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The History of Aphrodisciac Foods

Aphrodisiacs were first sought out as a remedy for various sexual anxieties including fears of inadequate performance as well as a need to increase fertility. Procreation was an important moral and religious issue and aphrodisiacs were sought to insure both male and female potency.

Why Certain Foods?
In ancient times a distinction was made between a substance that increased fertility versus one that simply increased sex drive. One of the key issues in early times was nutrition. Food was not so readily available as it is today. Undernourishment creates a loss of libido as well as reduces fertility rates. Substances that "by nature" represent "seed or semen" such as bulbs, eggs, snails" were considered inherently to have sexual powers. Other types of foods were considered stimulating by their "physical resemblance to genitalia"

It's important to realize these food substances were identified (documented) by the likes of Pliny and Dioscordes (ancient Greeks) first century AD and later by Paul of Aegina from the seventh century. Later more credence was given to foods that "satisfied dietary gratification".

Other foods deemed to have these aphrodisiac qualities were derived from mythology. Aphrodite, the love goddess was said to consider "sparrows" sacred because of their "amorous nature" and for that reason were included in various aphrodisiac brews.

There was not always agreement upon what foods were actually aphrodisiacs or "anaphrodisiacs" (decrease potency). But the ancient list included Anise, basil, carrot, salvia, gladiolus root, orchid bulbs, pistachio nuts, rocket (arugula), sage, sea fennel, turnips, skink flesh (a type of lizard) and river snails.

The ancients suggested you steer clear of dill, lentil, lettuce, watercress, rue, and water lily.

Getting Technical

Aphrodisiac: any of various forms of stimulation thought to arouse sexual excitement. Aphrodisiacs may be classified in two principal groups: (1) psycho-physiological (visual, tactile, olfactory, aural) and (2) internal (stemming from food, alcoholic drinks, drugs, love potions, medical preparations).

Despite long-standing literary and popular interest in internal aphrodisiacs, almost no scientific studies of them have been made. Scientific research is limited to occasional tests of drugs or hormones for the cure of male impotence. Most writings on the subject are little more than unscientific compilations of traditional or folkloric material. Of the various foods to which aphrodisiac powers are traditionally attributed, fish, vegetables, and spices have been the most popular throughout history. In none of these foods, however, have any chemical agents been identified that could effect a direct physiological reaction upon the genitourinary tract, and it must be concluded that the reputation of various supposedly erotic foods is based not upon fact but upon folklore.

It has been suggested that man's universal attribution of libidinous effects to certain foods originated in the ancient belief in the therapeutic efficacy of signatures: if an object resembled the genitalia, it possessed, so it was reasoned, sexual powers. Thus the legendary aphrodisiac powers of ginseng root and powdered rhinoceros horn.

With the exception of certain drugs such as alcohol or marijuana, which may lead to sexual excitation through disinhibition, modern medical science recognizes a very limited number of aphrodisiacs. These are, principally, cantharides and yohimbine, both of which stimulate sexual arousal by irritating the urinary tract when excreted. Cantharides, or cantharidin, consists of the broken dried remains of the blister beetle (q.v.) Lytta vesicatoria. It has been a traditional sexual stimulant fed to male livestock to facilitate breeding. In humans the substance produces skin blisters on contact, and attempts to ingest it as an aphrodisiac are considered extremely hazardous. Yohimbine is a crystalline alkaloid substance derived from the bark of the yohimbé tree (Corynanthe yohimbe) found in central Africa, where it has been used for centuries to increase sexual powers. Although it has been promoted as an aphrodisiac, most investigators feel that any clinical change in sexual powers after its use is probably due to suggestion, because stimulatory effects are elicited only with toxic doses

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