The Arousing Science of Aphrodisiacs
You probably associate certain foods with sex: chocolate, wine, maybe even oysters. But why do we have these connections, and do they actually mean anything?
Since the beginning of recorded history, humans have been looking for ways to enhance sexual performance. From the days of the ancient Chinese dynasties to the Roman Empire, the hunt was on for mystery ingredients that could help increase virility, stamina and overall arousal.
In short, they were looking for aphrodisiacs: foods, drinks and drugs, or a combination of all three, that stimulate sexual desire.
Roots of aphrodisiacs
The term aphrodisiacs is derived from Aphrodite, the goddess of love in Greek mythology. And because Aphrodite was said to have been born from the sea, many believed seafood and shellfish—particularly oysters—were the ultimate aphrodisiacs.
While this belief hasn’t been conclusively proved, science does indicate the Greeks might have been on to something. According to the National Institutes of Health, oysters contain more zinc per serving than any other food, and zinc is essential in the production of healthy sperm and testosterone, which affects the libido of both men and women.
Some practices from long ago, thankfully, have faded from use. For example, people on the Indian subcontinent in the eighth century B.C. believed that eating boiled goat testes or rubbing boiled alligator testes on the soles of their feet could increase arousal and overall sexual performance. These practices were also thought to cure impotence and increase stamina, according to a research article published in the journal BJU International.
What’s on the menu?
Historically, herbs, roots and even the semen of younger men have been included on the list of items people have ingested on their quest to get a boost of arousal. These days, however, it’s less common to eat animal testes in an attempt to set the mood.
Oysters, red wine and strawberries often steal the aphrodisiac spotlight, but many other foods could potentially serve as aphrodisiacs, including:
- Pumpkin. This seasonal snack is high in fiber, potassium and magnesium, which can increase stamina and calm your nerves. Experiments showed that when men smelled pumpkins, they also experienced increased blood flow to their penis, according to “The Real Science of Sex Appeal,” a book featuring the research of Dr. Alan Hirsch, of the Smell & Taste Treatment and Research Foundation.
- Avocado. This versatile food is high in vitamin B6, which can stimulate testosterone production.
- Celery. Often eaten as a healthy snack, celery contains androstenone, a pheromone in men that some women find attractive, according to the National Institutes of Health.
It’s important to remember that while these foods may have certain properties which have been linked to arousal or sexual performance, it hasn’t been proved they actually work as aphrodisiacs. However, if you’re feeling adventurous and looking to spice things up, there’s no harm in giving them a shot.
Many foods touted as aphrodisiacs are rich in minerals and chemicals that can improve stamina, libido and mood. Eating four slices of pumpkin pie after Thanksgiving dinner, however, doesn’t mean you’re instantly going to double your performance time in bed.
While there isn’t a mountain of scientific research to back aphrodisiac claims, research has shown that even though the aphrodisiac food you’re planning to eat might be a dud—basically, a placebo—the power of the idea of an aphrodisiac can still work.
When you’re filling yourself with the proper nutrients, you’re going to be happier and healthier, and there’s no better recipe for sexual desire than a well-nourished body and a good mood, so maybe, just maybe, those oysters you ate are going to lead to something rather wonderful later.