Aphrodisiacs: from chocolate to beetles to the Spanish fly

Tuesday, April 7th, 2009

According to certain cultures, the testes of the poisonous pufferfish, coupled with the penis of a tiger could make a potent sexual aid.

Unfortunately for the average Joe and Jane, ingesting the junk of random animals is unlikely to increase your sex drive. Nonetheless, mere science could not prevent me from testing out some of the more interesting myths surrounding aphrodisiacs.

First, one must find a list of aphrodisiacs. Weldon has several books listing many of different aphrodisiacs and sexual aids. I would strongly recommend Dr. Raymond Stark’s The Book of Aphrodisiacs. You can also search for aphrodisiacs online, though I’d recommend doing it at home, away from the prying eyes of Western web content filters.

Next is the task of narrowing down the list. The aforementioned book contains hundreds of different sexual aids. Some, such as the Ke Shang T’ing Chang (a species of blister beetle used as aphrodisiacs when dried) can be eliminated from the list because finding the ingredient may be impossible. In my case, certain substances had to be removed from the list for legal reasons (apparently importing coca and cannabis for research purposes is frowned upon).

So after this is all said and done, you should have a somewhat condensed list of aphrodisiacs to try out. Be sure to thoroughly research your choices, as many of the so-called aphrodisiacs out there can be extremely harmful, perhaps making you more “stiff” than you had hoped.

An example would be the famous Spanish Fly (or cantharides), used by notable figures in history like Henry IV, Louis XIV and the Marquis de Sade.

According to historical recordings, Sade fed pastilles laced with cantharides to prostitutes at an orgy in 1722. They died, and he barely avoided execution " hardly the sexy party Sade expected.

So instead of accidentally poisoning the object of your affection, try oysters, chocolates, strawberries, ginseng root and truffles " all are relatively common and non-lethal.

As for my personal experience with aphrodisiacs, I’m at a loss. Perhaps it’s something personal, but they were relatively ineffective. Then again, it’s not exactly easy to convince random strangers at Jack’s to eat oysters.

So for the edible aphrodisiacs, I must confess complete failure. To my knowledge, buying chocolates, strawberries and truffles can always increase your chances of scoring in the sack, but that would seem to be more of a mating ritual than anything biological.

But one must still question why so many cultures throughout history note the prevalence of aphrodisiacs.

In his book, Dr. Stark speaks to some of the reasons why certain foods may be perceived to have aphrodisiacal properties.

For the most part, Dr. Stark believes it is the nutritional content of a food consumed over the long-term that is mostly responsible for an increased sex drive.

“Fish,” Dr. Stark writes, “is believed to be functional as a brain food as well as a potency aid, since it contains plenty of phosphorous and other important substances which may be safely considered a fine long-term stimulant of the genital region.”

Stark goes on to note several other foods that, when consumed over the long-run, will promote a highly nutritious diet and a better sex drive as a result.

Additionally, Stark notes several irritants being given the aphrodisiac moniker.

“In the old writings of India, men were told to rub the phallus vigorously with the bristles of certain insects ... It was claimed that the swelling produced by this procedure would last forever.” Of course, the swelling did not last forever, and the painful rashes left by the “aphrodisiac” would have killed the bedroom mood for a little while.

So does science believe in the power of aphrodisiacs?

Peter V. Taberner notes in his book, Aphrodisiacs " The Science and The Myth, “Modern medical and scientific opinion has tended to dismiss [aphrodisiacs] and conclude that no such substance, in the classical sense, can exist.”

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