Humans have pursued love potions and sexual enhancers for as long as we’ve been around. A lot of these appeared to walk the fine line between stimulant and downright poison (who wants to swallow a Spanish fly? Anyone? Anyone?).
There’s a surprising amount of research from scientists testing traditional aphrodisiacs on rats and mice (I bet the rodents high five each other when they find out what lab they got assigned to. “Thank heavens it’s not the one where we have to grow a human ear on our backs…”). However, in 1989 the Food and Drug Administration banned any manufacturer from advertising their products as aphrodisiacs because none were shown to actually work.
It appears that most traditional aphrodisiacs were simply chosen for their phallic shape, or by the fact that they are absolutely terrifying to try (toad secretions, anyone?). For those of you who still want to dabble, Discovery Science helpfully provides the top 10 aphrodisiacs. The Huffington Post provides 10 food-focused aphrodisiacs.
For a fun read, check out “The Poison Squad” – a group of 12 men that dined on popular (and poisonous) food additives in order to get them banned by the government. Too bad we can’t do tests like that anymore. Instead, the rats get to get busy under the impassive eyes of humans. Awkward.