Chris Kilham: Nature’s Ways to Enhance Your Sexuality
Sex, Love and Intimacy
Chip August

Episode 87 - Chris Kilham: Nature’s Ways to Enhance Your Sexuality

Meet Chris Kilham: The "Medicine Hunter" and Explorer-in-Residence at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, where he teaches ethnobotany and conducts botanical educational programs for the natural products trade and the media.. Chris travels the world, conducting medicinal research. Join us as we talk about his research into “Hot Plants: Nature’s Proven Sex Boosters for Men & Women”

“…hot plants have summoned me suggestively as I have wended my way from one continent to another in an ongoing quest for nature’s cures.”

In this fun interview Chris and I talk about stimulants, aphrodisiacs and various sexually enhancing plants. Chris has tried these plants, studied them in his lab, and is here to tell you that, whatever your interest, nature has a proven, safe plant to help you. And don't miss Chris' suggestion for aphrodisiacs just waiting for you at your local supermarket!



Chip August: Welcome to Sex, Love and Intimacy. I’m your host, Chip August, and today on the show we are talking to Chris Kilham. Chris is a medicine hunter. He’s an author and an educator. He’s conducted medicinal research in more than 20 countries, and he is the explorer in residence at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, where he teaches Ethno Botany and conducts botanical education programs for the natural products trade and the media. I’ve just read his book, Hot Plants: Nature’s Proven Sex Boosters for Men and Women, and that’s what we’re going to be talking about. We’re going to be talking about natural plants and the search for sex boosters and things that help sexuality with men and women. Welcome to the show, Chris.

Chris Kilham: Oh, thanks so much for having me on, Chip. It’s a pleasure to be here today.

Chip August: Just, I loved your book. Your books a great read here. You, early in the book your wrote this, I pulled this sentence out ‘cause I just thought it was just so captured sort of who you seem to be: “Hot plants have summoned me suggestively as I have winded my way from one continent to another in an ongoing quest for natures cures.”

Chris Kilham: Well, yeah. That’s how I feel about it both in terms of just sort of being lured by the road if you will, but also even more specifically I do feel called by the plants, and this is something that a number of other people who do this kind of field work have commented on as well. It’s as though at times these plants kind of seek us out and enlist us because we’re sort of good at propagating them. So it’s an interesting relationship to have with the medicinal plants from different cultures around the world.

Chip August: Well that almost, I mean that kind of sounds Darwinian, that we, you know, in a good way, that we, as we develop and botany developed all in the history of the universe, you know, it sort of makes sense that we would develop things that are good for us and we would be good for them sort of, kind of like that.

Chris Kilham: Yeah, well you know, I mean you think about how the greatest proliferators of plants are people. I mean, nobody can spread a plant like we can. You know, we can take something like coffee from Ethiopia and spread it to every tropical and volcanic region on the entire planet in a matter of a couple of years. That’s pretty remarkable. So, think we, I think, you know, I often ask people who do this kind of work, I say, “Are you working for the plants or are they working for you?”, and so far every single sober scientist and botanist has said, “Oh no, I’m definitely working for the plants.”

Chip August: I love it.

Chris Kilham: There’s just this sense of it.

Chip August: I love it, I love it. So now, you’re a scientist, so I, listeners I really want you to get this. This guy, this is not just some, you know, some teenage kid working at the health counter at your local Safe Way or whatever. You’re a scientist about this. How did you, how did you get interested in the science of sort of medicinal and sex oriented plants in rainforests? How’d you get interested in this?

Chris Kilham: Well in the, in the late 60’s my friends and I all became enamored of the idea that things natural were better, and even though our intuitions we completely, excuse me, completely correct, we weren’t that well informed. But over time, as more information has come out on these things, I mean right now the science and the information about the traditional use of medicinal plants around the world is broad and vast, so the whole landscape has changed, and I’ve been able to, you know, keep up with a lot of that material and be at least in the forefront of field exploration and communicating about that, and it’s a tremendous, tremendous thing to be doing. I’m enjoying it very much.

Chip August: Well I have to say reading the book it’s almost like you’re Indiana Jones, only instead of archeology, you’re on the trail of plants. The book are these wonderful stories about you in places I’ve never even imagined visiting.

