Which natural aphrodisiacs really get you in the mood?

From oysters to parsley and soft candlelight, all manner of remedies are said to help give your libido a boost – but are they fact or fiction?

Need a little help in the boudoir? These natural aphrodisiacs may get you feeling a little excited – even if it’s just a placebo effect.

Aphrodisiacs through the ages

Sex therapist Matty Silver says aphrodisiacs have been around for as long as humans have been having their way with each other.

The word aphrodisiac, a “preparation or drug which excites sexual desire”, was inspired by Aphrodite – the Greek goddess of love and beauty.

One man who certainly knew his way around the bedroom, legendary 18th century lover Giacomo Casanova, was a famous devotee of arguably the most famous aphrodisiac, the oyster.

Some say he ate 50 raw oysters for breakfast each day, while others report he shared the plates of oysters with his guests – often teaching women to eat the molluscs as a form of seduction.

Do oysters work as an aphrodisiac?

Oysters, noted for their resemblance to the vulva, contain a high amount of zinc, which links to testosterone production and therefore virility, says dietitian Aloysa Hourigan.

However, as with most aphrodisiacs, there is little hard science to confirm the sexy claims.

“There might be some anecdotal studies that seem to support it, but not any strong research evidence – it’s all more ‘hearsay’,” says Aloysa.

Food that looks a little rude (and nude)

Oysters are far from the only aphrodisiacs to resemble genitalia, with figs, bananas and even carrots at times thought to inspire passion, says Matty.

Those seeking sensual inspiration have often turned to the nether regions of the animal kingdom.

“In ancient India, young men would eat goat testicles that had been boiled in milk to act as an aphrodisiac,” says Matty.

In Jamaica, cow cod sup – made with the penis of a bull – is considered an aphrodisiac, while in parts of Asia, tiger penises remain a coveted (if often illegal) commodity.

Is chocolate an aphrodisiac?

While there may be little hard scientific proof, Aloysa says there are many different chemicals in foods, which do have do have different impacts on the body.

For example, she says chocolate contains chemicals such as phenethylamine, which is associated with arousal.

“They say that’s what flows through your blood when you have feelings of love,” says Aloysa.

However she notes studies have found the levels in chocolate are not high enough to cause any real impact.

The power of shape, texture and smell

Aloysa says foods may be able to ignite feelings in other ways, including through aromas that stimulate the senses.

“Truffles and parsley imitate the musky aroma of a male pheromone and spices like ginger, pepper, nutmeg and cayenne are also said to stir the sexual urge,” she says.

“Even mangoes are said to have a sensual kind of aroma.”

Plant foods, which contain phytochemicals, also impact the central nervous system and the brain, perhaps leaving us more in the mood.

Other ways to power up your sex life

Aloysa says if you’re eating with your partner, you might light a candle, which is believed to dilate the pupils, increasing romantic interest (hello soft lighting!).

“If you had oysters to start your meal, and then you had something in the meal like truffles scattered with parsley and some chocolate in the dessert and you served it all by candlelight, you might be having a very romantic evening,” Aloysa says.

Meanwhile Matty says anything that makes your sex life more fun is a positive move – whether it’s proven or not.

In the end, foreplay (at least for women) and a good night’s sleep might be the quickest way to relight your fire. As will focusing on your partner, rather than your mobile phone.

Written by Larissa Ham.