History is ripe with stories of foods, herbs and spices thought to enhance the libido, but scientific data to support whether a man’s virility or a woman’s sex drive could really be enhanced by certain supplements is scant. The dearth of proof may be changing. Canadian researcher, Massimo Marcone, a professor in Guelph’s Department of Food Science, and master’s student John Melnyk, have confirmed what the ancients knew with regards to food and sexual health. Specific compounds, including the world’s most expensive spice (read further for the big reveal!) – whose origins are Middle Eastern/Asian – offer up eco-sexy nutrition without the side effects of pharmaceuticals such as Viagra (sildenafil) and Cialis (tadalafil).
Their results are available online and will appear in print in the journal Food Research International.
First the Science, then the Sex
Marcone and his team examined hundreds of studies on commonly used consumable aphrodisiacs to investigate claims of psychological or physiological sexual enhancement. Ultimately, they included only studies meeting their most ‘stringent controls.’
“Ours is the most thorough scientific review to date. Nothing has been done on this level of detail before now.” Marcone reportedly said of their investigation into natural sexual enhancers. Such research is compelled in part by the multi-billion dollar erectile dysfunction drug industry that comes with a ‘price.’
“These drugs can produce headache, muscle pain and blurred vision, and can have dangerous interactions with other medications. They also do not increase libido, so it doesn’t help people experiencing low sex drive.” There’s additional concern that younger men are using these drugs when they have no history of erectile dysfunction, and in combination with other agents that could cause dangerous side effects or adverse reactions. Green lovers recognize the need for natural products that enhance sex without negative side effects, hence the growing popularity of the eco-sexuality movement.
The results? They found that panax ginseng from Asia and yohimbine, a natural chemical from yohimbe trees in West Africa, improved human sexual function. Increased sexual desire was reported after eating muira puama from Brazilian and maca root from the Andes. Alcohol was found to increase arousal but impede performance. But despite its purported aphrodisiac effect, chocolate was not definitively linked to sexual arousal or satisfaction, the study said.
“It may be that some people feel an effect from certain ingredients in chocolate, mainly phenylethylamine, which can affect serotonin and endorphin levels in the brain,” Marcone said.
Get it on with Saffron
As for the contribution from this region to our sexual palates, it turns out that saffron, a spice used along Europe’s glamorous Mediterranean coast and throughout Middle Eastern cuisine, from Iran to Iraq, Turkey to Greece with evidence dating back thousands of years, may be one of the most potent enhancers yet. Stories abound about the use of saffron by Cleopatra (who is said to have taken baths in waters scented with this rare gem prior to making love), Ancient Persia, the Sumarians and Alexander the Great (as a curative for battle wounds), among many others.
Even the Hebrew Bible sets claim to saffron’s seductiveness in the Song of Solomon.
“Your lips drop sweetness like honeycomb, my bride, syrup and milk are under your tongue, and your dress had the scent of Lebanon. Your cheeks are an orchard of pomegranates, an orchard full of rare fruits, spikenard and saffron, sweet cane and cinnamon.”
It has been suggested that part of saffron’s magical property is thought to be its enhancement of “lust” via certain neurotransmitters that stimulate libido or erogenous zones. Saffron may also lower blood pleasure and stimulate respiration.
The parts used for culinary purposes are the stigma or style, the female sexual organs of the flower. There are three stigma on any one flower, so it takes 150,000 flowers to produce one kilogram of dried saffron, making it the most expensive spice in the world. Iran and Spain are the world’s largest producer of this flower (part of the Iris family Iridaceae) accounting for 80% of the global crop.
While their findings support the use of foods and plants for sexual enhancement, the authors urge caution. “Currently, there is not enough evidence to support the widespread use of these substances as effective aphrodisiacs,” Marcone said. “More clinical studies are needed to better understand the effects on humans.”
More eco–sexuality news:
:: Photo via Arpana Sanjay