Chris Kilham: Oh well thanks. It is a lot of fun. I mean fortunately I’m not actually being chased by, you know, arrow shooting natives who want to skewer me to a tree, but there’s certainly adventure to it, and it’s, it’s just miraculously wonderful to be able to go from one culture to another and meet and become friends with people and work with them for, you know, sort of good common aims.

Chip August: Now you say something in the book, and I had this moment of, “Is this true?” You say, “For every need, nature provides an answer.”

Chris Kilham: Right, right.

Chip August: Is that really so?

Chris Kilham: You know, we haven’t discovered all of the plant medicines that are out there, but we know of a few thousand. And there are plants that do every as good a job for treating migraines as any migraine medicine, but often with greater safety, you know, we have, I mean the drug companies have not only knocked themselves out, but actually killed many, many people marketing dangerous anti inflammatories, yet we have something like Cat’s Claw that is the anti inflammatory that all the drug companies would want, except they can’t patent this stuff. So, you know, nature provides, I mean, we know there’s very good science on the inhibition of certain types of tumors with different medicinal plants and treating heart disease. This is serious medicine in addition to, you know, relieving a sore throat and decongesting your sinuses.

Chip August: So basically the drug companies only want it if they can synthesize a version of it that they can patent so they can make a lot of money, but you’ve got primitive people all around the world who certainly know what medicines work from their own oral tradition, and you’re basically tracking folklore and then proving which of that folklore is really so. Is that, is that kind of it?

Chris Kilham: Well yes, although most of the time there is already very, very good existing science, but still, these plants may be little know, you know, among the general population. I’ve never discovered an original plant. You know, I’ve never like, like said, “Oh wow, I’ve just found the remedy for, you know, name it.”

Chip August: Mm hmm.

Chris Kilham: I’m out there investigating traditional remedies that are already known and often come with a good body of science around them. That’s the state of plant medicine today, so in investigating hot plants and going after sex enhancing plants, I not only had lots of traditional stories to draw from, to set me off looking for these different, you know, love botanicals, but I also had a good heavy dosiage of science on them before I ever flew anywhere. So it’s been, this is a great time to be doing this work, there’s a lot of information out there, and I’m contributing to that.

Chip August: Mm hmm. So, so what do you do? You fly into a village and sit down with the village elders and say, “Hey, tell me about the sex plants?” You know…

Chris Kilham: Well…

Chip August: how do you do this?

Chris Kilham: No, you know, most of the time I try to find somebody in trade. I mean, for example when I ever first started going to Peru to investigate Maca, I got in touch with a guy who was in trade there, who was trading Maca, which is a, you know, a root from the central highlands of Peru up in the Andes Mountains that significantly boosts sex drive. It’s quite remarkable, and it’s safe and it’s wholesome and it’s very, very good in that way. And I met a trader who introduced me to everybody else, and has since become a very good friend. And typically I’ll know of someone ahead of time who’s trading in a particular plant or thinking of that, and they’ll generally know, you know, the native healers and the villages to go to, so they’ll be kind of like point of entry people, and I’m very fortunate to have folks all over the world who can, you know, take me into different regions where it would be very difficult for me to get stuff done on my own. I don’t do this work by myself, I always have a great team.

Chip August: Okay. And so you, so you’ve read some research or a trade person has kind of got in touch with you. They’ve said, “Hey, I think you’d be interested in this herb, in this weed, in this tree root, in this…” Do you actually personally try most of these things?

