All over the world weird aphrodisiacs are consumed by people who want to enhance their sexual prowess… unfortunately with nil benefit, but at the cost innocent lives. The word aphrodisiac is derived from the name Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of beauty and love, said to have risen from the sea.

Aphrodisiac qualities have been attributed to blood, oil and organs of many creatures. A fairly common sight in India was a man on the pavement with a basket of lizards who broke their backs and placed them on a portable stove to extract oil which was sold to people as an aphrodisiac.

Skink, a species of lizard’s flesh, is also a North African delicacy, and, in Greece the person who consumes its wine is said to be irresistible.

Other so-called aphrodisiacs from different countries include crushed pearls, elk antlers, rhino horn powder (costs more than platinum, and common in Africa, China and India), ambergris (China, South East Asia and India), kasturi in paan (in India), eating live oysters, bird’s nest soup (delicacy of China), honey (used in ancient Egypt for impotence), truffles and even the stench of rotten eggs (both French aphrodisiacs), consuming bear bile and gall bladders, python bile, cow gallstones, geckos, pangolins, roosters, sea slugs,sea cucumbers (Chinese cuisine), penises of serpents, otters, seals and tigers as well as tiger/leopard bone wine (common in China, Taiwan and South Korea), freshly made cobra/snake wine (China, Taiwan, Thailand, Indonesia, Vietnam, Korea, Cambodia), and sex portions made from bones of lions (South Africa). Also ambrien from the guts of sperm whales was used in Arab folk medicine to improve libido.

The musk deer is not the only Himalayan creature from which an aphrodisiac (kasturi) is derived. There are caterpillars found in the region whose mummified bodies are sold. Called keeda jadi in India but called yasar gumba or yatcha gumbo across the border, weight-wise they fetch up to three times the price of gold and are frequently smuggled to Nepal and China. Actually it is a fungus which grows as a parasite on the larvae of a particular caterpillar thus killing and mummifying it.

Duck egg containing a 20-day foetus is considered an aphrodisiac sold as a roadside snack in the Philippines; also, dog or wolf meat and cobra meat are aphrodisiacs there – even cobra blood is consumed in China. Bat and ball soup is made from the genitals of a male bull and Filipinos
consider it an aphrodisiac.

Deer penis wine is similar to rice wine with herbs and is consumed by Chinese, Japanese and Korean men. Fugu or blowfish is a famous and deadly Japanese aphrodisiac which can literally poison the person to death.

In 2013 the Madhya Pradesh government formed a special task force after many sloth bear carcasses were found with their penises missing. But it was only 6 years later in 2019 that the poacher who killed them was caught. He turned out to be one of India’s most wanted tiger poachers who had a fetish for eating the penis of sloth bears and believed that they could cure ills, including impotency. He also sold the gall bladders of the bears which he said were in demand. (The man admitted to killing not only tigers and sloth bears, but also hundreds of wild boar and peacocks.)

Mexicans consider turtle eggs aphrodisiacs. In South America’s Colombian culture the wings and legs of queen leaf cutter ants soaked in salt and roasted are traditional wedding gifts.

The Spanish Fly aphrodisiac jam called Dawamesk is from North Africa, whereas India uses these beetles or cantharides to make hair oils. The Spanish Fly is an emerald-green beetle of the blister beetle family. Cantharidin, produced by the male beetle during mating is what is used as an aphrodisiac.

The consumption of the Kadaknath/Kali Masi – completely black wild hens of Madhya Pradesh – has been recently advocated for infusing vigour. And, the latest are house sparrows, their decline in numbers being attributed by some to people eating them as aphrodisiacs after Hakims claimed to have prepared a potion from the male bird’s meat. Khanasutra author also lists game birds and sparrows as one of the foods that work as aphrodisiacs.

The Narikurava gypsy tribe of Tamil Nadu poach peacocks for their oil, considered an aphrodisiac.

In 2017 the Andhra Pradesh High Court chided civic bodies over the illegal sale of donkey meat. The animals were being brought for illegal slaughter to AP from Telangana, Tamil Nadu, and Karnataka. Although the Food Standards Authority of India does not permit donkey meat to be sold or consumed, in Tuni, Guntur, Tadepalli, Mangalariri, Ongole, Chittor and other places of Andhra Pradesh donkey meat is sold alongside pork, rabbit, turkey and quail particularly in Vijayawada and Guntur district. Mixed with some drugs it consumed to increase male potency.

As many as 90,000 critically endangered turtles were caught being trafficked as pets, for food or aphrodisiacs by the Special Task Force (Wildlife) in Madhya Pradesh in 2017 which led to the arrest of 16 persons in the case who received a stringent 7-year sentence.

In 2017 the Wildlife Crime Control Bureau with the help of some NGOs who did undercover investigations, caught traders of hatha-jodi (claimed to be the root of a plant, but actually the dried penis of a monitor lizard) saying it imparted good luck and mystical powers on the libido. Male lizards having hemi penis are captured from the wild. The area around the living lizard’s penis is burnt so it protrudes. It is then excised with a sharp knife and sun-dried. It resembles joined hands hence called hatha-jodi. In 2021 Traffic-WWF announced that “buying was stealing” with the demand for hatha-jodi having resulted in an increase in poaching and illegal trade in monitor lizards, so much so that the survival of the 4 species found in India was at stake.

Distilled liquor from sugarcane called Mattu is considered an aphrodisiac in Tamil Nadu. In fact, a number of alcoholic intoxications of different cultures are said to have aphrodisiac properties, but whether veg or not, is any one’s guess.

Some Alternatives

Almonds, saunf/fennel/aniseed (Roman doctors prescribed it), anantamul/nannari, ashwagandha (Ayurvedic herbs – nannari is available as a syrup and the addition of soda converts it to American kind of root beer), red sandalwood (ingredient in Ayurvedic herbal medicine and agarbatti aphrodisiacs), annatto/sinduri, asafoetida/hing, asparagus, avocados, bananas (considered a sign of fertility in India – they contain bromelain associated with testosterone); also Americans drink red banana sap as an aphrodisiac), basil/tulsi, carrots, celery, chocolate (the Aztecs were the first to use it as an aphrodisiac), hot chilli peppers (in Mexico and Peru), coffee, coriander/dhaniya, fresh figs (Cleopatra of Egypt is said to have eaten them regularly), galangal root (a spice closely related to ginger and turmeric that boosts male fertility), garlic, ginger/adrak, ginsing, Himalayan/Tibetan gojiberry/“fruit Viagra”, yohimbe (bark of an African tree), horny goat weed (used in traditional Chinese medicine to stimulate hormones of males and females), pistachio (contain flavonoids), jackfruit seeds (roasted), liquorice/jethimadh, lotus seed/thamchet/makhana, maca root (similar to radish grown in Peru), mustard paste and mustard greens/sarson, nutmeg/jaiphal (an Unani stimulant), pineapple, pine nuts, raspberries, rocket salad/tara mira, saffron (Persians sprinkle it on beds of newlyweds), strawberries and vanilla are all believed to be vegetarian culinary aphrodisiacs.

Page last updated on 04/12/23