For centuries, both ancient and modern civilizations have used aphrodisiacs to boost sexual arousal. An aphrodisiac is a food, drink, or drug that is used to increase sexual desire. Long before sexual dysfunction was a recognized medical condition, aphrodisiacs were used to treat everything from lack of desire to erectile problems.
An aphrodisiac is intended to either seduce a person or put them in the mood. Some of these love potions and delicacies have been proven over time to actually enhance sexual libido, and others are just… snake oils.
Aphrodisiacs in History
The Egyptians used plants like Fenugreek as an aphrodisiac. Fenugreek is a sweet herb containing phytoestrogens that mimic the hormone estrogen which is essential for a women’s sexual health. Lettuce, which Egyptians considered to appear phallic, was thought to give the God Min unlimited virility.
In Greek Mythology, Aphrodite, the goddess of love, was supposedly born from the seafoam after Zeus’s father threw his father’s penis into the ocean because he was so fertile. It is thought that because of this, seafood -especially oysters- have been regarded as aphrodisiacs (they also are thought to resemble female sex organs).
In ancient Rome, strawberries represented the goddess of love, Venus. The heavily-scented fruit is full of antioxidants that help you look younger. They also contain vitamin C and minerals like magnesium, folate, potassium, and zinc, all which contribute to a healthy libido.
India, the birthplace of the Kama Sutra and Ayurvedic medicine, consider many spices and natural plants, like maca and raw cacao, as libido-enhancing. They also incorporated warming spices like cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg into their diets to enhance blood flow and increase desire in both men and women.
Traditional Chinese medicine used various herbs and plants to boost mood and desire. Goji berries were known to increase both male and female libidos and improve both mood and sperm quality, but they can also cause indigestion – not too sexy. Red Ginseng is known today to boost energy, increase sexual desire and performance, while Ginkgo Biloba supposedly increases circulation in certain body parts. Don’t forget horny goat weed, too, discovered by a Chinese goat herder over 2000 years ago which made his goats, well, horny.
So, do any of these so-called aphrodisiacs work? Well, it turns out that oysters, a popular aphrodisiac, contain zinc, which enhances male performance. If a man were zinc deficient, eating oysters may have worked to enhance male performance by supplying a nutrient they lacked.
Many foods which resembled male and female sex organs were considered aphrodisiacs, as well as vegetables that contained needed nutrients for a healthy libido. They may have worked for undernourished people in ancient civilizations who lacked these nutrients, but probably would not have been so drastically impactful today.
Here’s a look at some common modern “aphrodisiacs” which stand the test of time, and a few new ones for you to try just for fun.
- Chocolate – Raw cacao contains tryptophan, which produces serotonin. Serotonin is the feel-good chemical in our brains. It also contains the stimulant phenylethylamine which the brain produces when it’s in love. No wonder chocolate makes us
- Maca – Maca, a root vegetable that’s often ground and dried into powder, is one of the only aphrodisiacs with slight scientific evidence that it actually works as an aphrodisiac. Some studies show it stimulates sexual desire in menopausal women. It is rich in vitamins and minerals like manganese and potassium, as well.
- Honey – The name “honeymoon” dates back to the 5th century when newlyweds would celebrate the first month of marriage by drinking mead, a wine made from honey, to boost fertility and desire. Honey also contains boron, which helps to regulate the sex hormones estrogen and testosterone (essential for your sexual appetite), and B
- Chili Peppers – These spicy peppers contain capsaicin which heats your body, similar to feelings of
- Strawberries and papaya – Both of these fruits contain vitamin C and antioxidants which are good for your circulation and blood flow to certain parts of your body.
- Oysters – Although loaded with zinc, which can enhance sex drive for both men and women, oysters are most likely better with a candlelit dinner and soft music to help set the mood.
- Avocados – Avocados are full of healthy fats including Omega 3 fatty acids and vitamin B6, all of which enhance mood and boost
- Watermelon – Watermelon contains phytonutrients like lycopene, which can boost your
- Herbal Supplements – Supplements like Red Ginseng and Ginkgo Biloba are over the counter supplements and should be taken with caution as they can affect other medications. Speak with a physician before trying any herbal supplements.
So, What Does This Really Mean for our Libidos?
It really comes down to eating a variety of vegetables and nutritious foods which give you vitamins and minerals your body needs, along with regular exercise, for a healthy sex drive.
Most foods are not aphrodisiacs, but, with the right environment and a willingness to experiment, many foods can enhance arousal.
If you’re looking for a boost, try any fruit or vegetable shaped like a sex organ, male or female. Think asparagus and carrots. At minimum, you’ll get vitamins and minerals that are good for promoting a healthy sex drive, if not putting you immediately in the mood.
More than eating certain foods, all of the senses can add to our desire: taste, smell, sound, and touch – and reducing your stress won’t hurt either.
If you really want a romantic night with a little togetherness, turn on your favorite music lower the light, light a few candles, break out strawberries, chocolate, and honey, and just have fun.