Chris Kilham: Oh, I will swallow, snort, rub on or otherwise, consume or get close and friendly with, you know, any plants that aren’t going to, you know, break me out in a poison ivy like rash or kill me. I mean, yeah. I, I, I do believe to a great extent that you can’t know a plant unless you put it in your body, and I’ve had some really funny experiences with these things of being, you know, just winding up gluttonized with these plants as a result of, like in the case of Maca, I got up into the highlands a couple of years ago with a TV crew, and we had asked them if they could do a simple sort of like Maca festival for us, ‘cause he can make food out of this sex enhancing root. And there were like 50 tables of women who had spent, you know, the last 2 days preparing these Maca dishes, and then I found out that I was to be the judge, which meant I had to eat and drink every bloody thing that was in there, and it took like three and a half hours. And I must’ve, I must’ve put down like, you know, a couple of kilos of food. It was unreal, and, you know, so…Yeah, I more than consume these things. I mean, when I researched Kava in the South Pacific, I mean, the first night I was there I was wound up in this, you know, dimly lit Kava bar with all these, you know, curly haired native guys spitting onto the ground, drinking this stuff our of a coconut shell and getting stoned in the dark and going, “Whoa, this is really cool. Holy…” Oh yeah, I mean, you know, I do it all. I drink Iawaska with Shamans in the jungle and wind up being swallowed by psychedelic anacondas, and… I mean, no exaggeration. It’s wooly out there, it’s fun, you know. It’s an amazing thing to be able to do and to also be, you know, highly productive with people and have, have a wonderful time. I’m going to hike in the jungle with native people all over the place or up in the mountains of Siberia or China and, you know, just get to experience regions and people and traditional ways of medicine that can be sustained and promoted by my work of spreading the word, you know….

Chip August: Mm hmm.

Chris Kilham: I’m a communicator as much as I’m a field guy, so I sort of bridge those worlds.

Chip August: I want to ask about some specific plants, but I want to take a break first, so we’re going to, we’re going to pause and listen to our sponsors. Listeners, I really would love it if you would stay tuned for these ads. The ads are created by my sponsors for my show. They, most of my sponsors offer you some pretty good deals for yourself, and obviously that sponsorship makes the show possible, so… Everything, everybody helps everybody, so please do listen. Also if you notice you’re liking what you’re hearing on the show, please feel free to send a link of this show to people you think might be interested. You know, health food and natural foods and herbal remedies are a big subject these days, and, let your friends know, let people know about Chris and his work and about, about my working, bringing this to you, and the show will grow and everybody will profit, so thank you for your help on all that. We’re going to take a short break. When we come back, we’re going to be talking to Chris Kilham, and we’re going to be talking about some specific plants and how they work and how they might boost your sex drive. We’ll be right back.

Chip August: Welcome back to Sex, Love and Intimacy. I’m your host, Chip August. I’m talking to Chris Kilham. He’s a medicine hunter. God, I just love even saying that. He’s the, he’s an explorer in residence at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst. He’s written a great book, Hot Plants: Nature’s Proven Sex Boosters for Men and Women, it’s actually one of several books that he’s written. And we’ve been talking about natural, herbal, botanical, things that occur naturally in nature that are sort of sex boosters or will help you’re, you’re sex life or perhaps are aphrodisiacs. So, so for a moment, first I just want to know like what’s an aphrodisiac? What does that mean? What do you, what do these things do?

Chris Kilham: Well okay, an aphrodisiac is basically anything at all that gets you sexually aroused. I mean that can be, you know, Berry White music is an aphrodisiac to some people, so… In the world of plants though, it’s a plant that somehow enhances sex drive and often sexual function as well, you know, different perimeters of sexual function, I mean, lubrication, erectile function, whatever. And, and so it turns out that there’s a, kind of a core group of these plants that I like to call the ‘hot plants’, you know, they get you hot, and, you know, I’ve been fortunate to investigate them in their host countries with their respective experts and try them of course and formulate them into products, and it’s been a wonderful journey, and, you know, I’ve gotten to go to some really quite very diverse places.

Chip August: Yeah. Well lets talk about some of those places. So listeners, I have to say the book, Chris just describes, you know, location after location and where he was and what he did, so I just have to say, I thought it was a really good read. You talk about the number one most popular plant in India. What is that?

Chris Kilham: Well there’s a plant called Oshawa Ganda, and I do think that in the US among people who are, you know, somewhat or very familiar with India’s traditional system of medicine, Iyurveda, a lot of people know about Oshawa Ganda. But it’s sort of, if you will, kind of like the Indian Jinsa thing. It’s a plant that, you know, improves energy overall, it helps to relieve brain fatigue and nervous exhaustion. It, it seems to be a very good re-builder of sexual vitality and function, sort of building strength, excuse me, from within, so it has an excellent reputation and a very, very good body of science behind it, so we know why this is really one of the great super plants out there, and it’s in, oh, hundreds and hundreds of traditional remedies for, you know, things related to the conditions I just described.

