When it comes to juicing up sex play with toys and treats, don't let your own salacious imagination be your only guide. The pleasure is only enhanced when you take your health and safety into account.
Choose your passion paraphernalia with care. Some materials, like latex, may cause allergic reactions. Check yourself by testing the material against your wrist. If you are sensitive, be sure to avoid it in toys, condoms and dams; increased exposure ups your risk of a serious reaction.
Make sure the item has no rough seams, cracks or discoloration before you buy it. Wash your sex-tech pieces with soap and water after use, and dry them, too, so they don't attract mildew or mould. Store batteries separately, and check for corrosion whenever you insert or remove them.
Lube matters, too. Water-based will work with anything (except where the electric cord enters!). But silicone lube on a silicone toy will catalyze destruction - something you probably don't want happening inside you. Petroleum-based lubes cause anything made of rubber or latex to disintegrate, and shouldn't be used inside a vagina. For many women, anything oily (including vegetable oils) upsets normal internal ecology enough to increase the risk of infection.
Lubes or gels that contain nonoxynol-9 weaken genital tissues and so increase your chances of getting an STD.
Shape and size count when it comes to your butt. If you put something in that doesn't have a flared base, you might end up in the ER for help removing it. Easy disengagement is an issue with cock rings, too; the experts advise against using metal ones, which are non-removable unless you ejaculate or otherwise go soft.
Remember that moving a toy from one orifice to another, whether in your own body or someone else's, can spread infection. Always cover with a new condom or sterilize before shifting positions. And remember, only silicone, glass or acrylic toys can be sterilized by boiling.
As for digestible aids, any compound that truly shifts your sexual functioning or hormone levels is going to be something with powerful effects.
Your safest way to go is to get professional advice, especially when you remember that sagging libido might be caused by any number of underlying health issues.
What the experts say
"If anything hurts, you're probably doing something wrong, or you need to go slower . Stay away from latex; silicone is better. (Be aware that the) mainstream sex toy industry is now making things out of silicon. Sometimes they even call it silicone, but it's a lower grade. These imitation dildos may be porous and can't be properly cleaned. Don't take vibrators in the tub unless they're labelled waterproof. I wouldn't leave a cock ring on for two hours the first time you use it. Start at 20 minutes. Prostate stimulation is really healthy for men. It's easiest with a toy. It brings pleasure and may help prevent prostate problems."
CARLYLE JANSEN , founder, Good for Her, Toronto
"To enhance a sexual experience with food, the best choices will be simple - natural ice cream , honey , fresh fruit . Pre-made whipped creams contain many different chemicals that haven't fared well in animal studies. Buy organic cream and whip it yourself . You can use real vanilla to flavour it, or you can sweeten it with white stevia powder. Chocolate is really popular as a spreadable item. Look for real food ingredients like sugar and cocoa in puddings and sauces, and avoid chemicals and hydrogenated fats. You could buy a really high-quality chocolate and melt it down.
JANESS TOMLINSON , holistic nutritionist, Toronto
"Lambskin condoms are OK for preventing pregnancy but are not effective for preventing STDs, especially HIV and hepatitis B. Nonoxynol-9 is irritating to the mucus membranes. It's detergent-based. Although it is very important for pregnancy prevention, it should not be used as a method of STD prevention and is not recommended for anal intercourse. It can assist in the spread of HIV, because that irritation at the mucosal level can assist transmission. If someone is pumped up on drugs and Viagra and has on a cock ring for a long time, he might want to make sure he's not cutting off his circulation."
BARB MacPHERSON , BScN (Bachelor of Science in Nursing), sexual health consultant, Toronto public health department
"A lot of companies have put out sexual enhancement formulations. Only a few (ingredients) are backed by solid research. With horny goat weed, tribulus and avena sativa (green oat extract), we can't say they don't work, but we can't say they work either. There was a study done that showed Panax ginseng used over two to three months helped men maintain an erection. So does L-arginine (1,500 to 2,000 mg in divided doses) along with about 120 mg of pycnogenol daily, also in divided doses. It has to be taken on an empty stomach. L-arginine helps increase blood flow, and it may benefit women as well, but it could interact with Viagra or blood pressure medication. You should also consult with a naturopathic doctor before taking it if you have asthma."
ROB AYOUP , naturopath, personal fitness trainer, Toronto "First and foremost, don't use Viagra (sildenafil), Levitra (vardenafil) or Cialis (tadalafil) without a prescription. If you are going to use any of these, use them on their own and in a low dose. Do not combine with anything else, including alcohol. Most people who don't have any erectile problems will get the results they want from one-eighth of a standard dose or less. But even a small dose has risks. You can die if you combine Viagra with poppers, or drugs or heart meds that release nitric oxide (nitrates like nitroglycerin or isosorbide dinitrate.) Another emergency that that can be induced by Viagra is priapism (an erection that won't go away). It's painful and serious."
SONKE BEHRENDS , Associate Professor, department of pharmacology, University of Toronto