Saturday, August 30, 2008

Guide to Aphrodisiacs: Ukrainian Aphrodisiacs

The traditional Ukrainian folk medicine does not contain that many recipes for aphrodisiacs or 'privorotnoye zelje' (best translated as "love potion"). Ukrainian men are supposed to possess great natural sexual powers and Ukrainian women are, in the same way, supposed always to be interested and willing.

Thus, the major purpose of the Ukrainian love potions is not to increase the sexual capacity but to direct the desires towards a particular individual. Largely, the love potions ar used by women who want to attract the attention of specific members of the opposite sex. Another purpose of the love potions could be to increase fertility. Furthermore, there is a small group of recipes aimed at curing impotency and mainly intended for older people.

Hemp seeds

Hemp, in Latin Cannabis sativa, is a plant that is very popular in Ukraine and has many medical applications. As an aphrodisiac, the most powerful preparation according to popular believes are the roasted and salted hemp seeds. However, they should only be used by men. Earlier, it was customary to feed the bridegroom roasted hemp seeds during the wedding dinner. The seeds could be served as a part of a special wedding bread or as an ingredient of a wedding night drink.

Periwinkle

An oil prepared from the flowers of Vinca major is believed to increase the sexual capacity of man. It can either be consumed or applied externally.

A more traditional periwinkle recipe to increase sexual desire (to be used by men only!) is as follows:

Cover 20 grammes of the fresh, blossoming plant with 250 ml of vodka or whisky and let the mixture simmer, covered, for at least 0.5 hour. Take 8 drops of the filtered potion twice a day for four days, then make a two-day-break after which you can continue taking the potion for another four days.

Golden root


The roots of Rhodiola rosea L. have been known as a powerful stimulant for centuries and were a favoured ingredient in many folk love potions. The legendary Ukrainian prince Danila Galitsky (XIII century) who had a considerable reputation for remarkable amorous feats used to say that he took strength from the 'golden root of Karpaty' (it grows in the Karpatian mountains). The major use of the golden root is in the form of an alcoholic drink called "nastojka". Fresh roots are mixed with 40% alcohol (e.g. vodka) and are kept in dark place for at least one week (if you are not in a hurry it is better to let the extraction continue for a few weeks). Use equal parts (by weight) of roots and alcohol solution.

A teaspoon of the resulting "nastojka" after breakfast, lunch and dinner for 2-3 weeks will produce remarkable effects both in men and women.

Golden root has recently been approved as an official Ukrainian medicinal drug. Its use and applications are similar to those of ginseng. One of Mrs. Zubar's acquaintances reported that he once drank a bottle of golden root 'nastojka' (150 gr.) and 'had wonderful sex all night long'. But three days later he had strong headaches and 'no desire at all'.

Ruta


Ruta, in Latin Ruta graveolens L., is the most popular 'female' aphrodisiac. There are numerous folk rhymes and songs about its ability to charm men. A must of love potions. Women drank a decoction of ruta, "ruta-nastojka" to become loved and wanted.

According to a folk legend witches used to bring teenage boys to fields where the ruta was blossoming. The strong scent made the boys became 'possesed by witch desires', whereupon they lost their virginity.

Even today experienced women meet their lovers near blossoming ruta fields because of the effect of the scent. "I have ruta in my garden and I experienced its effect myself" says Mrs. Zubar.

Carrot and Celery

There is an old Ukrainian belief that carrot will increase the sexual capacity of a man. There is old Ukrainian saying: 'If your husband is old and weak you must have him to drink juice from two big carrots and one celery'. Celery is a very popular folk aphrodisiac in Poland and the Czech Republic, possibly due to the "doctrine of similarities".

"Lubistok"

Levisticum officinale, in Ukranian "lubistok" was and is still believed to be useful for attracting lovers. It is used in a similar way all over Europe, however in Ukraine dried as well as fresh roots instead of the leaves. A bath containing leaves is recommended as relaxing treatment of when being tense and nervous.

A decoction or "nastojka" made from the root is still used to cure impotency and increase the sexual power, however only for men. "I cannot vote for it," says Mrs. Zubar, "but a herbalist I know personally makes special portion based on Lubistok root extract and claims it cures impotency. I only know for sure it sells well."

Modern beliefs

In an opinion-poll made among the readers of the magazine "Kopilka" the most popular aphrodisiac turned out to be a mixture of sour cream and beer (1:1). The idea that this mixture stimulates sexual activity first appeared in the mid 1970s and still lives on.

Guide to Aphrodisiacs: Spices as Aphrodisiacs

Spices have not only been used to hide signs of putrefaction in food but also to make dishes delicious and mouth-watering. The way to a man's heart goes through his stomach, but perhaps even more through his taste buds, and what better way is there to affect the taste buds than the use of spices?

The following is an incomplete collection of spices, which have been attributed aphrodisiacal properties; many more remain to be added. When you try them out, it is important that they be used in combination with food that would be delicious and appetising even whithout the spices in order to achieve maximal effect.

If external use is suggested (as in some of the recipes from "The Perfumed Garden"), stay away from the most sensitive mucous membranes!

Asafoetida

Asafoetida is a preparation made out of the plant Ferula foetida (Umbelliferae), also known as devil's dung, ferula or under it's Hindi name hing, which can be found in Indian groceries. It occurs both as a light brown resin and as a powder. Besides being an aphrodisiac it is also used as a laxative and a colic cure, although the main use is as a spice in cooking. The taste is peculiar: either you love it or you hate it.

Cardamom

Powdered cardamom seeds, boiled with milk, forms an excellent remedy against impotence and premature ejaculation when taken together with honey in the evening. (At least according to traditional Indian herbal medicine. But be careful: excessive use might lead to impotency according to the same sources.)

Cloves

Cloves are the dried flower buds of Jambosa caryophyllus, also called Eugenia caryophyllata and Caryophyllus aromaticus. They were early considered as an aphrodisiac in Asia; in China since the 3rd century B.C.. Even in Europe they quickly aquired some fame. The Danish medieval herbalist H. Harpenstreng realised the value of cloves, stating that they "makes the man desire the woman", and that they promote digestion.

The Swedish herbalist Anders Månsson Rydaholm wrote in 1642 in "En myckit nyttigh Örta-Book" that:

if a man loses his ability, he should stay sober and drink milk spiced with 5 grammes of cloves. This will fortify him and make him desire his wife.

The main constituent of cloves and oil of cloves is eugenol, but small quantities of furfural, vanillin and methyl amyl ketone are also present. Eugenol is a high-boiling liquid with a spicy, pungent odor and taste. It was earlier used as a dental analgesic.

Garlic

Garlic, Allium sativum, belongs to the same genus as another reliable (?) aphrodisiac, onion. Its use as a staple food already during Pharaonic time is mentioned in the Bible (Numeri, chapter 11). Hippocrates suggests garlic as a remedy for a variety of illnesses, including fevers, flu and intestinal parasites.

Its use as an aphrodisiac is (or was) widespred, not only among Egyptians, but also among Greeks, Romans, Chinese and Japanese (Ainu). It has persisted. The Swedish pharmaceutical chemist Matts Bergmark quotes (in "Vallört och vitlök" (1961)) the East German pharmaceutical journal Die Pharmazie, saying that garlic is especially well suited for men and women of climacteric age because it contains (unspecified) compounds related to sex hormones.

In some cases garlic is used externally. David Berman, a professor of the USC Medical School, suggests a few cloves of garlic be crushed and mixed with lard, the mixture then to be rubbed on to an unwilling male member.

The main constituents of garlic (besides nutritive chemicals) are the amino acid alliin and the related allicin (CH2=CH-CH2-SO-CH2-CH=CH2). It is allicin which causes the "true" garlic odour. The smell which occurs later after garlic consumption (possibly a truly anti-aphrodisiacal smell?) is caused by bis-allyl-disulfide, a metabolic product of allicin. No aphrodisiacal properties have (yet) been demonstrated for allicin, but the compound is a good antibiotic.

Possibly, most of the aphrodisiacal effect of garlic is associated with the fact that it makes food more appetising, stimulates the secretion of gastric juices, increases the appetite and, generally contributes to a feeling of well-being. Long live garlic!

Ginger

Through the entire Asia, from China to Turkey, ginger has a solid reputation of being a powerful aphrodisiac, known already to Pliny and Avicena.

"The Perfumed Garden" strongly favours the use of ginger externally as well as internally. One recipe calls for a mixture of ginger, ointment of lilac and pyrethrum (the plant Anthemis pyrethrum, not the insecticide obtained from Chrysanthemum cinerariefolium) to be pounded and then used for rubbing the abdomen, the scrotum and the anus.

An alternative is to masticate a mixture of ginger, cinnamon, pyrethrum and cubebs just before coitus, then moisten the penis with saliva before entering.

From that moment she will have such an affection for you that she can scarcely be a moment without you.

Indian literature recommends a mixture of ginger juice, honey and half-boiled eggs, taken at night for a month, as a remedy against impotence.

Ginger consists of the dried rhizomes of Zingiber officinale (Zingiberaceae). The active compounds are called gingerols, the most important being [6]-gingerol, 5-hydroxy-1-(4-hydroxy-3-methoxyphenyl)-3-decanone.

Nutmeg

Nutmeg, also known as myristica or nux moschata, is the ripe seed of Myristica fragrans (Myristicaceae), a tree native to Southern Asia and Moluccas. The seed is deprived of its seed coat (see photo to the right) before drying.

Nutmeg is supposed to be a "legal hallucinogenic", and has been used for this purpose, e.g. in jails. However, the side effects of the high doses required can be severe and completely overshadow the desired effects.


It is alleged to have a subtle aphrodisiac effect in far smaller doses (less than half a nut should suffice), and has been used as such by Hindus, Arabs, Greeks and Romans. In the Orient it was especially highly priced among women.

According to the Indian herbalist H. K. Bakhru, nutmeg mixed with honey and a half-boiled egg will prolong the duration of the sexual act if taken an hour before intercourse.