Chip August: Now, it’s in demand for all these different things, but it has some sexual properties, yes?

Chris Kilham: Yes, absolutely. And, you know, we know that it works in the brain. We know that it, for example, increases sperm count in men, it can enhance erectile function. The Indian materia medica recommends the use of Oshawa Ganda for impotence, for general aphrodisiac purposes, you know, increasing sexual desire, to improve sperm count, and also to enhance fertility in women. So it has broad uses, broad safe uses going back a couple thousand years.

Chip August: Wow! Wow! Thousands of years, huh? Okay. So, improve sexual potency, basically, will this stuff make you feel horny?

Chris Kilham: Yes, yes. You know, so many of these plants, like Oshawa Ganda and Rhodiola and Siberian Ginseng, their, their adaptogens, they enhance your overall energy and vitality and stamina and, either by affecting circulation or nerve function or the sex centers in the brain or all those things, they have significant sexual affects, and… So they’ve been used, these different hot plants, have been used for millennia for sexual enhancement, and really over time by hundreds of millions of people. People aren’t going to use a plant for long period of time like that if it doesn’t deliver, they’re just not willing to put up with it for, you know, whatever, two hundred generations.

Chip August: Right, so, so basically, assuming it doesn’t really work it’s the kind of thing that after a while everybody in the tribe knows, “Hey, this stuff doesn’t work”, and so the very fact that people have been using it for thousands of years is a good indicator that it has effect, yeah?

Chris Kilham: Oh yeah, absolutely, absolutely. And also a good indicator of safety. I mean, people don’t tend to use toxic or dangerous plants in quantities, you know, to such an extent, it’s just not, that’s just not something that happens, so… You know, the favoring of certain plants like Oshawa Ganda, you know, almost always indicates a very high level of safety.

Chip August: Okay, so a plant I’ve heard of that you talked a little bit about is Yohimbe, Yohimbe…

Chris Kilham: Yup.

Chip August: Tell me about Yohimbe.

Chris Kilham: Well Yohimbe’s a very cool plant. It comes from West Africa. And Yohimbe, the bark of this tree, it’s a tree, the bark contains an alkaloid called Yohimbine, which has actually been used as an impotence drug for, I don’t know, you know, 80 years or so at this point. It’s an ingredient that increases circulation in the fine vessels along the sides of the penis, and so it’s, it’s something that’s been used for a good long time. You have to have it within a particular dosage range because it can otherwise cause rapid heartbeat. It’s one of the, one of, it’s the, actually the only hot plant that you really want to, you know, make sure you’re very exact with with regard to the dose. But, it’s great stuff, and it, I would say it’s not as effective overall as some of the other hot plants, but it has a well deserved position in this sort of sexual pharmacy.

Chip August: And, I notice like in the book and also in some of the products that you’re involved with, you mix and match some of these plants to sort of get several effects all working at once, yeah?

Chris Kilham: Well yes. I developed these formulas, hot plants for him and hot plants for her, and actually collaborated with a supplement company called Enzymatic Therapy and put these out on the market, and basically my thought was take botanicals that perhaps enhance hormone production with ones that enhance nerve activity or brain function relative to sex or circulation, put them together in effective quantities, and then have a sort of a broader spectrum of activity to reach more people’s needs. And so far the intuition for, for developing these formulas that way has proven, you know, pretty good. People, a lot of diverse people get positive results with these, and that just to me is further validation of these traditional plant remedies for sexual enhancement.

Chip August: Now, I noticed you had a thing in there called ‘Horny Goat Weed’, I just love the name of that, ‘Horny Goat Weed’. What’s Horny Goat Weed?

