Taking a break from the gardening to celebrate the patron saint of love, Fiann Ó Nualláin suggests spices that may help to rev the engines this coming Valentine’s Day — and not a love heart in sight, either.
Spices are performance enhancers and have aphrodisiacal, hormonal and vasodilation properties which all work together to get you biochemically in the mood.
Back at Christmas, I looked at some of the festive spices that make their way into the shopping cart at that time of year and how they are useful in the garden as well as the kitchen – some benefiting seed germination, some deterring pests and so on.
I received some very nice messages after it — I’m sure it’s in the online archives if you missed it — the point is that the positive reception made me think about revisiting spices at some point in the future and that it wouldn’t be such a leap away from gardener’s interests.
I was hired to write a gardening column and I know I do wander into mental health and physical wellbeing territories on a regular basis, but you can’t have a healthy flourishing garden without a healthy flourishing gardener.
And nothing gets one flourishing like a healthy sex life.
So, on that note I am going to risk the rack and miss the rake (sounds like a Planxty song), for this week and visit the spicier side of life – or does that make it sound like the wrong rack?
I mean the spice rack, not the Frank Sinatra chat up line or the 50 shades connotation.
And just like that — and like any gardener worth the salt, I’m never far from digging a hole.
Anyway, it will be back to the grow-how and real digging next week, but with Valentine’s night fast approaching and the perennial plethora of daytime television and glossy magazine pieces on how to spice up your love life —mainly vacuous — I thought this moment apt to look at the reality of spices as aphrodisiacs, if that’s not too bold a claim, but let’s just say romance enhancers (even if many are performance enhancers).
The cause and affect lies in the phytochemicals they contain — some of which act as hormonal stimulants, others are great circulatory boosters and some even trigger endorphins to get you started on the euphoric spectrum.
So combined together, spices don’t just work to put you in the mood but they can contribute to physically facilitate some peak experiences.
And to maximise the content in the space that I am allotted here, I’ve picked seven spices that are so easy to include in your diet or date night meals.
Both black and white pepper were once revered as sexual stimulants — so much so that once upon a barbarian ransack, it was included it in the ransom demand — until pepper became so commonplace that the effect kind of wore off.
Some think the better digestion and absorption of nutrients that pepper facilitates makes one less bloated and feeling more sexy after a romantic meal.
Pepper does contain a chemical known as myristin which has vasodilatory and smooth muscle relaxant properties — two properties known to support arousal and the mechanics of an erection and vaginal contractions.
Don’t for the love of God rub it in. Do season with it.
In my spare time I do enjoy reading a bit of psychology or evolutionary biology, I love how the brain is plastic but also how it pulls tricks on us.
A few years back I read that lonely people drink more hot beverages than people in supportive families or loving relationships — the brain accepts the warmth as a substitute for intimacy — the hot mug is the hug we seek.
While that is touchingly sad, it is also the reason why ginger features on every aphrodisiacal list there is — the warmth of it engenders a sense of intimacy and so receptivity/interest ensues.
Ginger is also a circulatory aid and gets the blood to all the right places. Hot ginger syrup on homemade coconut or banana ice-cream can get you into all sorts of trouble.
I think of it as a vegetable and one to keep my immune system strong, but it’s also to be found dried in the spice section and it complements ginger in many dishes and bridges eastern and western cuisine.
As to its ‘spicier’ side — through its dilating action on blood vessels it is also known to contribute to stronger erections and greater vaginal and clitoral sensitivity— intensifying sexual experience and offering stronger orgasms to both partners.
So that’s a garlic starter, garlic main and do you do a garlicy dessert?
While more a herb than a spice it’s apportioned a place on the spice rack and is very useful in helping neutralise the volatile oils in garlic that linger on the breathe without undermining its medicinal and ‘love life’ benefits.
Better still, parsley builds female libido and encourages hormones and neurotransmitters conducive to arousal and satisfaction-response.
Now is a good time to sow parsley seeds – that’s the obligatory nod to this being in the gardening section done. Seriously though, at least four of these seven you could try growing at home.
Cloves and cinnamon
Cloves have been utilised for centuries in eastern medicine to tone sexual muscle and intensify contractions – no wonder love is in its centre.
Cinnamon improves circulation, in traditional Chinese medicine a tincture of it known as Rou Gui or Gui Pi is a potent tonic to cure impotence.
Cinnamon can be a convulsive in high doses, so all you need is a tablespoon in your homemade apple pie or a teaspoon on your morning porridge — bearing in mind the added boost that porridge supplies – there is a reason they feed oats to stud stallions.
Last but not least saffron — the world’s most expensive spice.
It adds a bit of decadence to the affair but it has a long history as a potent aphrodisiac — somewhat narcotic and definitely fatal in high doses — so just a pinch in some clotted cream ready for the dip of some sexy strawberries or to bejewel a bed of rice, is all you will need.
It is said to vibrate at the frequency of joy, so why not do likewise.
That said — any children conceived or backs banjaxed as a result of reading this article is not the responsibility of the Irish Examiner, or the author.
You are all big and bold enough to know better.
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