The compound allegedly responsible for the hallucinogenic and possibly also the alleged aphrodisiacal effects of nutmeg is myristicin, 4-methoxy-6-(2-propenyl)-1,3-benzodixole. It has some structural similarity with mescaline, the hallucinogen from peyote cactus. Myristicin also occurs in parsley and carrot (mainly in the seeds), although at far lower concentrations.

Pepper

The aphrodisiacal qualities of pepper are not quite clear. The name pepper was long used as a collective name for all spices imported to Europe (in contrast to the herbal spices cultivated in Europe). Thus, older references to pepper as an aphrodisiac could actually concern a different spice.

Pepper is nowadays a collective name for various forms of the fruit of Piper nigrum (Piperaceae). Black pepper are the dried, unripe fruits, and white pepper the dried, ripe fruits. If the fruits are preserved in a salt brine, milder forms are obtained: green pepper from the ripe fruit and rose pepper from the unripe fruit.

The reputation of pepper being an aphrodisiac goes back to Antiquity, when it was used by Egyptians, Greeks and Romans. The Arabs not only added pepper to food, but used it other ways. According to "The Perfumed Garden", you should:

Masticate a little pepper or cardamom-grains of the large species; put a certain quantity of it upon the head of your member and then go to work. This will produce for you, as well as for the woman, a matchless enjoyment.

A way to increase the size of the penis is, according to the same source, to prepare a powder out of pepper, lavender, galanga and musk, mix it with honey and preserved ginger, and rub the penis vigourously with it.

[The penis] will then grow large and brawny, and afford the woman a marvellous feeling of voluptuousness.

Indian sources recommend a daily consumption of a glass of milk with six crushed black peppers and four crushed almonds. This will act as a nerve tonic and as an aphrodisiac.


The pungent principles of pepper are first and foremost the stereoisomeric pair of chemicals piperine (E,E form) and chavicine (Z,Z form). It is believed that the loss of pungency of ground pepper upon storage is due to the isomerisation of chavicine into piperine. Other pungent substances, present in pepper, are piperettine and the somewhat volatile piperidine (which can also be formed by alkaline treatment of piperine. Thus, do not use pepper on lutefish, the most alkaline dish known.

Saffron

saffron.jpg - 9.0 K Saffron are the stigmas of Crocus sativus (Iridaceae) and one of the most expensive spices. It can reputedly make erogenous zones even more sensitive and also have a hormone-like effect. It is not known which of the constituents that are responsible for saffron's reputation as an aphrodisiac. However, the orange colour is due to crocin, a di-gentiobiose ester of crocetin, a carotenoid compound. Both crocin and crocetin have been shown to play a very important role in the sex processes of algae of the Chlamydomonas group. (No, they have nothing to do with Clamydia!)


The bitter principle is picrocrocin, which, according to Merck's Index, "exerts sex-determinig influences"!

Saffron is a key ingredient in many erotic dishes, e.g. in our pine nut soup, Amorous pesto and in our love snails.

Salt

Salt, sodium chloride, can be regarded as the most basic spice. In the Indian Ayurvedic medicine, rock salt obtained from the salt mines of Sindh was considered to be an aphrodisiac and a heart tonic.

Vanilla

Vanilla is the cured, full-grown, unripe fruit of an orchid, Vanilla planifolia. Already the name hints at amorous properties. It derives from the Spanish word vainila, a diminutive of vaina meaning vagina (or pod) It was used already by the aztecs to flavour chocolate (which they got from the seeds of Theobroma cacao (Sterculiaceae), a tree native to the area around the Gulf of Mexico and northern Sout America.

It is a well-known powerful aphrodisiac, as stated, e.g. by N.J. Berlin in a commentary to the Swedish pharmacopoedia (1849), acting through its odour as much as through its taste. It is important to use the natural product. Synthetic vanillin (4-hydroxy-3-methoxy-benzaldehyde) is far cheaper, but less effective, especially now when it is synthesised from the waste (lignin) of the wood pulp industry.

Vanilla essence (extracted from the real vanilla) can be added to your bath to produce a mild love-arousing effect, especially when you and your partner take the bath together.

Herbal spices
Numerous herbal spices have been used as aphrodisiacs. More information on mint, rosemary, salvia and thyme will be added shortly.

Guide to Aphrodisiacs: Spanish Fly and Cantharidin

The Spanish fly is the emerald-green blister beetle, in Latin Cantharis vesicatoria or Lytta vesicatoria which is found in the southern parts of Europe. The body is usually 15-22 mm long and 5-8 mm wide with a strong smell and a burning taste. The dried and crushed body of the beetle was earlier used medically as a irritant and diuretic, but was also regarded as a potent aphrodisiac, especially for elderly gentlemen.

The earliest descriptions of its use as a medicine dates back to antiquity. The drug is mentioned by, e.g. Hippocrates, Celsus and Pliny. The Roman empress Livia (58 B.C. - A.D. 29) purportedly slipped it into the food of other members of the imperial family to stimulate them into committing sexual indiscretions that could later be used against them. (Livia was originally the wife of Tiberius Claudius Nero but was given by him to Octavianus, later known as Emperor Augustus, as a part of a reconciliation agreement.)

During the medieval age, however, Spanish fly was almost forgotten.

Even today, the legend of Spanish fly as a powerful aphrodisiac persists. Urban folklore sometimes gives it a prominent role.

The Latin name of the beetle derives from the Greek word lytta, meaning rage, and the Latin word vesica, meaning blister. This points to the main effects of poisonous doses: internally mental illness and externally a vesicant action.

The beetle, which thrives on plants of the families Oleaceae and Caprifoliaceae, contains 0.5-1 % of the active ingredient cantharidin. This chemical is sparingly soluble in water and most polar organic solvents but dissolves in oils.

A beautiful synthesis has been described by W.G. Dauben in J. Am. Chem. Soc. 102, 6893 (1980).

An African Variety

In Zimbabwe, traditional healers sell "vuka-vuka" ("vuka" means "wake up!"), which consists of dried beetles of the genus Myalabris. As in the blister beetle, the active component is cantharidin. The strongest variety offered in Harare's Mbare market is called "Squirrel's jump", possibly because squirrels are believed to be very romantic animals.

Toxicity

It must be handled with extreme care. It is highly toxic by ingestion, but can also be taken up through skin and mucous membranes. The poisoning is called cantharidism and can consist of severe gastrointestinal disturbances and nephritis. Collapse occurs in severe cases and death might follow. For references, please consult the literature list.

A consumption of 1.6 grammes of pulverized beetles led to death after 26 hours. Ten milligrammes of pure cantharidin resulted in a fatality, whereas a poisoning by 1.3 milligrammes did not.

Cantharidin is excreted by the kidney and will, during excretion, irritate the entire urinary tract. The irritation of the urethra will increase the blood flow to this region and might result in priapism. It is likely that the priapism is the origin of the use of Spanish fly as an aphrodisiac.

In 1772 the infamous Marquis de Sade doctored some aniseed sweets with Spanish fly and offered this to some prostitutes who took part in a flogging orgy. However, there was no aphrodisiac effect but, instead, the girls became very ill, so ill that the Marquis was brought to trial for poisoning.

A more sensible use for catharidin is for the removal of digital warts. For this purpose a 0.7 % solution in equal parts of acetone and collodion can be applied.

Priapism

is a persistent abnormal erection of the penis. It is usually a quite painful condition, not associated with any sexual desire. The name is derived from Priapus, the Greek god of male procreative power.

Guide to Aphrodisiacs: Pheromones, Scents as Aphrodisiacs

Small, volatile organic molecules are of extreme importance among many animals for the transmission of information on sexual availability to members of the opposite sex. Such molecules are called pheromones, after a Greek word meaning "to transfer excitement".

Pheromones among animals

Female butterflies of the genus Bombyx release a chemical called bombycol. As little as 100 molecules is sufficient to evoke a sexual response from a Bombyx male. This could be compared with the one million molecules of botulinual toxin A (the most toxic substance known) required to kill a mouse.

Some flowers fool insects by using pheromones. The orchid Ophrys insectifera releases a mixture of chemicals which attracts male hymenopteras (insects) of the genus Argogorytes. Because of the odour the males believe the orchid flowers are females of their own species, and they try to copulate. Naturally, they are unsuccessful, but pollen grains of the orchid attach to them. The next time they try to copulate with an orchid flower, the pollen grains are transferred and they succeed in pollinating the flower even if not in impregnating a female of their own species.

Elephant pheromones


Even large animals can make use of pheromones. Two researchers from the Oregon Graduate Institute of Science in Portland, Oregon, USA, (as reported in Nature, 22 Feb. 1996) used 4000 litres of elephant urine, looking for a substance released by female elephants just before ovulation. Apparently, this substance lets bull elephants know that the time is right for romance. Surprisingly, it turns out that this elephant pheromone, cis-7-dodecenyl acetate is the same compound used by some insects.

Pheromones among humans?

The human body secrets several compounds with strong smells, as well as compounds which can be transformed by bacteria into chemicals with a strong odor. Volatile aliphatic acids occur in the normal vaginal secretions of many primates, including humans. Their strong odors (e.g., butyric acid with its smell of rancid butter) have been shown to stimulate male monkeys to increased sexual activity.

Many steroidal hormones and related chemicals have a noticeable odor, including chemicals called androstenones. In one experiment, some seats in a theater were sprayed with one androstenone. Women among the audience showed a statistically significant preference for these sprayed seats.

In another trial, subjects had to choose the most attractive women from a collection of photographs. It turned out that when a subject could smell an androstenone at the same time as he or she regarded a certain photo, it increased the probability that the lady on the photo would be selected.

Humans have glands at the base of the hair follicles, especially in the armpits and in the genital region, which produce yet unidentified chemicals, the odors of which might affect members of the opposite sex. The chemicals are spread over the hair surface and then very efficiently dissipated.

One interesting phenomena in this context is the "women's dormitory syndrome", a condition in which women living closely together after a while begin to synchronize their menstrual cycles. This has been attributed to the effect of a pheromone present in the underarm sweat of women.

The great commercial interests in human pheromones make it virtually impossible to obtain reliable information on this subject. Already two compounds isolated from female and male sweat respectively are being marketed as perfumes with real activity as sexual pheromones. The price tags are, however, almost prohibitive and their effects unproven.

