The History of Aphrodisciac Foods
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
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
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
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,
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