Aphrodisiac plants are as close as the nearest supermarket

  • Feb. 13, 2018 2:26 p.m.

Money can’t buy you love, but it can buy you plants. And maybe plants can win over your Valentine.

For millennia, various plants have been billed as aphrodisiacs. These aren’t necessarily obscure species lurking deep in tropical jungles and known only to shamans. Wander over to the produce counter of any modern supermarket and reach for, say, a pomegranate, and you are cradling in your hand a fruit revered thousands of years ago by the Egyptians for its association with love and eroticism.

A number of spices, from lovage to nutmeg to vanilla, have been credited with the potential to induce love. A dish of rich vanilla ice cream could surely sway me in certain directions. Perhaps the effect of spices on sexuality was indirect; according to a 16th century source, anise seeds, whatever their aphrodisiacal qualities, also “make the breath modest and pleasant to the taste … and dispels flatulence in the belly.”

Love, for all its attractions, has also been associated with a degree of danger, emotionally or otherwise. And certain aphrodisiac plants, such as those in the nightshade family, can be truly deadly.

Mandrake root is a nightshade that was said to incite desire for love even among those who did not want it — when taken in the correct doses. Too much mandrake root causes death. Another deadly nightshade, belladonna, boosted the attractiveness of 18th century Italian ladies by darkening their eyes. Belladonna is used even today — now by eye doctors rather than vamps, to dilate our irises for eye examinations (perhaps inadvertently still resulting in a bella donna, or “beautiful lady”).

According to some sources, Shakespeare’s Juliet might have feigned her death by taking an appropriate dose of belladonna.

Most benign and downright tasty among aphrodisiacal nightshades is the “love apple,” better known as tomato.

Over the centuries, many lists of aphrodisiacs have been compiled. Even whole books. (Christian Ratsch’s “Plants of Love,” published by Ten Speed Press in 1997, is a modern example.)

The lists include an amazing array of plants.

Any plant generally considered to be a tonic or a stimulant, for instance, could make a list of aphrodisiacs. Among stimulants we find such common fare as coffee and basil, as well as more obscure and certainly more effective sounding “cup of gold” (Solandra brevicalyx); its aroma alone is said to be irresistibly enticing. Cup of gold is another deadly nightshade.

Garlic is a common enough “tonic,” one easy enough to grow in any backyard, but you’re unlikely to lay hands on or grow a tonic such as Liriosma ovata, an Amazonian tropical plant know indigenously as muira puama, which translates as “potency wood.”

Topping my list would be ylang-ylang, another large tropical tree (Cananga odorata) that I’ll never be able to grow, but whose sweet, tropical fragrance does make me swoon.

Valentine’s Day is, of course, about love, and many plants can help demonstrate that. No need to crawl among tropical jungles. A red rose will do just fine, on the end of a cut stem or, if you’re a true gardener, a potted miniature rose in bloom — either one a purely symbolic demonstration of love.

Just Posted

Eager-beaver cannabis entrepreneurs already waiting outside Red Deer City Hall

Appications will be accepted on a first-come basis starting on Tuesday

Like father like son: Red Deer area Dreeshen family dedicates life to public service

There are three jobs that could be considered the Dreeshen family business:… Continue reading

Restaurant owner concerned about Gasoline Alley road changes

Nearly 20 trucks were lined up on the service road in front… Continue reading

Preliminary hearings set for two men charged in weapons and drugs bust

A Red Deer man and Sylvan Lake man are facing 80 charges

Eight dogs found in Innisfail hotel room were kept in cages

Eight dogs, kept in cages in a small hotel room in Innisfail… Continue reading

WATCH: Hypnotizing show at Westerner Days

Hynotist and mentalist Joshua Seth performs three times a day at Westerner Days

PHOTOS: River Town Saints rock Red Deer

River Town Saints play Westerner Days Friday in Red Deer

PHOTOS: Dogs, horses and more animals at Westerner Days

Westerner Park’s pavilions were filled with animals during Westerner Days

Red Deer residents can’t get enough mini-doughnuts

Mini-doughnuts were the biggest draw to Westerner Days according to a Red… Continue reading

Four-car crash, including RCMP vehicle, on Highway 2

Two sheriff vehicles were also involved in the collision

Divers hunt for 4 after Missouri duck boat sinks, killing 13

BRANSON, Mo. — Divers are searching Friday for four people still missing… Continue reading

WATCH: Red Deer’s noxious weeds are a goat’s dietary delight

Piper Creek Community Garden gets chemical-free weed control

‘Amazing Race Canada’ competitors face B.C. challenge

They drove Corvettes, mastered falconry basics, and ate blueberry pie in the Cowichan Valley

From hot to not? The Baloney Meter weighs in on Scheer’s economy claims

OTTAWA — “Justin Trudeau inherited a booming economy, but he’s squandering it.… Continue reading

Most Read


Five-day delivery plus unlimited digital access for $185 for 260 issues (must live in delivery area to qualify) Unlimited Digital Access 99 cents for the first four weeks and then only $15 per month Five-day delivery plus unlimited digital access for $15 a month