An old American custom, quoted in "The Scent of Eros", was for the man to keep a handkerchief in his armpit while dancing. After the dance he would present it to his partner. Supposedly the anticipated effect was that of an aphrodisiac. Maybe the arrival of easily available soap has changed the perception of human pheromones?

Scents and perfumes

Man has probably always used various odorous preparations to increase his or her attractiveness to the opposite sex. Is it possible that this actually is an attempt to mimic "human pheromones" or is it just to create an atmosphere of positive associations? One of the most popular perfume smells, that of musk, has been shown to resemble closely the smell of testosterone, the male sex hormone.

The Romans used perfumes lavishly, including perfumes based on civet and ambergris. The former is derived from the secretion of the civet-cat, and the latter from the sperm whale. Ambergris is more a carrier of scents than a perfume of its own. It has been used to restore vital powers to those exhausted for various reasons.

Other smells

Even the smell of food can act as an aphrodisiac. Chicago neurologist Alan Hirsch rated male response to various smells by measuring changes in penile blood flow and found that food outperformed perfumes. The food highest on the rating list included cinnamon buns, roast meat and cheese pizza (but also, and less surprisingly so, chocolate, vanilla, strawberry and peppermint). In some cases the average increase of penile blood flow was 40 %!

Guide to Aphrodisiacs: Oysters as Aphrodisiacs

Already during the time of the Roman Empire oysters enjoyed a randy reputation, which only increased over the ages. During the "Golden Century" in the Netherlands (the 17th century) oysters were the symbol, the very incarnation of an aphrodisiac.

Is this reputation based on physiological facts? Well, oysters are low in fat and high in minerals, and thus a quite healthy food. Phosphorus, iodine and zinc can do a lot of good, especially zinc, which is said to increase both sperm and testosterone production as well as the secretion of a vaginal lubricant.

On the other hand... According to Norman Lewis in his book "Aphrodisiacs I Have Known", a group of male pearl-divers on the island of Kamaran (off the Arabian coast) get most of their nourishment from oysters -- and have very low sex drives.

However, Casanova is said to have been a firm believer in oysters, eating 50 of them raw every morning in the bath together with the lady he fancied at that moment.

Ilene Polansky, the owner of the oyster bar "Maestro S.V.P." in Montreal, Canada, reports that Roman emperors paid for them by their weight in gold. When Aphrodite the Greek goddess of love, sprang forth from the sea on an oyster shell and promptly gave birth to Eros, a working aphrodisiac was born.

Ilene recommends oysters au naturel, best served simply with crushed ice and seaweed. Fresh lemon juice or Worcestershire sauce are both good accompaniments. There are two classes of sauce to be served with oysters. The first is mignonette sauce with shallots and red wine vinegar and the second is a chili sauce. Wines that go well with oysters are, e.g. such as a Chardonnay, whether it be Australian, Chilean, French or Californian. A tall glass of dry Spanish sherry is also perfect.

As the owner of the oyster bar, Ilene's favourite oyster drink is the "Maestro S.V.P. oyster shooter": Take an oyster, put it in a shot glass, add a little cocktail sauce, fresh horseradish and jalapeno vodka. You then drink it like a shooter. It is a very refreshing treat.

Normally, oysters are eaten raw, but Gordon Hamersley, the owner and executive chef of the Boston restaurant Hamersley's, suggests a topping of sea urchin roe (which he asserts is a well-known aphrodisiac) and caviar to amplify the effects.

Erik Blauberg of American Renaissance proposes serving the oysters with a cucumber, lime and dill dressing.

Guide to Aphrodisiacs: Satyrion, stones and pearls

For this post I have tried to collect a variety of strange aphrodisiacs which do not fit in elsewhere, as well as some truly fictitious material

Satyrion

Judging from Greek and Roman accounts, satyrion must have been very close to the perfect aphrodisiac. According to Theophrastus, it produced on one occasion seventy consecutive acts of coitus. Another Roman author suggests that it is sufficient to use it on the soles of the feet to produce erotic arousal. Yet another source suggests that it was sufficient to hold a part of the plant in the hand to produce the desired erotic effects.

Unfortunately, the precise identity of satyrion is not known today. It was a plant with reddish leaves and a double root, possibly similar to the orchids producing salep.The most common way of using it was to pulverize the dried root and add it to wine.

According to some sources, not only the root but also the nectar was used as satyrion. You could try the nectar of the wild orchid Orchis mascula (found in many parts of Europe) and mix it with warm goat's milk. The nectar from one plant is sufficient for two tablespoons of milk.

The popularity of satyrion, however, led to its eradication, a fate it shared with silphion (laserpitium), a plant known to be a rich nourishment, a delicious spice and a powerful medicine.

Precious stones and pearls

Precious stones and pearls have long been associated with powers to stimulate the sexual desire, not only when presented as such (just consider the effect of the gift of a dimond ring!) but also when consumed. Pulverised agate is reportedly specially effective.

Cleopatra, born 69 and dead 30 B.C., was queen of Egypt. In order to provoke her amorousness she used to dissolve pearls in vinegar and drink this beverage. Since she managed to get both Julius Caesar and Marc Antony as lovers, the potion must be considered successful.

Persians made pastilles out of crushed pearls and rubies, gold dust and ambergris, and ate this as an aphrodisiac.

Literary aphrodisiacs

One of the most remarkable aphrodisiacs is the starting point for Richard Dahl's hilariously indecent novel My Uncle Oswald (1979). The Sudanese Blister Beetle, Cantharis vesicatoria sudanii, is a highly improved version of the Spanish fly:

It builds a fire under your genitals. It is both a violent aphrodisiac and a powerful irritant. It not only makes you uncontrollably randy but it also guarantees you an enormous and long-lasting erection at the same time.

However, anyone who has read the novel will hesitate to try the Sudanese Blister Beetle. But, still...

Modern mythical aphrodisiacs

On 22 May 1984 the Dallas Morning News carried the following story under the byline of Stephen G. Bloom:

Chaucer recommended garlic, onions and leeks. Mushrooms, frog's bones and dried chicken tongues also were said to do the trick.

Then came oysters, Spanish fly, olives, strawberries, ginseng and Vitamin E.

Now, the latest substances thought to induce a frenzy of wild passion are green M&Ms.

At East Texas State University anthropology student Denise Boesewetter recently spent weeks interviewing people about what they thought were aphrodisiacs. Of 46 respondents, Boeswetter reported last month that almost half mentioned green M&Ms as a powerful inducer of sexual desire.

At a University of Texas sorority house in Austin, a large jar filled with green M&Ms is reserved for "special occasions."

And at Dallas' Arts Magnet High School, the candy's reputed powers also are a hot item on the teen grapevine. "They make you look sexually attractive," says Jana Hodges, a 17-year old senior. "Green M&Ms are the first ones to eat when you tear open the package."

If you are interested in learning more about these remarkable properties of green M&Ms, you can consult the Urban Legends Reference Pages or Jan Harold Brunvand's book The Mexican Pet - more "new" urban legends and some old favorites (1986).

Guide to Aphrodisiacs: Onions, an Aphrodisiacal Gift of the Gods

Onions have, almost since prehistoric time, been attributed aphrodisiacal properties. They are mentioned in many classic Hindu texts on the art of making love, they were the most used aphrodisiac in ancient Greece, and they are frequently included as an ingredient in Roman and Arab recipes.

During Pharaonic times celibating Egyptian priests were prohibited to eat onions because of the potential effects. Later on, in France, newlyweds were served onion soup on the morning after their wedding night to restore their libido.

The Romans

Ovid, in "Ars Amatoria" book 2, suggests:

"Let white onions be taken that are sent from the Pelasgian city of Alcathous."

The Romans seldom used onions alone, and usually only after cooking. Thus Apicus in "De re coquinaria" includes onions cooked in water and mixed with pine seeds. One exception is the recommendation of the Roman epigrammatist Martial:

"If your wife is old and your member is exhausted, eat onions in plenty."

The Perfumed Garden

"The Perfumed Garden", an Arab sixteenth century erotic manual written by Sheik al-Nefzawi, bears a testimony to onions.

"The member of Abou el Heiloukh has remained erect For thirty days without a break because he did eat onions."

More specifically, he ate onions cooked with meat and, for drink, had the juice pressed out of pounded onions mixed with honey.

The same source suggests an even more powerful preparation:

Take one part of the juice pressed out of pounded onions and mix it with two parts of purified honey. Heat the mixture until the water of the onion-juice has evaporated, and let the residue get cool, to be used whenever required.

But be careful. A man using this for several consecutive days will constantly have his member rigid and erect without intermission, the sheik warns (or promises?). Furthermore, the medicine should never be used for three consecutive days except by old and cold-tempered men.

Onions mixed with egg yolks and eaten during three days will provide "an energetic stimulant toward coitus." As an alternative peeled onions can be fried in oil in a saucepan together with egg yolks and (unspecified) condiments. You will acquire a surpassing and invaluable vigour for the coitus if you partake this spicy onion paste for several days.

Chemical aspects

Onion, as well as garlic, contains the amino acid alliin and the related allicin (CH2=CH-CH2-SO-CH2-CH=CH2). Alliin, which is devoid of any odour or taste, can be transformed into allicin by the enzyme allinase. Whenever an onion (or a garlic) is crushed this enzyme is released from the plant tissue and starts to enact the transformation. It is allicin which causes the "true" garlic odour. No aphrodisiacal properties have (yet) been demonstrated, but the compound is a good antibiotic.

Guide to Aphrodisiacs: Muira Puama or Potency Wood, a traditional Brazilian Aphrodisiac

Muira puama, marapuama or liriosma is a bush occurring in the northern and northeastern parts of Brazil. The white flowers have a jasmine-like pungent and aromatic smell. It is also known under the name potency wood or under its latin name Ptychopetalum uncinatum (also known as P. olacoides)

The active constituents are contained in the bark from which a concentrated water extract or a dilute herbal tea can be prepared. The herbal tea is slightly bitter but can, of course, be sweetened to make it more palatable. A daily dose of muira puama would correspond to the order of magnitude of one gramme of bark.

