Aphrodisiacs have been around since the dawn of time. If there’s a foodstuff that has a reputation as a sexual enhancer, people are going to try it.
But do they really work, or are we just fooling ourselves into believing those pre-dinner oysters will have some raw, primal power over us later that night?
Below, three experts offer their opinion on the effectiveness of common aphrodisiacs and explain how each food got their reputation.
First things first: What is an aphrodisiac and how do they interact with our bodies?
Typically, an aphrodisiac ― a term derived from Aphrodite, the ancient Greek goddess of love ― is defined as a food or other substance that causes arousal or sexual desire.
“There tend to be nutrients provided via these foods that improve the health of the sex organs as well,” said Kat Van Kirk, a sex therapist and the resident relationship and sex expert at AdamandEve.com. “The foods are said to increase sensations of arousal such as body temperature, heart rate or physical energy, making you feel more like having sex.”
Of course, a placebo effect may be at play, too; for instance, you heard figs impact your sex drive so you feel more inclined to want sex simply because you have high expectations for the fruit. Whatever the case, still worth a bite, right?
Watermelon had a reputation as an aphrodisiac long before Queen Bey sang about it drinking it on “Drunk On Love.”
It makes sense that people latch onto this one, said Diana Hoppe, a obstetrician and gynecologist and the author of Healthy Sex Drive, Healthy You: What Your Libido Reveals About Your Life.
“All that citrulline results in increased blood flow, blood vessel relaxation and sexual arousal,” Hoppe explained.
It sure sounds promising, but is it effective? Since citrulline is most concentrated in the rind of the watermelon, “you’d have to eat a lot of watermelon rind to get this effect to see a payoff,” Hoppe said.
Watermelon rind juice, anyone? Or better yet, watermelon rind pickles.
Chocolate is our go-to Valentine’s Day gift for good reason: it’s delicious, decadent and you’d be hard pressed to find a person who doesn’t like some type of it. (We see ― and want you ― pink chocolate.)
Is it effective as an aphrodisiac, though? Sadly, current studies suggest that chocolate has no statistically significant effect on libido, said Steve McGough, an associate professor of clinical sexology at the Institute for Advanced Study of Human Sexuality.
That said, chocolate contains chemicals like phenylethylamine, which may elicit feelings of excitement and general well being. Hopefully, you can parlay your good mood into some sexy time with your S.O., McGough said.