You're planning a romantic night for that special someone. Everything seems aligned for passion -- there will be a full moon, flowers and the faint sounds of classical music on the stereo. That means this is no time for frozen dinners or Chinese takeout. You want a menu full of aphrodisiacs, or food items or herbs known for arousing sexual desire. Here's a list of things Cupid might serve if he were out of his love-inducing arrows.
No. 01 - Oysters
TWhile we've encountered quite a few aphrodisiacs on this list that resemble the male reproductive organs, the oyster has the privilege of representing the females. Oysters are perhaps the most famous of aphrodisiacs; even well known lover Casanova was said to eat them by the dozens.
Besides the imagery of genitalia and the association with Aphrodite (the goddess of love and beauty, for whom aphrodisiacs are named, sprang from an oyster shell), oysters possess massive amounts of zinc.
Without enough zinc, men's sperm count and fertility is affected. Oysters also pack a punch of iron; an iron deficiency could leave you too tired to be in the mood for love. However, if you already consume a balanced diet, it's unlikely that oysters will make that much of a difference. Still, there's no harm in trying, right?
No. 02 - Chocolate
There's a reason chocolate floods store shelves when Valentine's Day rolls around; it's long been thought to have aphrodisiacal qualities. However, such a multitude of chocolate may defeat the purpose, because chocolate was originally considered an aphrodisiac simply because it was so rare. Similarly, potatoes were once considered an aphrodisiac in Europe because they were so exotic.
But even if we're inundated with cheap chocolate, does that mean chocolate is a worthless Valentine's Day gift? Of course not. While some studies have linked chocolate lovers with higher libidos, it may be because of the effect chocolate has on your brain. Chocolate contains serotonin, a chemical that makes you happy and thus more inclined to show your partner some affection. It also has caffeine, which keeps you awake long enough to take care of business. But the real secret weapon in this sweet may be phenylethylamine, which is a natural neurotransmitter version of amphetamine. High levels of phenylethylamine are associated with love, while heartbreak can cause phenylethylamine levels to drop dramatically. But not so fast there, sugar tooth. Chocolate's critics say the phenylethylamine is too quickly digested to have any real effect in the bedroom.
No. 03 - Carrots
"What's up, Doc?" is a catchphrase made famous by one Bugs Bunny, who was frequently depicted nibbling on a carrot. If you nibble on a few carrots yourself, you just might find yourself up for some loving action. Carrots are a phallic symbol, and thus they hold power over some minds as a way to get the phallus into action. But it's worth considering the whole salad bar of options. There are numerous other vegetables that resemble phalluses, and don't forget a juicy tomato. The first Europeans to try tomatoes called them "love apples."
Carrots and the rest of a salad can do good things for you in the bedroom because they do good things for your body. Rather than feeling overly full and stuffed with unhealthy food, a salad will leave you feeling light and energetic. And I think we all know what having some extra energy can lead to.
No. 04 - Manly Members
The power of many aphrodisiacs relies upon a medieval philosophy known as the "Doctrine of Signatures." People believed that God designated his purpose for things by their appearance; for example, if an herb was meant to treat the liver, then it would resemble a liver. For that reason, many of the aphrodisiacs on our list resemble genitalia.
While certain aphrodisiacs on this list gain their status by resembling a phallus, this entry takes the idea one step further. In some cultures, it's encouraged to consume the actual penis of other animals. You might, for example, want to take a bite of tiger penis, should you want to emulate the masculine prowess that the tiger represents. Perhaps you associate certain animals, like dogs, with a particularly randy lifestyle. You might be interested in having a dog's reproductive organs. It's thought that by eating these animals' organs, you take on some of the animals' powers. There's no reason to stop with a phallus, though; Rocky Mountain oysters, or a bull's testicles, are also considered an aphrodisiac.
If you have doubts about eating another animal's penis, how about an animal that looks like your penis? Because a human male's penis is often likened to a snake, snake's blood has been used as an aphrodisiac, though some have made do with any long-tailed reptile's blood in a pinch.
No. 05 - The Myth of Rhino Horn
The power of many aphrodisiacs relies upon a medieval philosophy known as the "Doctrine of Signatures." People believed that God designated his purpose for things by their appearance; for example, if an herb was meant to treat the liver, then it would resemble a liver. For that reason, many of the aphrodisiacs on our list resemble genitalia, often phalluses.
