bitters and mixtures, herbal capsules, ointments, powders, and synthetic chemicals in the form of drugs and sprays. In addition, some food supplements, including garlic, ginger, watermelon and tiger nuts, are believed to enhance the sexual abilities of men. Men who ejaculate early are often stigmatised and tagged as ‘two minutes men.’ This thus puts pressure on some men to use aphrodisiacs to prolong their ejaculation. Some also use aphrodisiacs to teach their partners they struggle to woo bitter lessons for wasting their time and money. Finally, poor sexual performances often lead to infidelities and even divorces, and hence many couples, particularly husbands, use aphrodisiacs to improve their sexual abilities to prevent such occurrences.The incessant demand for aphrodisiacs has created a large and booming market for it in Ghana. Persons between ages between 18 and 40 years hugely patronise aphrodisiacs. Manufacturers and sellers have made millions of Ghana Cedis and left most of their buyers with side effects while some have perished from overdoses. Over the past few years, the media, particularly radio, television, and social media, have been inundated with the adverts for bitters and capsules that are claimed to enhance sexual abilities. They are even believed to address issues in marriages and relationships that result from weak sexual abilities. Moreover, there is a talk on substances that enhance sexual abilities virtually everywhere you turn – in lorry stations, commercial vehicles popularly known as trotros, and even in homes. So it does appear that sex-related issues are of great concern to many Ghanaians than bread and butter issues. If you turn on a radio or TV now, you are likely to hear or see adverts on some of the local bitters or capsules with the disclaimers that they have been vetted and approved by the FDA (Food and Drugs Authority) and that they are not good for pregnant women and persons below 18 years. In an online survey of 47 persons about 81 percent confessed that they have never used substances to enhance their sexual performances. However, 17 percent said they had used aphrodisiacs before, and 2 percent said their partners used the aphrodisiacs before having a sexual affair with them. The respondents who professed to have ever used some form of aphrodisiacs reported several side effects. Among them are severe headaches, abnormal heartbeats, yawning, and severe weakness. There was a general agreement among the respondents that aphrodisiac abuse is harmful and detrimental to the users’ health and well-being. In recent times, chronic kidney failure has become one of the top diseases that is sending people to their early grave. Ghanaweb reported in February 2019 that more young people, especially men below 40 years, are dying of kidney diseases due to high intake of alcoholic beverages and aphrodisiacs. The report added that records at the Komfo Anokye Teaching Hospital show that 1 in every 10 patients is diagnosed with kidney disease. The Food And Drugs Authority, should intensify its operations at cracking down on unwholesome substances paraded as aphrodisiacs. Also, the Advertising Council of Ghana should be up to the task and ban adverts for bitters, drugs, and other substances that fall outside the legal scope of advertisements in Ghana. For example, Section 114 of the Public Health Act, 2012 Act 851 forbids advertisements for substances that purport to treat diseases such as infertility, sexual impotence, kidney diseases, etc. Lifestyle choices such as no excessive alcohol intake, no smoking, regular physical exercise, sleeping more and living stress-free lives are enough to boost sexual abilities.