At the beginning of February, in anticipation of Valentine’s Day, articles about aphrodisiacs start appearing. This is my first time approaching this topic and I wanted to see if there was anything different to bring to the discussion. The usual offerings are chocolate, oysters, alcohol, figs and honey. The science is limited on these foods.
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Aphrodisiacs, named after Aphrodite the Greek goddess of love, are any food or drugs that arouse sexual desire or pleasure. I offer three possible aphrodisiacs that are familiar for flavor but not arousal. And since all three have other health benefits, you cannot lose adding them to a Valentine’s Day dinner.
▪ Nutmeg has been used for its medicinal properties for more than 5,000 years. A scientific study published in 2005 demonstrated that nutmeg increased libido in male rats. Similar studies have not been done in humans. A 2012 study suggests that nutmeg has antibacterial properties and has the potential to inhibit the activity of oral bacteria. So even if it does not bump the libido it could decrease bad breath.
▪ Saffron is the dried stigma and styles of the saffron flower. This spice also has centuries of use as a coloring agent and medicinal ingredient. A rat study from 2008 showed a positive effect on sexual behavior after one dose. Saffron is an antioxidant used in Chinese medicine to improve circulation.
▪ Chili peppers create a lot of heat. Capsaicin is the main active compound in chili peppers and is responsible for their heat and health benefits. Chili peppers stimulate endorphins, the brain’s feel-good chemicals. They also speed up heart rate and make you sweat, which all mimic how you feel when you are aroused. Spicing your meals with chili peppers may also protect the fats in your blood from damage by free radicals.
So the bottom line is spicing up your food might also spice up romance. Maybe we should be using these every day.