Perhaps Adam thought the apple was an aphrodisiac when he offered it to Eve and certainly the belief that foods could stimulate and arouse us to passion has been honoured by both men and women since earliest recorded time.
It is a belief that is held across every race, culture and age group, which makes for interesting research into the subject.
Foods, herbs, spices and unfortunately certain animal parts have been considered to be stimulating over the ages and I am going to focus on food and herbs that are still readily available today in our supermarkets.
The background to aphrodisiacs
Aphrodisiacs were taken in the first instance to calm anxiety and therefore improve sexual performance. Having children was considered a necessity from both a moral and a religious perspective and so being at peak fertility was considered essential for both men and women.
Aphrodisiacs are broken down into two distinct functions. Primarily they needed to be nutritional to improve fertility and performance and secondly stimulating to increase desire.
Being poorly nourished will affect semen, egg production and quality so it was considered important to eat nutritional packed foods such as seeds, roots and eggs, which were considered to contain sexual powers.
To stimulate desire it was thought that eating foods that resembled the sexual organs would produce the required result and of course there was always the hearsay element of mythology and fairy tales to establish credibility for one food or another.
Many of the foods considered by the ancient Egypt, Greek and Roman civilisations to be aphrodisiacs, are still available today, and we eat them on a regular basis. This makes it a little difficult to determine if the rocket, pistachio nuts, carrots and basil that you eat as part of your normal diet are acting as stimulants or not.
At least most of us are no longer indulging in gladioli roots or skink lizard flesh although the French may well claim that their continued consumption of snails may have something to do with their reputation as the best lovers.
Are there foods that are more of a turn OFF than a turn ON?
Allegedly there are a few foods that may not be helping you in the romance department but there is no definitive research on the subject.
Apparently eating too many lentils, lettuce, watercress, and water lilies might affect your performance although I suspect that there are more than a few rabbits that might disagree with that belief. Also one needs to choose and prepare food that is not likely to produce wind as there is nothing more disastrous during a romantic interlude!
What are considered the most effective aphrodisiacs?
Aniseed was believed by the Egyptians, Greeks and the Romans to have very special properties and they sucked the seeds to increase desire. Aniseed was also favoured for its medicinal properties, which may explain its popularity as a sexual stimulant. It was used to reduce flatulence (not a particularly attractive condition) remove catarrh, act as a diuretic and as an aid to digestion combined with other herbs such as ginger and cumin.
One of its properties was to increase perspiration and one wonders if this additional heat was confused with an increase in desire. However if you are planning a romantic interlude avoid drinking it in tea form as it was considered a very effective insomnia cure.
Asparagus was well regarded for its phallic shape and also for particular stimulating properties. It was suggested that you fed it to your lover over a period of three days either steamed or boiled. One explanation of its supposed success is that it acts as a liver and kidney cleanser and also a diuretic. After three days it is likely that you might feel more energetic and also have lost a couple of pounds, guaranteed to give anyone a boost sexual or otherwise.
Almonds have long been considered the way to a girl’s heart in particular their aroma, which is supposed to induce passion in a female. Almonds are incredibly nutritious, packed with vitamins, minerals, protein and healthy fat so there is no doubt that regular consumption of these and other nuts would be likely to improve overall general health and therefore fertility. Almonds have been prepared in a number of ways over the ages but certainly the one that seems the most popular is marzipan, guaranteed to win over any sweet-toothed female, young or old. All nuts and seeds have similar nutritious content so you can lavish these on your sweetheart if you find it difficult to find Almonds.
Avocado was regarded as an aphrodisiac mainly due to its shape. The Aztecs called the avocado tree “Ahuacuati” or testicle tree and when brought to Europe the Spanish called the fruit aquacate. Apart from the shape the fruit has a sensuous smooth texture and exotic flavour that stimulates all the senses. Again including avocados in your diet several times a week will contribute to your general health as well as possibly improving your love life.
The banana has been featured several times in my blogs on healthy and medicinal foods. Obviously the shape played some part in its reputation as an aphrodisiac but it is very rich in potassium and B vitamins, which are both essential for healthy hormone production. Eating one banana is unlikely to enhance sexual performance but including them on a regular basis will certainly have you firing on all cylinders.
Cloves amongst other herbs and spices contain eugenol, which is very fragrant and aromatic. It has been used for centuries as a breath freshener, which may be hint to why in days before dental hygiene became so important eating it before a date was considered an aphrodisiac.
Chocolate like almonds has long been regarded as an enticement to females and contrary to popular belief; Cadburys were not the inventors of this delicious if very addictive treat. The Aztecs called it the “nourishment of the Gods” probably because of the chemicals in chocolate that stimulate neurotransmitters in the brain that produce a feel good effect. It also stimulates the production of theobromine, which is related to caffeine and would no doubt stimulate performance in other areas.
