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Week 12-What are aphrodisiacs and do they work?

November 14, 2008


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Aphrodisiacs get their name from Aphrodite–the Greek goddess of love.  An aphrodisiac is believed to either attract sexual attention or enhance sexual activity, with every culture having a host of beliefs regarding their efficacy.

Aphrodisiacs get their reputation from various sources.  Some are simply associated with erotic shapes, such as oysters, asparagus and figs.  Exotic fruits and foods are sometimes elevated to the status of “aphrodisiac” by the mere fact that they are unusual. The virility and strength of certain animals erroneously links them to aphrodisiacs, such as the tiger for his penis or the rhino for its horn.

Before you go out to purchase endangered species’ organs, be warned:  aphrodisiacs are generally believed to not work beyond the placebo effect.

Some famous “aphrodisiacs”:

PomegranateFigs and pomegranate seeds were believed to be seeds of fertility.

lytta-vesicatoria, or Spanish FlySpanish fly, actually a bright green beetle, is reputed to have aphrodisiac qualities, but is actually an irritant called cantharidin. When ingested, eventually excreted, it causes a burning and swelling sensation in the urinary tract.

Hardly sexy.

OystersOysters are a notoriously favorite aphrodisiac, and research shows them to be source of zinc, a mineral essential to produce testosterone.

chocolateChocolate’s reputation probably stems form the sheer pleasure of consuming it, though its sweetness and fat content can stimulate the hypothalamus, inducing pleasurable sensations and levels of serotonin.

And don’t forget to eat celery.

While aphrodisiacs probably don’t work noticeably on a chemical level, they do offer sensual suggestion. Sight, smell, taste, and touch of foods can stimulate passion.

Being healthy and well-rested will probably do more for your libido than than these love aids.

Planned Parenthood of Northern New England’s Education Department carefully selects all weekly questions. All questions are actual inquiries made to PPNNE by college-aged students.

Should you have a question you would like to see included, please send an email to goddess@ppnne.org

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