Aphrodisiacs: Natural Viagra?

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We humans have been trying to get attractive members of the opposite sex into the sack since the beginning of time, and in the art of seduction food plays a huge role.

The seductive power of certain foods was discovered thousands of years ago, and we have been sensually feeding them to our potential bed partners ever since. These wonderful foods are called aphrodisiacs, named after that gorgeous hussy of a Greek goddess Aphrodite, and are said to magically increase the likelihood of your romantic candle-lit dinner having a “happy ending“.

But is this possible? Can a mouthful of slimy raw oysters really increase your libido, or act like a natural Viagra?

First things first, what is sexual arousal?

When you see, feel or think something that turns you on, it starts a chain reaction in your body. First your brain sends some saucy messages to your nether regions which make the blood vessels down there dilate. This allows more blood flow and causes an erection in both men and women. The blood vessels then close up again, making sure the party stays in your pants for a while. At the same time your brain is busy releasing norepinephrine and dopamine which are chemicals that make us super duper happy.

So what do aphrodisiacs do?

These alleged wonder foods can affect either your body or your brain.

What do liquourice, red hot chillis and cucumber all have in common? They all increase your blood flow. This is one of the most common effects aphrodisiacs are said to have on your body to increase sex drive. This is because a rush of blood to your genitals is exactly what happens during intercourse, so in simulating the real thing, these foods make you want to do the dirty for real.

On the other hand, some aphrodisiacs have a less physical way of making you want to get physical. They do this by making you produce hormones which tell your brain that a good time is on the way. For example chocolate is known to make you produce dopamine, the hormone that makes you feel oh so good, while asparagus is said to affect the production of histamine, the chemical which is released during an orgasm.

Is there any science to back it up though?

A study published in Nature showed that for chocolate to affect your mood the average person would have to eat 17kg of the stuff, or 1/5 of your body weight. And I don’t know about you, but I definitely wouldn’t be in the mood after 77 blocks of chocolate.

As far as blood flow goes, in 2008 Dr. Bhimu Patil, director of a Texas university’s Fruit and Vegetable Improvement Center, claimed that watermelon could have similar effects to viagra. This is because of a bioactive compound they contain called citrulline which is able to relax blood vessels, much like viagra. Sadly though, this chemical is much more concentrated in the green rind of the watermellon, a part we just don’t usually eat. Plus viagra is a strong and specialized drug which specifically effects your genitals, whereas citrulline is much weaker and relaxes all of your blood vessels, not just the ones you want it to.

These findings are pretty much the norm when it comes to aphrodisiac research. Sex drive is a difficult thing to measure in humans, but most scientists agree that while aphrodisiac foods  do affect the parts of your brain and body that deal with sex, the effect is probably too small to make a difference.

But there is hope!

All the hype about aphrodisiacs can’t be for nothing though right?

It is completely scientifically possible that just thinking that a food will increase your sex drive might be enough to do the job. In science we call this the “placebo effect” and it is a completely real and legitimate thing.

What is a placebo you ask? Well, if a scientist wanted to figure out how good his new medicine was at curing headaches he would make a simple experiment. He would gather a group of people with headaches and give half of them a spoonful of his medicine and the other half a spoonful of sugar water, which he knew wouldn’t affect the headaches. The sugar water is a placebo. Nobody in the group knows whether they have the medicine or the placebo, so the scientist can see how effective his medicine really is.

Hundreds of these studies have been carried out over the centuries and since the beginning one thing has been clear, a placebo can make a huge difference to a person’s health. Just by thinking they are getting a miracle cure, many many people actually have been magically cured.

So if a placebo has been shown to ease the effects of everything from stomach ulcers to Parkinson’s disease, it should be able to increase sex drive right? Of course! Just the process of eating a sexy food which claims to be an aphrodisiac really is enough to get you and your partner in the mood.

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So next time you’re sharing a delicious block of sensual dark chocolate with your significant other, lean over and whisper seductively about the powers of chocolate as an aphrodisiac so you can watch the placebo effect in action.

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2 thoughts on “Aphrodisiacs: Natural Viagra?

  1. […] Aphrodisiacs: Natural Viagra? | Do you want science with that? https://sciencewiththat.wordpress.com/Aphrodisiacs: Natural Viagra? brownie 3. We humans have been trying to get attractive members of the opposite sex into the sack since the beginning of time, and in the art of seduction food plays a huge role. The seductive … […]

  2. […] Aphrodisiacs: Natural Viagra? | Do you want science with … https://sciencewiththat.wordpress.com/Aphrodisiacs: Natural Viagra? brownie 3. We humans have been trying to get attractive members of the opposite sex into the sack since the beginning of time, and in the art of seduction food plays a huge role. The seductive … […]

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