Understanding Aphrodisiacs: Science, history & psychology

by Shweta Thakur on Feb 09, 2023

Understanding Aphrodisiacs: Science, history & psychology

Aphrodisiacs — named after the Greek goddess of love, Aphrodite — are any food or drugs that arouse sexual desire (libido), fertility or pleasure. These substances could be natural - like cannabis (plant based) or Ambrien (non-plant based) or non-naturally occurring like MDMA or methamphetamine.

Historically, humans have basically been on a quest to get laid and produce progeny. Basically, har gaon ke har gali mein Genghis Khan ki aatma hai. This has resulted us in resorting to many methods and sometimes, beliefs, to find that one ultimate orgasm. From powdered rhino horn to toxic cocktails like Spanish Fly, we have tried it all.

Basically, aphrodisiacs work in 3 ways:

Physiological - By increasing blood flow, relaxing muscles or regulating hormones. Now it's important to understand that the male & female body is different - and hence, a physiological aphrodisiac will be different for the two forms.

Psychological - These are compounds with hallucinogenic properties which increase sexual desire. This is where MDMA, weed, etc come in.

Placebo - Our mind makes us believe that it's working. If you believe a food is going to increase your desire, the placebo effect will make you respond to it. Like chocolates.

Common Aphrodisiacs

Adaptogens - Adaptogens are known to reduce stress in the body and relax muscles. So a bunch of them work as a great physiological aphrodisiacs.

  • Ashwagandha - Reduces stress, has been clinically shown to improve sperm quality.
  • Maca - This South American herb improves sexual function for both genders and promotes ovulation in women.
  • Ginseng - Can work for both men & women. Some studies showed improved reproductive quality

Alcohol - Mild quantities loosen inhibition while large quantities impact performance. Red wine is known to be particularly effective on this front.

Weed - When the cannabinoid system attaches with THC, dopamine is released in our heads. Dopamine impacts the areas in our brain affecting sexual functioning.

MDMA & Co - Could increase desire, lower performance. Delays & hence, heightens the orgasms.

Natural supplements:

  • Horny Goat Weed (this is for real) - Flowering plant in China which they thought increased the libido of the goats chilling there
  • Yohimbine - Found in yohim tree bark in West Africa. It is approved for sale by FDA in US for sexual dysfunction drug. But it can have a little crazy side effects.
  • Ambrien - Secreted by the stomach of sperm whales (how ironic), known to increase testosterone levels

Food as aphrodisiac

There is limited proof that foods can be aphrodisiacs. However, some foods have compounds which can act as muscle relaxants, reducing inflammation - thereby increasing blood flow. This is similar to how Viagra works - but much much milder. Also, if there's no food around, and the body is starving, then that limits sexual desires.

There are reasons why some foods have been termed as aphrodisiacs:

  • Spicy stuff - Because they increase the temperature in your body, create arousal like signals - sweating, increased blood flow
  • Reproductive organs of animals - like bull balls, literally - because we believe it will improve our reproductive powers
  • Foods that resemble sexual stuff - fig, banana
  • Rare & exotic foods - Just the rareness of it heightens the pleasure received from it & makes you happy & desiring

Here's a few things you could eat to trigger the placebo effect :)

  • Chocolates - Releases oxytocin - which just generally makes us happy & a little more in love
  • Pomegranate - Shown to increase testosterone & sex drive in both men & women
  • Basil - People guess that it could be the smell - but no one really knows why this is an aphrodisiac

If you want to be 'always in the mood' changes to your diet helps. If you switch to a more Mediterranean kinda diet - more plants, more whole foods, less cooking - you could make long term affirmations to your body.

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