If only Adam had been better informed, he might have made a better impression!
Honey has been used medicinally for thousands of years and was considered essential as a cure for sterility and impotence. Even in medieval times less than scrupulous suitors would ply their dates with Mead, a fermented drink made from honey. This was also drunk by newly-weds on their honeymoon probably acting to relax inhibitions and anxiety. Honey is wonderfully nutritious and again including it regularly in your diet is likely to improve your general state of health, which would lead to improved sexual performance.
Mace and Nutmeg contain myristicin and some compounds related to mescaline. Mescaline is found in Peyote cactus and has been used in South American and North American Indian cultures for over 2000 years as a hallucinogen. This might explain why the use of mace and nutmeg in aphrodisiac potions may have produced mild euphoria and loss of inhibitions. Hot milk and ground nutmeg has long been a night-time drink and now we know why.
Oysters were well known for their aphrodisiac qualities in Roman times and their reputation continues today. There is some reference to their likeness to female sexual organs but the main thing going for oysters is their high content of Zinc. This mineral is essential for male potency but if you do not have a balanced diet with other sources of zinc, eating a dozen oysters from time to time is unlikely to give you the desired results.
Saffron has been used since the times of the ancient Greeks where it was harvested from the wild yellow crocus, flowers. Its use has since spread throughout the world and has been used for thousands of years as a medicine and as a perfume. It is said to be an excellent aid to digestion, increases poor appetite and being antispasmodic will relieve stomach aches and tension. More recently it has been used as a drug to treat flu-like infections, depression and as a sedative. As far as being an aphrodisiac is concerned its most important property is likely to be its ability to regulate menstruation which would of course help lead to a better chance of conception. It is generally a tonic and stimulant and being very versatile can be used in many dishes regularly in your diet.
I obviously could not miss out the carrot – since it played a starring role in one of my health books. Carrots taken long term provide the body with a great source of vitamin A essential for our hormones and in men their sperm production. Hence, the title of my health book. Forget the Viagra……which is a men’s health manual and not just about aphrodisiacs!
There are many other foods, herbs and spices that have for one reason or another been associated with sexuality. These include liquorice, mustard, pine nuts, pineapple, strawberries, truffles, basil, garlic, ginger and vanilla.
The one thing that is absolutely certain is that if you have an excellent balanced diet with plenty of variety you will be taking in all the above nutrients on a continuous basis and that will enable you to enjoy an active and full sex life. Adding a few of the above ingredients will certainly do you no harm and who knows you may be able to prove if they really are all they are cracked up to be.
I cannot leave you today with a recipe that includes some of the above ingredients but I suggest if you are planning a St. Valentine’s Dinner for your loved one, you create a three course dinner from the above… Get creative!
Isabella’s aphrodisiac ice-cream.
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1/2 cup sliced almonds
1 1/2 cups whole milk
4 egg yolks
3/4 cup of sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
2 cups heavy cream, chilled
1 cup peeled and mashed rich ripe figs
1 teaspoon vanilla
- In a small skillet over medium heat, melt the butter. Add the almonds and sauté until just golden. Remove the almonds and dry on paper towel. Put aside for later.
- In a medium saucepan, over medium heat, bring the milk to a simmer. Remove the pan from the heat and set aside.
- In a stainless steel bowl, or double boiler, whisk the yolks with the sugar and salt for 3 minutes, or until pale yellow. Add hot milk slowly while whisking. Place the stainless steel bowl over a pan of simmer water and cook whisking constantly, for 8 to 10 minutes, or until the custard is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. Remove the custard from the water and stir in the chilled cream, mashed figs, vanilla, and almond extract.
- Chill the mixture for 30 minutes, then pour into an ice cream maker or the freezer compartment of your fridge until set.
Of course there is allegedly an equally anciently revered aphrodisiac that has nothing to do with food!
Thanks to Pixabay.com for the images.
Thanks for dropping by and I wish your Valentine’s Day to be all you wish for. As always I love to receive your feedback.. Sally
©sally cronin Just Food For Health 1999 – 2019
A little bit about me nutritionally.
I am a qualified nutritional therapist with over twenty years experience working with clients in Ireland and the UK as well as being a health consultant on radio in Spain. Although I write a lot of fiction, I actually wrote my first two books on health, the first one, Size Matters, a weight loss programme 20 years ago, based on my own weight loss of 154lbs. My first clinic was in Ireland, the Cronin Diet Advisory Centre and my second book, Just Food for Health was written as my client’s workbook. Since then I have written a men’s health manual, and anti-aging programme, articles for magazines and posts here on Smorgasbord.
If you would like to browse by health books and fiction you can find them here: https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/my-books-and-reviews-2018/
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