Aphrodisiacs – foods that increase sexual desire and satisfaction – have understandably been a coveted item for thousands of years. But many of the original erotic edibles were nothing more than lustful legends. Stoked by the lure of foods that were just “new” or “exotic” to certain regions of the world or likening shapely produce to purported reproductive benefits, most cultures got the idea of aphrodisiacs very wrong over the years. Potatoes, for example, were considered an aphrodisiac in Europe soon after they were introduced in the 16th century. And phallic vegetables like carrots or seed-filled fruits like pomegranates were deemed fertility enhancers just a few hundred years ago.
Now, we have a bit more research at our disposal to discern the legitimate aphrodisiacs from the lore. (Spoiler alert: chocolate and oysters don't make the cut). In fact, the most studied and confirmed aphrodisiacs are primarily little-known herbs and plants, but there are still a few that you can easily add to your food. Keep reading to learn four foods that can actually help put you in the mood.
1. Maca Root
In its native region of Peru, Maca has long been used to enhance fertility, increase sexual arousal and balance hormones. As one of the most heavily researched aphrodisiacs in the world, studies have confirmed its real-deal abilities to augment all of the above for both men and women…and not to mention, it also increases overall strength and stamina as well.
2. Panax Ginseng
Chinese Medicine offers its fair share of aphrodisiac remedies and ginseng is a key component. Studies have shown promise in Ginseng's ability to aid erectile dysfunction, as well as magnify sexual arousal in women. Ginseng is also a great way to increase energy without caffeine, making it an attractive supplement all around.
3. Ginko Biloba
Another herbal extract stemming from Chinese Medicine, Ginko Biloba, can be considered an aphrodisiac for some people, though not all. Since Ginko works directly with the brain and its use of the neurotransmitter serotonin (which is, in part, responsible for sexual desire), those that have any kind of serotonin deficiency will notice a marked improvement in how they feel. Ginko is also an antidepressant, putting you in a good mood on every level.
4. Safed Musli
No, it's not just muesli that's safe – unfortunately, your favorite overnight oats won't help your bedroom activities (although they may be nice to have on hand the morning after)? Rather, Safed Musli is a long-revered Indian herb that has marked testosterone-like effects, helping with erectile dysfunction and increasing sexual vigor and arousal. Studies have shown several times over impressive results in libido enhancement, supporting all of Safed Musli's folklore fame.
Remember, there's a lot more to lighting up the internal fire than just these true aphrodisiacs. Choosing to pepper your menu with sweet treats or creamy sauces and dips; creating “mood lighting” through candles or dim lights; using music to enrich the audible environment; and scenting the air with inviting smells (vanilla, lavender, licorice and cinnamon are some of the most attractive) can help entice and arouse. Excite your senses!