Research done by the Health Professional Follow-Up Study found that regular exercise, weight loss, and weight maintenance were all “bedroom boosters”. Prescriptions, diet and exercise are considered science but the realm of aphrodisiacs are erroneously considered magic.
Some conservatives will claim that herbs and “potions” are witchcraft. It’s true that wise women who knew of medicinal cures long ago were thought of as witches—and sometimes burned at the stake for it. But cooking with aphrodisiacs is no more witchcraft than pharmaceuticals, nutrition or psychology.
The idea behind aphrodisiacs is that they aid in curing sexual inadequacies, whether those problems may be mental or physical. In reality, most aphrodisiacs are not true cures, but are herbs, vegetables and fruits rich in specific vitamins that heighten the body’s sexual functioning.
Hundreds of years ago, introducing a new exotic food into European culture from the Americas like chocolate or tomatoes did have a stimulating effect on the body, supplementing people with vitamins they normally wouldn’t eat. Exotic foods like coffee or rare foods like truffles were difficult to obtain, so eating a reputed aphrodisiac had nutritional benefits. A boost of Vitamin A, B, C, etc. can increase energy, stamina and overall well being. Small doses of caffeine increase energy.
Another way aphrodisiacs work is that they stimulate the psyche if one is eating a food or meal that reminds them of sexual organs such as bananas, asparagus, oysters or figs. In times of the past, people used food that symbolically resembled parts of a man or woman’s body in rituals, potions and cooking to inspire arousal. The subconscious isn’t a bad way to go. All seeds and nuts were symbols of fertility and virility because they represented male or female organs. Plants such as cucumbers, bananas and carrots are considered phallic because of their long, slender shape. Oysters and figs are symbolic of female organs.
Between the psychology and nutrition of aphrodisiacs, usually that is all one needs in order to benefit. But in some circumstances, the body needs more. Sometimes one needs something to enhance the libido. That is where true aphrodisiacs come in. Damiana, yohimbe bark, chocolate, and fava beans stimulate serotonin and dopamine and help decrease depression. Some plants have natural hormones or help increase hormones needed for sexual function such as soy which contains phytoestrogen for women, or ginko for men. Other herbs that promote circulation include ginger, and capsaicin (chili pepper).
In some cases when that isn’t enough, there are still other factors to examine such as exercise and medical conditions. For more information on this, see previous posts "Out of Order: 30 million American Men Battling Sexual Dysfunction" and "Out of Order: Sexual Dysfunction Solutions." More posts on aphrodisiacs are to come in the upcoming months.