Henry Kissinger said power was the ultimate aphrodisiac. Jean Baudrillard claimed it was innocence. Others like to get their bedroom boost in pill form, or food.
Over the years, aphrodisiac qualities have been attributed to more edibles than it is possible to list, from asparagus to pine nuts to oysters to sparrow brains (ick).
Does any of this stuff work?
Regular readers of this column will not be surprised to learn that the answer is a resounding maybe!
But watch out. Some things can be dangerous, and if you're buying it on the internet, it might not be what it claims to be.
Case in point, a product called Magic Power Coffee. It's marketed as a "100% natural sex enhancement product," but the FDA reportedly found that samples contained hydroxythiohomosildenafil, a chemical similar to the active ingredient in Viagra, which can apparently interact with other drugs and cause dangerously low blood pressure.
The lesson? Do some thorough research before priming the love pump. And consult a practitioner before taking any herbs or tonics.
What the experts say
"Damiana is a good urinary tonic and has a history of use as an aphrodisiac for both men and women. You can put 2 teaspoons in 1 cup of water as a hot or iced tea. Horny Goat Weed is another that can be taken as a tincture or a tea. It's also available in capsule form. Ginkgo biloba is good for peripheral circulation and enhancing libido. The ginsengs are also used, Korean ginseng traditionally by older men. A few more in the pharmacopeia include catuaba bark, maca root and Muira Puama, also referred to as potency wood. These are all often used in combination."
CELINA AINSWORTH, The Herbal Clinic and Dispensary, Toronto
"In Chinese medicine, ejaculation takes life force away from men. You need moderation - with not enough or too much will harm you. Women can have as many orgasms as they want and it will have no effect on their life force or kidney energy. Ginseng will replace the kidney energy that you lost from ejaculation so you can have more sex and still be in good health. Too much yin will clog up your yang, and vice versa, so you can't just fire yourself full of hard-on juice without the consequence of burning up your yin. Rhinoceros horn is not used as an aphrodisiac, despite popular belief."
KALEB MONTGOMERY, doctor of Chinese medicine, Toronto
"The diet will help women have easy orgasms and higher libido. It will also help them become more easily vaginally orgasmic. The main component is massive amounts of high-quality fish oil. I tell women to take calcium, magnesium and zinc and to try to keep their serotonin at a moderate level, with high dopamine. Having protein and fat with starch at every meal allows your brain chemistry to stay balanced. That's critical for sexual enjoyment. Avoid caffeine and soy products."
MARRENA LINDBERG, author, The Orgasmic Diet: A Revolutionary Plan To Lift Your Libido And Bring You To Orgasm, Boston
"Oysters are a fantastic aphrodisiac. On top of the suggestiveness, they're a great source of lean protein and digestible zinc. Zinc is essential for blood flow. There is some evidence that an amino acid in all of the bivalves - oysters, mussels, clams - may raise sexual hormone levels. Watermelon has a phyto-nutrient called citrulline that acts to relax blood vessels in a similar way to Viagra. Champagne is another favourite. Some champagne has a scent that replicates female pheromones. Coffee is a fabulous aphrodisiac. Chocolate does have a wonderful history as an aphrodisiac, but the PEA [the stimulant that gives chocolate its hot rep] amount is so negligible that the average woman would have to eat 20 pounds in one sitting. Most cheeses have about 10 times as much PEA."
AMY REILEY, author, Fork Me, Spoon Me and The Love Diet, Los Angeles
"Your libido and desire can be impaired by many things, ranging from hormonal imbalance to vitamin deficiency to poor circulation to how attracted you are to your partner's smell. Regular exercise increases endorphins, which can increase arousal and blood flow - and improve your body image, energy and confidence. Foods rich in zinc can help regulate hormones and increase libido. Examples of dietary sources of zinc include raw nuts and seeds, baked beans, duck and free-range red meat (in moderation). Tribulus terrestris is a tonic and adaptogen used to help increase libido and overall energy."
CARRIE WATKINS, naturopath, Toronto