Get It On – Foods As Aphrodisiacs
Clinical Herbalist Reviewed on February 10, 2010 by Paulina Nelega, RH
Getting turned on isn’t so easy as turning on a light switch! Arousal of the amorous kind is a very complex, touchy thing. Our get-it-on-groove can be influenced towards both North (frigid) and South (hot-to-trot) poles by a variety of factors: hormones, psychology, stress, sleep, time etc. While it is a really fantastic thing to be ready to get busy anytime your partner is, it is more often fantastical (as in, a fantasy) that you are both in the mood at the same time.
The Need To Sow Seed
Throughout his and herstory, women and men have looked for ways to become lustily inspired. Let’s face it, most men returning home from heavy battle, clad in armor, probably didn’t have it in them to be amorous; women, running households and businesses while their men were off at war had way too much going on to get down! Maintaining intimacy aside, the sex act in the ancient world (and still today) was of utmost importance: to create an heir and found a legacy, of course! And so, natural mood enhancers were introduced, to encourage procreation. In ancient Greece, Hippocrates and Aristotle both prescribed lentils for virility. Plutarch, another Greek, prescribed bean soup and artichokes – not only to enhance sexual drive, but to ensure the birth of sons! In ancient Egypt, lettuce was the sacred plant of the fertility God Min. Egyptian lettuce was tall, straight and secreted a milky substance when pressed – totally sexy!
Aphrodisiacs were chosen for their representation of “seed or semen” – bulbs, eggs, snails – or physical resemblance to male or female genitalia (see photos!). Ancient foods for sex included pomegranate, lotus, fennel, ginger, coriander in wine and radishes mixed with honey.
Here’s a look at some modern day aphrodisiacs (thanks to the Gourmet Sleuth!):
Almond: A symbol of fertility througout the ages, the aroma is said to inspire passion in a female.
Aniseed: A very popular aphrodisiac with many culinary uses. Used since Ancient Rome and Greece, sucked for increasing desire.
Arugula: Arugula or “rocket” seed has been documented as an aphrodisiac since the first century A.D. This ingredient was added to grated orchid bulbs and parsnips and also combined with pine nuts and pistachios. Arugula greens are frequently used in salads and pasta.
Asafetida: Any Indian dried, powered herb used as a sexual stimulant in Ayurvedic medicine. The herb has a very strong, garlicky flavor.
Asparagus : Given it’s phallic shape, asparagus is frequently enjoyed as an aphrodisiac food. Feed your lover boiled or steamed spears for a sensuous experience.
Avocado: The Aztecs called the avocado tree “Ahuacuatl which translated means “testicle tree”. The ancients thought the fruit hanging in pairs on the tree resembled the male’s testicles. This is a delicious fruit with a sensuous texture. Serve in slices with a small amount of Balsamic vinegar and freshly ground pepper.
Bananas: The banana flower has a marvelous phallic shape and is partially responsible for popularity of the banana as an aphrodisiac food. An Islamic myth tells the tale that after Adam and Eve succumbed to the “Apple” they started covering their “nudity” with banana leaves rather than fig. From a more practical standpoint bananas are rich in potassium and B vitamins, necessities for sex hormone production.
Basil (sweet basil): Is said to stimulate the sex drive and boost fertility. It is also said to produce a general sense of well being for body and mind.
Broccoli Rabe (And Other Mustard Greens): The ground seeds of various plants in the brassica family were believed to increase virility. In the case of broccoli rabe its more likely a myth created to get people to eat this bitter vegetable.
Chocolate: The Aztecs referred to chocolate “nourishment of the Gods”. Chocolate contains chemicals thought to effect neurotransmitters in the brain and a related substance to caffeine called theobromine. Chocolate contains more antioxidant (cancer preventing enzymes) than does red wine. The secret for passion is to combine the two.
Carrots: Another good reason to eat carrots–believed to be a stimulant to the male. The phallus shaped carrot has been associated with stimulation since ancient times and was used by early Middle Eastern royalty to aid seduction. High vitamins and beta-carotene. Perhaps a justification for a piece of carrot cake?
Coffee: Caffeine is a well-know stimulant but remember, too much and it becomes a depressant. Serve small amounts of rich dark coffee in special little demitasse cups. Coffee stimulates both the body and the mind so partake of a little in preparation for an “all-nighter“.
