For many centuries, ancient and modern civilizations used ‘aphrodisiacs’ to shoot up sexual arousal. Hunger, appetite, starved, satisfied, satiated – all these terms make sense with respect to our relationships with food and sex. In fact many movies and shows consist of steamy hot makeout scenes; which involve foods like whipped cream, strawberries and honey.
An aphrodisiac is nothing but a food, drug or drink which is used to boost one’s sexual desire. Even before sexual or orgasmic dysfunction was recognized as a medical condition, aphrodisiacs were considered as a go-to solution; to treat anything from erectile problems to lack of sexual desire.
But what do we really know about aphrodisiacs? Do they really shoot up one’s libido? Read on to find out.
This term “aphrodisiac” takes its origin from Aphrodite; the Greek goddess of sexual beauty and desire. Her name in turn comes from “aphros,” the Greek term for foam; which relates to her very oddly graphic origin tale. However, according to the Greek mythologies, Aphrodite was “born from the foam,” ; i.e., created at the time when Cronus (Zeus’s dad) chopped off Uranus’s genitals (Zeus’ grandpa) and threw the genitals into the sea. Uranus, that’s how potent it was. Not quite the cute romantic happy ending origin story you were waiting for, huh?
However, this violent kick starting to Aphrodite is actually perfectly in sync with certain less conventional aphrodisiacs; which have come up over the past several centuries.
Through the ages, aphrodisiacs have popped up in many different shapes and sizes. Samhita of Sushruta, in the 8th century claimed that, “Clarified butter should be boiled with eggs or testes of alligators, mice, frogs and sparrows”. It also says that when a man lubricates the soles of his feet with this combination of a mix, then he’d “be able to visit a woman with undiminished vigor as long as he would not touch the ground with his feet.”
A traditional Chinese medical scripture, The Huang-Ti Nei-Ching, which comes from the 2600 BCE also consists of a 22 ingredient aphrodisiac potion recipe. As per history, the emperor consumed this potion before he “mounted 1,200 women and achieved immortality” (Li, 1974).
These are just a few picks of the many historical aphrodisiac references that exist through the ages.
Some Famous Modern Age Aphrodisiacs:
What does science have to say about all these historical claims? Is there a possibility that food items really have libido benefits? The answer is – yes, it is possible. Let’s take a look at these most common aphrodisiacs.
According to Greek mythology, the Aphrodite (or Venus, if you’re Roman) finds it’s origins in a scallop or oyster shell. This is possibly why even from the ancient times, seafood is paired with the act of intense love making.
The oyster aesthetically resembles the female genitalia; which in turn is arousing. Oysters are suitably named as the ‘vulva fish’ in Denmark. In Italy, the famous Casanova is said to have consumed fifty per day for breakfast. With reference to texture and taste, the salty semi fluid composition of the oyster might be compared to semen.
All this information aside, does it work? Lana Citron said to the Vice that there exists a scientific explanation behind the Europeans’ love of oysters and their rumoured libido boosters. “The oyster is high in iron and zinc, which raises sperm and testosterone production and increases the libido,” she said. Lana Citron is the author of Edible Pleasures, a textbook on aphrodisiacs.
Oysters are very rich in zinc. Zinc is essential for sperm development and sexual maturation. Oysters, raw ones, consist of two amino acids: N-methyl D-aspartic acid. These are said to be usually associated with increasing sex hormone levels.
Another famous Greek and Middle Eastern aphrodisiac is honey. Honey’s linked to ‘ambrosia’, the nectar of the Gods. In case you already did not know, when consumed, ambrosia will give you eternal life according to the Greek mythologies. Isn’t it the same case with Indian mythologies too?
The Arabs really believed that consuming honey would extend the sexual act, according to Citron. Also newly married couples should lick honey from each other’s palms as a wedding tradition in the Eastern Europe. This custom however is to make sure there are only soft caresses and sweet words between the couple.
“The Serbians host the World Testicle Cooking Championship, bringing together a whole bunch of ball-munching enthusiasts for a cook-off that’s better for the libido than any viagra,” added Citron.
Modern Greeks furthermore drizzle honey on their walnuts and Greek yogurts. This combines oestrogen producing boron and testosterone, along with amino acids – found in honey and walnuts. The result is a good amount of increase in blood flow to your sexual organs.
The cacao bean (cocoa bean) is considered as a sex accompaniment, even from the days of Aztecs and Mayans in the Americas. As per legend, emperor Montezuma indulged in chocolatl – made out of roasted cocoa beans, spices and water. This is basically nothing but hot chocolate of the ancient times. The ruler consumed this choco potion before he hit his harem.
Chocolate always holds a special place in our hearts as both an aphrodisiac and a mood enhancer. Valentine’s Day sticks to chocolate hearts for a specific reason. There’s no shortage of research which shows the cardiovascular benefits of cocoa – dark chocolate only. But there isn’t enough research or evidence to back up chocolate as a libido booster.
In her book however, Citron claims that the theobromine in chocolate leaves potential stimulating effects since it gives serotonin. Serotonin is nothing but the famous ‘love hormone’. “Perhaps it’s just a placebo,” she said, “but who cares? It works.”