It is alleged to be effective against a multitude of symptoms. M. Penna in "Notes Sobre Plantas Brasileires" (1930) includes treatment of disorders of the nervous system, impotency, and gastrointestinal and circulatory astenia. D. Schwontkowski in "Herbs of the Amazon" (1993) mentiones not only impotence but frigidity, menstrual cramps and premenstrual syndrome.

In a French study of 262 patients complaining of erectile impotence or lack of libido, within two weeks of daily treatment 62 % of patients with loss of libido claimed that the treatment had effect. Of the patients with erection failures 51 % felt that muira puama was beneficial.

No constituents, which could give rise to the reported alleged effects have yet been isolated and identified.

Other Brazilian aphrodisiac plants

Three other plants have frequently been used in Brazilian folk medicine as aphrodisiacs: Catuaba (Juniperus brasiliensis, cajueiro (cashew nut, see photo at right)(Anacardium occidentale) and koribo (Tanaecium nocturnum). The main uses of the first plant are said to be for male impotency, for extreme fatigue and as a general tonic. Cajueiro is used as a general tonic for the body, also having aphrodisiacal effects. An additional use of koribo, besides as an aphrodisiac, is to treat diarrhea.

Guide to Aphrodisiacs: Ginkgo Nuts as Aphrodisiac

The fruits of the maidenhair tree, Ginkgo biloba (Ginkgoaceae)(see photo to the left) resembles that of the persimon in colour (pale orange), size and character, with one exception: its flesh stinks. The reason is an abundant production of butyric acid, the same compound that occurs in rancid butter. However, when the hulls fall off the nuts can be collected and dried. When cracked open, the odour-less contents can be eaten.

Ginkgo is possibly the oldest surviving plant in the world. Its origin is in the Permian era, some 200-225 million years ago. The present form of the ginkgo leaf has been essentially unchanged since Jurassic times, about 100 million years ago. Thus, Ginkgo biloba is a fascinating living fossil that can reach an age of over 500 year.

In Chinese herbal medicine ginkgo leaves have been used for more than 5,000 years against ailments ranging from asthma to impotence. Nowadays, the most common preparation is a standardised extract (containing 24 % flavoglycosides). Also the nuts have been used as a kidney yang tonic, which would imply such remarkable and diverse properties as increasing sexual energy, stopping bed-wetting and restoring hearing loss.

Ginkgo nuts can also be roasted and eaten simply because they are delicious. In Japan they are eaten in an egg custard like dish calles chawanmushi. Canned ginkgo nuts are available in Japan and China, and are also imported into some Western countries.

They contain very small quantities of a group of remarkable chemicals called ginkgolides; higher concentrations are found in the leaves and in the wood. The ginkgolides are highly modified diterpenes containing a tertiary butyl group and a lactone ring system that is stable towards strong acids but readily hydrolysed by weak bases. Just guess what that could do to improve your sex life!

Guide to Aphrodisiacs: Fruits and Nuts as Aphrodisiacs

Coco-de-Mer

The most indecent fruit in the world, the nut of Lodoicea maldivica, commonly known as coco-de-mer, is not only visually stimulating by its close resemblance to a certain part of the female body, but also acts as an aphrodisiac when consumed. It is the largest fruit in the plant world, reaching a weight of 10-20 kgs.

Even if commonly called a "double coconut", it is not a coconut but grows on a fan-leaf palm with the two sexes on different trees. The "female" trees do not bear until they are more than 100 years old; furthermore they are confined to two out of the twelve islands of the Seychelles. The annual production is limited to a few thousand nuts.

The interior of the coco-de-mer is jelly-like when ripe and much appreciated, not only because of its aphrodisiacal qualities but also because of the taste.

But even regular coconuts might be useful. The 14th century Arab geographer Ibn-Battuta sent some time on the Maldives, mainly living on fish and fresh coconuts. "I myself had four legitimate wives in this country apart from the concubines. I was potent for them all every day and besides that spent the whole night with whichever of them whose turn it was. I lived like a prince for a year and a half."

Not a bad feat acquiring four wives during such a short period. But maybe it was the fish diet rather than the coconuts...

Pine nuts

A special page is devoted to these nuts, which have such qualities that perhaps they should be X-rated.

Ginkgo

The Ginkgo or Maiden-hair tree has a nut with remarkable properties.

The betel nut

Early Indian writings suggested multiple uses of the betel nut. Not only would it induce love but also expel wind, kill germs and subdue bad body odour.

The betel nut is the seed of Areca catechu, a single-trunked palm tree which can reach a height of 15-30 metre and which is widely diffused among the tropical islands of the southwestern Pacific and adjacent shores.

The reddish-yellow "nuts", which are not true nuts but berries, are 6-8 centimetre long and contain a small kernel. A slice of the nut is taken, sprinkled with finely ground lime and any suitable spices, and wrapped in a leaf of the betel pepper (Piper betle). This small package is then chewed.

Walnut


Already the Latin name of the walnut genus, Juglans, indicates its properties: literally the name means the glans of Jupiter. The origin of the name might be the ancient Roman use of walnut in fertility rites. This included the practice of throwing walnuts instead of rice in marriage ceremonies. Walnut preparations have also occasionally been used in France and Italy to increase the desire.

A walnut festival is celebrated on the second Sunday of October in Vianden, Luxembourg, when useful products, such as walnut liqueur, walnut wine and walnut pate can be bought.

Quince

Quince, Cydonia oblongata (=C. vulgaris) (Rosaceae) has long been cultivated in the entire Mediterranean area. The fruit is, e.g. mentioned by the Greek physician Theophrastos 300 B.C., and is believed to have been the golden apples of the Hesperides. Some even say quince was the apple which lured Eve.

Due to its colour, fragrance and many seeds the fruit was dedicated by the Greeks to Aphrodite and by the Romans to Venus, the goddesses of love, and a symbol for beauty, love, fertility and a happy marriage.

cydonia vulgaris
The eating of a Quince pear at weddings is said to be preparative of sweet and delightful days between the married persons The high concentration of mucilage in the seeds made them very popular as an aphrodisiac. Quince jelly has also a good reputation as an amorous adjuvant.

Quince is very rich in pectin. Thus, the addition of small quantity of quince will rapidly solidify any quivering mass of jelly.

Grapes
The Greek god Dionysus was not only the god of wine but also the god of fertility and procreation. Naturally, even unfermented grapes were ascribed stimulating properties.

Guide to Aphrodisiacs: Aphrodisiacal Food and Drink

The basic rule for selecting aphrodisiacal food is simple: the more expensive the food, the higher the probability that people will believe in it. Of course, if somebody is prepared to spoon-feed you caviar (the real stuff!) it might suggest that the person is seriously interested in you, which, in turn, could stimulate your interest in that person.

Seafood

According to common wisdom, almost any kinds of seafood could act as an aphrodisiac. Lobster, oysters or sole should work equally well as long as they are expensive.

As can be seen from the symbol of this site (Jan Steen: Het oestereetstertje) oysters personified the concept of aphrodisiacs already during the 17th century. Offering an oyster was more than just offering something to eat...

One reason for the popularity of seafood in general and oysters in particular could be that such food generally is light. You do not end up overstuffed (and then underperforming) after half a dozen oysters in their shells, followed by skate wings with a glass of chardonnay.

If you have to select one single seafood, I would recommend chipi-chipi, a small Venezuelan clam widely known for its aphrodisiacal effects.

Fruits and nuts

The aphrodisiacal fruits and nuts have a post of their own. The most impressive nut, the pine nut, is given the special attention it deserves.

Beverages

Most aphrodisiac beverages contain alcohol; these are discussed on the separate page "Alcoholic beverages". Asses' milk had a strong reputation among Romans and arabs, but mainly when used topically. Rubbing the genitals twice a day with this milk had beneficial effects. According to "The Perfumed Garden", the virile member would become "uncommonly strong and vigorous". It is also supposed to have effects on women: Poppea, the wife of the Roman emperor Nero, is said to have bathed in it.

Some non-alcoholic aphrodisiac beverages will soon be added.

Recipies

We have brought together a delightful collection of recipes for aphrodisiacal dishes. If you and your partner believe firmly in them, we can almost guarantee success. And even if you don't, you will have some enjoyable meals.

Other food

Burchard I, bishop of Worms 1000-1025, describes an interesting approach to aphrodisiacs. When the wheat had been harvested but before it was threshed, a woman would undress and roll around over the wheat, which was then threshed and taken to the mill. After milling (counterclockwise!) the flour was used by the woman for the preparation of "love breads". Any man eating such a bread would immediately desire the woman.

Guide to Aphrodisiacs: Aphrodisiacal Drugs

The search for drugs which could act as sexual adjuvants is probably almost as old as the human sex instinct. Originally, the interest focussed on plant and animal preparations, which are discussed elsewhere. Here some pure chemicals, synthetic or isolated from plants, are reviewed:

* alkyl nitrites
* anafranil
* anti-Parkinson drugs
* chlorophenylalanine
* Viagra, the active compound being sildenafil
* yohimbe and yohimbine

Alkyl nitrites

Volatile alkyl nitrites have been used during the last decades for "recreational purposes", including to intesify the sexual experience. The alkyl nitrites are normally distributed in glass ampoules, which are opened/broken and the vapours of the contents are inhaled ("popping" and "snorting"). However, because of the route of administration it is very difficult to control the dose and to ascertain that no dangerous quantities are inhaled.

The first alkyl nitrite to be used in this way was amyl nitrite, originally made available as an antidote to hydrogen cyanide poisoning. When this became a prescription drug in the United States, various homologues and isomers began to appear in the market for "recreational purposes" as legal substitues. Among the substitutes were n-butyl nitrite, iso-butyl nitrite, iso-amyl nitrite, sec-butyl nitrite and n-propyl nitrite.

Their use has been associated with methemoglobinemia and hemolysis. (The first term means that your blood hemoglobin is converted into a chemical which cannot transport oxygen, the second term means that your red platlets are destroyed.) It has even been suggested that there could be a link between the inhalation of alkyl nitrites and the development of Kaposi's sarcoma, a disease normally associated with AIDS Numerous references on the use of alkyl nitrites as aphrodisiacs are available. Please consult these before even thinking about using alkyl nitrites!

