By Jennifer Copley (Last Updated 2 February 2012)
Research conducted at the Smell and Taste Treatment and Research Foundation of Chicago yielded some surprising findings regarding aphrodisiac scents, including the fact that men became aroused (as measured via genital blood flow) by the scent of pumpkin pie. Additional aphrodisiacs for men included baked cinnamon buns (which were more effective than various perfumes), lavender, doughnuts, black licorice, lily of the valley, buttered popcorn, cheese pizza, vanilla, and strawberries. Women also responded to pumpkin pie, as well as lavender, baby powder, licorice-scented candy and cucumber combined, chocolate, and banana bread (O’Connor, 2007). Interestingly, women’s arousal was actually decreased by the scent of men’s colognes, barbecued meat, and cherries (Foley, 2008).
Given that the studies used relatively small sample sizes, more research is required to confirm these effects. However, they are interesting. There may be particular merit to the pumpkin pie discovery, given the finding by Tajuddin et al. (2003) that nutmeg and cloves (spices usually added to pumpkin pie) increase sexual behaviour among mice. (Although a little clove-and-nutmeg-scented baking may be sexy for some, these spices have a relatively low toxicity threshold, so eating too much is more likely to bring death than romance into your life).
Another food whose reputation as an aphrodisiac may be justified in some cases is oysters. Although it was the suggestive texture and shape of the oyster that won it a reputation as an aphrodisiac, oysters are a rich source of zinc, and zinc deficiency can cause impotence in men. Eating oysters may increase the sex drive of men who are zinc-deficient (though it probably won’t do much for men who are getting sufficient zinc in their diets). Zinc deficiency is quite common, according to the National Institutes of Health – Office of Dietary Supplements (n.d.), afflicting 20%-25% of older adults. If you’re not a fan of oysters, there are other good sources of zinc, including:
- Red and white meats
- Seafoods such as crab, lobster, flounder, and sole
- Fortified cereals
- Cashews and almonds
- Dairy products
A word of advice: If you’re seeking aphrodisiacs, don’t bother with Spanish Fly. Made from crushed beetles, this toxic substance causes unpleasant itching and irritation, and can also burn your throat, cause permanent damage to your kidneys and genitals, and even kill you. There are also many fake Spanish Fly substitutes on the market, which are usually just cayenne pepper in a capsule.
- Foley, D. (September 2008). “Spice up Your Sex Life.” Prevention, Prevention.com.
- National Institutes of Health – Office of Dietary Supplements. (n.d.). “Dietary Supplement Fact Sheet: Zinc.” ODS.OD.NIH.gov.
- O’Connor, A. (2007). Never Shower in a Thunderstorm: Surprising Facts and Misleading Myths About Our Health and the World We Live In. New York: Henry Holt and Company.
- Tajuddin; Ahmad, S.; Latif, A.; & Qasmi, I.A. (2003). “Aphrodisiac Activity of 50% Ethanolic Extracts of Myristica fragrans Houtt. (Nutmeg) and Syzygium aromaticum (L) Merr. & Perry. (Clove) in Male Mice: A Comparative Study.” BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine, 3(6). PubMedCentral.NIH.gov.
- WebMD.com (Reviewed by Raya Almufti Abraham, MD, on March 04, 2010). “Frequently Asked Questions About Sex and Relationships.”