A nibble here, a lick there, and your sexual frustrations are solved.
Libido- or performance-enhancing foods, or aphrodisiacs, were first used for sexual enhancement by the ancient Greeks. The word aphrodisiac actually stems from the lusty goddess of love in Greek mythology, Aphrodite.
Thousands of years later, aphrodisiacs are still used in the hope that they’ll lend some of their namesake’s potent sex appeal and appetite to their consumers.
I’ve built a whole career around the idea [that aphrodisiacs work], so yes, I think they do, said Amy Reiley, a self-proclaimed aphrodisiacs advocate. It’s become a household word, which kind of blows my mind because it really wasn’t when I started.
And Reiley’s done the legwork. The author of Fork Me, Spoon Me: the sensual cookbook, Reiley holds a Master of Gastronomy from France’s legendary Le Cordon Bleu. She’s been studying and writing about aphrodisiacs for 10 years.
But the idea that certain foods can have a powerful effect on your sex life hasn’t settled well in the scientific community’s stomach. Research in the field has been generally inconclusive, but recent studies have returned promising results for those toying with the concept of edible erogeny.
Last month, researchers at the University of Guelph reviewed about 150 international aphrodisiac studies from over the last 10 years.
Their results boosted the aphrodisiac reps of saffron and ginseng, both of which were consistently shown to enhance sexual performance.
Reiley also preaches the gastronomic gospel of chilli peppers. She says they’re great if your goal is to seduce someone and go straight from the table to the bed, because they raise body temperature and make lips swell, making you look more kissable.
The medicine chest has really moved from the bathroom to kitchen table, said food-science professor Massimo Marcone, who co-authored the Guelph study.
However, the researchers also gave their two cents on purported aphrodisiacs that they say don’t work, like chocolate and alcohol.
Marcone says ingredients in chocolate like phenylethylamine can affect serotonin and endorphin levels in the brain, so can improve mood but not necessarily sexual desire or performance.
By the same token, they found alcohol inhibits sexual performance, despite its clear mental benefit in lowering inhibitions.
However, Reiley disagreed with the Guelph study’s results.
The study was completely flawed, said Reiley. First of all, they didn’t really define too specifically what they were calling an aphrodisiac or how it affected the body. It also wasn’t inclusive of some of the ways that foods affect the body.
The science behind aphrodisiacs is still as fuzzy as a shellfish beard. But with research and interest in aphrodisiacs growing, perhaps a Casanova-worthy breakthrough isn’t far off.
I suspect that the field will go toward a focus on using food for a better sex life. To support your libido, change your diet. And to be a generally happier, healthier person, because a change in sex life comes along with that, said Reiley. I’m a firm believer in try anything once. My rules are, if it’s not moving and I’ve never had it as a pet, then why not?
Check out Reiley’s guide to aphrodisiacs if you’re looking to experiment.