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Love potions

Through the ages, a range of food, spices and potions have been considered powerful aphrodisiacs, some sinfully delicious and others simply too awful to contemplate.

13 Feb 2007

According to Greek mythology, Aphrodite, goddess of love and sexuality, emerged from the sea bearing herbs that could cure impotence, enhance sexual pleasure and give rise to love and fertility – the origins of the word aphrodisiac.

Nowadays, most aphrodisiacs bar a few exceptions, are packed with nutritional goodness, so by including them in your diet, you will not only be upping the love stakes, but you will also be adding to your general well-being.


There are hundreds of theories as to why this undeniably delicious delicacy deserves its reputation as being the ultimate method to get you in the mood. One theory suggests that the way in which oysters stimulate our senses has little to do with science and everything to do with their seductive appearance. On a more scientific level, these delectable creatures are low in fat and high in salt and glycogen, an essential element in muscle contraction.


This rare delicacy has earned its reputation as an aphrodisiac for a number of reasons. The eggs are symbols of fertility. Caviar is precious and expensive, and associated with luxury and celebration, both of which are romantic notions. It is also rich in vitamins and phosphorus and is said to nourish and enhance nerve cells, which help to heighten our romantic instincts.


Chillies and other spicy food are seen as aphrodisiacs because their effect on the body is similar to that of making love – you get all hot and sweaty. Chillies also contain capsaicin, which is responsible for the burning sensation. It stimulates nerve endings to release chemicals that trigger the release of endorphins and gives you a pleasurable feeling.


This vegetable is often considered an aphrodisiac but whether these claims can be backed up with chemical facts is not certain. Asparagus is rich in vitamin E, which is considered a sex-hormone stimulant so, even if asparagus does not get you in the mood, it is sure to give your health a boost. It is also packed with loads of goodness, thanks, largely, to the presence of the amino acid asparagine, known to be a strong diuretic. Asparagus also stimulates the kidneys, helps to clean the blood and is excellent for healthy bowel maintenance.

In addition, asparagus contains betacarotene, vitamins B1 and C, biofl avonoid and potassium. Some people have reported that it soothes a nervous mind, so perhaps it may not be a bad snack before a romantic rendezvous.


Truffles contain a chemical that is similar to the male pig sex hormone, which explains why sows are used to search for truffl es. The chemical in truffles is also similar to the human male sex hormone, which is where this delicacy’s romantic reputation originated.

French food expert Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin surmised that, although the truffl e is not exactly an aphrodisiac, it has the tendency to make women more tender and men more likeable. Medieval peasants were so convinced of the erotic powers of truffl es that they went as far as dedicating them to Venus, the Roman goddess of love and beauty.


In ancient Greece, figs were associated with fertility and love and ritual lovemaking followed the arrival of every new crop. Although many say figs are a powerful sexual stimulant, no chemical reason for this has been established. Figs have many nutritional virtues though. They contain vitamins A, B and C and more fibre than any other fruit or vegetable. They are also rich in iron, calcium and potassium and contain no fat, sodium or cholesterol.


This wicked snack is widely considered to be the king of aphrodisiacs. The love of chocolate is often associated with the feeling of euphoria that envelopes you after consuming a little of this sweet indulgence. This feeling has been attributed to ethylxanthines, which are said to be responsible for stimulating, transmitting and conducting nerve impulses.

Chocolate also contains a substance related to caffeine, theobromine, which increases feelings of wellbeing and satisfaction. The higher the cocoa content, the stronger the aphrodisiac properties, so choose dark chocolate to maximise the effect. Chocolate is high in magnesium and boasts more antioxidants than red wine – a good enough excuse to indulge once in a while.


Bananas are rich in vitamin B6, believed to aid the production of sex hormones. They also contain the bromelain enzyme, which is said to improve male libido. Research has shown that the serotonin and norepinephrine found in bananas are natural antidepressants and could make you feel amorous. This humble fruit is also rich in vitamin C, magnesium and potassium and is an excellent source of fi bre. Potassium helps to regulate blood pressure and can reduce the risk of stroke and heart disease. Bananas are easy to digest and contain plenty of carbohydrates, the body’s main source of energy.


Alcohol is generally considered the most common and widely used substance to increase desire. It does, however, have distinct drawbacks. This line from Shakespeare’s Macbeth probably says it best: " provokes and unprovokes, it provokes the desire but takes away from the performance."

Therein lies the rub with this powerful mood enhancer. In moderate amounts it relaxes, and helps to reduce inhibitions. In larger quantities it leads to erection problems in men and difficulty in reaching orgasm in women.

- Ideas


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