Yohimbine

Yohimbine is the major active constituent of the bark of yohimbe, Corynanthe yohimbe (Rubiaceae), a tree growing in tropical West Africa (Nigeria) and Cameroon. Yohimbe has long been used by the local population for its perceived high sexual potency. The same alkaloid also occurs in the South American tree White Quebracho, Aspidosperma quebracho-blanco (Apocynaceae).

Yohimbine has had an extensive use in veterinary medicine, e.g. for treatment of impotent breeding stallions. In both animal and man it produces a complex pattern of responses, such as anti-diuresis and central excitation, including elevation of blood pressure and heart rate, increased motor activity and irritability. Sweating, nausea and vomiting are also common after parenteral administration in man.

Roger J has sent his personal observations on the use of yohimbe to the Aphrodisiacs Exchange. His observations should be useful to anybody tempted to try the preparation.

"Having used Yohimbe Bark for more than one year now, I would like to give the following advice to any one who would like to use this herb to its highest effectiveness:-

1. Different brands of commercially prepared products have different dosages, regardless of what it says outside the bottle. One has to 'try it out' before its 'true strength' is known.
2. If you have serious side effects with it, e.g. nausea and sweating, etc. try switching to another brand - it may not be due to yohimbine itself, but the way it is prepared.
3. To avoid side effects, try taking the herb with a full stomach. It slows down the response time but reduces the side effects remarkably.
4. If you take the herb continously (e.g. every day), you will find the effectiveness decreasing cos it seems that the body gets used to it. Try taking it on alternate days or stop it altogether for a while. When you take the herb again after a short hiatus, it works wonders!

All the above is from my experience of using Yohimbe Bark. And finally, I must say that the herb is wonderful - it produces erections as hard as steel, and increases the force and volume of ejaculation tremendously. I feel like as if I were still 20!"

p-Chlorophenylalanine

High levels of serotonin (5-hydroxytryptamine) are belived to lower or inhibit human sexual activity. Thus, a chemical inhibiting serotonin production might be expected to have a potential as an aphrodisiac. The amino acid p-chlorophenylalanine (PCPA) is a known serotonin inhibitor, and in 1969 it was shown by Tagliamonte et al. that PCPA has a sexual stimulating effect upon normally sluggish male rats. Out of 80 rats treated with PCPA and pargyline 54 tried to mount at least 6 times during 12 hours.

However, it was pointed out by other researchers that the mounting frequency only referred to homosexual mounts. When PCPA was used in a heterosexual situation the copulation frequency of the treated male rats did not increase.

To this it was objected that the treated rats were known to be vigorous copulators, being able to achieve 6-8 ejaculations before satiation. It might be difficult to raise this number even by using a powerful aphrodisiac.

On the other hand it was also suggested that PCPA works not by enhancing sexual motivation, but rather by altering the male's ability to adequately distinguish appropriate sexual partners. On the third hand, rabbits injected by PCPA displayed a compulsive sexual behaviour that lasted up to 3 days (fortunately, no details given).

For a full account of the PCPA controversy check out the references.

Anafranil

"Three clinical psychiatrists had a paper in the Canadian Journal of Psychiatry entitled "Unusual Side Effects of Clomipramine Associated with Yawning," describing 4 patients who, while taking the the anti-depressant drug Clomipramine (brand name Anafranil) reported the unusual side effect of spontaneous orgasm every time they yawned.

The first case of this was a female patient who had been depressed for 3 months, but under treatment "Complete symptom remission occurred within 10 days". She then asked how long she would be allowed to go on using the drug, since she had observed that every time she yawned she had an orgasm, and she was able to experience orgasm by deliberate yawning.

Apparently it can work for guys too. One male patient said that while he found the repeated climaxes "awkward and embarrassing", he elected to continue the medication because of the therapeutic benefit he obtained. The awkwardness and embarrassment were overcome by continuously wearing a condom."

Around five per cent of clomipramine users report the side effect, though for most people the drug inhibits the ability to reach orgasm. The New Scientist says that the drug's users have been comparing notes on the Internet and speculating on its unusual consequences: people who experience it would presumably seek out the most boring person they could find at parties.

Anti-Parkinson Drugs

A side effect of many anti-Parkinson drugs, including L-Dopa is to increase the sexual interest, mainly by restoring the interest to earlier (higher) levels. More information on this will be added shortly, please come back!

Other drugs

Several other drugs have been ascribed aphrodisical properties. Such drugs can be simple amino acids, such as arginine. Elsewhere on the WWW a 21-year old woman is quoted saying:

My god, that stuff! I had to stop taking it. I was doing it with every guy that came along!

But they could also be more complex drugs like piracetam, gamma-hydroxybutyric acid (GHB), bromocriptine (=Parlodel) or deprenyl. Medline-retrieved reviews on deprenyl are available.

Nitric oxide, NO, was discovered to be a transmittor of nerve impulses only eight years ago. It is know known to be a key substances in the process that leads to erection in the male body. However, since it is a gas, which is only required at a very specific location it has turned out to be extremely difficult to use it for amorous purposes.

More information on the use of "other drugs" as aphrodisiacs will be added shortly.

References

Badoual T, Thyrault M, Anguel N, Jallot A, Auzepy P: Acute voluntary poisoning by inhalation of "poppers" (letter). Presse Med 25 (7): 304 (Feb 24 1996)
Tytgat J, Daenens P: Solvent-free sample preparation by headspace solid-phase microextraction applied to the tracing of n-butyl nitrite abuse. Int J Legal Med 109 (3): 150-154 (1996)
Forsyth RJ, Moulden A: Methaemoglobinaemia after ingestion of amyl nitrite. Arch Dis Child 66 (1): 152 (Jan 1991)
Dunkel VC, Rogers-Back AM, Lawlor TE, Harbell JW, Cameron TP: Mutagenicity of some alkyl nitrites used as recreational drugs. Environ Mol Mutagen 14 (2): 115-122 (1989)
Newell GR, Spitz MR, Wilson MB: Nitrite inhalants: historical perspective. NIDA Res Monogr 83: 1-14 (1988)
Bogart L, Bonsignore J, Carvalho A: Massive hemolysis following inhalation of volatile nitrites. Am J Hematol 22 (3): 327-329 (Jul 1986)
Poulsen PA: Consumption of volatile nitrite in the clientele of a clinic for venereal diseases. Ugeskr Laeger 146 (17): 1280-1281 (Apr 23 1984)
Poulsen PA: Alkyl nitrite as an aphrodisiac. Ugeskr Laeger 145 (29): 2213-2215 (Jul 18 1983)

A. Tagliamonte et al.: Compulsive sexual activity induced by p-chlorophenylalanine in normal and pinealectomized male rats. Science 166, 1433-35 (1969)
J. Ferguson et al.: Science 168, 499-501 (1970)
R.E. Whalen and W.G. Luttge: P-Chlorophenylalanine methyl ester: an aphrodisiac? Science 169, 1000-01 (1970).
A Zitrin et al.: Sexual behaviour of male cats after administration of parachlorophenylalanine. Science 170, 868-70 (1970)
G.L. Gessa et al.: Aphrodisiac effect of p-chlorophenylalanine. Science 171, 706 (1971)

Guide to Aphrodisiacs: Chan Su, a Lethal Aphrodisiac

Chan Su is a traditional Chinese medication used, inter alia, as a topical anesthetic. It is prepared from the skin of the toad Bufo bufo gargarizans and contains bufadienolides and bufotenine, examples of cardiac steroids. During the last few years it has been sold in New York City as a purported aphrodisiac under names such as "Stone" and "Rock Hard".


At least four fatalities have been reported during 1993-95 as a result of ingestion of this topical drug, the deaths being caused by cardiac dysrythmias.

Even when used topically, Chan Su is not in any way an amorous adjuvant. When ingested, its contents of cardioactive steroids such as resibufogenin, bufalin and cinobufagin, is bound to have detrimental effects.

The death of a 23-year-old man in New York City resulting from heart failure was attributed to ingestion of a West Indian aphrodisiac known as "Love Stone." Chemical analysis showed that this preparation was very similar to "Chan Su" By a combination of gas chromatography and mass spectrometry, bufotenine was identified as well as a series of bufadienolides, namely resibufogenin, bufalin, and cinobufagin. Allk these are derived from toad venom or secretions, and are cardiotonic steroids.

For further information, please consult Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report 44, 853 (1995). as well as following list of references.



References

Brubacher JR, Ravikumar PR, Bania T, Heller MB, Hoffman RS: Treatment of toad venom poisoning with digoxin-specific Fab fragments. Chest 110 (5): 1282-1288 (Nov 1996)
Barry TL, Petzinger G, Zito SW: GC/MS comparison of the West Indian aphrodisiac "Love Stone" to the Chinese medication "chan su": bufotenine and related bufadienolides. J Forensic Sci 41 (6): 1068-1073 (Nov 1996)
Pierach CA: Digoxinlike toxicity and death from a purported aphrodisiac. JAMA 275 (13): 988 (Apr 3 1996)
Weinblatt M: "Rock"--a deadly aphrodisiac. Ann Emerg Med 23 (4): 904 (Apr 1994)
Chan WY, Ng TB, Yeung HW: Examination for toxicity of a Chinese drug, the toad glandular secretory product chan su, in pregnant mice and embryos. Biol Neonate 67 (5): 376-380 (1995)
Wang JD, Narui T, Takatsuki S, Hashimoto T, Kobayashi F, Ekimoto H, Abuki H, Niijima K, Okuyama T: Hematological studies on naturally occurring substances. VI. Effects of an animal crude drug "chan su" (bufonis venenum) on blood coagulation, platelet aggregation, fibrinolysis system and cytotoxicity. Chem Pharm Bull (Tokyo) 39 (8): 2135-2137 (Aug 1991)
Fushimi R, Koh T, Iyama S, Yasuhara M, Tachi J, Kohda K, Amino N, Miyai K: Digoxin-like immunoreactivity in Chinese medicine. Ther Drug Monit 12 (3): 242-245 (May 1990)

Guide to Aphrodisiacs: Animal Preparations

Numerous animal preparations with little or no nutritious value have been used as aphrodisiacs. According to a medieval recipe, black ants were dried and mixed with olive oil immediately before consumption. Lizards were highly esteemed both by Arabs and southern Europeans. The easiest way was to dry the lizard, pulverize it and take the powder together with a sweet white wine. The lizard could also be a main constituent of a more elaborate dish.

