Aphrodisiacs were named after Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of love, and are said to increase libido, potency, and sexual pleasure. Among the most famous ones are chocolate, strawberries, or oysters. However, researchers say that some foods can indeed improve circulation by relaxing blood vessels and improving blood flow to the genitals, in a similar way to Viagra medication, but that can be experienced only by people with compromised blood flow.
The amino acid L-arginine found in pumpkins, walnuts and beef, or foods high in omega 3 fatty acids like salmon and avocado, or quercetin found in apples, berries, grapes, red wine, garlic, and dark chocolate can all help improve or increase blood flow, that is why people might consider them to have an aphrodisiac effect.
Looking back into history, in the 17th century, foods like pigeons, almonds, or parsnips were considered aphrodisiacs and associated with reproduction and fertility and given to married couples as more of a medical substance, according to Jennifer Evans, senior lecturer in history at the University of Hertfordshire.
On the other hand, it seems that some studies showed that alcohol consumption is linked to arousal, but it can also impede sexual performance. However, it seems that red wine specifically is more linked to sexual function due to its benefits to heart health. Also, it is part of the Mediterranean diet which is also said to have aphrodisiac qualities. Lauri Wright, spokesperson for the US Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics says:
“The bottom line is that a healthy diet of seafood, lean meats, nuts, fruit, vegetables and wholegrains, which is basically the Mediterranean diet, helps support nerve function and supports blood flow and hormones.”
However, Nan Wise, psychotherapist and sex therapist at Rutgers University in New Jersey says “Desire is physical, psychosocial and relational, and involves a lot of variables. If you believe a food increases desire, the psychology of the placebo effect affects your capacity to get turned on or off.” Basically, if people believe something has aphrodisiac qualities, then it will.