Searching for foodstuff that increase libido and sexual performance has been the Holy Grail of humanity for millennia. The word itself, “aphrodisiac”, originates from Greek mythology –Aphrodite in particular, the goddess of love, who rose from the depths of the sea riding an oyster. Bringing this powerful picture in mind, it’s only natural that this particular shellfish is thought to be the world’s most known –and perhaps oldest— aphrodisiacs.
The famous Casanova is said to have been eating no less than 12 oysters on a daily basis, to keep his sex driver and performance maxed out.
Shellfish contain large amounts of zinc, a trace element which is crucial for testosterone synthesis and sperm health; zinc is also implicated in the process of healthy sexual desire, in both genders. So, scientifically speaking, oysters and shellfish in general being good for your libido has a good merit.
Besides seafood, a large number of foods appear in the historic literature as “sexually beneficial”; asparagus, arugula, anise, clove, nutmeg, carrots, basil, pepper, nettles, mustard, sweet peas, pistachios, fennels and snails are just some of them.
A Few Funny Examples of Aphrodisiacs in Ancient Times
Contrasting the intense presence of aphrodisiacs in the literature and folklore worldwide, there is little evidence on foods with such properties, originating from sound clinical research. Furthermore, such studies tend to focus on medicinal products rather on whole foods.
The fact remains, however, that aphrodisiacs make their presence more than noticeable, both in history as well as popular mythology.
During the ancient years, reproduction was at the center of moral and religious laws, and that’s why the search of aphrodisiacs was linked with the treatment of infertility and several other sexual disorders. One of the striking differences between then and now is food availability. Back then food was not as easily available as is today, therefore malnutrition was common and so were the sexual and reproductive problems that come with it.
Still, there are a few examples from this period that are weird; funny, but weird nonetheless.
One of the first who left written work on aphrodisiac foods was the Greek doctor Galen, in Rome. Galen named these foods “warm and moist” as well as “windy”, owning to their property to produce gas. Galen believed that, in order for the penis to be erect, air (“wind”) is necessary for its inflation; therefore, foods that gave you flatulence, would also induce an erection
Apparently, not only Galen was sexually-obsessed.
According to St. Thomas Aquinas, sexually stimulating edibles should be nutritious but also possess a “vital spirit,” holding wine and meat as prime examples of such properties.
Around 40 to 90 A.D., Dioscurides, sometimes referred to as the father of pharmacology, left written information about satiro, a type of wild orchid that was thought to have intense sexually stimulating properties.
Stafylinos, a wild herb growing in forests, was referred to by many as working miracles on libido; it even got its own ailment with the obvious name “the sex potion”.
Hunag Ti, Emperor of China who lived in the 3rd century, also known for the book called “Handbook of Sex”, was said to drink a herbal mix of 22 ingredients in wine; rumor has it that he was on the best lovers in history.
There were other foods though, not as sensual as the aforementioned.
In ancient Egypt, people used honey to make potions that were meant to cure infertility and erectile dysfunction. Mead, a drink made from the fermentation of honey, was taken by “honeymooners”; they thought that it would “make their marriage sweet.”
Honey contains B complex vitamins that are needed to produce testosterone, and boron, an element essential in the biosynthesis of both male and female sexual hormones.
Even potatoes, white and sweet alike, were thought to be aphrodisiac by the Europeans, possibly due to their low availability when they first came to the continent from the newly discovered America.
And it gets even more bizarre.
Going back to Greece, sparrows were considered to be Aphrodite’s holly birds; as a result, people in old Europe used to eat sparrows, showing special preference to their brains, as sexually stimulating snacks.
Another popular myth held the skink, a lizard type, as an aphrodisiac of extreme power, something that was claimed by several esteemed writers of that era.
Finally, a food coming from the intestines of whales, named Ambergris, is thought to be an aphrodisiac. Actually, this claim has some scientific support from studies in animals: It seems that the consumption of Ambergris may lead to increased testosterone levels in the blood.
Aphrodisiacs look like human reproductive organs
Some edibles were thought to be sexually stimulating, just because their shape reminds of human genitalia.
Such an example is mandrake root. Its forked root looks like a woman’s groin, so it was eaten to increase sexual desire. Similarly, sea shells look like the female genitals.
The way that food and human genitalia shapes look similar has been analyzed in Encyclopedia Britannica with the goal to comprehending the old ways of thinking:
“It has been suggested that man’s universal attribution of libidinous effects to certain foods originated in the ancient belief in the therapeutic efficacy of signatures: if an object resembled the genitalia, it possessed, so it was reasoned, sexual powers. Thus the legendary aphrodisiac powers of ginseng root and powdered rhinoceros horn.”
As a matter of fact, several of the so called aphrodisiac edibles have striking similarities with the human genitals! Think about it: Ovaries look like almonds, citrus fruits are often referred to as having a “breast-like” shape, figs and avocados resemble to the uterus. Heck, avocados even mature for 9 months before turning to fruit!
7 Foods to improve your sex life
Everyone knows about Viagra and the other drugs of its class, which are used to treat male sexual dysfunction. They do so by elevating NO levels in the blood, which in turn causes dilation of the blood. (Also read: Safe and natural alternative to viagra)
Some food items that are evidence-based aphrodisiacs, apart from being traditionally thought as such, have been rounded up by Health.com:
- Avocados – This fruit contains large amounts of fats that promote heart health. A healthy heart can support good circulation and send blood when it needs to be, at all times.
- Almonds – Almonds are nutritional powerhouses, containing large amounts of essential compounds for a healthy sexual life; Vitamin e, zinc and selenium are some of them.
- Strawberries – This forest fruit is rich in folic acid, a B-complex vitamin essential in proper fetus development, which is also believed to increase sperm numbers in semen.
- Seafood – Clams are notoriously rich in zinc, and oily fish like wild salmon, herring and mackerel provide omega-3 fatty acids that promote heart health.
- Arugula – Arugula is rich in minerals and antioxidants that antagonize the action of environmental toxins which damage healthy sexual function.
- Figs – High in fiber, it is essential in controlling cholesterol and keep the heart in prime condition.
- Citrus – All fruits in this category have lots of antioxidants as well as ascorbic acid and folate, all of which are extremely important to the male reproductive process.
Whether you believe aphrodisiacs, foods can increase your libido or not, a healthy sex life is linked to a longer life. At the same time, there is no successful romantic relationship without good sex.