Is there really such a thing as an aphrodisiac?
Well, sort of. There’s no magical way to jumpstart your libido, and because every person’s body is different, you might find yourself more susceptible to certain aphrodisiacs than others.
With that said, some research suggests that certain foods can, in fact, affect our romantic desires. Here’s a look at some of the most well-known examples (and the science behind them).
In the early 1980s, several studies suggested that chocolate increased libido by producing phenylethylamine (PEA). That’s the same chemical that our brains produce when we feel romantic attachment.
However, subsequent studies haven’t shown a meaningful increase in chocolate lovers’ PEA levels, and at this point, researchers are struggling to find a physiological link between chocolate and libido functionality.
Still, as chocolate prompts a release of serotonin and other feel-good chemicals, it could mimic some of the symptoms of romantic excitement. There’s also the placebo effect; chocolate’s reputation as an aphrodisiac is so strong, it might still have a strong psychological effect on some women.
2. Spicy Foods
A French study published in Physiology and Behavior found that men who regularly enjoy spicy foods have more testosterone. Researchers studied 114 men, aged 18 to 44, and asked them to add hot sauce to a meal of mashed potatoes.
The men who added more hot sauce were likely to have higher testosterone levels.
“Conversely, low testosterone levels have been associated with lethargy or depressive mood,” the authors note. “A wide range of factors, including genetic, physiological, psychological and social forces, influence the liking and consumption of capsaicin-containing food.”
In other words, correlation doesn’t equal causation; while it’s certainly possible that spicy foods prompt testosterone production, it’s equally likely that men with more testosterone are simply able to withstand more heat.
Certain types of honey may increase fertility in men, according to research from Shaiful Bahari Ismail, et al. The scientists noted that honey may also increase testosterone production, which therefore makes it an effective libido enhancer.
But that research is controversial, as no other peer-reviewed studies have shown that honey does much of anything to chemical production. It is, however, thought to have anti-inflammatory properties, so there’s probably no harm in adding a bit of sweetness to a romantic evening with a few drops of honey.
The next time your partner invites you out for a cup of coffee, take them up on it. One study showed that female rats engaged in, ahem, romantic activities more frequently after they’d had a shot of caffeine.
With that said, researchers did acknowledge that the study was somewhat limited.
“We gave only one dose of caffeine to animals who had never caffeine before,” said researcher Fay Guarraci, PhD, an assistant professor of psychology at Southwestern University in Georgetown, Texas.
“Most of the time, women drink coffee on a daily basis or ingest caffeine in cola beverages,” Guarraci told WebMD, adding, “[The results] might be something to think about for women who don’t ingest a lot of caffeine, who usually have a low level of caffeine in their diet.”