Appears in

Oxford Companion to Food

Oxford Companion to Food

By Alan Davidson

Published 2014

  • About

aphrodisiacs in the usual sense of foods or drinks which stimulate the sexual appetite and improve performance, are prominent on the list of human ‘wannahaves’, but virtually non-existent. Alcoholic drinks may affect appetite and (sometimes detrimentally) performance, but are outside the scope of this Companion. So are drugs. That leaves, for consideration here, substances which can be classified as food.

A study of the literature on the subject shows that most foods have, in one culture or another, been perceived as aphrodisiacs. No doubt foods which contain nutrients and therefore help to maintain human bodies in working order can be said to be aphrodisiacs in the very weak sense that they help to maintain the sexual function as well as the numerous others which our bodies are expected to perform. But this sense is so attenuated as to be without significance.