Love, beauty, and raw sexuality. (Aren’t you glad you’re reading this post?) These are the qualities of the Greek goddess Aphrodite, whom the Romans called Venus. The Egyptians had Hathor, the Etruscans had Turan, Astarte for the Phoenicians, and the Armenians relied on Astghik to keep things volumptuous and lively behind closed doors.

These ancient civilizations added more to amour than stories; they attributed sexual power to certain foods and spices. Unlike today, food was not so easily accessible. Undernourishment was an issue and with it decreased libido and fertility rates. The ancients felt that eating foods that had the quality of fertility, e.g. eggs and seeds, would help their situation. Similarly, foods and spices resembling a person’s baby-making equipment would also have the desired effect (think cloves).

Spices are very sensual.  A side note here: sensuality is an indulgence of the 5 senses. If you’re enjoying what you see, smell, touch, hear and taste then you’re sensual. Spices often score 4 out of 5 here.

Keep in mind, tradition is complex and there are many colorful threads to the phenomenom of spices that are believed to awaken, enhance and even cause sexuality. But one can’t argue the sensuality of spices. They are a luxury, a perfume, and a way to feel satiated and gratified through food.

Here’s my valentine for you: a list of aphrodisiac spices. And if you’re wondering about authenticity–some of these spices were listed by the Ancient Greeks themselves, including Pliny.

Aniseed. The Greeks and Romans felt sucking on these seeds could increase desire.

Vanilla. It’s smooth, deep fragrance conjures up feelings of romance.

Pepper. Enhances sexual function.

Saffron. It’s a plant’s sexual organ (stigma) and is supposed to cause erotic sensations. (Who says botany is boring?)

Cloves. Deeply fragrant, they enhance sensuality. 

Nutmeg and Mace. They contain some compounds related to mescalin. In extremely large doses nutmeg is supposedly a hallucinogen. In small doses it’s reputed to give you those happy Aphrodite feelings.

Asafoetida. This spice was used by the Romans as birth control. You can imagine why they valued it so much (evidently, undernourishment was not an issue for the Romans). For them, asafoetida was the provider of pure selfish erotica and romance (If you have kids, as much as you love them, you can totally get why the Romans treasured this spice)!

Cardamom. Cardamom has a practical romantic application. The Greeks, Romans and Chinese used to chew cardamom to freshen the breath. Seriously, it sounds simple but a sweet smelling breath is kind of essential. Wouldn’t you agree?

So there you have it. Take a pinch of this and that or go here to find spice-specific recipes, and have some fun.

How will you use spices for Valentine’s Day?