We all know luxury aphrodisiacs like Champagne, chocolate and oysters. But how about asparagus or blowfish? More utilitarian than romantic, unusual aphrodisiacs like these have been in play since humans could procreate.

Originally sought after as cures for infertility, these items have become inexorably tied to pleasure. So if you’re looking for a little assistance in the love department, here are aphrodisiacs from around the globe to try. 

Ambergris

Ambergris is sometimes inaccurately referred to as “whale vomit,” because it originates from the stomach of a sperm whale. A waxy substance produced to protect the organ from indigestible squid beaks, it builds up and is expelled. When it makes its way to the surface, ambergris is one of the most expensive substances on the planet. Its musky aroma made it a fixture in historical perfumes and it has also been ingested for its lusty-inducing properties – it’s said that Casanova liked to add it to his chocolate mousse. 

Bird’s nest soup

First, find the nest of a cave-dwelling swiftlet, found mostly in Southeast Asia. Next, soak the nest in water overnight, making sure to remove the feathers and other unsavory bits. Mix with ingredients like chicken broth, onions, sherry, and egg white and voila, bird’s nest soup. With a consistency similar to egg drop soup, the dish is said to smooth the skin, boost the immune system and assist in the bedroom. Oh, and did we mention the nests are made of swiftlet’s saliva?  Yes, you’re drinking a bowl of spit. 

A pair of durian fruits have been cut open to show the fleshy portions
The durian fruit has been scientifically proven to increase sex drive (in rats at least) © Simon Long / Getty Images

Durian

The Malaysian saying: “When the durians come down, the sarongs come off,” may surprise some who have come into contact with the notoriously pungent South Asian superfood. But in addition to being packed with nutrients, the silky fruit has also been proven scientifically to increase sex drive. Well, in rats anyway. In a lab when consumed by rats consistently over a month, the animals developed a larger sperm count, as well as big gains in libido.

Balut

Those familiar with Filipino cuisine have no doubt heard of the balut, a fertilized duck or chicken embryo that gives pause to even the most adventurous eaters. Warm, crunchy, and eaten straight out of the shell, it’s a common sight on the streets of the Philippines, valued as an energy booster and a sign of virility in men. Packed with protein and nutrients, the resulting stamina may account for the assertion that it's also an aphrodisiac. 

Thinly sliced fugu (puffer fish) is intricately arranged in the shape of a flower on a colorful plate.
It's the danger of the pufferfish that makes the dish so appealing © Hiroyuki Takeno / Getty Images

Fugu 

It could be the adrenaline rush knowing that you might die if your serving of fugu, or blowfish, isn’t prepared correctly. It could also be that when consumed – after being prepared by a highly-trained, specially-certified chef –  there's just a trace of the poison left in the Japanese delicacy, which causes a numbing and tingling sensation. Most likely it’s a combination of the two, but either way, fugu promotes the right kind blood flow, if you know what we mean.

Leafcutter ants

You wouldn’t normally think of ants as an appropriate wedding present, but in Colombia, you’d receive them with excitement. For over 500 years, these big-bottomed or leafcutter ants (hormigas culonas in Spanish) have been believed to get people in the mood. The females are harvested during the rainy months for a delicacy packed with protein and low in fat. When fried or toasted they taste a little nutty. 

A woman holding a bunch of asparagus stares into the eyes of a man wearing glasses holding a pair of white asparagus at a farmer's market
White asparagus is a popular aphrodisiac in Germany © Westend61 / Getty Images

White asparagus

In culinary circles, the white asparagus is known for its sweet and mild flavor and abundance of nutrients. But in Germany, the vegetable has reached almost cult-like status for its aphrodisiac qualities. Beyond the telltale shape, the vegetable is known for its histamine production, which is said to ease and strengthen orgasms. Stock up – it’s only available from late April to mid-June. 

Cow cod soup 

The reasons cow cod soup is considered libido-enhancing are pretty straightforward – it contains “cod” or bull’s penis. This key ingredient is simmered with other additions like garlic, onion, root vegetables, green bananas and scotch bonnet peppers in a white rum-based broth, and Jamaican men swear by its passion-inducing properties. Don’t ask the ladies, though – this is strictly a men’s-only affair.  

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This article originally published in January 2020 and last updated in February 2021.

This article was first published January 31, 2020 and updated February 12, 2021

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