My husband Bob always said that he would never go on a cruise. If he couldn’t drive the boat, he simply had no interest in going. But turning 60 had a profound effect on Bob. When I mentioned the possibility of a 7 day cruise through the Eastern Caribbean he said “Sure, why not?” I was stunned. Then the fear set in. What about all that food?
I am an acupuncture physician and specialize in weight loss. I help hundreds of chubby folks transform their bodies. Bob was my first patient. He transformed from a 300-pound barrel bellied beast of a man back into the 225-pound tall, handsome gentleman that I married over 30 years ago. I was a soft, dimpled size 14 dough ball that hadn’t tried on a new bathing suit for over 10 years. It was just too humiliating. When I slipped into my new size 6 bathing suit and it fit perfectly, I couldn’t stop looking at the tag. It HAD to be upside down! Needless to say, this big change in our appearance made us feel pretty good about ourselves. We were the billboards for my business.
I know very well the emotional effect that body image has on human beings. I have seen women and even a few men melt into tears as they share the pain of their battle with weight on their first visit to my office. After they have completed their own transformation, I tell them with confidence “You’ll be fine. You will never go back to your old eating habits.” This cruise was scary. What if I couldn’t practice what I had been preaching to all of these people – all of my friends?
“You can do this, Danee” I said to myself as I walked up the gangway to the ultimate orgy of culinary excess. I tossed a couple of books that I had been meaning to read into my bag just before leaving home. One book would save me from falling back into the old days of mindless eating. Aphrodite by Isabel Allende taught me a new way to think about food.
Aphrodite is an encyclopedia of aphrodisiacs. Aphrodisiacs have been a part of human history for all of written time, but were something I had thought little about. The passionate Isabel opened my eyes to this mysterious tradition. I decided to let the book guide my cruise.
Aphrodisiacs are a combination of visual, aromatic, taste, texture and chemical reaction. Most include a little of each. Everyday foods like eggs, asparagus, seafood and honey are actually aphrodisiacs! With my new focus, the buffet on the ship became an erotic feast. I could be full without ever touching the sensuous delights to my lips, and then go back around for seconds, this time having a few nibbles. Convincing Bob to try this visual dining was another matter. He wasn’t reading the book.
There were the thick, still crisp asparagus spears, drizzled with extra virgin olive oil that had been slightly seasoned with cayenne pepper. Did you know that cayenne pepper contains capsaicin, which stimulates nerve endings in preparation for sex? The asparagus needs no explanation, if your mind is in the right place.
Next to the asparagus were the oysters on the half shell so fresh that they still quivered with life, nestled gently between fresh wedges of lemon. Oysters are well known as aphrodisiacs not only because their physical appearance resembles female anatomy, but because their high concentration of zinc produces testosterone, the hormone most known for getting women in the mood, and of course making men feel like men.
Eggs have been a symbol of fertility with erotic and restorative powers for centuries. Try 2 gently cooked sunny side up eggs. Dress them suggestively with a dollop of caviar (also eggs) in the center of each yolk, and voila! You have created your first aphrodisiac! It’s that simple.
Honey and almond oil are cherished in creams and massage lotions, which opens up another secret and forbidden avenue to aphrodesia, touch and taste combined. The taste of the honey depends on from which flowers the tiny, winged working girls sipped and the reputation of honey as an aphrodisiac is legendary; Cleopatra mixed honey with ground almonds and applied it to her skin as a beauty treatment. Then her lovers Mark Anthony and Julius Caesar (hopefully not at the same time) enjoyed the sweet, salty taste of her nurturing mixture. Honey is high in vitamins B and C and the minerals in the pollen stimulate the production of sex hormones. The oil in the almond moistens the skin and contains calcium to strengthen the bones.
You get the idea right? Once you start thinking like this, a dish of fried onion rings with ketchup seems quite inedible. And once you start thinking like this, it’s hard to stop! Much of aphrodisia, I was quickly learning is a state of mind.
Some other foods and herbs that are said to have aphrodisiac qualities are:
- Seafood -Nearly all creatures that live in the sea (with the exception of sea mammals of course!)
