Johan's Guide to Aphrodisiacs

Vegetable Aphrodisiacs


Truffles were well known to the Romans as a powerful aphrodisiac. Book VII of Apicus' "De re coquinaria" mainly deals with delicacies believed to have aphrodisiacal properties, and includes six ways of preparing truffles.

Most highly rated were the Libyan truffles, but also truffles from Cyrene and Thrakia were much appreciated. Pliny speculates about the origin of truffles and assumes they might be the result of a thunderbolt.

However, with the fall of the Roman Empire the magic properties of truffles fell into oblivion and were rediscovered only in the late eightteenth century. This time the interest focussed on the French truffles, Tuber melanosporum, and the erotic powers attributed to it were remarkable.

Anthelme Brillat-Savarin, in "Physiologie du goût" (published 1825 , one year before his death at the age of 71 years) devotes six pages to the erotic properties of truffles. He provides an example of how a lady narrowly escaped being seduced by a guest she had fed a hen stuffed with truffles, and he concludes:

Truffles are no perfect aphrodisiac, but in certain cases they can make women more yielding and men more amiable.

We have a delicious recipe for an aphrodisiacal truffle dish!.


Fennel, Foeniculum vulgare (Umbelliferae), was cultivated already in ancient Egypt. The "besbes seeds" mentioned in Papyrus Ebers (from 1600 BC) are believed to be fennel seeds.

The Greeks regarded fennel as a potent sexual stimulant. During the Dionysos festivities crowns of fennel leaves were worn, and leaves and seeds were used as aphrodisiacs (cf. A. Tschirch: Handbuch der Pharmacognosie, Leipzig 1909-17).

A medieval Danish manuscript (H. Harpestreng: Danske Laegebog) states that old vipers eat fennel for rejuvenation; it is equally useful for old men.

Wedeck, in A Dictionary of Aphrodisiacs, quotes a Hindu prescription for sexual vigour containing fennel juice, milk, honey, ghee, licorice and sugar. Furthermore, he states that fennel soup is reputed in some Mediterranean regions to stimulate desire. Try our recipe and you will understand why!

The chief low molecular weight consituent of fennel seeds is anethole, also known as anise camphor or Monasirup, but the seeds (and the rest of the plant) also contains the terpenes fenchone, pinene and limonene.


Already the shape of asparagus, Asparagus officinalis, which belongs to the lily family (Liliaceae) indicates its potential as an aphrodisiac. It was cultivated already by the Greeks. According to Arab sources, the asparagus should first be boiled in water, then briefly fried in fat and sprinkled with condiments to provide a powerful aphrodisiac.

A certain caution might be advisable. Quensel states (1809) that asparagus turn men on but women off. Its main action is diuretic; the stimulating effect on the male genitals is a consequence of this.


Celery, Apium graveolens, has a long history of use as an aphrodisiac. Several cultivated varieties exist, including Pascal celery, cultivated for the stalks, and celeriac or celery root, grown for the root. The stalks can be eaten raw, but also be boiled or braised as well, whereas the root is best peeled, julienned and blanched.

An alternative for preparing the root is to peel it, slice it, boil the slices, let them cool and serve them together with finely chopped almonds or, even better, walnuts, as a starter. Canned cooked root celery slices are commercially available, at least in Germany, and can be used in the same way. Actually, it was in Germany at Hotel Kaminhof just outside Munster that my wife and I first came across this dish, served in the restaurant. After having tried it, we suddenly understood why there were no TV sets in the rooms. Nobody would have any interest in television...

The probably best known Swedish cook-book author is C.E. Hagdahl. In his Cooking as Science and Art, published in 1879, he says, inter alia:

Celery contributes to a stimulation of the digestion, but is also suspected to be somewhat sexually exciting or even straightforward arousing. These effects can be reduced by boiling. It is not a food for everybody.

Celery, especially in the form of wreaths, was also used by the Romans as an antidote against the intoxicating effects of wine.

But most celebrated as an aphrodisiac are the celery seeds. Crush them and use the to spice bread or an oil-vinegar salad dressing or, even better, fresh oysters!

Beans and peas, Leek and Radish

Information on the properties and uses of these classical vegetable aphrodisiacs will be added shortly.

Last update 20 August 2000 by [email protected].