While the horns of several animals, including those of the unicorn, have been touted as aphrodisiacs over the centuries, perhaps the most famous myth is that rhino horn is used for its aphrodisiacal properties. This myth has persisted in Western cultures despite significant educational efforts made by the World Wildlife Federation and other organizations.
In fact, rhino horn is used in Traditional Chinese Medicine to treat fever, high blood pressure, and other illnesses, but it is not used as an aphrodiac. Rhino horn from Asian and Africa, used for these medicinal purposes, commands thousands of dollars per pound, and demand for the product has led to the death of hundreds of rhinos each year until most Asian countries banned the sale and use of rhino horn.
No. 06 - Ginseng
Ginseng is an oft-used aphrodisiac in Asian cultures, but American researchers remain skeptical of its powers. Sure, ginseng means "man root," which certainly brings particular images to mind, and it has been shown to get animals aroused, but these results haven't been duplicated in studies with human subjects. If ginseng does have any aphrodisiac oomph, it might be due to the mild stimulation in energy that it can cause. After all, maybe the reason for your rut is a lack of lusty liveliness.
And just for fun, here's something you can pair your ginseng with: sparrow brains. Because Europeans considered sparrows to be exceptionally lustful birds, they made a point of eating their brains. If sparrows aren't your style, though, there are plenty of other products on this list to try.
No. 07 - Hot Peppers
Your heart is racing. Beads of sweat are starting to form. Blood is rushing through your body and you feel lightheaded.
Is it a response to a pretty girl or dreamboat guy walking into the room, or is it that Mexican food you just ate? The fact that spicy foods such as hot peppers mimic the sexual response has earned them a reputation as an aphrodisiac. As long as you're acting like you just had sex, you might as well have some, right? Sometimes extracts of cayenne and chilies are sold as an aphrodisiac, but the natural form is acceptable too.
Try a date at a restaurant with a hot and spicy menu, but try to refrain from jokes about "spicing things up." So far, no scientific studies have found bad jokes to be an aphrodisiac.
Here's an aphrodisiac NOT to try: Spanish fly, or the dried remains of beetles, has a long reputation as an aphrodisiac. Legend has it that Spanish fly draws blood to the sexual organs once it's excreted, but in actuality, it can burn the mouth, scar the urethra and kill a person (any of which may also kill the passion).
No. 08 - Yohimbe
Viagra is not an aphrodisiac by strict definition; presumably, your desire is already aroused if you're seeking out the little blue pill, and it's your performance that could use a little boost. However, many are interested in the properties of an herb called yohimbe, which has sometimes been marketed as an herbal Viagra.
The herb comes from the bark of a West African tree and has been shown to cause erections in men unable to achieve them. Yohimbe is thought to work by stimulating certain nerve centers in the spine that control erection and was approved for use in some prescription drugs.
However, if you receive a spam e-mail promising that an herbal supplement will do the job, be wary. In some instances, doctors say that the amount in over-the-counter products is not enough to do the job, and doubling up on doses won't help either -- too much yohimbe could result in death.
No. 09 - Pumpkin Pie
If you find yourself particularly amorous around Thanksgiving, it might be due to the dessert table. In studies conducted by the Smell and Taste Treatment and Research Foundation in Chicago, the scent of the Thanksgiving staple was found to increase penile blood flow by 40 percent. The scent was also found to increase sexual desire in women.
While the smell of pumpkin pie may conjure happy memories and a feeling of comfort and safety, it doesn't hurt that a few individual ingredients in the recipe help the process along. Cinnamon and vanilla have also been touted for their abilities as aphrodisiacs.
If pumpkin pie's not your specialty, the Chicago researchers found that a few other food items got a man's blood flowing, though to a lesser extent. The smell of cheese pizza increased blood flow to the penis by 5 percent, while buttered popcorn caused a 9 percent increase. Before heading off to the movies, you may want to stock up on licorice and cucumbers -- the combination of those scents caused the greatest amount of blood flow to the vaginal area.
No. 10 - A Breast-feeding Woman
If what we see in romantic comedies is true, then there's nothing more arousing to a single woman than attending a wedding alone. As the movies would have it, every available man from that point might as well be wearing a gigantic bull's-eye.
But according to a 2004 study conducted by researchers at the University of Chicago, the real aphrodisiac for women is the smell of a new mother and her baby. Women were given pads used by women while breastfeeding to smell. When smelling the pads used by lactating women, women who already had partners reported a dramatic increase in sexual desire, while single women experienced an increase in sexual fantasies. Smelling a fresh pad, untouched by mom or baby, did nothing for the women's sex drives.