Happy Valentine’s Day. Today seemed like the prefect day to post a blog on the subject of aphrodisiacs.
Food and sexual performance have been inextricably linked throughout history, Casanova was reputed to eat 70 oysters a day, the Romans fed chickpeas to their stallions to improve their sexual performance and the karma sutra recommends honey to increase sexual arousal. Hundreds of different foods, herbs, spices, pills and potions, everything from anchovies to aniseed, are claimed to have aphrodisiac properties.
Aphrodisiacs are named after Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of love and beauty. Aphrodite was said to be born from the sea, which may explain why seafood has the reputation for possessing aphrodisiac qualities. Oysters, in particular, are reputed to increase sex drive and performance in men. Since they are one the richest food sources of zinc, which is found in very high concentration in semen, there may well be more than a grain of truth in this claim.
Chillies and other spicy foods are also believed to increase sexual performance. They produce similar physiological effects – a raised pulse and sweating, to that experienced during sex, which may help to explain the link.
In ancient times, many people believed in the law of similarity, reasoning that food or roots such as ginseng, asparagus that resembled genitalia must possess sexual powers.
Foods that are symbolic of life or procreation such as eggs, caviar, figs, pomegranates, nuts and seeds are often endowed with the reputation for increasing sex drive and fertility.
Fact or fiction?
Evidence that Aphrodisiacs actually exist remains anecdotal and subjective. Measuring the effect of aphrodisiacs is not easy – any valid scientific study would need to be performed under strict clinical conditions, comparing a placebo to a test substance. Which then begs the question, what criteria do you use to measure any sexual effect?
Lack of sexual energy or ability in men or women can be caused by stress or it can be a side effect of certain medication. Occasionally it can be the result of an underlying medical condition such as diabetes or high blood pressure. In many cases there is a simple solution to the problem so it’s always worth discussing the matter with your GP.
At the end of the day most experts would agree that a healthy diet, regular exercise and a good mental health are a much more reliable path to better sex than are powdered rhinoceros horn, royal jelly and asparagus tips.
Food, like sex, is a sensual pleasure involving smell, taste, texture and appearance and if you’re in the right frame of mind, with the right person any food can act as an aphrodisiac. In the words of ‘Dr Ruth’ Westheimer the renowned sex expert ‘the most important sex organ lies between the ears’.
If you’re still interested in finding out if food can a little razzmatazz to your Valentines day here are some things you might like to
Prunes – In Elizabethan time, prunes were believed to be such effective aphrodisiacs that brothels served them to their customers.
Ginseng – the word ginseng means ‘man root’ and the plants reputation probably arises from its similarity to the male genitalia. Some studies have shown that ginseng may elicit a sexual response in animals but there is no evince that ginseng has any effect on human
Onions and garlic – are believed to enhance sexual stamina and desire. Celibate Egyptian priests were forbidden from eating them.
Carrots the Ancient Greeks believed that carrots were highly aphrodisiac – so much so that they ate them when preparing for an orgy.
Aubergine – known as the ‘apple of love’, the aubergine was highly praised as an aphrodisiac in India. The Kama Sutra suggests rubbing the juice of an aubergine over your partner’s body to increase sexual desire.
Bananas contain a substance called bufotenine, which is believed to act on the brain to improve mood, self-confidence and increase sex drive.
Verbena – in days gone by women would wear a garland of Verbena around their neck during lovemaking to improve their husband’s performance.
Aniseed - the Karma Sutra recommended powdered aniseed should be mixed to a paste with honey, then rubbed into the genitalia of newlyweds to ensure a sexual chemistry.
Alcohol – may heighten desire by lessen inhibitions but as Macbeth observed when consumed to excess it ‘provokes desire, but it takes away the performance’
Angelica – in the 18th century angelica was eaten to overcome
Cocoa – The ancient Aztecs revered cocoa as an aphrodisiac, King Montezuma was reported to have drunk it while frolicking with his harem of 600 women.
You can absorb around 30% more carotene from cooked carrots than raw.
Studies show that when tomatoes and broccoli are eaten at the same meal their cancer fighting effects are enhanced and greater than if they are eaten separately.
Gram for gram, watercress contains 12 times more vitamin C than lettuce and more iron than spinach.
Peanut butter was first made in 1890 by a doctor in St Louis, USA who started grinding peanuts as a nutritious meat substitute for people who couldn’t chew meat because they had poor teeth.
Although olives are classified as a fruit, you would need to eat around 30 olives for it to count as one portion.
Nutritionally there is no significant difference between black and green olives. The colour of olives is determined by the ripeness of the fruit when it is picked.
Stories regarding diet and nutrition can become a little dry if thought, insight and passion aren’t put into them. Fiona packs them in in droves and brings any topic she is commenting on to life.
It’s hard to find a nutritionist who cares as much about delicious food as I do but Fiona does. She understands that while I want my food to be healthy I also want it to be delicious so when we worked together on Skinny Weeks, Weekend Feasts she worked with me to make sure the recipes were healthy but stayed true to themselves. Beyond that, she’s great fun and super to work with.
I love working with Fiona because she has that rare ability to marry nutrition, PR and media all together. Her incredible knowledge of nutrition and her creativity makes her a dream for any PR to work with. With her journalism background she always meets deadlines and in my opinion exceeds the brief always.