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Do Aphrodisiacs Really Work?

By Matty Silver, Sex Therapist on August 18, 2015 in Other

Photo: York Hunt

Photo: York Hunt

For as long as humans have been having sex, aphrodisiacs have been popular. The word aphrodisiac was named after Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of love, desire and beauty, and they have been used by many cultures since ancient times. Curiosity continues today and clients often ask me if I know of any aphrodisiacs that might help them improve their sex life.

The association between food and eroticism is important, but do we know which foods have more aphrodisiacal qualities than others, if they actually work at all?

The most popular aphrodisiac is the oyster, made famous by the legendary 18th-century lover Casanova, who is supposed to have eaten 50 oysters every day for breakfast. Oysters look like female genitalia and are high in zinc, a nutrient that was lacking in people’s diets in those days. Oysters are said to raise testosterone levels in men and they also contain levels of dopamine, a neurotransmitter that stimulates sexual arousal.

In ancient India, young men would eat goat testicles that had been boiled in milk to act as an aphrodisiac. In parts of Asia, fresh snake blood or bat blood is popular, as are deer, tiger penises, shark fins and ground rhinoceros horn, which has put some of these animals at risk of extinction.

For centuries, figs were looked on as one of the most luscious fruits, because when they are split down the middle, the pink flesh resembles a woman’s vulva.

The phallic shape of bananas makes them very suggestive; they were the earliest cultivated fruits in India. Their sexy reputation extended to many other cultures, and according to some Islamic stories, the banana, not the eapple, was the forbidden fruit in the Garden of Eden. Bananas are packed with potassium and vitamin B12 to elevate energy levels and also contain bromelain, an enzyme that triggers testosterone production.

According to Greek mythology, the first pomegranate tree was planted by Aphrodite. Bursting with ruby red seeds when sliced open, the fruit has long been associated with reproduction and fertility. Studies show the pomegranate’s antioxidants increase blood flow and testosterone levels.

Dark chocolate contains the mood-lifting brain chemicals phenylethylamine and serotonin, which act on the pleasure area of the brain to give a happy and positive feeling.

The aromas of cayenne pepper, ginger and garlic are also known to stimulate the arousal centres in the brain, and garlic’s anti-clotting properties may also affect libido by increasing blood flow to the brain and sex organs. For women, parsley and truffles have aromas that are very much like androstenol, a pheromone responsible for men’s sometimes musky body smell, which is known to influence female arousal.

So what do I tell my clients? Regardless of whether aphrodisiacs work, the power of suggestion is the key. If a person believes that using any particular substance will help enhance his or her sex life, then it can help bring about sexual desire and arousal.