- Saffron– a spice lovingly and painstakingly derived from the stamen of a special kind of crocus flower. It has always been one of the world’s most expensive spices, and for centuries has been considered an aphrodisiac. Studies have shown that it stimulates hormones. It is the most important seasoning in Paella, a traditional Spanish recipe that combines squid, shrimp, scallops, clams and mussels. Seafood plus saffron equals one very romantic meal.
- Chocolate has phenyl ethylamine and serotonin, two chemicals that light up pleasure areas in the brain. Chocolate is similar to sex in that it makes you feel good. Valentine chocolates have long been a tradition for good reason. When we returned to our stateroom each evening, there were two small, delicious chocolate treasures waiting on our pillows…mmmmmmmmm.
There are also some medicinal herbs that are thought to have aphrodisiac properties that can’t be found on a cruise ship menu, but are readily available nonetheless.
- Artemisia or mugwort – known in Chinese medicine as moxa, has been used for thousands of years to strengthen male or female energy. It is also used to dispel pain. An interesting technique is to fill the umbilicus with sea salt, cover with a slice of fresh ginger, place the mugwort shaped into a cone on top of the ginger and light it on fire! Don’t do this alone, obviously.
- The liqueur, Absinthe is also made from Artemisia. It has held the reputation of being a powerful aphrodisiac since the time of the Greeks, and in the 19th century was a favorite of intellectuals and artists. It has been outlawed until recently in the US, but is now again available. It is served with a flaming sugar cube, and sets the mood for an evening of love.
- Cordyceps – is an aphrodisiac that has its roots in Chinese medicine. Cordyceps is also known as Chinese caterpillar fungus, because it is a parasite that grows on the Tibetan caterpillar until the caterpillar dies, at which point it sprouts a mushroom. How is that for exotic! Scientists have isolated two chemical constituents in cordyceps, (deoxyadenosine) and cordycepic acid (mannitol), which are thought to be the active compounds that increase sex drive. Obviously, finding a dead Tibetan caterpillar with a mushroom growing out of it is no easy feat. I suggest contacting your local acupuncture physician. They will have access to a reliable source of Cordyceps. In my clinic, I like to use a formula that combines cordyceps with ginseng, another Chinese aphrodisiac.
- Ginseng – or Ren Shen, literally translates to “man root”. Ginseng is one of the most treasured herbs in Chinese medicine. There are several types of ginseng however. The one most commonly used as an aphrodisiac is Panax or Siberian ginseng and has a warming property that tonifys the yang (male) energy. Xi Yang Shen, known as American Ginseng has a cooling property that tonifies the yin, moist (female) energy and is probably more appropriate for women over 50. Ginseng can be purchased in Asian markets as whole root, or can be purchased in capsule form in health food stores. To be sure you are getting genuine, medicinal ginseng I recommend going through a licensed acupuncture physician.
- Homeopathics – I have recently discovered an amazing Italian homeopathic laboratory that has created aphrodisiac formulas for both men and women – Guna-Mars and Guna Venus. Homeopathic Formulas in Europe are treated the same as pharmaceuticals in the USA, in that there is funding available for clinical studies. Guna Mars has proven in clinical trials to treat lack of sexual desire, decreased sexual arousal, decreased male sexual satisfaction and inability to maintain erection. Guna Venus has proven to treat lack onf sexual desire, decreased sexual arousal, discomfort during sex and vaginal dryness. (It’s about time they came up with something for women!) The good news about homeopathics is they have no side effects, do not interact with prescription drugs and are easy to use.
It has been over 30 days since we returned from our cruise. It was extremely relaxing and I can tell my patients with first hand knowledge that having unlimited choices gives everyone the ability to make healthy choices, and sometimes even fun choices! I intend to keep the ball rolling. I take my cordyceps and ginseng every day, and I am testing Guna Venus this month. This weekend we are making Paella and I will break out a bottle of absinthe that we have had in the cupboard for over 3 years. Bob is enjoying my new focus on food!