Turns out our ancestral peeps were pretty wack. They thought that eating all kinds of crazy foods would help them dial up the heat in the bedroom. Believe it or not, sometimes they were actually right! Read on to learn all about the most popular historical aphrodisiacs, and what foods might* just help spice up your love life.
*Again, that's MIGHT.
It was Pliny the Elder who first wrote that eating the feet of a skink gives you irresistible sexual appeal. I'm pretty sure it just gives you really bad breath. Still, in North Africa, parts of these lizards are still eaten as a performance enhancer.
Associated with abundance and female reproductive organs, the pomegranate was the sacred fruit of Aphrodite, goddess of love and gettin' freaky. The many seeds in these juicy red fruits meant that eating would make you extremely fertile... or something. Interestingly, a few modern studies have suggested that pomegranate juice may increase blood flow (which can help with arousal) and just might help with erectile dysfunction.
These were famously believed to increase desire, due to their resemblance to female genitalia. That's because of an old idea called the "doctrine of signatures," which proclaimed that if it looked like it, it was good for it. So carrots, for example, were considered good for male performance; the forked mandrake root, with its resemblance to a lady's spread legs, was seen as good for female infertility; and anything warm and moist and y'know, gross, was welcomed as a big turn-on.
One time a guy actually tried to use the whole oysters-are-aphrodisiacs thing on me as a pickup line. I was incredibly charmed, of course, by the parallel he drew between lady parts and seafood, and now we're married! JK, I told him to never ever speak to me again.
In the 18th century, Casanova (a real historical figure, in fact) claimed he ate 50 oysters for breakfast. Stop bragging, dude!
The Aztecs believed the avocado to have some pretty bangin' properties, which is probably why they called it the "āhuacatl," (that means "testicle" in their native language, Nahuatl. Seriously, check, it's in the dictionary.)
Turns out that they might not have been wrong. Avocados are packed with vitamin E, which helps your body produce sex hormones like testosterone, estrogen, and progesterone. They're the helpful little guys who swirl around in your bloodstream, helping your body do all the stuff it's supposed to do when you're aroused. Muy interesante.
Maybe because it's... sticky? Gross. Hippocrates prescribed honey as a tonic for sexual vigor, and the term "honeymoon" supposedly comes from an old custom where newlyweds drank mead, an alcoholic beverage made with honey, until the first moon of their new union.
The reality is that there's not much to claims of honey's aphrodisiac powers, other than the fact that it contains trace amounts of boron, which may help regulate hormone levels, and nitric oxide, which is released in the blood during arousal.
You know that saying "multiplying like rabbits"? Well, for the ancient Greeks, sparrows, not rabbits, were considered the most promiscuous animal. Like the pomegranate, these birds were sacred to Aphrodite; thus, parts of them (particularly their brains) were eaten as a method to improve the mood. Couldn't they have just lit a scented candle or something?
More like ASS-paragus, am I right? ...Okay yeah no, not really. There's nothing about this vegetable that I find sexy, especially not the weird pee smell. But the Greeks reference it in love poems, and the Kama Sutra recommends drinking asparagus paste pre-sexytimes. According to popular lore, Frenchmen ate three meals of asparagus, asparagus, and more asparagus the day before their wedding, hoping to pump up their libido for the big night.
True, its high calcium, vitamin E, and potassium content make this vegetable great for boosting energy, but there's no research supporting claims of it making people hornier.
Spices, Spicy Peppers, and Really Just Anything Spicy
"Hey babe, wanna come upstairs and check out my nutmeg collection?" Spices have long been a staple in the ranks of historical aphrodisiacs, because traditionally, they were extremely expensive, exotic imports – and obviously, expensive things are big turn ons (although maybe more so for gold diggers than the rest of us). The thought was "spicy at the dining table = spicy in the bedroom," more or less.
On the other hand, spicy food might just be a real thing in terms of aphrodisiac qualities. Hot peppers contain a substance called capsaicin, which increases circulation and stimulates nerve endings – and supposedly, this helps you get more turned on. Any Vinglers volunteer to test this out and report back?
A Jamaican specialty made from boiled goat head and entrails, mannish water is named for its supposed ability to make men more... mannish. It's a celebratory dish that's often served at weddings, for obvious reasons. I mean, come on guys; just hearing the word "entrails" is enough to put anyone in the mood for some good lovin'.
Natural aphrodisiac, or deadly poison? Besides oysters, Spanish fly might be the second most legendary aphrodisiac. It's made by mixing the crushed remains of blister beetles with water or alcohol, creating a drinkable substance that irritates genital membranes, a feeling that some mistake for arousal. (Apparently, some people have trouble telling the difference?)
Problem is, the active ingredient (a chemical called cantharidin) can also cause kidney malfunction or gastrointestinal hemorrhages in larger quantities. Worth it? ...Depends how desperate you are, I guess. Maybe just try some oysters.
The ancient Romans thought beets inspired amorous feelings. In fact, an ancient brothel unearthed in Pompeii was decorated with beet-themed frescoes. Meanwhile, in Greek mythology, Aphrodite (again) snacked on beets to make herself sexier. The goddess of love had it right; beets contain tryptophan and betaine, which can both give you feelings of well-being. The thing I find most pleasing about beets is their beautiful color – but I wouldn't exactly want magenta-stained teeth while I'm tryna mack.
The one time our ancestors were actually super right about something! Even 400 years ago, they knew that a little alcohol goes a long way in decreasing inhibitions and stimulating desire, while too much can be a performance killer. "It increases the desire but it takes away the performance," wrote Shakespeare in Macbeth. What a smart dude.
Today, we use alcohol in modern courting rituals such as the "drunken hookup," the "lowering of standards," and the "getting plastered and letting some weird guy grind on you."
Also, sorry I just used the word "lover." That was creepy.