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The Story Of Aphrodisiacs

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The Myth Of The Spanish Fly Aphrodisiac

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Throughout history man has searched the earth for ways of enhancing sexual desire, looking for substances which would act as aphrodisiacs, a word derived from the Greek goddess of love Aphrodite. This quest for sexual stimulants has encompassed a startling variety of substances, some with good reason but many on the basis of entirely unfounded ideas. One good example of a well known but false sex enhancer is the long sought after rhinoceros horn, which is powdered and consumed in alcohol. Equally unfounded is the consumption of other animal products such as various parts of the tiger and the bear and drinks containing such delicacies as crushed frog bones or snake droppings.

On a tastier note, oysters have enjoyed a considerable reputation as a sexual stimulant, mainly because Casanova is said to have consumed 50 raw oysters a day in order to sustain his legendary sexual prowess and his numerous escapades with women. However, oysters have in fact been reputed to be a food of love since the time of the Roman Empire, where they were a great favourite of many of the emperors themselves and were often eaten by those about to attend orgies. But of all of the supposed animal aphrodisiacs the most well known has to be the Spanish Fly. This is in reality a beetle rather than a fly and when dried and crushed can be ingested as a powder or dissolved in liquid to make a potion, although either way it's highly toxic. The Spanish Fly has been reputed to be an aphrodisiac since antiquity and its legend is still widespread today, but being poisoned is not everyone's choice especially when it can lead to severe gastrointestinal disturbances, inflammation of the kidneys, and in severe cases seizures and even a coma. Spanish Fly is discussed at greater length on a following page, "The Myth Of Spanish Fly", as it's sufficiently notorious to warrant a page to itself.

Another foodstuff much favoured by Casanova was chocolate, although the first person associated with chocolate as an alleged aphrodisiac was the Aztec ruler Montezuma, who is said to have drank 50 cups of hot chocolate a day in order to fully service his harem of 600 women. Such was the reputation of chocolate at that time, that the Aztecs and also the Mayans celebrated the harvest of the cocoa bean with festivals of orgies. However, this was far from being the earliest use of a vegetable substance for sexual purposes, as various plants were being extensively used in China thousands of years before that. The earliest known beneficiary was Huang Ti, the Yellow Emperor, who lived around 2600 BC. He was provided with a potion made from 22 herbal ingredients mixed with wine and it apparently bestowed him with an amazing sexual stamina. Empowered with this potent concoction of herbs he was able to enjoy the sexual favours of 1200 women and achieve a legendary status as the greatest of all lovers.

Love potions have also long been known in other parts of the world. Some of the earliest were based on honey, following the Babylonian practice of bride and groom drinking mead for a month after their wedding. Mead is honey wine and because the Babylonian calendar was lunar this "honey month" was often referred to as the "honey moon". Honey's reputation in this regard was much enhanced by the Greek physician Hippocrates, the father of Western medicine, who adocated it as a remedy for those lacking in sexual vigour. The Kama Sutra also utilised honey as a sexual tonic, listing it in a recipe that also includes the widely used herbs fennel and liquorice and is supposed to taste like nectar. Another renowned plant substance from the Hindu tradition is sap from the anvalli or bhuya-kokali trees, which are both said to provide a man with almost endless sexual energy. Another ancient Eastern beverage for sexual stamina is peppermint tea, which is still used for that very purpose today.

One of the earliest plants to be celebrated in Europe for its sexual benefits was a wild orchid called satyrion. This Greek pleasure plant was dried and powdered to produce a very potent nectar which when added to wine drove one wild with passion. The philosopher Theophrastus reported that it allowed a man to perform 70 consecutive acts of sexual intercourse. Unfortunately the result was that satyrion became extremely popular, the seeds were all consumed rather than some being sown, and the plant was in effect eaten to extinction. The Romans were also enthusistic about reported aphrodisiacs and used them to make numerous love potions, with many passing into wide usage. Apuleius, a Roman writer of the second century AD, created a potion of his own and gave it to a wealthy widow, who was won over and married him. However, relatives who had hoped to inherit from her sued Apuleius for leading her astray with his diabolical magic potion and subverting her true wishes. He defended himself with the argument that her energy had been much restored by the potion and she was noticeably happier now. The court ruled in his favour.

Stories involving love potions became common in medieval times when these elixirs of love achieved even greater popularity than in earlier times. In some cases the recipe for such a potion survives, but sometimes the names used for herbs are names common only in medieval times, which can make a list of ingredients frustratingly vague to a modern reader. Other recipes are completely unlisted, such as that in the most famous medieval story featuring a love potion, that of Tristan and Iseult. That potion was certainly made from herbs mixed with wine, but beyond that nothing is known. Still there are several identifiable herbs which are known to have been ingredients in many love potions around that time, such as coriander for example, a herb long renowned in the Middle East and which features in the classic tales of The Arabian Nights. Crusaders returning from the Holy Land brought it to Europe and it was immediately utilised for many of the more prominent love potions of the time, some of which were traditionally drunk at medieval weddings by both bride and groom.

Many of the herbs used in these love potions are still widely used in herbalism today and have reputations which have been enhanced by modern study and research. Those found in Europe have been joined by herbs from Asia, the Americas and elsewhere, as herbalists utilise the best available ingredients from the whole planet for formulating their modern remedies. It can therefore be said of a product such as Manplus that it combines the wisdom of herbal traditions and know how with the advantages of modern science and testing in order to provide a formulation that offers ingredients with a long and traditional use but with the backing of modern day knowledge.

Finally, the various ideas proposed over the centuries on how to stimulate sexual desire would be incomplete if we didn't include Shakespeare's reference to alcohol as a suggested aphrodisiac. In Macbeth he observed that alcohol "provokes the desire, but it takes away the performance", a verdict which even 400 years later is still regarded as definitive.

Other resources:

An alphabetical listing of aphrodisiac plants by Anya Deva, tantric teacher and healer of New York City.

The Food of Love, an article on the aphrodisiac qualities of vegetarian foods by The Vegetarian Society of the UK.




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The Story Of Aphrodisiacs Updated 03/08/06 20:38:27