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Aphrodisiacs? Search This Medieval Islamic Encyclopedia (nytimes.com)
38 points by diodorus on Oct 10, 2016 | hide | past | web | favorite | 19 comments

> In whittling down al-­Nuwayri’s opus, his selections skew to the crowd-pleasing. Large chunks of history (which made up the bulk of the original text) and scribal etiquette are jettisoned, while the heart of the translation consists of marvelous chapters on wildlife (“mute beasts”), botany and “sexual medicines.”

I'm a little disappointed by this. I understand the need to abridge it, but to skew towards the "crowd-pleasing" is a bit much. Maybe it's just me but I'd have rather had things more proportionally represented (ie have some more history!). From the sound of it, every part of this has its own wonder, and I'd rather the translation reflect that.

I have an idea that any sufficiently large volume of general knowledge, will contain supposed aphrodisiacs. The corollary is that any mysticism around food or drinks will conclude that virtually everything is an aphrodisiac.

the first statement is obvious, isn't it? replace the aphrodisiacs with anything, like 'hammer', it still holds.

the second one is interesting, but I didn't quite get how this can be deduced from the first statement.

Considering that aphrodisiacs don't exist, and hammers have for thousands of years, I see a small difference.

> Considering that aphrodisiacs don't exist

What do you mean? You're denying the existence of a) libido, b) drugs, or c) the effect of drugs on libido. Could you elaborate? None of the above statements strikes me as true.

C... obviously, since neither A nor B fit the definition of "Aphrodisiacs". There are no drugs that I'm aware of which increase sexual desire, can you name some?

Well, libido is not qualitative. There are many drugs that increase the desire for sex, including most of the recreational ones. Hell, MDMA alone will get you there if you already want to have sex but do not have the drive.

On the prescription side, they use testosterone patches to help with women's libido - I think they've done other drugs as well. Hormomes do quite a bit - birth control can kill libido.

As far as recreational drugs, MDMA is generally viewed as such, though it remains slightly illegal.

Going about this another way, alcohol seems to do it with a lot of people, mostly by loosening anxieties and other such things, though that can have the downside of having desire but not enough sobriety to complete the task. Other recreational drugs vary somewhat.

Beyond that, I think a lot of things are social cues and not actual aphrodisiacs. In modern times, I'm guessing this is things like receiving flowers and other dating rituals.

Anecdotally, I've noticed a consistent marked increase in my sexual desire from eating certain things. Cayenne pepper, ginger root, garlic, and in particular tongkat ali. I naturally have a very high sex drive so perhaps I'm more susceptible than most.

It appears there are indeed drugs that have libido enhancing qualities. These include bremelanotide, and phenethylamines


First was discontinued in safety trials, and phenethylamines require an MAOI.

The problem with anecdotes in this case is that the libido fluctuates a lot anyway, and a sample size of "1 person" is just not going to tell us much. To the best of anyone's ability to rigorously test though, there are no aphrodisiacs. That should honestly make sense, since if there were any, they would be the subject of intense scrutiny and attempts to synthesize a version you could stick in a pill; it would be a gold mine like no other.

> sample size of "1 person"

There are a few different problems here which should not be confused with each other.

1. Variance. This is what people normally talk about when they talk about sample size. Maybe thomyorkie just happened to randomly be horny in those specific instances? If they tried it sufficiently many times that would give a high sample size and eliminate variance problems.

2. Blinding / placebo. Maybe believing that they will be horny causes them to be horny.

3. Representativeness. Maybe thomyorkie just works in their own way and the results wont generalize to other people.

Well... how about testosterone and similar steroids? Considering that it's largely responsible for sexual desire in the first place, and prescribed as a treatment for low libido.

Testosterone is well known to do this; you may have heard of it?

Methamphetamine is also known for this.

Is there a firewall that prevents ingested chemicals from affecting the chemicals that affect libido?

Yes, I guess the blood-brain-barrier, because 99% of sex happens in the brain.

The original is open source (in Arabic) https://archive.org/details/waq66201

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