One lizard, occurring on some Mediterranean islands and in northern Africa, Sticus officinalis, was popular as an aphrodisiac during the 18th century even in such remote countries as Sweden.

In several East Asian countries, the consumption of snake blood is supposed to be beneficial for ailing males. Further details, including an address to a snake blood restaurant, are provided on the snake blood page.

In "The Perfumed Garden" it is suggested that rubbing the penis and the vulva with the bile of a jackal will make those parts vigorous for the coitus. A similar result can also be achieved by rubbing the penis with asses' milk.

A man can also, according to "The Perfumed Garden", melt down fat from the hump of a camel and rub his member with it just before the act; it will then perform wonders, and the woman will praise it for its work, it is asserted. (At least it will act as a lubricant!)

Leeches can be used to increase the size of the male member. They are put in a bottle, which is kept enclosed in the warmth of a dunghill until the leeches have turned into a homogenous mass. This is used as a liniment for repeatedly anointing the member.

In Greenland, the billknob of the king eider (Somateria spectabilis) is eaten as an aphrodisiac.

According to Pliny, the gall of a boar would stimulate to coitus. (xxviii: 261).

Even gallstones are in some Asian countries believed to be an aphrodisiac and can have a market value of up to US$15,000 a kilogramme (US$550 an ounce). On 19 March 1997 Mary Claire Stevens, a meat-packing plant food inspector was charged with felony theft, accused of taking gallstones from the Long Prairie Packing Plant in South St. Paul, Minn., USA, to sell on the international market.

The flesh of the Nilgiri langur and the lion-tailed macaque is reputed for its aphrodisiacal properties, according to Ramachandran et al. (1987).

In Hong Kong certain shark species can fetch $ 150 apiece because of the demand for shark fins as an aphrodisiac. The fins are removed, dried for two days and cooked into shark fin soup.

Ambergris

Ambergris is a product arising from some whales, which occasionally can be found on ocean beaches. It is extremely expensive and used for perfume production. According to Arabic folklore it is also an aphrodisiac, a claim which might have substance. Dr. SA Taha and co-workers have published a scientific paper in which they report that ambrein, a main constituent of ambergris, in male rats produced "recurrent episodes of penile erection, a dose-dependent, vigorous and repetitive increase in intromissions and an increased anogenital investigatory behavior". In other words, the male rats started to copulate like they were crazy.

Antlers

Probably because of the similarity with an erect penis, horns and antlers have long been used as aphrodisiacs, especially in Eastern Asia. Reindeer shred their antlers annually; collected shredded reindeer antlers are imported for aphrodisiac purposes in Japan from Canada, Finland, Norway and Sweden. Since fresh antlers are supposed to be even more powerful, but removal of live antlers from the animals is forbidden in Scandinavia even live reindeers have been imported to provide the best possible aphrodisiac quality.

The Tibet Red Deer, Cervus elaphus wallichi, has long been listed as extinct by the World Conservation Union. A herd of 200 animals was recently discovered about 100 miles east of Lhasa (Tibet) on alpine meadows at an altitude of about 4,000 meters. The reason for the earlier believed extermination, and the reason why these animals still are threatened, is that they are coveted for their velvety antlers, which are highly prized as an aphrodisiac.

Rhino Horns

Powdered rhinoceros horns are regarded as a panacea in Eastern Asia, effective against anything from nosebleeds and headaches to diphtheria and food poisoning. In addition, they are widely believed to increase the male sexual capacity, including the capacity for erection However, it should be noted that the original rhino aphrodisiac was the dried penis and not the horn. Widespread poaching of rhinos, including for the sake of the horn, has led to the inclusion in the list of endangered species of all five rhino species existing today (3 in Asia, 2 in Africa).

A rhino's horn is not attached to the skull and is thus not a true horn. It is a growth from the skin of densely compressed dermal fibers, made up keratin. This is the same material that is found in hair and nails. Consequently, comsumption of powdered nail clippings would be expected to provide the same results as rhino's horn.

Also the low molecular weight constituents have been investigated by Inagaki and Oida. Sugar, phosphorous and ethanolamine are present along with several free amino acids, such as aspartic acid, threonine, ornithine, lysine, histidine and arginine (which has been suggested to increase the intensity of sensation during sex).

The use of rhino horns (and tiger bones) for medical purposes was declared illegal by the State Council of the People's Republic of China. However, some trade appears to continue, as the rhino horn is highly prized. In 1990 horns of Asian origin were sold for $21,000 in Thailand and for $54,000 in Taiwan per kilogram.

Spanish fly

A separate post is devoted to Spanish fly and its active constituent, cantharidin.

Animal genitalia

Also the use of animal genitalia as aphrodisiacs is discussed on a separate post.

Chan Su

The traditional Chinese drug Chan Su is made from the skin of a toad. Internal use of this topical drug as an aphrodisiac caused four deaths in New York City 1993-95.

Tiger preparations

In East Asia many tiger parts are considered as powerful aphrodisiacs, including bones, fat, liver and even penis. A bowl of tiger penis soup can fetch $ 350 in Taiwan and South Korea and will have a marvelous effect: just like the tiger you will be able to make love for a full 15 seconds!

Tiger whiskers are used as an aphrodisiac in Indonesia, but in Malaysia the same preparation is regarded as a strong poison.

Remember, though, that all tiger species are endangered. Why not try pulverized porcupine spines as a substitute instead of the prized tiger whiskers? The spines are far more stiff and erect!

Guide to Aphrodisiacs: Animal Genitalia as Aphrodisiacs

Organotherapy was already during the Roman time a popular way of trying to treat sexual problems. This therapy is based on the belief that the consumption of a healthy animal organ might cure illnesses in the corresponding human organ. Thus, the Romans ate all kinds of animal genitalia, including penises, wombs and testes, from animals ranging from monkeys to cocks.

Apicus in his "De re coquinaria" includes several recipes for stuffed womb of pig and cow, mainly, however, as dishes to increase fertility.

The use of deer genitals as an aphrodisiac dates back to antiquity. Hippocrate recommends the penis, an organ which, according to Dioscoride, also can be used as an antidote against snake bites.

Preparations of deer penis were included in several pharmacopoedias as late as during the 18th century, e.g. in Sweden (Svenska taxan 1739: Priapus cervi, Hjort-Pees). Pharmacopoea Wirtenbergensis, published in 1750, recommends "Cervi Priapus" against poisoning, bladder stones and blood in the urine but also suggests that it is a praised aphrodisiac.

Deer testicles, "Testiculi cervi", were less popular, but nevertheless included in the famous "Pharmacologia" by Dale, published in 1696, as an aphrodisiac.

An indirect use of animal genitalia is suggested in "The Perfumed Garden": Boil an ass's penis together with onions and a large quantity of corn. Feed this dish to fowls, which you eat afterwards. This will increase the size and capacity of a man's penis.

Even today there is a market for animal genitalia. According to the March 1995 issue of "Animal People" one Canadian company delivered 50,000 seal carcasses to China during 1994. The genitals alone fetched more than $ 100, while the pelt, meat and oil of a seal went for $20.

Guide to Aphrodisiacs: Alcoholic Beverages

The use of alcoholic beverages to stimulate the libido is of ancient origin. "Sine Ceres et Libero friget Venus" (Without Ceres and Libero [=Bacchus] Venus will freeze, i.e. without food and wine no love) wrote Terence in Eunuchus. However, it was also noted that excessive use would seriously hamper any attempt at love-making. A real intoxication is ugly, but to pretend being drunk can often be helpful, notes Ovid in "Ars amatoria". Then any (unintentional) bad manner will be attributed the wine you pretend to have consumed.

Shakespeare, in Macbeth, Act II, Scene III, lets the porter say that:

it provokes and it unprovokes; it provokes the desire, but it takes away the performance.

A moderate quantity of alcohol will reduce anxiety and release inhibitions, especially for strongly inhibited persons, but the sedative effects soon will be dominating. More than half a gramme of pure alcohol per kilo bodyweight should be avoided by anyone wanting to retain full amorous capabilities. At a bodyweight of 75 kgs this corresponds, e.g. to half a bottle of wine before an event.

Possibly, there might also be other physiological effects. A 1994 study published in the British scientific journal Nature claimed that intake of alcohol would raise the testosterone level of women. Normally, women produce about on tenth the amount men do. According to Dr. Weil "additional small amounts can dramatically increase the libido. For women who lack sexual interest and desire, the treatment can be life-changing."

Absinthe

Some alcoholic beverages are believed to be especially potent. Absinthe was extensively used at the end of the last century as an aphrodisiac by many European, especially French, artists and intellectuals. The driving force behind this Bohemian absinthe cult was the French poet Paul Verlaine. Absinthe is largely an alcoholic extract of wormwood, Arthemisia absinthium, a plant which is rich in quite toxic compounds, such as the essential oils thujon and thujol.

The main culprit is thujon. Its use on a moderate scale as a remedy against intestinal worms might be justified, but habitual use on a large scale can be devastating and result in blindness, cramps and nerve injuries. Absinthe was prohibited in France on 16 March 1915 and is now banned in most European countries because of its toxicity and habit-forming properties.

What the results of use can be are evident from this Degas painting (also available in a even larger format); what a glass of absinthe can look like has been sculptured by Picasso in 1914, a year before the absinthe prohibition.

For further information on absinthe, please consult the collection of absinthe FAQs that is available.

Beer

One could have expected that beer, being a nourishing drink with an alcohol contents low enough to make it easy to avoid overconsumption, quickly would have gained a solid reputation as an aphrodisiac, but alas! The only exception appears to be stout. According to Michel Jackson's Beer Companion, stout is seen as an aphrodisiac in some countries.

