Yes, a number of essential oils DO have aphrodisiac properties, and they deserve to be taken seriously, for they can be of great value in easing marital disharmony and helping people who suffer from impotence or frigidity. Physical reasons for these conditions are rare indeed, but should be checked before essential oils are used. The root of such problems is nearly always mental/emotional, and aromatherapy has been found again and again be most effective when helping on the emotional plane.
An aphrodisiac is a substance that increases sexual desire. The name comes from Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of sensuality and love. Throughout history, many foods, drinks, and behaviors have had a reputation for making sex more attainable and/or pleasurable. Some aphrodisiacs gain their reputation from the principles of sympathetic magic, for example oysters, due to their shape.
Aphrodisiac oils fall - rather roughly - into three categories: those which are calming and soothing, and which create the desired effect by reducing anxieties and stresses in the relationship; those which are directly stimulant (and these need to be used with great circumspection); and those which may possibly have a hormonal effect.
The most notable oils in the first category are Rose and Neroli (orange-flower). Rose petals were strewn on marriage beds by the Romans, and brides crowned with orange blossoms because the perfume of these flowers was found to allay any nervousness about the wedding night. (Plastic orange blossoms and crepe paper confetti rose petals, both derived from these ancient customs will not, alas, have the same effect.) Clary Sage, Patchouli – if you can stand the smell - and Yiang Ylang are in the same category. All of these are oils which are relaxing in general, and it is important to remember that stresses from outside a relationship - money, work, accommodation, etc. - can as frequently be a cause of sexual inadequacy as problems arising from the relationship. Help with the underlying tension may be what is needed, and the therapist has to be very sensitive to all the circumstances of each individual. Any of these oils, or combinations of them, can be used as aromatic baths before bedtime, or in massage oils. If a loving partner can be taught to use the oils in gentle massage, they will obviously have the maximum effect.
The oils of Jasmine and Sandalwood can be included with those that are calming and relaxing, as they are both wonderfully sedative oils, but perhaps you should consider them apart, as there is a possibility that they have an actual hormonal effect on the body, though this is speculation, brought about by the observation of their effects. Certainly, both these oils have a heady, almost irresistable attraction for both men and women (and cats, too, in the case of Jasmine). People using these oils for reasons totally unconnected with any sexual problem - such as Sandalwood for a chest complaint - have often reported erotic 'side-effects'. This in itself is enough to refute the allegation that 'They only work because you think they are going to'.
There are just one or two oils - Black Pepper, Cardamom and possibly some of the other warming spices - which have a directly stimulating effect. These can be useful where fatigue underlies a sexual problem, but must never be abused, as over-use can cause urinary, digestive and other problems. They can be used in a low concentration in massage oils over the lower spine. Perhaps the safest way to use these plants is as the powdered spice in food or drink, rather than as an essential oil.
None of these oils should be regarded as more than a temporary help during a difficult time. Even when there is no danger of chronic toxidty, it is possible for people to use the oils as an emotional 'crutch', though physical dependence is unknown. If sexual problems persist over a very long time, help in the form of counselling, psychotherapy, etc., might be needed as well as aromatherapy.