amed after Greek love goddess Aphrodite, aphrodisiacs were identified by early civilizations and cultures that associated potency and virility with power and prosperity. Their fascination has lingered over millennia. Though science has yet to prove a link between rumored “romance remedies” and increased sexual performance, aphrodisiacs still thrive.
Sex can drive humans to brutal solutions. The extinction of the northern white rhino is due in part to the fine powder made from its horn as a potent aphrodisiac. Other nonsense includes consuming animal testicles and turtles’ eggs. Lack of evidence aside, the massacre continues.
Instead of decimating endangered species, the best way to heighten a romantic experience is simply to browse your pantry. Though science may shrug, some enzymes and vitamins contained in everyday foods do lend varying stimulant effects.
Italians like to think of themselves as fantastic lovers, ascribing their sexual prowess to their mamma’s cooking. If you agree, here’s an alphabetical index of Italian aphrodisiac ingredients to include in your next date night menu.
— Almond: The almond has been associated with fertility for centuries. Just ask anyone in the Sicilian town of Avola, which produces three kinds. The almond is rich in Omega-3 fatty acids, needed to produce testosterone, the hormone that gives heft to male arousal.
— Artichoke: From the 16th century through the Spanish Inquisition, artichokes were forbidden to women because of the plant’s reputed ability to enhance erotic energy. Nowadays, nutritionists praise their high antioxidant count and healthy nutrients, such as iron. The Italian artichoke season runs from February to May. To market, to market!
— Arugula: The ubiquitous leafy green, bitter to the taste, has been used as an arousal aid since ancient Greece. Science backs up these claims, since trace minerals and antioxidants block environmental contaminants that have been known to harm libido.
— Asparagus: Here’s a spear-like vegetable that actually looks like an aphrodisiac. Its high concentration of vitamin E, stimulate reproductive hormones in both men and women. Italy boasts several varieties of the plant. Asparagus also contain high levels of vitamin B, which increase histamine, an important chemical for healthy libido in both sexes. As a bonus, it contains folate, important to reproductive health in both genders.
— Basil: The pillar of Italian cuisine has been a symbol of love since ancient Rome (when it was used as a decorative motif in brothels). In modern times, basil has been studied for its anti-inflammatory properties and its libido enhancing nutrients. It also contains high levels of vitamin A, beta-carotene, magnesium, potassium, and vitamin C: nutrients that promote a healthy sex life.
— Celery: In the “Odyssey,” Homer describes the nymph Calypso’s island (where she held Odysseus as a lover) as surrounded by wild celery. The plant is also credited to giving Giacomo Casanova his legendary stamina. The scent of celery contains elevated amounts of the pheromone androsterone.
— Cherry Cherries are said to boost pheromone production and promote healthy blood flow, both of which are beneficial between the sheets. In Italy, cherries get suggestively allusive names such as adriana, amarena, visciola, marasca, graffione, durone, tenerina, giorgia, malizia, moretta and marosticana, to mention a few.