Men and women have sought aphrodisiacs, agents that arouse or
increase sexual response or desire, since the beginning of time. Aphrodisiacs
may well be the one thing that crosses all barriers -- race, culture,
ethnicity, age -- making it unanimous: We all want to have better sex.
By Virginia Sole-Smith
Nothing makes me feel more overtly "married" than when I open up my wallet to pay at Home Depot and pull out the shiny blue debit card labeled, in big block type, SHARED. My husband, Dan, broke out the label maker two months after we got married to distinguish the cards linked to our joint account from the identical blue debit cards we use for our separate personal checking accounts. (And in the rush of newlywed excitement, it didn't occur to him to use a more discreet...
If you looked hard enough, you could find an authority for
almost any folk belief about the stimulating properties of a substance. And
although the Food and Drug Administration has determined that all these
non-medicinal approaches are ineffective, people still follow their heart's
desire in search of the perfect catalyst for love.
One category of foods that were thought to be aphrodisiacs are
foods that resemble genitalia. Eggs and caviar may come to mind, as well as
asparagus, celery, and onions. Clams and oysters also lay claim to aphrodisiac
qualities because of their shape and texture. Oysters, in fact, are high in
zinc -- a nutrient that was lacking in people's diets at one time; eating them
could improve a nutritionally deficient diet, thus improving a person's overall
health and increasing his or her sex drive.
Spicy foods have long been considered to be sexual stimulants.
There is some scientific truth to this claim in that foods that are heavily
spiced often contain capsaicin, the active ingredient in cayenne pepper. Eating
capsaicin can cause a physiological response -- increased heart rate and
metabolism, sometimes even sweating -- that is quite similar to the physical
reactions experienced during sex.
Okra is another reputed vegetable of love. Rich in magnesium,
it's a natural relaxant. It's also full of iron, folate, zinc, and vitamin B,
all nutrients that keep your sex organs healthy and happy. A little gumbo,
An herb very commonly associated with love is ginseng. Some say
ginseng is an aphrodisiac because it actually looks like the human body. (The
word ginseng even means "man root.") Studies have reported sexual
response in animals who have been given ginseng, but there is no evidence to
date of ginseng having any effect on humans.
Yohimbe is an herb found in Africa and India that for centuries
has been thought to possess aphrodisiac qualities. It works by stimulating
nerve centers in the spine, thereby improving the capacity for erection without
increasing sexual excitement. These days, some call it the herbal Viagra.
Unfortunately, there are side effects to taking this herb, which include
anxiety, weakness, overstimulation, paralysis, and hallucinations. Sounds like
a large price to pay for the possibility of better sex, don't you think?
No discussion of aphrodisiacs would be complete without mention
of Spanish fly, the most legendary of the love drugs, but also the most
dangerous. Spanish fly, or cantharides, is extracted from dried beetle dung.
Reported sexual excitement after taking Spanish fly stems from its ability to
irritate the urogenital tract, causing a rush of blood to the genital area. And
that's not the down side! Spanish fly is a poison that burns the mouth and
throat, and can cause urinary infections, scarring of the urethra, and in some
rare cases, death.