Chris Kilham: Yeah, Horny Goat Weed is a very popular plant that actually you see used, you know, for decorative gardening in the US a lot. It’s any of a variety of species of a ground cover called Epidedium. I researched Horny Goat Weed in China, in the South East, you know, about 800 miles south of Shanghai in a mountain range down there. But it has a long history of use again for boosting sex drive and improving erectile function in men. I’ve met with medical doctors from some of the top hospitals in Shanghai and talked with them about these different plants, and all of the doctors that I’ve met with have used this, this particular plant, Horny Goat Weed, in their clinical practices with great success. The reason it’s called Horny Goat Weed is there’s a myth behind it that this was the, the only food of this legendary, sort of goat like creature called the Yin Yang that had sex over a hundred times a day. And so, you know, when plants have myths attached to them, significant myths, it, that’s an indication that they’re held in very high regard in whatever culture they’re in, so that’s always an important tip off for me, “Oh, okay, this plant has a significant myth, it’s got to be something significant in this culture”, and Horny Goat Weed certainly is.

Chip August: This all makes perfect sense to me. I want to pause, take another break here, give a chance to support our sponsors, and when we come back, among other things listener, I’m going to ask Chris to talk about things you might be able to find at your Whole Foods or at your grocery store that also might help your, help your sex life. But first lets pause and listen to these messages. Listeners as you know, most of our episodes are transcribed, so if you hear something that you like on the show and you want to make a note of it, why you can just kind of go on the episode page and there’s the transcription, you can cut and paste and maybe put a reminder up on your bulletin board or send a little reminder to a friend. It’s just a great way to take the lessons you learn here and use them. Also if you want to get in touch with me and suggest potential shows, guests, ideas for shows, I’m always interested. You can reach me at [email protected]. We’re going to take a short break, and when we come back we’ll be talking some more about hot plants. We’ll be right back.

Chip August: Welcome back to Sex, Love and Intimacy. I’m your host, Chip August. I’m talking to Chris Kilham. We’ve been talking about hot plants. We’ve been talking about nature’s own aphrodisiacs, natures own Viagara, natures own sex enhancers, you know, lots of sex boosters for men and for women. Women, I talk to a lot of women who, whose experience is that as they age they lose their libido, their libido seems to just kind of disappear a little bit. What are some of these plants that are better for women?

Chris Kilham: Well, you know, that, you bring up an important point her because the group that has been most communicative over time about the, the benefits of the hot plants products is in fact menopausal and perimenopausal women. They seem to respond more quickly than anybody else who uses these formulas, and it’s very gratifying. As women approach menopause and get into menopause, they often experience a very significant decline in sex drive and a diminished capacity to lubricate, so intercourse can be painful and it’s just not something that is, you know, kind of foremost in their, in their inclinations anymore. When you use some of these hot plants, you bring that sexual drive, that interest back, and surprisingly with menopausal women, it, it can happen in just a couple of days, which frankly I never would’ve expected, but that’s just pretty much the consistent information I get. So, you know, I had told you about Ashawa Ganda; that’s a very significant sex enhancing herb for women. Maca, from the Peruvian highlands that I mentioned previously. Certainly Rhodiola. Rhodiola is a root from Siberia that has rather remarkable sex enhancing properties for men and women. And also there’s an Amazonian plant called Catawba. Catawba is the bark of a tree that goes all across Northern Amazonia, I’ve been there and investigated that, and it’s, you know, it’s quite a significant sex enhancer too. So these are some of the, the really effective botanicals that can help to bring back that strong sex drive, and also greatly enhance lubrication as well to make it just, you know, comfortable and natural again.

Chip August: Wow! So Chris, if people wanted to get your book or they wanted to actually get their hands on some of these, some of these herbs and botanicals or just wanted to know more, how do they find you? How do they find your products? How do they find your book?

Chris Kilham: Okay, first of all, people can go on my website, which is And they get, can see all of the different books that I have. You know, I’ve got 14 titles out there, and they can get links to where they’re sold. And the same thing with the hot plants products that I’ve described to you. You know, they’re made by Enzymatic Therapy as I said, so you can usually get them at places like Whole Foods, but you can also get direct links to where you can acquire them online. And there’s other stuff, there’s other sort of fun goodies on my website, on, that, you know, a lot of people like links to videos and TV appearances and some fun stuff from the field.

