What Is an Aphrodisiac?

by Emma Maidens

on Dec 22, 2022

Searching for a reason to make oysters part of your weekly meal plan? Look no further.

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The term aphrodisiac traces its origins back to the Greek goddess of love, Aphrodite.

Aphrodite was the goddess of beauty, love, passion and procreation. A pretty hot combination, if you ask us. Aphrodisiacs defined incorporates foods or substances that increase sexual performance or libido.

The slight variation in aphrodisiac definition means that determining what is considered an aphrodisiac can depend on your interpretation. Some common aphrodisiacs have more scientific backing, while others may owe their reputation to the placebo effect.

When it comes to actually improving sexual performance, it’s easier to measure the results. Think Viagra, a medication that stimulates blood flow to the penis, resulting in erections that are stronger and last longer.

On the other side of the aphrodisiac spectrum are foods that may improve libido and sexual desire. Unfortunately, sexual desire requires self-reporting, which is a notoriously unreliable scientific method.

For this reason, luxury foods (like oysters), and foods that resemble sexual organs (also like oysters) don’t have the same scientific backing as other aphrodisiacs.

This doesn’t mean they don’t work, though. The brain is an often-neglected sex organ - your mental state has a huge effect on whether or not you’re in the mood.

Indulging in delicacies with your partner at a romantic dinner may have positive psychological effects that lead to increased arousal and benefits in the bedroom. If it works for you, don’t let science tell you otherwise.

Top aphrodisiacs

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Some natural aphrodisiacs are found in supplements and herbs and have studies to show possible positive effects on libido and sexual performance.

Maca

Usually bought in powder form, Maca is a root that grows in harsh conditions in the Andes, making it a natural aphrodisiac. Once eaten by shepherds and their livestock, today Maca is used as a natural remedy to increase stamina and balance hormones in people experiencing menopause.

Studies have reported benefits of taking Maca in both penis and vulva owners, so try adding a spoonful into your daily smoothie and reap the rewards.

Gingko biloba

Studies are more conclusive when it comes to gingko biloba’s effect on our sex lives. This herb is used to promote circulation, with many using it for its positive effects on cognitive performance.

More than just a brain booster, improved circulation is a bonus in the bedroom too. Increasing blood flow around your body means your genitals and other sensitive areas may find it easier to come alive during sex.

Note that gingko biloba can interact with blood thinners. It’s always best to consult a health care professional before adding supplements into your diet.

Red ginseng

Ginseng works in a way similar to Viagra, relaxing muscles and improving blood flow to the genital region. It can be bought in vitamin form and has more scientific studies to back the claims than many other aphrodisiacs.

Foods

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Aphrodisiac foods don’t have as much scientific backing to support claims they can increase sexual performance, instead they’re often backed by centuries of lore and tradition.

Spice

Hot chilies contain a compound called capsaicin that gives them their spiciness. Capsaicin doesn’t just make your mouth hot though: some claim it increases testosterone and libido.

While studies on the legitimacy of this claim aren’t strong, there are other ways adding spice to your diet may help with sex.

When we eat spicy foods with chili peppers, there’s a few things that happen to your body. Your heart rate increases, you may begin to feel warm all over, and endorphins can be released.

These effects can all play a part in putting you in the mood for a spicy session in the bedroom. Just don’t overdo it, as downing a large glass of milk to ease the fire in your mouth may douse the fire all around.

Luxury

Luxury foods that are considered expensive or hard to acquire are often believed to be aphrodisiacs for women and men alike. Oysters fall into this category, as do truffles and caviar.

While the thrill of having these delicacies may have more to do with getting you excited than anything else, oh well. Ditching the steak and veggies and treating yourself to a special night of luxury foods may have you wanting to continue the celebration long after leaving the restaurant.

Texture and look

While there’s little to no scientific backing on the use of more of the classic aphrodisiac foods, it can’t hurt to try, right? Eating and sex often begin with the eyes, so it stands that food that reminds of sex will get you ticking.

Foods that resemble our sexual organs are often reported to get us in the mood. Think oysters, artichokes and fresh figs, which are similar in shape to vulvas, or spears of asparagus for more phallic-shaped options.

In many cases, sexual performance relies on your psychological state. We know stress reduces libido, or that self-doubt in your abilities can often throw you off your game mentally.

So as much as science likes to tell us what to do, if eating something specific gets you in the mood, then that’s an aphrodisiac for you. Just don’t overdo the asparagus if you’re into golden showers.

A note on alcohol

While we all know that one glass of alcohol can have relaxing effects and relieve you of certain inhibitions, you definitely don’t want to overdo it.

Too much alcohol will have the opposite of the desired effect (negatively impacting sexual performance). Instead, lip, sip and suck a hangover-free alternative. Cocktail-flavoured lubes have all the taste and none of the headaches.

How to incorporate aphrodisiacs into play

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Introducing aphrodisiacs into your routine isn’t as messy as it may seem. Sure, you don’t want to be feeding your partner chocolate dipped strawberries between the sheets, but luckily there’s other ways to do this.

Your senses have a lot to do with getting in the mood, so don’t neglect them. Stimulating your smell, taste and touch senses can all help you feel more aroused.

Why not delight them all and avoid attracting any ants in the process?

Scent

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Scents are renowned for evoking feelings within us or reminding us of past times in our lives. Whether it’s a certain food, flower or perfume.

Try lighting a specific candle in the bedroom, or any other room, when you want to set the mood. Choose a scent that ideally you and your partner both enjoy, so avoid polarising fragrances like coconut or vanilla and opt for something more subtle.

Taste

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While covering your partner’s body in strawberry sauce may not be feasible (although hey... there’s always a shower), there are alternatives.

Introduce a flavoured lubricant to oral sex to stimulate your taste sense. Enjoyed an aphrodisiac laden dinner but missed dessert? Wrap your lips around options like crème brulee or tiramisu.

The jury may still be out on whether the cacao found in dark chocolate helps improve libido, but you can still incorporate it with a chocolate flavoured lube.

Touch

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Touch is oh so important for getting in the mood, and this doesn’t just apply to our sexual organs. Engaging in massage before you get down and dirty can relax all involved, which may lead to better sexual performance.

Massage oils have come along way, and now offer options safe to kiss and lick. Relaxing scents like lavender may be perfect after a stressful day of work, or nostalgic scents like strawberry or vanilla can have you dreaming of summer days and ice-cream dripping down your partner's chin.

Word of advice don’t only offer massage with the expectation it will lead to more fun. If it does, it’s just an added benefit.

Fact or fiction?

Whichever definition you consider to be the true aphrodisiac meaning (increased performance or increased desire), ultimately the best things you can consume for a better sex life are healthy and balanced meals.

A lot of claims relating to aphrodisiacs come from the specific properties the foods contain, like antioxidants.

By prioritising a diet that contains plenty of fresh produce and prioritises maintaining your health, your sex life will benefit too. But hey, an oyster or six never hurt anyone either.

Emma Maidens

Written by Emma Maidens.

Originally published on Dec 22, 2022. Updated on Jan 10, 2023
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