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Valentine’s Day is coming up, and I’ve already purchased the chocolate-dipped strawberries, a plate full of oysters, and a bowl of green M&Ms. In the event you’re looking for something stronger, try one of these aphrodisiacs borrowed from cultures around the world.
Piranha soup - Brazil
During the wet season in the Pantanal, piranhas are obnoxiously common in rivers, lakes, and ponds and frequently make it onto the plates of humans in the area. Their heads are rumored to have aphrodisiac properties, so they're usually reserved to boil into a big, toothy stew. It may be true that eating piranha helps you channel your inner carnivorous fish, but I suspect it might just be a convenient way to get rid of a lot of piranhas.
Flesh of a skink - Northerm Africa
Originally mentioned in Pliny the Elder's ancient greek text, Natural History, skink feet have been said to endow the eater with irresistible sexual allure. While this practice isn't as widespread today, some regions in North Africa still occasionally eat these lizards as a performance enhancer.
Durian - Java
Despite its notorious odor and sweat-esque taste, the durian is known around Java for major aphrodisiac qualities. Eaters describe a body-tingling warm sensation and other arousing side effects -- not including horrendous durian-breath.
Photo: YIM Hafiz
Mannish Water - Jamaica
Made from discarded pieces of goat (scraps from the more popular Jamaican curry goat dish), Mannish Water gets its name because of its ability to make men more...mannish. The soup, which typically involves the boiling of a goat's head, intestines, and other offal with root vegetables and seasonings in a huge outdoor pot, is often served at feasts and celebrations -- particularly to men at their weddings.
Photo: Meanest Indian
Leaf-cutter ants - Colombia
A tradition that dates back hundreds of years, the roasting and eating of gigantic leaf-cutter ants as an aphrodisiac is still well-known in Colombia. Their scientific name, hormiga culona, translates to "fat-assed ant," which, I guess, could turn someone on.
Baboon urine - Zimbabwe
This one's for you, ladies. Baboon urine -- which experienced a surge in popularity last year in Bulawayo -- is said to keep your lover faithful and wanting more. All you need to do is grind a mixture of baboon pee with some soil and/or specially chosen herbs into a powder, then sprinkle it onto your vagina. Your partner will be begging for more, and only from you. Either that, or he'll be vomiting in the corner while you take a shower.
Photo: Tambako the Jaguar
Bhasma - India
An ayurvedic medicine tradition, bhasma is a way to use minerals as a remedy -- or give your sex life a boost, as noted in Hari Datt Sharma's Better Sex the Herbal Way. Heera bhasma, made with diamonds, cures extreme impotence, while the gold in swarna bhasma increases libido and "the quality of the semen." I'd eat diamonds even if they didn't improve my semen, though I'd probably steer clear of the mercury in the makardhwaj, which is said to increase drive and restore confidence.
Epimedium - China
A commonly prescribed herb in Chinese medicine, epimedium comes with an ominous warning that it's not to be used by women who have an overactive sex drive. (Would they explode?) It began as a remedy for fatigue, high blood pressure, and circulation issues, but thanks to its body-warming properties, it quickly fell into aphrodisiac territory, where it remains today. Perhaps you've heard of it by its more colloquial name -- Horny Goat Weed.
Dried fruit and nuts - Turkey
Many shops in Turkey have adopted the phrase "Turkish Viagra" as a catch-all for various assortments of dried fruits and nuts. Almonds, cashews, figs, and dates all have historically been referred to as aphrodisiacs, so putting them together in one big nut-ball ought to do the trick. I've been chowing down on similar-looking cashew-fig snack bars for about a week now, and the most action I've seen is one frantic night of Googling "dog accidentally ate figs and cashews, will he die?" It was kind of like foreplay.
Photo: AlphaTangoBravo / Adam Baker
Toad venom - New York City, apparently
At least baboon urine isn't likely to kill you. Toad venom, on the other hand, actually has killed more than one hopeful New Yorker. Sold on the street as "piedra" or "love stone," the venom of Bufo toads is hardened into a resin that you're supposed to rub onto your genitals. Eating it, however, will kill you before you get to third base.
Asparagus - France
During the 19th century, French men were served 3 courses of asparagus prior to their wedding night to help them perform. Aside from their phallic shape, the nutrients present in the vegetable apparently include a magic ingredient that can give the eater more intense orgasms and an increased libido. I don't know -- I just got smelly pee.
Maca root - Peru
Also known as "Peruvian ginseng," maca supposedly increases libido, enhances endurance, and battles sexual dysfunction in both men and women. Months ago, before I knew of its sexual powers, I gave my boyfriend some of The Body Shop's maca root shaving cream I'd received in the mail by mistake. He took a sniff of it and threw it away. Damn.
Ginger - Globally, particularly India, China, and throughout Europe
Greek physician Pedanius Dioscorides celebrated ginger as a sexual tonic in De materia medica, the leading pharmacological reference in use for over 15 centuries. The practice of using ginger as a bedtime-helper spread widely and its use has been referenced all over the world, including a mention in the Kama Sutra. Its scent and spice supposedly warms the body and increases heart rate. I knew there was a reason I always keep ginger beer in the fridge.
Angelica - Iceland
Angelica was once valuable enough to be used as currency by the Vikings, as it has a long list of purported medicinal benefits. Icelandic brewery Bruggsmidjan takes advantage of one such benefit -- the enhancement of blood circulation into one's manly bits -- for their aphrodisiac beer, Stinningskaldi. If the angelica in the beer doesn't help you or your partner get in the mood, at least you might catch a buzz.