Aphrodisiacs are foods that increase your libido and make it much easier to get in the mood. The aphrodisiacs I’m thinking about are easy to buy, easy to eat (lookin’ at you, oysters), and – for the most part – easy on your wallet.
So read on – we’re going to talk about the foods and drinks that are most appropriate for your next date night.
Aphrodisiacs – What’s the Deal?
What is an aphrodisiac?
For as long as people have been having sex, they’ve been looking for the magic bullet to… put them in the mood for having sex.
An aphrodisiac is simply any food, drink, or experience that increases your libido and puts you in the mood to have sex. In short: aphrodisiacs make it easier to get horny.
A Short History of Aphrodisiacs
Like so many of English’s words, the term aphrodisiac comes from Ancient Greek. It roughly means “of Aphrodite,” which totally makes sense – seeing as Aphrodite was the goddess of love and sex…
Galen, a Greek physician who lived in the second century A.D., had some pretty wild ideas about what would get your motor running. He thought that food which made a person flatulent would also make them lustful.
Why? He had this bizarre notion that the intestinal gas that inflated the intestines would also inflate the penis.
(Thankfully, science figured that one out. Imagine every date night involved a side of beans?)
The aphrodisiacs of the time weren’t just for sparking libido. They also were encouraged for fertility – ancient aphrodisiacs were as much about promoting pregnancy as sex.
If a couple couldn’t get pregnant or if a male had erectile dysfunction, they’d look to these medicines as a cure. Maybe it’s desperation that has caused so many foods to take on the aphrodisiac label over the years.
Interesting Historical Aphrodisiacs
Accompanying Galen’s beans were these other odd choices in pre-coital power-ups:
- crocodile hearts
- chili peppers
- a type of Sardinia cheese that is full of maggots.
Things that were harder to come by gained aphrodisiac status pretty easily.
For a tamer alternative to crocodile hearts, colonization of the Americas brought certain crops back to Europe. Sweet and white potatoes even once achieved aphrodisiac status because of their scarcity.
Mandrake root and oysters entered the aphrodisiac scene for a whole other reason. The mandrake’s two branch root system is supposed to look like a lady’s thighs. And warm, moist oysters call to mind a woman’s… well, you know.
That see-it, do-it system of picking sex foods is called the “doctrine of signatures.” Galen and his fellow ancient physicians had a theory that eating foods that looked like a specific body part could heal or improve its function.
(It wasn’t true, of course, but he still has us slurping down oysters to this day.)
Aphrodisiacs in Literature
If humans are obsessed with something, they write about it. There’s a reason so many pop songs, movies, and books are about sex. We’ve been featuring sex in our literature since we learned how to write.
If you’ve ever read a Greek myth, you know that Zeus was a bit of a sex-addict. He had kids with at least 50 women and slept with plenty more women and men than that.
People like to get horny and many wonder how to get horny fast in a natural way. Apples, pomegranates, and other fruit show up in these stories as seductive tools. In the story about Persephone and Hades, Persephone ate a few pomegranate seeds and then was forced to live in the Underworld every winter for the rest of time. A metaphor – maybe – for eating a different kind of seed?
Aphrodisiacs have a place in Indian tradition too. In the Kama Sutra, there are plenty of examples of potential aphrodisiacs. Milk, saffron, asparagus, nutmeg, and garlic all held a lusty status in ancient India.
Do Aphrodisiac Foods Work?
Aphrodisiacs aren’t all magic and myth; there is some science here. Not everything works, though – so before you listen to a modern-day Galen, do your homework before digging into a big pile of baked beans.
Among the diversity of options that do work as aphrodisiacs, there’s a common theme: most of these require regular consumption to improve libido over time.
Read: a single pistachio before bed? Not going to do jack. Other than the anti-anxiety effects of wine, you’ll need to consume these foods over a longer time to see a difference
The logic here is that the foods themselves aren’t really the aphrodisiac: it’s the vitamins, minerals, and nutrients they contain that could make you a god in the sack.
So read on, Zeus, and we’ll look at the evidence.
Aphrodisiac Foods and Drinks
No, mandrake root won’t make the list today. But there are more than a couple of foods which scientists suggest could help put you in the mood. Here are five of my favorites.
Valentine’s day sure got this one right. Chocolate has a long history of being revered for its aphrodisiac powers. The Aztec emperor Montezuma even supposedly bulked up on cacao before his sexual escapades.
