Johan's Guide to Aphrodisiacs

Spices as Aphrodisiacs

Spices have not only been used to hide signs of putrefaction in food but also to make dishes delicious and mouth-watering. The way to a man's heart goes through his stomach, but perhaps even more through his taste buds, and what better way is there to affect the taste buds than the use of spices?

The following is an incomplete collection of spices, which have been attributed aphrodisiacal properties; many more remain to be added. When you try them out, it is important that they be used in combination with food that would be delicious and appetising even whithout the spices in order to achieve maximal effect.

If external use is suggested (as in some of the recipes from "The Perfumed Garden"), stay away from the most sensitive mucous membranes!


Asafoetida is a preparation made out of the plant Ferula foetida (Umbelliferae), also known as devil's dung, ferula or under it's Hindi name hing, which can be found in Indian groceries. It occurs both as a light brown resin and as a powder. Besides being an aphrodisiac it is also used as a laxative and a colic cure, although the main use is as a spice in cooking. The taste is peculiar: either you love it or you hate it.


Powdered cardamom seeds, boiled with milk, forms an excellent remedy against impotence and premature ejaculation when taken together with honey in the evening. (At least according to traditional Indian herbal medicine. But be careful: excessive use might lead to impotency according to the same sources.)


Cloves are the dried flower buds of Jambosa caryophyllus, also called Eugenia caryophyllata and Caryophyllus aromaticus. They were early considered as an aphrodisiac in Asia; in China since the 3rd century B.C.. Even in Europe they quickly aquired some fame. The Danish medieval herbalist H. Harpenstreng realised the value of cloves, stating that they "makes the man desire the woman", and that they promote digestion.

The Swedish herbalist Anders MÂnsson Rydaholm wrote in 1642 in "En myckit nyttigh ÷rta-Book" that:

if a man loses his ability, he should stay sober and drink milk spiced with 5 grammes of cloves. This will fortify him and make him desire his wife.

The main constituent of cloves and oil of cloves is eugenol, but small quantities of furfural, vanillin and methyl amyl ketone are also present. Eugenol is a high-boiling liquid with a spicy, pungent odor and taste. It was earlier used as a dental analgesic.


Garlic, Allium sativum, belongs to the same genus as another reliable (?) aphrodisiac, onion. Its use as a staple food already during Pharaonic time is mentioned in the Bible (Numeri, chapter 11). Hippocrates suggests garlic as a remedy for a variety of illnesses, including fevers, flu and intestinal parasites.

Its use as an aphrodisiac is (or was) widespred, not only among Egyptians, but also among Greeks, Romans, Chinese and Japanese (Ainu). It has persisted. The Swedish pharmaceutical chemist Matts Bergmark quotes (in "Vallört och vitlök" (1961)) the East German pharmaceutical journal Die Pharmazie, saying that garlic is especially well suited for men and women of climacteric age because it contains (unspecified) compounds related to sex hormones.

In some cases garlic is used externally. David Berman, a professor of the USC Medical School, suggests a few cloves of garlic be crushed and mixed with lard, the mixture then to be rubbed on to an unwilling male member.

The main constituents of garlic (besides nutritive chemicals) are the amino acid alliin and the related allicin (CH2=CH-CH2-SO-CH2-CH=CH2). It is allicin which causes the "true" garlic odour. The smell which occurs later after garlic consumption (possibly a truly anti-aphrodisiacal smell?) is caused by bis-allyl-disulfide, a metabolic product of allicin. No aphrodisiacal properties have (yet) been demonstrated for allicin, but the compound is a good antibiotic.

Possibly, most of the aphrodisiacal effect of garlic is associated with the fact that it makes food more appetising, stimulates the secretion of gastric juices, increases the appetite and, generally contributes to a feeling of well-being. Long live garlic!


Through the entire Asia, from China to Turkey, ginger has a solid reputation of being a powerful aphrodisiac, known already to Pliny and Avicena.

"The Perfumed Garden" strongly favours the use of ginger externally as well as internally. One recipe calls for a mixture of ginger, ointment of lilac and pyrethrum (the plant Anthemis pyrethrum, not the insecticide obtained from Chrysanthemum cinerariefolium) to be pounded and then used for rubbing the abdomen, the scrotum and the anus.

An alternative is to masticate a mixture of ginger, cinnamon, pyrethrum and cubebs just before coitus, then moisten the penis with saliva before entering.

From that moment she will have such an affection for you that she can scarcely be a moment without you.

Indian literature recommends a mixture of ginger juice, honey and half-boiled eggs, taken at night for a month, as a remedy against impotence.

Ginger consists of the dried rhizomes of Zingiber officinale (Zingiberaceae). The active compounds are called gingerols, the most important being [6]-gingerol, 5-hydroxy-1-(4-hydroxy-3-methoxyphenyl)-3-decanone.