Coriander (Cilantro seed): The book of The Arabian nights tells a tale of a merchant who had been childless for 40 years and but was cured by a concoction that included coriander. That book is over 1000 years old so the history of coriander as an aphrodisiac dates back far into history. Cilantro was also know to be used as an “appetite” stimulant.
Fennel: In the 1930’s fennel was found to be a source of natural plant estrogens. Use of fennel as an aphrodisiac dates back to the Egyptian times where it was used as “libido enhancement”.
Figs: An open fig is thought to emulate the female sex organs and traditionally thought of as sexual sti
mulant. A man breaking open a fig and eating it in front of his lover is a powerful erotic act. Serve fresh Black Mission figs in a cool bowl of water as it is done in Italy and be sure to eat with your fingers!
Garlic: The ‘heat’ in garlic is said to stir sexual desires. Make sure you and your partner share it together. Garlic has been used for centuries to cure everything from the common cold to heart ailments. This is a good time for moderation. Enjoy a pasta with a lightly garlicky sauce and it and lead up to something spicy in the bedroom later.
Ginger: Ginger root raw, cooked or crystallized is a stimulant to the circulatory system. Perhaps a stir-fry with freshly grated ginger can stir something spicy up in the bedroom later.
Honey: Many medicines in Egyptian times were based on honey including cures for sterility and impotence. Medieval seducers plied their partners with Mead, a fermented drink made from honey. Lovers on their “Honeymoon” drank mead and it was thought to “sweeten” the marriage.
Liquorice (licorice): The Chinese have used licorice for medicinal purposes since ancient times. The essence of the Glycyrrhiza glabra (licorice) plan, glycrrhizin, is 50 time sweeter than sugar. Chewing on bits of licorice root is said to enhance love and lust. It is particularly stimulating to woman.
Mustard: Believed to stimulate the sexual glands and increase desire. Prepare a tenderloin roast (filet mignon) for two with a mustard and peppercorn sauce.
Nutmeg: Nutmeg was highly prized by Chinese women as an aphrodisiac. In quantity nutmeg can produce a hallucinogenic effect. A light sprinkling of the spice in a warm pumpkin soup can help spice up your evening.
Oysters: Oysters were documented as a aphrodisiac food by the Romans in the second century A.D as mentioned in a satire by Juvenal. He described the wanton ways of women after ingesting wine and eating “giant oysters”. An additional hypotheses is that the oyster resembles the “female” genitals. In reality oysters are a very nutritious and high in protein.
Pine Nuts: Zinc is a key mineral necessary to maintain male potency and pine nuts are rich in zinc. Pine nuts have been used to stimulate the libido as far back as Medieval times. Serve pine nut cookies with a dark espresso for a stimulating dessert.
Pineapple: Rich in vitamin C and and is used in the homeopathic treatment for impotence. Add a spear to a sweet Rum drink for a tasty prelude to an evening of passion.
Raspberries and Strawberries: Perfect foods for hand feeding your lover. “Both invite love and are described in erotic literature as fruit nipples” Both are high in vitamin C and make a sweet light dessert.
Truffles: The Greeks and the Romans considered the rare Truffle to be an aphrodisiac. The musky scent is said to stimulate and sensitize the skin to touch.
Vanilla: The scent and flavor of vanilla is believed to increase lust. According to the Australian Orchid Society, “Old Totonac lore has it that Xanat, the young daughter of the Mexican fertility goddess, loved a Totonac youth. Unable to marry him due to her divine nature, she transformed herself into a plant that would provide pleasure and happiness.” Fill tall Champagne glasses to the rim and add a vanilla bean for a heady, bubbly treat.
Wine: A glass or two of wine can greatly enhance a romantic interlude. Wine relaxes and helps to stimulate our senses. Drinking wine can be an erotic experience. Let your eyes feast on the color of the liquid. Caress the glass, savor the taste on your lips. Do remember that excessive alcohol will make you too drowsy for the after-dinner romance. A moderate amount of wine has been said to “arouse” but much more than that amount with have the reverse affect.
Of course, many people now look to quick fixes to get their love-fix. If supplements are your thing, go natural! I’ve heard way too many strange stories about the side-effects of things like Viagra and Cialis. Try a natural herb-base with Chinese Horny Goat, or Fu Ling.
Now let’s get it on!
Paulina Nelega, RH, has been in private practice as a Clinical Herbalist for over 15 years. She has developed and taught courses in herbal medicine, and her articles on health have appeared in numerous publications. She is very passionate about the healing power of nature. Ask Dr. Jan