Chocolate lowers your blood pressure and improves your emotional state. Those are two great reasons why it works as an aphrodisiac. Simply eating palatable chocolate stimulates endorphin release and helps put you in the mood.
Dark chocolate also has a second sex-improving secret: zinc. Zinc and magnesium are two minerals to look to if you notice that you’re not performing in an “upstanding way” if you catch my drift.
So, eat some chocolate, and you’re on the road to a good time. Your call on whether you want to bring chocolate into bed, though…
I’ll say it: something about a sliced-in-half pomegranate looks vaginal. That’s probably a significant part of why the fruit’s a renowned ancient aphrodisiac. Based on that “doctrine of signatures” Galen and his pals stanned, eating pomegranates only meant good things for fertility.
Turning to the science, studies show that pomegranates increase sperm count and testosterone levels in male rats: and the more testosterone, the merrier. A big part of sex drive is testosterone levels.
Beyond that, there are a ton of antioxidants in pomegranates that help increase blood flow. If you remember anything from seventh-grade health class, blood flow and circulation are also essential to sex.
On top of all of that, pomegranate juice decreased abnormal sperm rates. So if you’re looking to make a baby, upping your pomegranate intake is an excellent way to help make sure it happens.
Okay, sure, a lot of rat studies in this section – great for their sex lives. Worth a try, though!
Salty, fun to play with, and enjoyable to overconsume. And that’s just the eating – who knew that pistachios were also useful in the bedroom?
Pistachios are good for erectile dysfunction. (Or, well, bad for erectile dysfunction, more like.)
They’re also high in vitamin B6, which is an essential vitamin for reducing stress. If there’s one thing that kills sex, it’s stress.
(I can’t do it. Make your own nuts joke.)
Maca isn’t quite as easy to find as chocolate and pomegranates – at least in its standard form. It’s a starchy root from Peru, and just about anything can be made from it. Mashed maca, maca flour, and maca cookies all exist. It’s basically a cousin of the potato.
Aside from being a staple of the Peruvian diet, it has a long history of being an aphrodisiac. Its sexual claims run from improving sperm count to helping with menopause, and even to shrinking enlarged prostates.
Much like the antioxidants in pomegranates and the zinc in chocolate, maca has plenty of important nutrients. Fiber, copper, iron, and vitamin C are all found inside this root veggie.
While you might not be able to saunter over to your corner grocery store to buy maca root, note that many other countries have caught on its many benefits. You can instead saunter to just about any drug store or health store and buy it in powder form.
5. Red Wine
There’s more than one reason the bar is an excellent place to find a hookup. Alcohol lowers inhibitions and gets us in the mood.
Red wine, though, is unusual in being an alcoholic beverage that actually might make things better in the sex department – and it has a multitude of other good effects, to boot.
Drinking red wine improves women’s sexual health. It helps with blood flow, lubrication, and a general desire to have sex. If you’re looking to put her in the mood, pour her a glass of red, open a bar of dark chocolate (with pistachios), and dim the lights. This seductive trio – and you too, champ – will have her ready in no time.
Don’t think this one is just for the ladies, though! Red wine increases testosterone, which, as you probably know, is essential for a healthy libido. Low testosterone leads to erectile dysfunction and reduced sex drive.
And, an easy one – alcohol reduces anxiety. There’s a reason we say alcohol is a social lubricant; it lowers your inhibitions and cuts your acute anxiety. All of those things help in the bedroom, too: stress and anxiety are not conducive to great sex.
But wait – stop chugging the Cabernet!
Of all aphrodisiacs, with red wine, you absolutely need to consume in moderation. The tipping point from frisky to tipsy is a fine one, and you might find yourself unable to get it up – or finish – if you have too much.
And if you’re already there, better luck next time. Best to sleep it off.
Eating for a Healthy Body – and a Healthy Libido
Maybe it’s the aphrodisiacs, maybe it’s your state of mind – or maybe it’s both. Sometimes just thinking that something will turn you on is enough to get the job done.
One thing is for sure, though: the healthier you are, the better you’re going to perform. Eating enough zinc and magnesium is a great place to start, in case you need to normalize deficient levels. From there, you can refine your diet to guarantee you’re on the top of your sexual game.
In the meantime, uncork a bottle of red wine and relax. The ritual of eating a fancy dinner with a fine wine calms everyone’s nerves – and puts you in the mood to last all night.
Gerard Paul writes about food and drink at ManyEats. While he enjoys all the foods on the list, he’ll readily admit that wine is usually the closest at hand.