Samui Wining & Dining
Love Food
Edible aphrodisiacs have been stimulating our love lives for thousands of years..



We’ve all done it (well, the girlies amongst us have anyway). Prepared a romantic meal for a love interest, complete with candles, good wine and housemates kicked out for the evening. We’ve used our best recipes, shelled out on strawberries and generally dressed to impress. And we’ve normally picked the food we can cook well or what might look best, without thinking about what effect the food itself could have. But there’s really no need to take unnecessary risks in that area, what with the wealth of aphrodisiac food available (almost) guaranteed to get results.

An aphrodisiac is a substance, normally food or drink, that’s said to enhance sexual desire. For some of us, in our younger days, this simply meant a shared bottle of whisky, but there’s so much more to it than that. The term ‘aphrodisiac’ comes from Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of sexuality and love, when she rose from the sea on an oyster and gave birth to Eros. Oysters were thus the first aphrodisiac food and probably the first one most people would name if asked.

Aphrodisiacs have been used throughout history and in almost every culture. The emphasis in the early days was firmly on fertility and sexual performance rather than passion, with all types of substances experimented with by the Romans to see if they’d enhance sexual performance and make conception more likely. And even before then, Babylonians used to increase their mojo by cutting off the head of a partridge, eating its heart and drinking the blood mixed with water. In Ancient Greece, as Aphrodite’s symbol was a sparrow, the Greeks used to eat the brains of these birds in an attempt to increase virility.

      Food has been seen as an aphrodisiac throughout the ages for all kinds of reasons. It could be because of the particular item’s phallic shape, such as asparagus spears. Or because it came from an animal associated with strength and virility (soup made from dried tiger penis is a well-known and still much sought-after aphrodisiac in China, Taiwan and South Korea). Or simply because of the ritual of presenting the food, in a romantic setting with expectations running high.

     So pretty much anything can be an aphrodisiac if it’s presented properly, with most scientists nowadays saying that the supposed power of aphrodisiacs only coming from their placebic effect. If you actually believe that the food is ‘sexy’, and you present it as such, it’s likely to have an effect on the overall mood, which, in turn, is likely to lead to romance later on. But all that’s far too scientific for something as romantic as romance. It’s much more fun to believe in the mystic power of aphrodisiac foods and to serve your prospective partner oysters in a candlelit setting. And, if things go according to plan, you can claim that it was because the aphrodisiac really worked.

     If you’re thinking of trying your luck with aphrodisiac foods, here are some of the popular choices.

For fruit, there’s the avocado that contains the vitamin B6, which is said to increase the production of male hormones. Avocados also have potassium which helps regulate the thyroid gland in women. And the shape of the fruit also helps enhance its reputation as an aphrodisiac, with the Aztecs calling the avocado tree a ‘testicle tree’ because of the way the fruit hangs on the branches.

     Strawberries are also popularly associated with romance, with their heart shape and their red colour suggesting passion. The Romans thought that strawberries helped sexual passion, whilst the French used to serve newlyweds cold strawberry soup to help the honeymoon go with a swing. Or you could try bananas, an obvious shape-related aphrodisiac and one that contains plenty of potassium, which is said to boost libido and help with general well-being. And then there’re figs, which was Cleopatra’s favourite fruit and thought to increase fertility because of the hundreds of seeds contained within every single one.

      And vegetables have also been used as aphrodisiacs for centuries. The aforementioned asparagus is probably the best known because of its shape, but it also contains vitamin E, which is to generate an increase in sex hormone production. The ancient Greeks believed carrots were a sexual stimulant, as did the Roman emperor Caligula who fed a banquet of carrot dishes to the Senate to distract them. And even the humble potato has a history of having an aphrodisiac effect, even being referred to as ‘apples of love’ in Shakespearean times.

      How you flavour your food can also have an effect. Chili peppers contain capsaicin, which raises the pulse, stimulates the nerve endings and releases endorphins, giving the body a natural high. And garlic has the same effect, although it might be advisable to make sure both partners have some if you’re planning a romantic meal (having only one garlic-breath would definitely be an anti-aphrodisiac). Then there’s basil, which promotes circulation and is said to a particularly effective aphrodisiac for women.

      And if the idea of dried tiger penis or crushed powdered rhino horn doesn’t do it for you, you’ll be happy to learn that chocolate, wine and champagne are also on the aphrodisiac list. Chocolate has a strong association with romance (it’s often given as a present on St. Valentine’s Day) and it contains chemicals that are scientifically known to produce endorphins. Studies have shown that drinkers of one or two glasses of red wine a day have a higher libido than those who don’t. And the smell of certain types of dry champagne has been likened to the scent of female pheromones.

     Getting back to the romantic meal, if you want to push the mood up a notch with an aphrodisiac menu, try starting off with a glass of good red wine and some strawberries dipped in dark chocolate. Then move onto a soup starter, maybe oyster and brie or a cauliflower soup with basil or pesto. For a main course, serve garlic chicken with potatoes, asparagus and carrots – with oysters and champagne to whet the appetite whilst the chicken’s in the oven. You can also serve a salad with plenty of basil, although ancient scholars in the art of aphrodisiacs recommend avoiding lettuce and dill. Dessert is easy – anything with bananas, strawberries, raspberries, almonds, vanilla ice-cream or chocolate will finish the meal off nicely. And, finally, pour your intended another glass of red ...


Lisa Cunningham

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