A possible explanation might be that beer (like all alcoholic beverages) lowers the production of the hormone vasopressin in the body. This hormone controls, inter alia, the resorption of primary urine; less vasopressin results in less resorption and thus in frequent trips to the toilet, especially when large quantities of liquid have been consumed.

Some special beers have a local reputation for increasing the libido. A favourite beer of ours during hot summer days is the Belgian whitebeer Hoegaarden. Served with a slice of lemon it will cool your exterior and heat your interior!

Recently, the European Magazine, (15-21 February 1996) reported that "oyster stout is being launched as an aphrodisiac drink by Murphy's, the Irish brewer. The brew contains extracts of oysters from the west coast of Ireland."

Liqueurs

Several liqueurs developed in old monasteries have been attributed aphrodisiac effects. These liqueurs include chartreuse (especially the green variety) and benedictine. I have not yet been able to figure out why monks should be so interested in aphrodisiacal liqueurs.

In Guadalajara in Mexico a liqueur is produced from the allegedly aphrodisiacal plant Turnera diffusa under the name Creme de Damiana. The liqueur is supposed to increase libido and counteract impotence.
Portwine

White portwine is held to be a far more powerful aphrodisiac than could be explained by its alcohol contents alone., especially when consumed together with strawberries, preferably of the wild variety. In contrast, red portwine appears to act as any ordinary alcoholic beverage.
Wine

Suitably spiced, wine can be a potent aphrodisiac. Red Burgundy wine, mixed with ginger, cinnamon, cloves, vanilla and sugar is known as Hippocras' aphrodisiac, and was recommended by the French author Rabelais in Gargantua and Pantagruel.

Aqua Mirabilis was used during the 17th century as strengthening tonic but also as an aphrodisiac. It was prepared by letting finely ground cinnamon, galingale root, ginger, nutmeg, rosemary and thyme steep in claret for one week, then straining the wine. A suitable dose would be 1/4 bottle (180 ml) a day.On the basis of this observation it is reasonable to assume that also glögg or glühwein would have similar properties.

Guide to Aphrodisiacs: Kama Sutra Aphrodisiacs

Vatsyayana Kama Sutra or Aphorisms on Love by Vatsyayana is a classical Indian treatise on the art of making love and related subjects. It's precise date of origin is not known, only that it must have been written between the first and the sixth century, A.D. It was translated into English in 1883 by Sir Richard F. Burton and F. F. Arbuthnot; the present presentation is based on that translation, which is available.

Part seven deals with "means of attracting others to yourself" and contains numerous recipes for internal as well as external use. Many of them are based on plants which are identified only by their Hindi names and which are virtually impossible to obtain outside India. Most of these preparations have been excluded here.

Make a woman surrender

If a man wants to make a woman subject to his will, he can prepare a mixture of the powders of white thorn apple (Datura stramonium, extremely toxic!), long pepper (tippali, Piper longum) and black pepper, combine it with honey and anoint his penis before intercourse. It should be noted that the tropane alkaloids of the thorn apple will be readily resorbed through the mucous membranes of the penis and the vagina and might cause severe poisoning.

Alternative, and less risky, ointments to achieve the same purpose include constituents such as flowers thrown on human corpse when carried out to be burned and the remains of a kite who has died a natural death.

A less strange ointment can be prepared from the myrobalam plant (Phyllanthus emblica). Another suggestion, to apply a mixture of, inter alia, arsenic and honey to the male member just before intercourse appears to be directly dagerous to both parties involved in the union.

Increase sexual vigor

Several preparations are said to increase sexual vigor. The easiest to prepare consists of equal parts of ghee (clarified butter), honey, sugar, licorice, the juice of fennel bulbs and milk. This is "a nectar-like composition" which is "provocative of sexual vigor" and a "preservative of life".


Milk, licorice and sugar/honey play a central role in many of the recipes. Additional ingredients can include the asparagus relative shitawari (Asparagus racemosus), long pepper (Piper longum) and the seeds or roots of Trapa bispinosa.

Slightly more exotic is the suggestion to boil a testicle of a ram or a goat in milk, add sugar, and drink the concoction. Kama Sutra does not specify whether the testicle should be pureed before serving.

Increase the size of the penis or contract the vagina

Part seven of Kama Sutra also contains a number of recipes said to alter the size of the human reproductive organs. All of them appear totally useless but rather dangerous.

Guide to Aphrodisiacs: Indian Aphrodisiacs

In a country which has reached a population of almost 1 billion there must be an extensive knowledge of what might stimulate reproductive behaviour. In the following some recommendations from Ayurvedic medicine as well as from modern Indian herbalists have been brought together. Another source of Indian aphrodisiacs is the Kama Sutra, reviewed in our Kama Sutra Aphrodisiacs post.

Ajwain

Ajwain or Bishop's Weed (Trachyspermum ammi of the Umbelliferae family) is a shrub, occurring from Egypt to India, which has been used for medical purposes for several thousand years. The seeds are rich in thymol and are considered an effective aphrodisiac. They should be crushed and fried in ghee (clarified butter), normal butter or olive oil together with an equal quantity of crushed kernels of tamarind seeds. A teaspon of this fried product, taken together with honey and milk before retiring, increases virility and cures premature ejaculation, according to traditional Indian herbal medicine.

Arjuna


Arjuna, Terminalia arjuna, is a tree found in India, Myanmar and Sri Lanka. A decoction of the powdered white bark with milk is alleged to be an effective sex stimulant if taken regularly over a period of time. Further uses suggested in Ayurvedic medicine include treatment of asthma and heart disorders.

Butea

The leaves of the Indian tree Butea monosperma, "Flame of the forest", have been used in Indian herbal medicine as an aphrodisiac and to stop bleeding and diarrhea.

However, be careful! An infusion of the leaves is also said to lower the amount of blood sugar, which could have detrimental effects.

Castus

Castus, Saussurea lappa (Compositae), also known in Chinese herbal medicine as mu xiang, occurs, inter alia, in Kashmir at an altitude of 2500-4000 metres above the sea level. The root of the plant is well-known in Ayurvedic medicine as an aphrodisiac. It contains an essential oil which is partly excreted in the urine. During the passage of the urine through the urethra the presence of the oil causes considerable irritation, which can give rise to a somewhat painful erection. This mechanism is reminescent of the effect of the Spanish fly.

Hydrophilia

Hydrophilia, Asteracanthus longifolia (=Hydrophilia spinosa) of the Acathaceae family is a stout, rough, thorny annual plant occurring in swamps in India and Pakistan. The seeds, the dried plant and the roots are used as a popular aphrodisiac (which part depends on the region).

Fifty grammes of the root boiled with one litre of water until the volume has been reduced to half a litre will provide a tonic of which three tablespoons should be taken daily for optimal effects.

Indian aloe

Indian aloe, Aloe barbedensis of the Liliaceae family, is a 50 - 80 centimeter high plant with long, fleshy leaves and small yellow or orange flowers. The leaves are believed to be a useful aphrodisiac, but the skin must be removed before administration.

If the procurement of fresh leaves is difficult, also the dried leave juice can be used. It is known as elio and normally taken in doses of around 0.1 grammes.

Indian Liquorice

Indian liquorice is a common name of the root of Abrus precatorius. However, it is the seeds, sometimes known as jequirity, that are believed to be an aphrodisiac. Be careful! They contain the extremely toxic polypeptide abrin, as toxic as ricin. Five crushed seeds have been a lethal dose for young persons.

During the early 20th Century, the seeds were used in India to poison English cavallery horses. The normal use of the seeds is for ornamental purposes, e.g. in necklaces.

Indian Mallow

Indian mallow, Abutilon indicum of the Malvaceae family, has seeds, which are believed to be both an aphrodisiac and a laxative, for me a rather strange combination of properties.

Furthermore, the leaves of the same plant have been used against diarrhoea as well as against gonorrhoea and bladder inflammations.

Kuthimithi

All parts of the shrub Withania somnifera, known as Winter Cherry or Kuthimithi or under its sanskrit name Ashwagandha, are said to promote libido, the root being most potent. A traditional Indian recipe calls for two to four grams of the powdered root to be taken together with milk.

The plant belongs to the potato family, Solanaceae, but contains relatively little of tropane alkaloids. However, somniferine is present, an alkaloid which can induce sleep if taken in sufficient quantity.

For other examples of Indian use of herbs and spices as aphrodisiacs, see, e.g.: Arjuna , Ginger, Nutmeg, Pepper

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Aromatherapy and Bath: Getting started

Since time immemorial, water has been regarded as the great healer. It was the ancient Greek and Roman cultures that first recognized the relaxing and remedial properties of water and of massaging oils into the body. Having a bath with essential oils is one of the simplest and most effective aromatherapy treatments. It can be stimulating or relaxing, depending on the temperature of the water and your choice of oils. The therapeutic action of the oils works in two ways: they are absorbed through the skin, moisturizing the dermis and entering the circulatory system, and at the same time their aromas are inhaled, stimulating the brain and increasing your sense of well-being. An aromatic bath can detoxify the body, help problems like cellulite, joint stiffness, general aches and pains, colds and headaches, tone and condition skin, and relieve anxiety and tension.

Getting started

A bath is a simple and effective way of using essential oils. All you need to do is a fill a tub with water, add 6-10 drops of essential oil in it and immerse yourself in the tub for 20 minutes and inhale the perfume. But before you get started, keep these tips in mind:

  • Temperature of the water is important. Remember, a cooler bath is more stimulating while a warm bath helps to relax.
  • Very hot water is damaging because it causes blood vessels and capillaries to expand and increases the heart beat. Hot is also very tough on the skin. You should particularly avoid hot water if you have varicose veins, haemorrhoids, and high blood pressure or are pregnant.
  • A 15--20 minute soak is long enough before skin cells over-hydrate and swell with water.
  • Wait until the bath is almost full before adding the oils, as they evaporate very quickly.

Oils for the Bath

You can add drops of oil directly to the bath and they will float on the surface in a fine film and evaporate, giving you the full benefit of their aromas. Or if you want to absorb them more you can disperse them in water by mixing with a base carrier oil such as sweet almond, apricot kernel, jojoba or evening primrose (these rich base oils all nourish and rejuvenate the skin in their own right). Mix a bath oil with a combination of up to three essential oils, five drops from each, in one tablespoon of skin- softening base oil. Choose oils with similar or complementary effects so they do not counter-balance one another.

