Eat Indian for great sex
By Neeta Lal & Additional words by Sanchita Guha
Our ancient wisdom bestows libido-boosting powers on the simple ingredients in your kitchen. Read on to harness the force of these everyday aphrodisiacs.
First, a poser: what is the Indian word for aphrodisiac? Well, at first it fogged us, too. But we dug deeper and found that vajikarana, the Sanskrit word, defines as an aphrodisiac any substance that restores or increases sexual power and desire. As with all things ancient Indian, the basis for this is rather more scientific than the belief in oysters, tiger penis and rhino horn, a belief that depletes wildlife, but does nothing to make you a tiger in bed.
Indian aphrodisiacs, on the other hand, are everyday workhorses: things like ashwagandha, methi, hibiscus, ghee, saffron and shatavari are listed among them. However, their purpose is not exclusively to increase the pleasure of your romp in bed. Sex, in the Indian context, is not a hedonistic activity; traditionally, in this country, you are expected to have sex mainly to produce children and continue the blood line. To that end, some of these Indian aphrodisiacs also work to improve the quality of semen and breast milk.
Small but powerful cardamom ensures a good time
Chiefly, the aphrodisiac foods do this by putting more nutrition into your body rather than through putting some energising spell on your manhood. Neelanjana Singh, consultant dietician, Pushpavati Singhania Research Institute, New Delhi, says, "Food has been known to scientifi cally affect a man's moods. Just as there are mood foods, sleep-inducing foods and anti-ageing foods (rich in antioxidants), there are aphrodisiac foods like banana, milk, honey, almonds, truffles and chocolates that rev up a man's libido." But Singh is quick to clarify that these are not to be classed with Viagra. "It is the amino acid profile of these foods that contributes to this quality." As for that feeling of romance, that must come from the heart, even when your body is all pumped up.
Be fit in bed
Amino acids, the building blocks of protein, are the substances that give you a shot of strength, which is why you are recommended a protein shake before a workout. Now, think of sex as a workout requiring a lot of strength. That may explain why it is a practice in certain regions of India to leave a glass of milk and a plate of almonds in a couple's wedding night chamber. Think of this chain reaction: milk and almonds both give you protein; protein is needed for making hormones; testosterone and oestrogen are both hormones; more of these two hormones means better sex.
Saffron, almonds and milk drench this drink in libido-boosting powers
The repertoire of Indian aphrodisiacs can be traced to ayurvedic or unani therapies. Besides aiding in sex, they are also meant for epicures keen to savour life's exotic flavours. The Bhagavad Gita makes numerous references to the aphrodisiacal qualities of specific foods, linking their effects to personality types-satvik (noble/pure), rajasik (passionate/energetic) and tamasik (demonic/ignorant). Rajasik foods, or elixirs and aphrodisiacs, are ideally suited to individuals with a larger-than-life appetite.
Indian men in ancient times sought aphrodisiac foods to cure sexual dysfunctions, sexual inadequacies and infertility; getting more pleasure out of sex was not the primary aim. This is largely because procreation was viewed as a moral and religious issue. Ancient texts, too, distinguish between substances that scientifically enhance fertility and those that simply rev up one's sex drive.
There is a whole spectrum of aphrodisiacs, according to ayurveda-this includes crustaceans (prawns, crabs) and flowers like the Alexandrian Laurel flower or the Sultan Champa. Associated with Lord Shiva, Sultan Champa is one of the eight flowers offered to him during early morning worship and its stamen-the male part of a flower and the 'potent' part for men in search of a libido-is called naag kesar.
Master the spices
No food, flower or anything else can be called 'aphrodisiac' unless it meets certain scientifi c criteria. Spices are perhaps the most potent among Indian aphrodisiacs and possess special aromas and/or essential oils that invigorate the senses. The essential oils (or terpenoid alcohols) of spices give them their smell, taste and tactile sensation, which, in turn, stimulate you. The Arabian magnum opus The Perfumed Garden and our own Kama Sutra talk about the virtues of condiments like nutmeg, cloves, cardamom and ginger.
The Romans are known to have favoured cinnamon and pepper, while the Chinese prefer ginger/galangal. If it's more and better sex you are after, the scriptures advise you to avoid the 'anaphrodisiacs', foods that bring down a man's potency. Culprits include dill, lettuce and watercress.
However, stocking up on spices and nuts alone may not bring that surge of sex drive. Good sex, to a great degree, depends on your state of mind. Ishi Khosla, clinical nutritionist and columnist, feels the power of aphrodisiacs is more psychological than real. "Such foods (termed 'love' foods) have anti-infl ammatory, circulatory, relaxant and muscle-strengthening properties. Garlic and ginseng, for instance, improve one's circulatory system," she says. And since erection depends on blood flow to the penis, a circulatory system working in top gear is bound to add hours to your sex session.
And you can do it all night without any guilt over killing endangered animals.
Edited by: Lawyer Asad