We’ve all heard about the power of aphrodisiacs; foods that can naturally improve your sex life and help get you “in the mood”. But how much of what you’ve heard is true versus just being an old wives tale?
Before we get into looking at specific foods, we have to talk a little bit about what causes sexual desire. Your body’s testosterone levels are directly linked to the strength of your libido, and if those levels are off in any way, you may notice things not happening the way they should (this is true for both men and women). In a perfect world, sexual desire starts with a physical and/or mental stimulation that causes a dilation of blood vessels in the male and female sex organs, along with an accelerated heart rate. The brain also releases more dopamine into your system which tells you that what you’re feeling is positive and pleasurable.
So it looks like two of the main ingredients for sex drive are testosterone, and good blood flow. But do any of the foods classically thought of aphrodisiacs effect either of these? Let’s find out!
Certain foods started being thought of as aphrodisiacs simply due to having a similar shape to either penises or vaginas. Avocados fall into this category for sure; and could be compared to either. The ancient Aztecs referred to Avocado trees as “testicle trees”, while at the same time the sensual pear shape of the fruit could easily be compared to sexy lady parts. While this alone doesn’t scientifically qualify them as aphrodisiacs, avocados have been found to release vitamin E, which boosts your hormonal response to sexual stimulation. They also have been linked to increased sperm counts in men.
Watermelons became known as an aphrodisiac fairly recently, after several studies found that their test subjects saw an increase in “mounting frequency” after consuming the fruit. This was due to watermelon causing blood vessels to relax, increasing blood flow, and therefore helping get and maintain erections. However, there’s two things you should know. First, the relaxation of blood vessels occurred throughout the entire body, and was not specific to the sex organs. Second, the study was done on rats, not humans.
As an aphrodisiac, artichokes have a lot of history. According to Greek mythology it was Zeus himself that created the artichoke by transforming a young woman into one after she rejected his advances. England’s Henry VIII was known to eat large quantities of them specifically for their aphrodisiac effects. And in the 16th century, artichokes were thought to be such a potent aphrodisiac that women were actually banned from eating them! So is there any actual scientific evidence to support this folklore? Not really. Artichokes may be an incredibly healthy vegetable, but won’t specifically do anything to increase your sex drive.
Now this one is crazy. Licorice isn’t always the most popular flavor, but apparently it can make a huge difference in a man’s sexual response. People have been using it as an aphrodisiac for a long time, and licorice actually has been found to increase testosterone levels in the bloodstream. But a recent study from the Smell and Taste Treatment Research Foundation found that just the mere smell of licorice was enough to increase blood flow to a man’s penis by 13%! That percentage increased to 31.5% when the smell of licorice was combined with that of a doughnut. So check your local bakery for licorice flavored doughnuts, and see what happens!
Other than being surprisingly good for your heart, chilli peppers don’t have much to contribute to your overall health. This is largely because they’re usually eaten in such small quantities. But they’ve long been thought of as an aphrodisiac. Why? Well think about the reaction you have when eating a chilli pepper – increased body temperature, heart rate, sweating – you’re basically mimicking sexual arousal. They’re also known to release endorphins, making you feel happy. So while chilli peppers may put you in the right mindset, but the rest will be up to you.
Yes, you read that correctly; arugula. It may seem strange, but this leafy green will do a lot for you when it comes to sex. It is packed full of vitamins A, and C, which play a big part in the production of male and female sex hormones. Additionally, arugula is a good source of zinc and magnesium, both of which work well to increase blood flow in the pelvic region. Arugula has also been found to lower the production of “libido-reducing contaminants” in your body, which could make you much more receptive to some of the other foods on this list!
People love to talk about the aphrodisiac nature of chocolate. While it may contain chemicals that can help increase arousal, the levels of these chemicals are considered too small to have any real effect. Chocolate does, however, cause your brain to release dopamine into your system which makes you feel good and happy. This may naturally lead you to seek out more ways to feel good, which could easily lead to sex. But as far as science is concerned, that’s no guarantee.
Oysters will always find their way on to any list of aphrodisiac foods. Much like artichokes, oysters have a long history as an aphrodisiac, going all the way back to the second century! The difference here is, that oysters have more to offer you in the arousal department. Oysters have high levels of zinc, which helps increase sperm production in men, and they also contain two unusual amino acids called D-aspartic (D-Asp) and N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA). These two acids have been found to increase the testosterone levels in your bloodstream, which we already talked about, can lead to a stronger libido and higher levels of sexual desire.
Although these foods may not be a scientifically guaranteed cure for erectile dysfunction, you won’t know unless you try. The science may not always be there to support the rumors, but sometimes just believing something’s going to work is enough to make it work.