Valentine’s Day is right around the corner, and if you consider it a holiday that’s first and foremost about the food (as you should), you’re going to want to start planning the menu soon. Why not base your meal around some of the foods that have long been rumored to increase libido? According to the Cleveland Clinic, there’s not a lot of research to indicate that particular foods can actually make you hornier. However, if you want to ride that placebo effect—and make a delicious dinner in the process—you might want to consider using the following ingredients.
Shuck and open an oyster and look inside the shell, and it’ll be pretty obvious why oysters have long been considered an aphrodisiac. Sexual-enhancing properties or not, starting your Valentine’s Day dinner out with a dozen oysters is a great way to set the mood for a delicious night.
Chocolate does have historical associations with fertility, with the Mayans connecting it to their god of fertility and the Aztecs using it as an aphrodisiac. Even today, it’s associated with romantic love: Just think of the all-important box of Valentine’s Day chocolates. If your loved one loves their sweets, a box of chocolates is an absolute must for the holiday.
If you know how figs reproduce, it may come as a surprise that the slurp-able fruit is considered an aphrodisiac, but it likely has to do with its appearance—look closely enough, and you’ll notice the similarities between figs and oysters, if you know what I mean. Biting into a fig also just feels indulgent and luxurious. You don’t even have to have a boo to indulge in this floral-tasting fruit.
Alcohol can lower your inhibitions and make you feel looser, and according to Healthline, it can boost women’s testosterone levels, which may lead to higher levels of desire. If you drink, you may want to open a bottle of wine or try a new cocktail recipe. For those who are interested in skipping the alcohol, an alcohol-free wine or mocktail could potentially have a placebo effect.
The ancient Romans reportedly associated strawberries with the goddess of love, beauty, and fertility, Venus, and it seems the association has stuck. Even today, chocolate-covered strawberries are an iconic Valentine’s Day treat. The combination of sweetness and tartness in a good chocolate-covered strawberry is so enjoyable that you’ll forget to worry about its supposed qualities as an aphrodisiac.
Rumor has it that in the 16th century, artichokes were viewed as aphrodisiacs—so much so that a woman eating one in public was considered inappropriate. We may have lost our reproductive rights in the U.S., but at least we can still eat artichokes in public… for now, anyway.
7. Chili peppers
Eating chili peppers gives you that intense, hot feeling—a feeling that’s often associated with passion. It’s no wonder that eating chili peppers and other spicy foods are purported to be aphrodisiacs. Of course, if you don’t have a solid tolerance for heat, you may want to limit your chili pepper intake if you’re planning on things getting… spicy.
Oftentimes, aphrodisiac qualities are assigned to foods that play some sort of reproductive role, and caviar is a great example. Sturgeon eggs are a popular choice for all kinds of celebrations, but you can also opt for cheaper options like tobiko or salmon roe if you’re trying to have a special celebration on a budget.
In July 2021, health officials in France issued warnings to consumers looking to enhance their sex life with honey: Honey tainted with the active ingredients found in Viagra and Cialis was being sold on the black market. Plain old honey probably isn’t going to work quite as well as the spiked stuff (which you should definitely not take, as it could cause health complications), but the texture, the taste, the consistency… I get how it earned its reputation as an aphrodisiac.
Some research has indicated that saffron could be used to improve issues with sexual dysfunction, but you don’t need to convince me to add this fragrant, floral spice to special dishes.
Samantha Maxwell is a food writer and editor based in Boston. Follow her on Twitter at @samseating.