{Once Upon A Mythological Time. . .}

Cyprus-Aphrodite RockOn the picturesque coastline of Paphos, Cyprus; where the aquamarine waters caress the alabaster sand, our story begins. There lived a great king, ‘Uranus’ (Ouranos (Οὐρανός), the Greek word for sky).

And as individuals in a position of power often do, he made a tiny, little, teensy weensy mistake that may or may not have been influenced by his extreme greed.  He hid his youngest children away from their mother, Gaia.  This was no small feat especially because one child was the hundred-armed Hecatonchires and the other was the one-eyed Cyclopes. . .and they were gigantic.

So, needless to say, Gaia got pretty pissed off when she found out who was to blame for her missing kiddies (and when I say pissed off, we are talking Lorena Bobbit pissed off).  She created a great adamant sickle (or, in plain English, a really sharp and really strong knife) and gathered together several of her other young sons to seek revenge in the form of castration. Cronus, one of these sons, happened to be extremely jealous of his father, and he was quite willing to, shall we say, ‘swing the axe’. So, Gaia gave him the sickle and placed him in a hiding spot to ambush his unlucky father.

Gaia then called for Uranus, and upon his arrival,  Cronus viciously  attacked him with the sickle  and cut off his genitals, castrating him and casting the severed member into the sea, where it remained until a white foam arose from the “immortal flesh”. From this pearlescent foam grew a lovely lady, Aphrodite, who rode to shore on a scallop’s shell.  Aphrodite was the essence of masculine desire; adult, nubile, and irresistible.

So, why did I choose to share this story with you? Simple.  From her name comes the noun aphrodisiac, denoting anything that has the power to excite the sexual passions. . .

Love Potion No.9{Love Potion No. 9}

Do aphrodisiacs really exist?  Throughout the ages have there been stolen glimpses of Casanova’s little black book? Have love potions been jotted down in mysterious tomes and hidden away in the nooks and crannies of crumbling castles?  Probably not. In reference to the ridiculously long list of alleged aphrodisiacs, I think Jon Bonné, says it best that ‘possibly excepting rutabagas, almost every food has been claimed to help spark the flames of passion.

*          *          *          *          *

{Sex is good, but not as good as fresh, sweet corn. ~Garrison Keillor}

After doing a little research, I was surprised to learn that it is merely conjecture as to whether there is any legitimacy to the concept of aphrodisiacs at all!  (I know! Crazy huh?) I was almost disappointed that there was no magical brew of black pepper, ants, and banana peel! So, I dug a little deeper and came to realize that the concept of aphrodisiacs can best be related to the concept of infinity. “But how?” you ask.  Well,  infinity can’t ever really be seen or truly quantified.  However, we know it exists.   Therefore, “In the absence of proof and in the absence of an ability to define an aphrodisiac,” says Robert Shmerling, an associate professor at Harvard Medical School who has spent time poking holes in food myths, “it becomes impossible to disprove.” Voila! Now just wrap your head around that!

Food LoveReally what we are saying here is that it all boils down to this: your mind is your strongest aphrodisiac. Simply put, fragrances, food, and other sensory experiences acquire their meaning through association and the mere belief by their users that they would be effective (i.e., the placebo effect).  So, if lizard guts make you all warm and fuzzy inside, it probably has to do with a previous positive experience and just a hint of mind over matter. All of this begs the question: is it Fact or Folklore?  My guess is folklore, with a hefty helping of psycho-cultural conditioning.

Throughout history we find that there was a constant pursuit for aphrodisiacs.  Here are some common foods of love used through the ages…

Black Licorice

{Aromatics}

“Life expectancy would grow by leaps and bounds if green vegetables smelled as good as bacon.” ~Doug Larson

While nothing is carved in stone, there have been some scientific studies that claim that some aromas can cause a greater effect on the body than eating the food itself.

So, how does it work?

When an odor travels through the nose, it hits certain nerve receptors in the nose.  Those receptors send signals that travel to the brain where they signal the olfactory bulb. When the olfactory bulb is stimulated it, in turn,  signals the satiety center in the hypothalamus.  The hypothalamus is part of the emotional limbic system of the body, which interprets these signals as either good or bad, pleasant or offensive, etc. The hypothalamus sends out its own signals to the rest of the body.  Depending on how it is stimulated by the odors, the hypothalamus may send a signal to the pituitary gland to release hormones that stimulate hunger. Or it may trigger hormones that suppress hunger and appetite.

