Food Aphrodisiacs That Might Actually Work

Maybe it’s because the sun is shining and the bees are buzzing and the birds are singing or that we’re talking literary friction over at IB, but I’ve had something on my mind lately.

boningOn Food Riot, though, there’s this whole food thing implied here, so I had to make it work. Aphrodisiacs, of course, are the gateway drug to the food-and-sex discussion. The word comes from the Greek aphrodisios, which meant anything that has to do with the goddess of loooove, Aphrodite. Today, however, they’re mostly used in discussions of foods that can enhance or strengthen the libido.

My partner in this post will be SCIENCE because, seriously, crazy shit like tiger penis doesn’t really work. And you’re eating a tiger’s penis. I’ve got better stuff going on down below. Promise.

Let’s dig right down deep into the meat of this, shall we?

seinfeld-gifs-food(Yes, I shamelessly reused that. I’m using this post as a resource for all my posts now…)

Ginseng: Ginseng is the one aphrodisiac that appears to have the most heft when it comes to scientific research. A study in Food Research International (they really have thrilling stuff) titled “Aphrodisiacs from plant and animal sources–A review of current scientific literature” did find some evidence that ginseng could improve sexual function. A study in Spermatogenesis notes that it may be able to enhance erections, increase the production of sex hormones, and improve sperm count and quality. 

Saffron: The same Food Research International study found that saffron may have some benefits as an aphrodisiac. Rats that were fed saffron had increased frequency of erections (but, I mean, do we really want more rats walking around with hard-ons?). Studies in human men found similar results, but the effects weren’t as good as plain ol’ Viagra. (Though, much tastier in an Indian dish!)

Oysters: Maybe it’s just me, but oysters are a bit yuck. They’ve been used as an aphrodisiac for a while for their resemblance to certain naughty bits (note: not the peen), but there’s not a ton of evidence that they work. They do contain ridiculous amount of zinc which is important for testosterone production, so they miiiiight have some benefit for libido. But, I’m kind of calling shenanigans. You also need cholesterol for adequate production of testosterone and you don’t hear anybody touting the benefits of bacon for libido. (Ooooh shit. I just had GENIUS.)

And for some of the more bizarre aphrodisiacs:

Avocado: The avocado tree was called the “testicle tree” by the Aztecs, according to How Stuff Works, because avocados tend to grow in pairs. Hmm. Testicle tree. *ponders* Yep, don’t care. Still eating the crap out of avocados. Oh yeah. (Does anybody else feel a bit naughty looking at these now?)


Carrots: So carrots look like phalluses and thus are supposed to help libido (because sexy thoughts and things). Right. Raise your hand if you’ve ever felt sexy eating a carrot. I’ll wait.

Basil: Another one from How Stuff Works, “For centuries, people said that basil stimulated the sex drive and boosted fertility as well as producing a general sense of well being. The scent of basil was said to drive men wild — so much so that women would dust their breasts with dried and powdered basil.” Um. I’m just leaving this one right here. Ponder on that. (Maybe that image alone will act as an aphrodisiac for you pesto devotees out there.)

Figs: File this one under “it looks like [blank], so it must help [blank].” I’m not quite sure how this carries such heft. I eat pasta and don’t think it will help with my shiny hair. I eat chicken thighs and don’t think of empowering muscles. So, maybe… can we possibly let this one go?

(Not added/questioned in this post to keep it less than 2,000 words, though, please hash out in comments: why these studies primarily looked at aphrodisiac’s effectiveness for men; the mind-body connection missing here that’s so important to sex; and CHOCOLATE because I couldn’t find anything empirical for it and I wept.)



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About Nikki Steele

Nikki Steele is a freelance writer who runs BookPairing, a blog about pairing wine and beer with books, and is a contributor over at Insatiable Booksluts. When she's not writing or cooking, she's probably roughing it outside with her two mutts. Connect with Nikki on Twitter: @BookPairing.

  • Insatiable Booksluts

    I have no idea if this was on purpose but

    “And you’re eating a tiger’s penis. I’ve got better stuff going on down below. Promise.”

    I totally thought you meant better stuff in YOUR down below, than the tiger has in his down below. And then I was like, “NIKKI. OH MY STARS” and then I realized I had mis-read it.

    • http://btweenthecovers.com/ Heather

      I read it the EXACT same way. Heh.

      • http://www.bookpairing.com/ Nikki Steele

        Hahaha don’t worry, I was rocking ALL the innuendos here. ;)

  • http://btweenthecovers.com/ Heather

    I was also going to ask why all of these focused on aphrodisiac for the mens, when the mens are *typically* the ones who need no more stimulation than a quick glance. Interesting.

    • http://www.bookpairing.com/ Nikki Steele

      It is interesting. I’m chalking it up to the fact that the researchers are primarily men? Or maybe because there’s more money in finding treatments that cater to men? I don’t know, of course, but there was certainly a focus on male enhancements in every research study I found.

      But, then again, I think we get avocados. Soooo, it works out?

  • Samantha Owens

    I love this. I also was wondering why it’s all geared toward men, but then again I guess testosterone is what makes sexual drive in women, too, so….

    • http://www.bookpairing.com/ Nikki Steele

      True, true. There was some discussion about foods that contained estrogen, but those were rarely backed by too much hard science.

      • Samantha Owens

        Sigh. Need more science about estrogen!

        • http://www.bookpairing.com/ Nikki Steele

          Woot woot!

  • Nerija S

    Mmm, avocadoes! I love avocadoes! They haven’t exactly helped me in the love department, though… that is, they haven’t given me anyone with whom to test their possible aphrodisiac qualities.

    And when you mention chocolate as an aphrodisiac, I totally remember the movie Chocolat:)

    • http://www.bookpairing.com/ Nikki Steele

      Hrrrrrm. I think a first date over some avocados and guac could make me feel all randy, certainly.

      I loved that movie! I found some bits and pieces about chocolate, but it was mostly roundabout reasoning–chocolate releases feel-good hormones that may make you feel more good in other areas, but nothing too specific. A damn shame. We shall just have to rely on movies.

      • Nerija S

        Indeed! Movies know everything.

  • Danguole Lekaviciute

    Hah, one of my favorite perfumes has notes of basil! DULY NOTED.

    • http://www.bookpairing.com/ Nikki Steele

      Wooooo, shake em lady!