Love, Sex

33 Aphrodisiac Foods, Scents & Recipes That Will Help Set The Mood This Valentine's Day

natural aphrodisiac foods

In many cultures, the act of sharing food is more than simply providing physical sustenance to another. Sharing food is how we provide emotional nurturing and is one of the many ways we express love. That's why sharing a meal in a romantic restaurant is a popular way to begin Valentine’s Day celebrations.

However, a meal made by your lover’s hand — or better yet, made together — can be a far more intimate experience, setting the scene for intimacy later on. On Valentine's Day in particular, lovers often seek to enhance potency and desire by consuming aphrodisiacs, substances that are meant to increase sexual desire. The name comes from Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of love.   

At 16, I spent the summer studying Russian language at Harvard University. I was young and free and had the time to explore without much supervision in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The atmosphere was magical. 

And that's when I met Bill. He was a tall sexy guy from Puerto Rico living in the same dorm as me. I really wanted to seduce him; yet, I wasn’t confident enough to believe he would want me without a complex seduction. 

A friend told me that the best aid to seduction is a good aphrodisiac, so I invited Bill for drinks and nibbles on Friday evening and headed to the library to plan the menu. That Friday I served raw oysters, chocolate and champagne — all commonly touted aphrodisiac foods — and the seduction was successful. 

But did my food choices really act as natural aphrodisiacs? Is there anything to them, or is it just magical thinking that did the trick? 

The research is conflicting, as context appears to have a large impact on whether a substance increases libido or not. A lot of research suggests that natural aphrodisiac foods work because we believe they will work. That is the placebo effect — where it is our own expectations that make the treatment work.

There is research that highlights a variety of compounds found in certain foods that seem to regularly work as natural aphrodisiacs, given the situation. However, the intensity of aphrodisiac effects vary from person to person. 

  • In people with low testosterone levels, extra testosterone will increase libido. This is true for both men and women. It is unclear, however, whether this works with people who have testosterone levels in the normal range. For example, transgender people who take testosterone report an increase in sex drive. There are some people who take it recreationally to increase libido, as well.
  • Phenethylamines are another chemical present in food and found naturally in the body. These act as an aphrodisiac, but are quickly neutralized by the enzyme MAO-B in food. The only way to keep the effect is to take an MAO inhibitor.
  • Amphetamine and methamphetamine are derivatives of phenethylamines, and are well-known aphrodisiacs, too.
  • Cocaine and methylphenidate can also act as aphrodisiacs, but cocaine in particular can cause erectile dysfunctionThis can be extremely frustrating for the guy who has given cocaine to his date in the hopes that he will get her into bed that night and then finds he can’t perform. 

There are other drugs that have increased libido as a side effect, but come with such negative consequences that they are never prescribed to help with problems with desire. That's why natural aphrodisiacs, like the ones listed below, have always been more interesting to me.

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Here are 33 natural aphrodisiac foods, scents and recipes to spice up your Valentine's Day:

1. Oysters

Are the oysters I chose to feed my date really aphrodisiacs, and why?

Casanova was an 18th century player famous for his conquests. In his memoirs, he told of seducing over 122 women. Rumor has it that he ate 50 oysters for breakfast everyday. 

Dr. Fisher, a professor of chemistry from Miami, Florida, and his team of researchers discovered that oysters truly do produce amino acids that trigger hormone production which increases libido. Oysters have to be eaten raw to be most effective, and the spring is the best time to eat them.

2. Chili Peppers

Chili peppers work in a different way.  These stimulate endorphin production which make you feel good but they also increase heart rate, and make you sweat which is what happens during arousal. The effect isn't as direct as oysters.

3. Chocolate

What about chocolate? Dark chocolate causes a dopamine spike, which gives us a serious spike in feeling good. It also contains phenylethylamine.  The taste and texture are sensual, so all together chocolate can be an excellent aphrodisiac. 

The ancient Aztecs first used cacao as a sexual stimulant. Cacao ceremonies have become popular in the west in the last 15 years. Raw cacao is specially prepared and shared among the participants. These are said to increase feelings of love, increase sexual desire and increase connection.

4. Ginseng

Ginseng has been used to increase potency for men and the research has also found it will produce neurogenic effects that can increase libido for both men and women.

5. Blowfish

In the 8th century BC in Roman times, the remora fish was mixed into potions and sold in the market to induce passion. In the 19th century, blowfish was thought to have intense aphrodisiac effects. However, blowfish is highly poisonous and will kill you unless prepared properly. 

In Japan, fugu is only able to be prepared by licensed chefs. From 2005 – 2014, 359 cases of fugu poisoning were recorded in Japan. There are only 17 restaurants in the US at present that have fugu on the menu. 

6. Celery

Believe it or not, celery has two chemicals — androsterone and androsterol — that increase libido.

7. Pomegranates

Pomegranates improve blood flow, which in turn helps with sexual performance. 

8. Asparagus

Asparagus increases the circulation in the genitourinary system, and this too leads to increased desire.

9. Carrots

The Greeks and Middle Eastern royalty saw carrots as aphrodisiacs — probably because they are phallic-shaped. They are extremely healthy, but it is hard to know if they actually work as an aphrodisiac.

10. Bananas

Bananas are phallic looking, as well. But they also contain bromelain, which studies have shown can enhance male performance, and they are high in potassium and B vitamins, which are necessary to producing sex hormones.