Wooooo Weeeee! Well if that wasn’t a mouth full, I don’t know what is! Lets take a look at some raw data from a study at the Smell and Taste Foundation in Chicago.
 

Increase in Penile Blood Flow Produced by Top 10 Odors in 31 Male Volunteers       

Odor or odor combination

Lavender and pumpkin pie
Doughnut & black licorice
Pumpkin pie & doughnut
Orange
Lavender & doughnut
Black licorice and cola
Black licorice
Doughnut & cola
Lily of the valley
Buttered popcorn

Average Increase

  40% 
31.5% 
20% 
19.5% 
18% 
13% 
13% 
12.5% 
11% 
9% 

 


This study is particularly interesting because licorice-like candy seems to trace back farther than most — to ancient China and to India, where it can be found in Kama Sutra preparations. So it seems like those folks thousands of years ago were on to something!  What have we learned here? If you’re looking for a good time break out the sweets and take a roll around!

Banana{Fun Facts About Shape}

Several cultures regard foods like bananas, asparagus, carrots, and chilies as erotic stimulants because of their phallic resemblance. For example, the ancient Aztec name for avocado was “ahuacatl,” or testicle, because of the fruit’s appearance. The Peter pepper (maybe not safe for work looks quite ‘memberish’) is also known for being “anatomically correct.” Asparagus, given its phallic shape, is frequently enjoyed as an aphrodisiac food. And whilst the Vegetarian Society suggests “eating asparagus for three days for the most powerful affect”, it’s hard to tell whether they mean it will be a stronger aphrodisiac or if your pee will be just that much more malodorous.

{Mostly Myth}

The most common foods assumed to be aphrodisiacs are Oysters and Truffles.  Unfortunately, though they may have a powerful reputation for getting the love juices flowing, these foods do not have any notable biochemical aphrodisiac qualities.  Oysters have terrific nutritional value.  They are low in fat and each 1o calorie oyster contains just about a day’s worth of zinc!  So, their best benefit, while not quite aphrodisiac, may just be fighting the common cold! Truffles, on the other hand, do contain the pheromone Androstenol and the steroid Androstenone.  However, these chemical agents are only responsible for an amorous effect on. . . well . . . pigs. 

{Chemical}

Chocolate LoveChocolate does contain the amino acid tryptophan, which we all know about because it is found in a food that many of us eat during the USA’s national gorging festival, Thanksgiving. The human body uses tryptophan to produce the neurotransmitter serotonin, a key component in maintaining consciousness and in feelings of well-being (but, as we all know, the effect from tryptophan is usually one of sleepiness, not stimulation). The chemical, Phenylethylamine (also found in chocolate), has been linked to creating feelings of attraction and desire. However, the catch here is that chocolate only contains it in trace amounts.  So, you would have to eat a whole heck of a lot of chocolate to even get a small amount of Phenylethylamine.  This means you would most likely be spending more time in the bathroom than in the bedroom!  

Perhaps you feel like a little Nutmeg with your hot cocoa?  In ancient China, it was highly prized by women as an aphrodisiac, and in large quantities nutmeg can produce a hallucinogenic effect.  So, to end on a happy note, while we are in the Eastern Hemisphere, let us quickly touch upon the chemical properties of Fugu (puffer fish).  In Japan it is considered both a delicacy and an aphrodisiac.  If the poisonous gland is not properly removed, the tiniest wee little bit can kill (the toxin in a whole fish can kill 20 or 30 adults!).  A non-lethal dose of Tetrodotoxin (the toxin in Fugu) serves as a powerful stimulant and aphrodisiac. When it is consumed, ‘it causes tingling in the lips, fingers, and toes, and other, uh, extremities’. Unfortunately, should a  lethal dose be consumed, there is no antidote. I’m kind of glad now that I was blissfully unaware of what I was eating when my host mother took me for a “special delicacy” called Fugu back when I was living in Japan!

{Till next time: Eat Well, Stay Safe, Be Happy!}

 

We think fast food is equivalent to pornography, nutritionally speaking.  ~Steve Elbert

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