6 Plants With Benefits for Valentine’s Day – Parade

(Holly Rosborough)

Helen Yoest didn’t set out to author a Kama Sutra of plants and their offspring. As a matter of fact, when her publisher suggested she “go all out” and write her next book on aphrodisiac plants, there was a pregnant pause, so to speak, before she agreed.

“I am a gardener and garden stylist, and I write about designing,” says the author of her new book, Plants with Benefits: An Uninhibited Guide to the Aphrodisiac Herbs, Fruits, Flowers & Veggies in Your Garden. “I am, however, intrigued by the fact that many plants appeal to one or more of the senses, and I’m always looking for “sensual” plants for my garden designs.”

When she began researching the book, Yoest wasn’t sure if she’d find enough “sexy” plants, but she soon discovered a rich history of plants with aphrodisiac qualities. Many of the plants in her book are said to act as a catalyst for sexual performance and fertility.

Yoest discovered that the ancient Aztecs called the avocado tree “the testicle tree,” and the fruit was so widely feared that virgin daughters weren’t allowed outdoors during harvest of the forbidden fruit. Infamous Italian lover Casanova ate celery to stimulate his libido.

During research for the book, Yoest also looked at the possibility that aphrodisiac claims could be a myth. While the Food and Drug Administration won’t endorse aphrodisiac claims for plants, Yoest found a great deal of evidence to suggest that there is some science to the madness.

To make Yoest’s plants with benefits list, each selection was required to have one or more of three qualities that could affect the pleasure centers, as well as a fourth quality, which is the plant’s ability to increase a person’s overall health and vigor:

Suggestive shape or aroma. For some plants, the shape of their fruits, vegetables, and nuts inspire amour—for instance, bananas, carrots, and asparagus—and for others their smell is provocative, including almonds and basil.

Heat factor. Some plants do affect brain chemistry by directly increasing blood flow to sex organs or contributing to other pleasurable sensations. Those that produce heat include cayenne pepper, cinnamon, cloves, and ginger.

Mimic human hormones. There are those plants that actually act like a tonic and ignite your own hormones, says Yoest, although researchers aren’t sure if the foods stimulate the production of enough of certain hormones to make any difference in desire. Plants that fall in this category include dates, fennel, celery, cardamom, asparagus, and pomegranate.

Promotes health and vigor. Good nutrition is linked to a healthy body and high energy levels, which can contribute to a healthy sex life. Yoest included some plants that have an aphrodisiac history in that area, such as fig, cucumber (the aroma also stimulates women), pine nuts, and walnuts.

For a gallery of plants thought to have aphrodisiac properties, click on the photo above.

Julie Bawden-Davis is a garden writer and master gardener, who since 1985 has written for publications such as Organic Gardening, Wildflower, Better Homes and Gardens and The Los Angeles Times. She is the author of five books, including Fairy Gardening and Indoor Gardening the Organic Way and founder of HealthyHouseplants.com

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