11. Some Spices, Including Cinnamon and Cardamom

Cinnamon and cardamom are aphrodisiacs, because they stimulate an increase in blood flow. 

12. Garlic 

Garlic also increases blood flow and improves sexual energy. Just beware of bad breath!

13. Spanish Fly

Spanish fly which is actually made from beetles, has a long history of provoking intense desire. It is also an extremely dangerous poison and is lethal in small doses.

14. Maca Root

One of the best roots, with lots of proven research, is maca root. There is a significant body of medical evidence that maca will increase libido.

A company named Natural Health International produces three maca products for women that all help increase libido as one of their qualities. One of them is called Macapause, and it is a fantastic product for menopausal women that is backed by 15 years of research and clinical trials. 

15. Alcohol

Alcohol has been traditionally used as an aphrodisiac throughout the ages. Alcohol is a system depressant. It slows us down, reduces inhibitions and makes us more receptive to the seducer’s advances. Of course, this only works when alcohol is used in moderation. Too much alcohol and erections don’t happen. Too much alcohol and people fall asleep. 

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These scents also have natural aphrodisiac properties: 

16. Lilies

In Egyptian times, lilies were considered to be aphrodisiacs. The scent of a lily was used in oils and unguents to aid in seduction.  

17. Ambergris

Ambergris is made up of the contents from the intestines of the sperm whale, and it has been added to scents to create some of the most sensual and aphrodisiac perfumes ever created. It is thought it is primarily the indigestible parts of the squid which irritates the stomach of the sperm whale. It floats on the ocean until it eventually washes up on shore. 

The best ambergris spends years oxidizing from the combination of salt, sun and air. The competition to collect it is fierce, as it sells for over $9,000 per pound. Possession of ambergris is illegal in the US (and has been since 1972) because it originates from the endangered sperm whale.

18. Vanilla

The scent of vanilla produces feelings of relaxation and euphoria and is often used as an effective aphrodisiac. 

19. Licorice

Researchers found the smell of licorice to be the scent that aroused women the most.

20. Sandalwood

Sandalwood has been used in tantric sex rituals forever. It is associated with increasing the power of orgasm. 

21. Jasmine

Jasmine contains indole which is a compound also found around human genitals. It is one of the most long-lived aphrodisiac scents.

22. Peppermint

Peppermint is the scent most likely to be successful in boosting a woman’s low libido. It also wakes us up and keeps us alert.

Here are some of the recipes featuring natural aphrodisiac foods to help get your lover in the mood this Valentine's Day:

  • Raw oysters: Make sure they are fresh and don’t open them until you are preparing to serve. I serve with a little cocktail sauce (a small amount of horseradish, ketchup, lemon; however, some people add Worcestershire sauce and others add Tabasco, too).
  • Grilled Asparagus with Parmesan and Garlic: This only takes 15 minutes to make and it is divine, containing two aphrodisiacs (asparagus and garlic). All you need is fresh asparagus, olive oil, parmesan, garlic and salt and pepper. 
  • Chocolate Fondue: This one will take about 45 minutes to make. I use 200g good-quality dark chocolate chopped into pieces. The better the chocolate, the better the dessert. 
  • Magnolia Bakery’s Banana Pudding: This will take some time to refrigerate just right.  It is super creamy and that feel is so sensual on the tongue.
  • Chicken with Saffron and Raisins: I eliminate the sherry and add extra chicken broth.
  • Chocolate-Dipped Strawberries (and Other Fruit): This is far easier to make than you might think and so amazingly delicious. It is also so sexy to feed these to your lover.
  • Vanilla Bean Lemonade: This yummy take on fresh lemonade is great in the autumn, when you are experiencing an Indian summer.
  • Pine Nut Brittle: Pine nuts are chock full of zinc just like oysters and produce the same aphrodisiac results. This little sweet is delicious to munch with a cup of tea or a drink.
  • Chocolate Cake with Chocolate Buttercream Frosting: For all you choco-holics, this is a delicious, rich recipe. Sometimes, I switch the buttercream for chocolate whipped cream.
  • Fensenjan (Persian Chicken with Pomegranate): This is a scrumptious, sensual dish. Sometimes I use whole chicken thighs, and other times I substitute duck. Sometimes I swap the walnuts for pecans. Serve with your favorite rice. I enjoy serving it with saffron rice, which adds to the aphrodisiac qualities.
  • Healthy Fudge (with Raw Cacao): Finally, here’s a recipe to take advantage of the bliss-producing raw cacao. Use raw cacao powder, not cocoa powder. Quality counts, so get the best you can.

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Remember to check with your intended about food allergies. And if you plan to seduce your lover into the bedroom, don’t prepare a meal that is too big. You don’t want to be too full to be comfortable being physical — on Valentine's Day especially!

Dr. Lori Beth is a sex & intimacy coach and psychologist who works with individuals, couples and polyamorous groups to help them explore sexuality, explore kink and BDSM, recreate a healthy sexual identity after trauma as well as deepen their awareness and understanding about intimate relationships. Her mission is to take sex and conversations about sex from the shadow to the light. She hosts two podcasts every week: "The A to Z's of Sex" and "Sex Spoken Here." Book a discovery session to see how she can help you create and maintain fulfilling authentic relationships.