Love is in the air and...on the plate. Aphrodisiacs get a lot of attention this time of year, with some foods earning their sexy status through scientific evidence and others through ancient myths (and in many cases, both), but is there anything truly special about these foods?
I thought I'd try a few of the most popular ones to get into the Valentine's Day spirit.
While my husband assumed I'd constantly be seducing him, I was really interested in finding out if these foods could actually make either of us feel any different if we took the time to pay attention.
1. Sex Dust
Sex Dust is one of the adaptogenic blends from Amanda Chantal Bacon's Moon Juice line.
The dust itself is "alchemized to ignite and excite your sexy energy in and out of the bedroom. A holistic approach to deeply nourished sexual vigor, this warming elixir sends waves of sensitivity and power to all the right places."
I mean, it sounds pretty exciting when you put it like that.
It's comprised of ho shou wu, organic cacao, shilajit, maca, organic schisandra, cistanche, epimedium, and stevia. Most of these herbs are commonly used in Traditional Chinese Medicine to increase libido, circulation, and energy.
I decided to try it for a week to give it some time to work its magic.
The result: One major perk of the dust that I noticed very quickly was the amount of energy I had. I found that taking the dust post-lunch gave me plenty of energy until the late evening, which was definitely a plus for potential romance. I tried drinking it a couple of different ways and found I preferred it stirred into warmed coconut or almond milk with a pinch or two of cinnamon.
Maybe it was because I simply had more energy at the end of the day—when my husband and I spend the most time together—that made me feel slightly more amorous than usual. Or maybe it was just that the idea of sex was placed in my brain from the label. Either way, there was something to it, for me at least.
After my stint on the dust, I spoke to Andrew Clark, doctor of acupuncture and Oriental medicine, to see what he thought of this particular blend of herbs.
Clark said that Sex Dust contains some of the strongest yang tonics, which work by "nourishing and invigorating the upward energy in the body. A lot of these help with chronic fatigue and are formulas that can potentially regulate hormones."
But because his work is focused on creating balance within individuals, he emphasized the importance of balancing yang and yin. "If a healthy person were to take this at a moderate dosage, they would probably feel really good for a while," but they'd need to be careful to balance the yin as well if they wanted to take it for a longer time.
Dating back to the Aztecs, cacao has been a rumored aphrodisiac for centuries. The two components of the bean that could give it libido-boosting qualities are tryptophan, which is a base for building serotonin, and phenylethylamine, a stimulant that's connected to falling in love. Scientists have suggested that one would need to consume a huge quantity of cacao (or chocolate made with cacao) to get any remarkable difference in sex drive.
Full disclosure: I eat chocolate almost every day. Fabian and I usually eat dark chocolate (70 percent cocoa) after dinner, so I bumped us up to 85 percent for a few nights to see if it sparked anything new. Our favorites are Alter Eco's Dark Blackout and Theo's Pure 85%.
The result: no real change. Since it's already a part of our nightly ritual, this isn't that surprising, but we still enjoyed ourselves.
Maybe the most famous and referred to aphrodisiac, this shellfish has a history dating back to ancient Rome and Casanova in 18th-century Venice (who supposedly ate 50 for breakfast on the reg).
On the nutrients side, oysters contain zinc and d-aspartic acid (an amino acid), which are two components that could lead to increased testosterone levels and arousal.
The result: While splitting half a dozen raw oysters and a glass of wine, Fabian and I started talking about the idea of aphrodisiacs in general.
My lovely husband declared the concept was stupid and all a bit made-up sounding. He didn't find oysters themselves or their aftereffects particularly arousing, although he did enjoy them and the mignonette sauce they were served with.
I think I agree with him about the oysters. I like them but have trouble connecting the dots between something that's commonly served over ice with a side of vinegar and lovemaking.
But I do think there's something about sharing food with your partner and engaging with it in a hands-on way that can make you feel closer.
Rumored to be Cleopatra's favorite, a beautiful fresh fig can actually look pretty erotic. Their high potassium levels can help to balance hormones and keep your sex drive functioning well, too.
The result: This one was a no-go. Unfortunately, it's not fig season where we are in the world, so we had to settle for dried turkish figs, which look decidedly less sexy and tend to be on the almost-too-sweet side.
Maybe we'll check back in during fig season for a more accurate read.
5. Red Wine
Another personal favorite, this was one of the ancient Greeks' favored aphrodisiacs. Red wine can indeed make you feel warm, glowy, and chilled out, but beyond its relaxing capabilities, resveratrol—red wine's chief antioxidant—could help boost circulation before and during intercourse.
The result: This one might be the front-runner for most noticeable impact. In small doses, red wine can definitely have romance-inducing effects. But for me, more than a glass and I'll get sleepy/lazy and abandon any plans of foreplay in favor of sweatpants and Netflix.