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The term "aphrodisiac" means arousing or increasing sexual desire, and over the course of history many types of food have been thought to do this. Some ancient cults encouraged their people to eat great amounts of fish, but forbade priests, who were supposed to be celibate, to eat any at all.
The peoples of the Near East and the Orient have always been particularly susceptible to aphrodisiac claims; in 1907 the Kamashastra Society (Paeis and Benares) published a translation by Sir Richard Burton of The Perfumed Garden for the Soul"s Delectation, a celebrated work on the subject by the Shaykh Nafzawi.
Among other things, Nafzawi said "he who boils asparagus, and then fries them in fat, and then pours upon them the yolks of eggs with pounded condiments, and eats every day of this dish, will grow very strong for coitus, and find in it a stimulant for his amorous desires"
Brillat-Savarin wrote in The Physiology of Taste that the truffle can "make women more tender and men more apt to love"
Here are a few items that have been considered aphrodisiacs at one time or another:
Absinthe; a drink originally containing wormwood, and popular in France was long prized as having aphrodisiac powers, real or imagined. Ambergris; a greyish, waxy substance from the intestines of sperm whales. It was for long considered to be an aphrodisiac (and recommended by James Boswell). See Boswell, James. Anise; Artichokes; recommended by the Dutch gynecologist Van de Velde. Asparagus; recommended by the Dutch gynecologist Van de Velde, Shaykh Nafzawi and Pliny. Ass; the testicles from: Petronius. Avocados; Beans; Beef, when raw. Capon - see Sweetbreads; Carrot; credited by the Ancient Greeks, and called "Philtron". Caviar; Celery; favoured by the Dutch gynecologist Van de Velde.
Chocolates and Cocoa; forbidden to their women by the Aztecs and to17th century monks by Jean Franco Raucher. Chutney; Coca Cola; Crab meat; Crayfish tails; Damiana capsules; Dill; recommended by Pliny. Eggs; especially raw eggs. Eringo root. Fennel; Fish; eels in particular. Frogs; Petronius. Garlic; Hippopotamus; Pliny (the Roman scientist and historian) recommended the snout and foot to increase sexual potency. Honey; Ovid. Hyena Eyes; Pliny. Leek; created with these powers by the Ancient Greeks, who called it "Storgethron". Licorice; considered by Pliny to be an aphrodisiac. Liver; Horace. Mandrake root; mentioned in the Old Testament, and echoed by Pliny. Marrow, dried: Horace. Mushrooms; particularly the morel. Mutton - when combined with caraway seed. Nutmeg: Olives; Oysters; considered an aphrodisiac as long ago as Roman times - these have even been "sold" in the U.S.A. on posters saying "Eat Oysters; Love Longer". Parmesan cheese; Peas; Peppermint and peppermint oil; mentioned by Aristotle. Pheasant - see weetbreads. Pimentos; Pine kernels; recommended by Ovid (the Roman poet). See Ovid. Pistachio nuts; Potatoes; a 17th century writer said "Eating of these roots doth excite Venus and increaseth lust". The idea is widely echoed in various surviving writings of the time. Radishes; Saffron; Shallots: Ovid. Shark fin soup; Snails; Petronius. Sweetbreads; said to have been used by Madame DuBarry to arouse Louis XV, along with capon and pheasant. Thyme; Tomatoes; once known as "love apples". Truffle: Brillat-Savarin in The Physiology of Taste (La Physiologie du Goá»t). See Billat-Savarin. Vanilla; White Beets; See "Brillat-Savarn"; "Horace"; "Petronius"; "Pliny";