Chip August: And listeners, just so you know we always include the website link on the episode page, so if you are looking at the website and you just look for Chris Kilham’s name or Medicine Hunter, why you will find this episode and you will find a link directly to So, I saved some of these for last just because I am kind of curious. Alright, so I don’t, maybe I don’t feel very experimental or I’m a little nervous about trying something. Even though you say it’s been used for thousands of years, you know, people, we get a little nervous about what we put into ourselves and what we don’t. What are some of the, what are some of the aphrodisiacs and sex boosters that are just commonly available in supermarkets and health food stores today, you know, that I might’ve heard of but I never might’ve thought of as an aphrodisiac?

Chris Kilham: Well, for sure the great love drug of them all is chocolate. And when I say love drug, it’s not that chocolate so specifically enhances any particular perimeter of sexual function, but it does actually reproduce some of the brain chemistry that we have when we fall in love. It does so because it contains a lot of unique and wonderful pharmacologically active compounds. And so, you know, that’s the reason that chocolate is exchanged between lovers. I mean, you wouldn’t show up at, you know, a date with a bag of celery in your hands probably, but some chocolates certainly, so… Interestingly enough, chocolate does help to, you kind of get people in that more amorous zone, and it does it in a way that really no other plant does. You know, I think, I think for example if people are, most people are familiar with Ginseng…

Chip August: Mm hmm.

Chris Kilham: and Ginseng is a tremendous sex enhancer for both men and women, probably because it enhances overall vitality, and in doing so it’s going to positively affect sexual vitality as well.

Chip August: So, so basically these Ginseng sodas and Ginseng teas might actually be helpful for your sex life.

Chris Kilham: They might if they have enough in them. I mean certainly the Ginseng extracts and the concentrated Ginseng products are going to deliver more goodies, but we have some human sexual studies with Ginseng, in addition of course to a couple of thousand years of safe use and repute as a sex enhancer. You know, the plant medicines are the most widely used medicines on earth today, I mean far more so than over the counter prescription drugs. And when you look at things like, you know, you made a comment about maybe some people being nervous to try these things, but, you know, every year in the United States, about 300,000 people that we know of die from the proper use of over the counter and prescription drugs…

Chip August: Yeah.

Chris Kilham: And most years nobody in the United States dies from the use of herbs. So in terms of relative safety, it’s far, far safer to use time tested non toxic largely side effect free safe botanical products, rather than relatively new guaranteed toxic often, you know, lethal pharmaceuticals for similar purposes.

Chip August: Yeah, it is pretty funny that as a culture we somehow believe more in factories than in, than in millennia of tradition. It’s kind of bizarre, isn’t it? But…

Chris Kilham: Well I actually think, I actually think we have Stockholm Syndrome, you know, the syndrome in which people who are abducted actually become enamored of their captors, you know, and want to please them. I mean, really, you know, the, like the pharmaceutical industry talks about how onerous the costs of research are, yet it spends twice, absolutely twice as much on marketing and promotion as it does on development, so, you know, it’s quite a disingenuous but extremely powerful all pervasive industry.

Chip August: Yeah, a lot of money in it, that’s why…

Chris Kilham: Yeah.

Chip August: That’s the thing about indigenous and native traditions is there’s not a lot of money in them.

Chris Kilham: Well, you know, on the other hand, I think that when people get positive results, when they put Maca in a blender shake, when they take the hot plants products, when they consume, you know, Ginseng on a regular basis and add a lot of semi sweet dark chocolate to their diet and experience the benefit for themselves, you know, at the end of the day it’s really a positive healthy satisfying experience, so it’s going to win people over even more than being marketed to.

Chip August: Well, Chris I really have enjoyed talking to you. I think you are just a wealth of information. Listeners, I really encourage you, go on out and get the book Hot Plants, and actually get some of the supplements and try them because it’s pretty extraordinary stuff. Thank you so much for being on the show today.

Chris Kilham: Thank you Chip. It’s been my great pleasure. You take care.

Chip August: Thank you. And listeners, thank you once again for joining us for Sex, Love and Intimacy. You know, the show isn’t really possible without you, and I really appreciate your support. That brings us to the end of another episode, and I hope you’ll join us again next time.