The use of aphrodisiacs — foods and drinks that are thought to increase sex drive and make the act itself more pleasurable — dates back to as early as the fourth century B.C. The word itself is derived from that of the Greek goddess of love, Aphrodite.
In ancient times, aphrodisiacs were used to help increase male and female potency in an age where procreation was most important. Many of these foods came to be considered as aphrodisiacs not due to any observable chemical properties, though, but for their resemblances to, well, certain body parts.
Familiar foods like asparagus, oysters, or chocolate have been said to have aphrodisiac qualities, but cultures around the world have long had their own remedies and aids to help them kick the passion up a notch in the bedroom.
A well-known, and strange, aphrodisiac formerly employed in many parts of the world was so-called Spanish fly (made from a species of beetle, Lytta vesicatoria), whose use dates back to ancient Rome. In modern-day Colombia, on the other hand, a popular wedding gift is roasted leaf-cutter ants, whose consumption is believed to up the libido and enhance sexual performance.
From China to Jamaica to Sardinia and beyond, here’s a list of purported aphrodisiacs from around the world that are far from ordinary.
Additional reporting by Alexandra E. Petri.