The relaxing bath

If you need to relax after a tough day or want to have a good night's sleep, then turn your bathroom into a private haven. Use a soft light or burn aromatic candles. Plants also add to the setting and mood, though they are optional. To relax, support your head with a bath pillow, close your eyes and inhale deeply. Concentrate on your breathing, empty your mind and let the oils soothe away all the stresses and strains. After a 15-20 minute soak, get out slowly and wrap yourself in a large, warm towel.

There are a number of oils that you can use to relax. These include Basil, Bergamot, Cedarwood, Chamomile, Frankincense, Hyssop, Juniper, Lavender, Marjoram, Melissa, Rose, Sage and Sandalwood. Although these oils have a predominantly calming effect some can also be used to stimulate the circulation and lymphatic system, in particular Lavender and Bergamot oils.

The stimulating bath

Start your day with panache or get charged up for an evening out with a bath that is stimulating. Keep the water fairly cool and use a bath sponge to rub down and stimulate the circulation. When you've soaked, rinse yourself with water as cold as you can bear, either by splashing directly from the tap, or shower, or by adding more cold water to further cool down your bath. Get your blood pumping by either slapping yourself dry or rubbing yourself vigorously with a towel. Your skin will tingle all over, leaving you stimulated for the day or night, as the case may be.

Oils that help to stimulate are Cypress, Eucalyptus, Fennel, Geranium, Juniper, Lavender, Lemon, Lemongrass, Peppermint, Pine, Rosemary or Thyme.

Whether you want to relax your senses your stir them up, there's no better than way an aromatic bath. It'll cool you down and reinvigorate your mind, body and soul.

Shiatsu Massage: Stay Stress Free

Want to go in for a massage? Try Shiatsu.

What is shiatsu?

Shiatsu is a traditional oriental therapy that had its origin in China, traveled to Japan and then finally to the West. The word 'shiatsu' is of Japanese origin and is made up of two words "SHI" meaning "FINGER" and "ATSU" which means " PRESSURE".

The basic concept of this massage is to encourage a positive outlook to life. According to Shiatsu, the working of our body is guided by a 'vital force' which is energy or 'Qi'. Thus in this massage, the fingers are used to apply pressure on various parts of the body to cure many diseases and ailments. Sometimes even the thumb, palm, elbow, knees and feet are used. Walking barefoot on the patient's body too is not an unknown thing!

This technique is very similar to acupuncture however in acupuncture needles are used but in shiatsu it is the parts of the body that are used to apply pressure. Pressure is applied on the acupuncture points link to 915 as well as on general areas. Shiatsu is a much wider concept that includes stretching, joint rotation and manipulation and also very light holding techniques for spiritual healing. It thus helps create flexibility and restores balance in the body.

It can help

Shiatsu not only helps us get over specific ailments but also maintains overall health. It is known to be very effective in rectifying problems such as:
  • Insomnia
  • Back pain
  • Headache
  • Constipation
  • Skin irritation
  • Circulatory problems
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Arthritis
  • Menstrual problems
  • Respiratory problems
  • Reproductive problems
  • Emotional problems
  • Nervous system ailments
  • Anxiety
  • Stress
  • Posture problems
  • Behavior imbalances


The treatment

'Touch' is an integral part of shiatsu. It is the way in which the practitioner can communicate his love and compassion, in other words positive energy, to the patient so that the body balance can be restored.

The treatment takes nearly an hour or more each time and 3 or 4 sessions are spaced out in a time period of 4 to 6 weeks. However it is also guided by the nature of the problem.

The two basic techniques are:
  • Stimulating, and
  • Sedating
  • Pressure is applied for may be 2-3 minutes to a particular area. Sometimes the practitioner will apply pressure in different forms like rotating some part of the body, stretching some limb or simply holding. The end of the session will result in a relaxed and at times a sleepy person. So go ahead and take some rest.

After effects and cautions

Shiatsu is generally a very safe treatment that can even be practiced on children, pregnant women and the elderly. However, sometimes you may experience some after-effects like:
  • Cough and cold
  • Tiredness
  • Emotional ups and downs
  • Headache or some aches and pains
This is a sign that the treatment has had an effect. In fact, what it means is that the body is getting rid of unwanted foods, stress and tensions.

Keep these cautions in mind:
  • It should not be practiced or taken if there is high fever
  • It should not be practiced or taken if there is some infection
  • It should not be practiced or taken if there is a cut, bruise or inflammation of any sort.
  • Never take or give shiatsu after a large meal.
  • Always wear comfortable and loose fitting clothes.
  • No pressure at any time should be applied to the varicose veins.
  • The room in which it is practiced should always be quiet, warm and clean.
Try this oriental therapy and stay relaxed and stress free.

Yoga: The Shoulder Stand and the Plough

The Shoulder Stand or the Sarvangasana invigorates and rejuvenates your whole body. This asana gives almost the same benefits as the Head Stand, but with a difference. Inverting the body at right angles to the head stretches the neck and upper spine and, most importantly, stimulates the thyroid and parathyroid glands by pressing your chin into the base of your throat.

This pose encourages deep abdominal breathing because it limits the use of the top of your lungs. Initially this may feel a little constricting, but you will soon adapt as you relax into the pose. The Plough follows on from the Shoulder Stand, and gives similar benefits. The cycle ends with the Bridge, which counters the two previous poses. All three improve the flexibility of your spine. However, before beginning the Shoulder Stand, make sure that there is enough room behind you.

Steps for how to do the Shoulder Stand:

Lie flat on your back, with your feet together. Lay your hands flat on the floor next to your sides. Inhale while bringing your legs up to a right angle.
Tuck your hands under your buttocks, with your fingers pointing toward your spine. Then, as you exhale, gently raise your body by letting your hands walk down your back and push you into position. Your elbows are bent and flat on the floor. Your legs are straight but relaxed.

Continue to move your hands up your back until you rest on your shoulders. Feel your body lift from the base of your neck. Press your chin into your neck. Breathe normally, and keep your legs straight. Hold for 30 seconds; as the pose becomes easier, increase the time to 3 minutes.

To come down, drop your feet halfway to the floor behind your head. Put your hands on the floor. Breathe normally until your whole spine is resting on the floor and your legs are at right angles to it, then exhale as you slowly lower your legs, keeping the knees straight.

The Plough: In the Plough, your body is bent forward. This stretches your entire spine, particularly your cervical vertebrae and shoulders.

Come up into a Shoulder Stand, and inhale deeply. Exhale while lowering your feet to the floor behind your head.

Rest your toes on the floor, then lay your arms down flat. Hold for 30 seconds at first, but aim to build up to 2 minutes. If you cannot lower your feet all the way, keep your hands on your back for support. To come out, lift your feet off the floor, and slowly roll down. Relax in the Corpse Pose.

You may try this variation if you are supple enough. Once in the Plough, lower your knees to the floor by your ears. Hook your arms over your legs. To come out, straighten your knees, then roll down.

Yoga: What are Leg Raises?

Practising the leg raises will develop your physical strength and make it easier for you to perform asanas correctly. Leg Raises will also strengthen your abdominal and lower back muscles. But remember that in order to gain the maximum benefit from these asanas, keep your back as flat as possible on the floor, and your shoulders and neck relaxed. If you cannot lift your legs all the way up raise them only as high as you can manage.

Single Leg Raising

Lie on your back and put your feet together. Push your back into the ground to keep your spine straight, then inhale as you lift one leg as high as possible. Begin by raising your legs individually. Lift each leg at least three times. Keep your foot straight as you raise your leg. Lay your hands next to your body with the palms down. Try to synchronise your movements with your breathing. To finish, exhale as you lower the leg.
Inhale, raising one leg. Use both hands to grasp your leg, and stretch it toward your head. Lift your head to your leg. Raise your chin to your shin and hold for 10 seconds. Exhale as you lower your head and your leg. Repeat three times for each leg.

Single Wind Relieving

This asana, known as Vatayanasana , gently massages the digestive system and gives relief from excess wind in the stomach and intestines. It also tones and stretches the lower back.


As you inhale, bend one knee up to your chest, and hold it with both hands. Raise your head up to your knee.
Hold the pose for about 10 seconds. Exhale as you release your leg, straighten it, and lower it. Repeat the pose with your other leg.

While practising Vatayanasana , resist the tendency to raise the lower back or buttocks off the ground. Try to keep the leg that is on the floor as straight as possible.

Double Leg Raising

This is a difficult asana especially if your abdominal muscles are not fully developed. Make sure that the lower back and buttocks are on the floor. Keep your feet an inch or so off the floor between raises to make your muscles work harder.


Lie flat on the floor with your feet together and your hands flat on the floor next to your body. Push your back down, breathe in, and raise both legs, keeping your knees straight. Once you can perform double leg raising without strain, lower your legs as slowly as possible.
Exhale as you lower your legs. Start with 5 raises, and build up to 10.

Here are a few points to remember:


  • If you cannot manage this exercise with your back flat, just do the single leg raises until your back becomes stronger.
  • Ensure that your lower back remains flat on the floor while you bring the legs down, to avoid injuring to the spine.
  • At first, you may not be able to raise your legs right up. You can bend your knees slightly while raising the legs, straightening them once they are up. Pressing down with your palms will help you to lift the legs.
  • If you have a particular weakness in your lower back or abdominal muscles, try interlocking your fingers and placing them on your abdomen to create an extra set of "muscles". Press the fingers down each time you need to contract the abdominal muscles.

Double Wind Relieving

Like the single leg version, this exercise also massages the abdominal organs and helps to release any gases from the intestines. Rocking gets rid of any stiffness in the spine by gently massaging the spinal vertebrae, back muscles and surrounding ligaments.


Inhaling, bend your knees, wrap your hands around them and press them to your chest. Exhaling, release the legs. Keep your head and shoulders down and push your lower back against the floor.
Inhaling, bring your knees in to your chest, as before, then raise the chin to the knees. Now rock gently backward and forward and from side to side. Try to maintain a steady and controlled rhythm. Exhaling, release the legs.