Chestnut Herbal School

Herbal Aphrodisiac Shortbread Cookies

Recipe and Photography by Sarah Snyder
Other text by Meghan Gemma

Herbal Aphrodisiac Shortbread Cookies

When we feel a longing to connect with our sensual side, herbal aphrodisiacs are an alluring option.

Aphrodisiac herbs are plants that elevate, nourish, or sustain our sexual or sensual desires. How is this magic aroused in the body? Herbal aphrodisiacs work in varied and complex ways—while some are known to enhance libido and improve sexual function, others bring us into states of passion through more subtle channels.

For example, some herbal aphrodisiacs widen our blood vessels and stimulate blood circulation, thus moving more energy, oxygen, and nourishment into our pelvis and heart. Other herbs help us relax, making us feel more open and receptive to intimacy. Some herbs support the release of blissful compounds produced by our bodies when we are in love or experiencing sensual pleasure.1

All of which is to say, herbal aphrodisiacs are nuanced—finding the right ones for you (or your loved one) can be an exciting experience.

Our Herbal Aphrodisiac Shortbread Recipe introduces four delectable and desire-inducing herbs:

  • Maca (Lepidium meyenii) is an adaptogen that enhances libido, improves sexual performance, and releases anandamide (the “bliss molecule”) in the body.2
  • Rose (Rosa spp.) is a stirring ally for nurturing intimacy with its skin-soft petals, alluring aroma, and ability to arouse the blood. It can be used as a nourishing tonic for awakening the libido and thawing sexual frigidity.
  • Vanilla (Vanilla planifolia) is an orchid family botanical whose aroma is known to induce arousal, relaxation, and sensuality. It’s a classic ingredient in folkloric love potions and amorous confections.
  • Cacao (Theobroma cacao), like maca, releases bliss-inducing anandamides and infuses the body with a sense of pleasure.2 It also nourishes the heart and energizes the body in anticipation of sensual moments.3

To go deeper with herbal aphrodisiacs, we highly recommend Kimberly Gallagher’s book, Aphrodisiac: The Herbal Path to Healthy Sexual Fulfillment and Vital Living.

Herbal Aphrodisiac Shortbread Cookies

These shortbread cookies are delightfully decadent and not too sweet. The cacao nibs, which are small pieces of the cacao bean, provide a rich and nutty crunch, while the rose water adds the lightest floral note. The rose petals contribute a splash of alluring color to entice the eyes along with the nose.
These cookies are tasty as a stand-alone treat, but we also love them biscotti-style, served with coffee or tea. 
Prep Time 1 hour 15 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Course Dessert
Yield 24 cookies


  • 2 sticks unsalted butter , room temperature
  • ½ cup powdered sugar
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons powdered maca root
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ¼ teaspoon food-grade rose water*
  • ½ cup cacao nibs
  • ½ cup dried rose petals


  • In a stand mixer, cream together the butter and powdered sugar until fluffy and well-incorporated.
  • Add flour, ½ cup at a time, and mix until just combined.
  • Add salt, maca powder, vanilla extract, and rose water. Mix.
  • Add cacao nibs and rose petals, gently mixing until they’re dispersed throughout the dough.
  • Shape dough into a log about 10 inches long, making sure to pack tightly to prevent any holes. Roll to round out any edges. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour and up to 3 days. If doubling the recipe, make 2 logs and follow the instructions in Step 7 for both logs.
  • When you’re ready to bake the cookies, preheat the oven to 350°F (177°C).
  • Using a sharp knife, divide the log into 24 equal pieces by first cutting the log into quarters. Then, cut each quarter in half. Finally, cut each of these 8 pieces into 3 cookies.
  • Bake on a parchment-lined baking sheet for 15-17 minutes or until lightly golden. These cookies don’t spread, so they can be baked closely together.
  • Serve immediately or store in an airtight container for up to two weeks.


*Make sure to use food-grade rose water (we love Nielsen Massey), which can be found at most natural food grocers or online retailers.
Keyword aphrodisiac, cookies
Tried this recipe or have questions?Leave a comment!

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  1. Pino-Figueroa A, Vu H, et al. “Mechanism of Action of Lepidium meyenii (Maca): An Explanation for Its Neuroprotective Activity.” Am J Neuroprotec Neuroregen. 2011.
  2. Gallagher K. Aphrodisiac: The Herbal Path to Healthy Sexual Fulfillment and Vital Living. Hay House; 2021.
  3. Sinadinos C. The Essential Guide to Western Botanical Medicine. Christa Sinadinos; 2020.

Meet Our Contributors:

Sarah Nicole Snyder is holding a woven basket full of freshly picked strawberries.

SARAH SNYDER grew up in a small wooded town outside of Charlotte, NC. She studied music in college before moving to Asheville, NC to study pastry arts. Here she developed a love for plants, gardening, medicine-making, and homesteading. She has worked as a photographer, pastry chef, journalist, and social media manager.

Most days you can find her reading with her dog and a mug of tea, getting the perfect shot of her garden, trying out yet another craft, or wrangling chickens back into the yard.

Meghan Gemma of Chestnut School of Herbal Medicine.

MEGHAN GEMMA is one of  Chestnut School of Herbal Medicine's primary instructors through her written lessons, sharing herbal and wild foods wisdom from the flowery heart of the school to an ever-wider field of herbalists, gardeners, healers, and plant lovers.

She began her journey with the Chestnut School in 2010—as an intern and manager at the Chestnut Herb Nursery and then as a plant-smitten student “back in the day” when the school’s programs were taught in the field, and later she became part of the school’s writing team. Meghan lives in the Ivy Creek watershed, just north of Asheville, North Carolina.

Interested in becoming a contributor?


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