Since it’s February – the month of love – let’s talk about aphrodisiac foods, natural products that help with libido and essentially…turn up the heat.
What does “Aphrodisiac” means?
The name comes from the Greek ἀφροδισιακόν, aphrodisiakon, “belonging to Aphrodite,” the Greek goddess of love, to whom men and women used to make offerings to enhance their love life.
Ancient civilizations such as the Chinese, Indians, Egyptians, and Romans established that certain spices and substances were necessary for reproduction — from performance and desire enhancers to herbs that ensured a healthy pregnancy. According to WebMD, historically, most aphrodisiacs have fallen into five general types:
- Spicy foods: Foods that create warmth were thought to arouse “heated” passion, while cold foods (like lettuce and purslane leaves) are supposed to “spice” desire.
- Foods that look like reproductive body parts: Foods that resemble male or female reproductive body parts were believed to increase desire. The infamous oyster is one example, as are some fruits and root vegetables like carrots.
- The remarkable reproduction hypothesis: Fish eggs (or roe) and bird eggs were thought to increase sexual desire and potency.
- Exotic foods: Foods considered rare (and consequently expensive) were believed to increase desire.
- Stimulate the senses: Foods that stimulate the senses (sight, smell, taste, and touch) in a pleasurable way were thought to stimulate passion.
Today, with the advancement of science and the development of synthetic products, food researchers have come up with those that can have the same effect when incorporated into a diet. Among them:
(Persea americana) The Aztecs called it ‘ahuacatl,’ meaning “tree of the testicles,” for what they perceived as its resemblance to that part of the male anatomy. It contains significant amounts of fiber, potassium, riboflavin, and vitamins C, B6, and E, necessary for hormone production, as well as the antioxidant lutein.
(Capsicum annuum) In its many sizes and shapes, Chile has been associated with libido because of the “rush” of heat they often produce. They also provide amounts of vitamins A and C, in addition to increasing metabolism by up to twenty-five percent after eating a chile-laced meal.
(Theobroma cacao) The most popular of Valentine’s Day gifts, chocolate was so prized for its flavor and invigorating effects that cocoa beans were used as money and even counterfeited during the Aztec empire. It is said that the emperor Montezuma drank fifty golden cups of chocolate a day to increase his libido and ensure the continuity of his lineage. A complex food source, chocolate contains theobromine, a substance related to caffeine, which explains the energy boost it provides, and phenylethylamine and serotonin, mood-boosting agents.
(Passiflora edulis) This is undoubtedly an example of associating food’s physical characteristics with fertility. The seeds have been universally taken as a symbol of fertility, and passion fruit is literally full of them, as well as a large amount of juice rich in vitamins A and C.
(Lepidium meyenii) Maca is a sweet root with several health benefits. In South America, people commonly use it to increase fertility, and its nickname is “the Peruvian Viagra.” It grows mainly in the mountains of central Peru and is related to cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower, kale, and cabbage.