According to folk wisdom, eating certain foods can be a way to stimulate sensuality—cultures as diverse as ancient China, India, Greece and Rome had lists of edibles designed not to curb your appetite, but to fuel it. While chocolate is perhaps the most fabled sexual tonic, there are hundreds of ingredients, like saffron or liquorice, that have at some point in history been the remedy for bedroom woes.
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Oysters’ aphrodisiac fame comes from their suggestive shape and briny flavor. Rumor has it that Casanova, the great 18th century Venetian lover, used to dine on 50 oysters a day.
Aztecs were the first to believe that cocoa beans increased sexual desire. The emperor Montezuma reportedly consumed cocoa beans in copious amounts to fuel his love-making.
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Roman doctors prescribed anise — which does actually have a narcotic effect when eaten in large doses — as both an aphrodisiac and an antidote to poison.
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The lobster’s history as an aphrodisiac can be traced back to the ancient Greeks. **
See the recipe for Lobster and Avocado Salad »**
In ancient Persia, women in wedding parties sprinkled saffron on the marital beds of newlyweds to encourage sexual activity and fertility.
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Pairing pistou, an herb sauce made with fresh basil, with tender spring vegetables makes for a bright-tasting seasonal entree.
The sixteenth-century Jesuit priest Jose de Acosta wrote a pamphlet warning Spanish explorers in Mexico and Peru not to eat the local chili peppers, describing in detail their effect in provoking lustful thoughts. The capsaicin in hot peppers can raise the heart rate, a feeling that mimics sexual arousal.
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Practitioners of Unani, a traditional medicine popular in India, prescribe nutmeg as a sexual stimulant.
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Summer dessert doesn’t get easier than grilled bread spread with milky ricotta and drizzled with sweet, earthy honey. If you want to take it a step further, add a few slices of shaved melon.
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Famous for their musky, earthy aroma, today, truffles are considered an amorous ingredient as much for their luxuriousness as their sexual connotations. Accounts of the life of Madame de Pompadour, King Louis IV¿s lover, describe her adherence to a diet of vanilla, truffles, and celery; she believed that it would provide her with the sexual stamina needed to satisfy the king.
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