Nutmeg, also known as myristica or nux moschata, is the ripe seed of Myristica fragrans (Myristicaceae), a tree native to Southern Asia and Moluccas. The seed is deprived of its seed coat (see photo to the right) before drying.

Nutmeg is supposed to be a "legal hallucinogenic", and has been used for this purpose, e.g. in jails. However, the side effects of the high doses required can be severe and completely overshadow the desired effects.

It is alleged to have a subtle aphrodisiac effect in far smaller doses (less than half a nut should suffice), and has been used as such by Hindus, Arabs, Greeks and Romans. In the Orient it was especially highly priced among women.

According to the Indian herbalist H. K. Bakhru, nutmeg mixed with honey and a half-boiled egg will prolong the duration of the sexual act if taken an hour before intercourse.

The compound allegedly responsible for the hallucinogenic and possibly also the alleged aphrodisiacal effects of nutmeg is myristicin, 4-methoxy-6-(2-propenyl)-1,3-benzodixole. It has some structural similarity with mescaline, the hallucinogen from peyote cactus. Myristicin also occurs in parsley and carrot (mainly in the seeds), although at far lower concentrations.


The aphrodisiacal qualities of pepper are not quite clear. The name pepper was long used as a collective name for all spices imported to Europe (in contrast to the herbal spices cultivated in Europe). Thus, older references to pepper as an aphrodisiac could actually concern a different spice.

Pepper is nowadays a collective name for various forms of the fruit of Piper nigrum (Piperaceae). Black pepper are the dried, unripe fruits, and white pepper the dried, ripe fruits. If the fruits are preserved in a salt brine, milder forms are obtained: green pepper from the ripe fruit and rose pepper from the unripe fruit.

The reputation of pepper being an aphrodisiac goes back to Antiquity, when it was used by Egyptians, Greeks and Romans. The Arabs not only added pepper to food, but used it other ways. According to "The Perfumed Garden", you should:

Masticate a little pepper or cardamom-grains of the large species; put a certain quantity of it upon the head of your member and then go to work. This will produce for you, as well as for the woman, a matchless enjoyment.

A way to increase the size of the penis is, according to the same source, to prepare a powder out of pepper, lavender, galanga and musk, mix it with honey and preserved ginger, and rub the penis vigourously with it.

[The penis] will then grow large and brawny, and afford the woman a marvellous feeling of voluptuousness.

Indian sources recommend a daily consumption of a glass of milk with six crushed black peppers and four crushed almonds. This will act as a nerve tonic and as an aphrodisiac.

The pungent principles of pepper are first and foremost the stereoisomeric pair of chemicals piperine (E,E form) and chavicine (Z,Z form). It is believed that the loss of pungency of ground pepper upon storage is due to the isomerisation of chavicine into piperine. Other pungent substances, present in pepper, are piperettine and the somewhat volatile piperidine (which can also be formed by alkaline treatment of piperine. Thus, do not use pepper on lutefish, the most alkaline dish known.


Saffron are the stigmas of Crocus sativus (Iridaceae) and one of the most expensive spices. It can reputedly make erogenous zones even more sensitive and also have a hormone-like effect. It is not known which of the constituents that are responsible for saffron's reputation as an aphrodisiac. However, the orange colour is due to crocin, a di-gentiobiose ester of crocetin, a carotenoid compound. Both crocin and crocetin have been shown to play a very important role in the sex processes of algae of the Chlamydomonas group. (No, they have nothing to do with Clamydia!)

The bitter principle is picrocrocin, which, according to Merck's Index, "exerts sex-determinig influences"!

Saffron is a key ingredient in many erotic dishes, e.g. in our pine nut soup, Amorous pesto and in our love snails.


Salt, sodium chloride, can be regarded as the most basic spice. In the Indian Ayurvedic medicine, rock salt obtained from the salt mines of Sindh was considered to be an aphrodisiac and a heart tonic.


Vanilla is the cured, full-grown, unripe fruit of an orchid, Vanilla planifolia. Already the name hints at amorous properties. It derives from the Spanish word vainila, a diminutive of vaina meaning vagina (or pod) It was used already by the aztecs to flavour chocolate (which they got from the seeds of Theobroma cacao (Sterculiaceae), a tree native to the area around the Gulf of Mexico and northern Sout America.

It is a well-known powerful aphrodisiac, as stated, e.g. by N.J. Berlin in a commentary to the Swedish pharmacopoedia (1849), acting through its odour as much as through its taste. It is important to use the natural product. Synthetic vanillin (4-hydroxy-3-methoxy-benzaldehyde) is far cheaper, but less effective, especially now when it is synthesised from the waste (lignin) of the wood pulp industry.

Vanilla essence (extracted from the real vanilla) can be added to your bath to produce a mild love-arousing effect, especially when you and your partner take the bath together.

Herbal spices

Numerous herbal spices have been used as aphrodisiacs. More information on mint, rosemary, salvia and thyme will be added shortly.

Last update 6 August 2000 by [email protected].