Learn how celery root, wild orchids and pepper were once used as natural aphrodisiacs.
Numerous plants and substances are said to stimulate and enhance love and passion—we call them aphrodisiacs. The Encyclopedia of Aphrodisiacs (Healing Arts Press, 2003) examines the history and pharmacology of more than 500 stimulating substances from ancient history to present day. Authors Christian Rätsch and Claudia Müller-Ebeling provide detailed examples of individual, medicinal and ritual uses through personal accounts and extensive research. In this excerpt, learn about the use of celery root, wild orchids and pepper as natural aphrodisiacs.
Apium graveolens L., Umbelliferae (Carrot Family), also Apiaceae (Parsley Family)
As a spice and vegetable, celery is absent from no home cooking, but celery seeds and roots are recognized as natural aphrodisiacs worldwide, and mentioned in virtually all relevant publications. They are used in making witches’ ointments and love potions, aphrodisiacal incense, erotic meals, and stimulants.* The essential oil in the seeds and roots is stimulating, and a meal of celery strengthens the body and prepares it for erotic adventures. The authors of the book Liebeskochtopf (Love’s Cooking Pot) have provided a concise rationalization for the stimulating effects of many natural aphrodisiacs: “There is no shame in doing something for bodily regeneration. If we were to reject the idea of regenerating ourselves, then we would have to completely renounce food and drink.”
*Without stating the source, Reger lists a recipe made with heated radish juice and honey that is smeared on the penis so that the husband knows how to make love to his wife and doesn’t have to guess.
Popular Beliefs About Celery
The doctor and alchemist Giambattista della Porta (ca. 1535 to 1615) presented a theory in the book Magia Naturalis sive de Miraculis Rerum Naturalium (1589) that the aircraft on which witches ride on the Sabbath are rubbed with an ointment made primarily of celery. With their well-anointed dildos, they are ready to go on their nightly journey and are so aroused that on their arrival, they are prepared to plunge into a lustful orgy.
When the witches’ flying ointments fail, one can always rely on celery: “Magicians of the Middle Ages placed celery seeds in their shoes in order to be able to fly, but since the invention of the airplane, this practice has gone out of fashion. But celery is still used as an aphrodisiac today.”
In Eastern Pomerania, a celery root was placed into a bride’s purse to ensure a happy marriage. The Wendish, an eastern Slavic people who live in the Spreewald region southeast of Berlin, used a type of celery known as merik to protect themselves from being bothered by the dead. When worn as an amulet, the root protected against the evil eye.
Celery root is a popular aphrodisiac in folk remedies: “Take oil from celery bulbs, mix with six to eight drops of water and take twice daily to strengthen the nerves and vivify lost sexual power.”
In Indian folk medicine, the seeds of the ajmoda (wild celery) are considered aphrodisiacs.
Celery fruit (seed) in pharmacology (Apii Fructus, Fructus Apii) contains about 2 to 3 percent essential oils, with the main ingredient being limonene (60 percent) and selinene (10 percent); ρ-cymene, β-terpineol, β-pinene, β-caryophyllene, α-santalol, dihydrocarbon and butylphthalide, (sedanolide), n-butylphthalide, and sedanon acid as adoriphore. It further contains c-prenyl-coumarine (osthenol, apigravine, celerine), furocoumarine and furocoumarine glucoside (apiumetin, rutaretin, nodakenetin, celeron), flavonoids (apigenin, isoquercitin), and other unknown alkaloid structures.
Celery fruit (seed) is used in commercial pharmacies. Celery seeds are ingredients in the Aphrodite liqueurs from Elixier.
Celery Fruit Tea
1 gram celery fruit* (1 level teaspoon) crushed immediately before use. Pour hot water over it. Strain after five to ten minutes and sweeten with honey or sugar according to taste.
In Guadalupe (French Antilles), expert older women dictated several aphrodisiacal recipes with celery to me (CME):
• Pour 1 liter of boiling water over three parsley roots. Allow a celery root to steep in this brew for three minutes. Filter and sweeten. Drink one glass every four hours.
• Cut a celery root into three finger-length pieces, place in a pot, and boil with 1 L of water. Cover and let stand for 30 minutes. Sweeten with honey or raw sugar and drink one glass every four hours.
The “Reconstruction” of a Love Potion...“The herbalist Mességué held celery in high regard when it came to inciting passion. He also recovered the recipe for Tristan and Isolde’s love potion and brought it back from obscurity. This consisted of a great deal of celery, the testicles of a two-year-old white rooster, mandrake flowers, truffles, a crayfish, black and red pepper, caraway, thyme, and laurel leaves.”
...and a Truth Serum. Ireland, where Tristan wooed Isolde, is too cold for mandrakes. Mandrake roots are traded, but its blossoms have never been traded and their use is not named by any authority. Crayfish originate in the Mediterranean. Red pepper (Schinus molle) was unknown before the sixteenth century.
This supposed reconstruction should better have sunk into oblivion. Those who publish and prepare such recipes are well-advised to double-check their botanical, historical, and geographic credibility.
*In pharmacology, celery seeds were correctly recognized as fruit.
Orchidaceae (Orchid Family)
Orchids possess a mythical-erotic connotation. In the past, they were sought-after medicines, tonics, and aphrodisiacs.
Most orchids grow as epiphytic plants in tropical rain forests. But there are also numerous (300 to 350) European species. Wild orchids even grow in Ireland (the Burren), and many bizarre forms (such as the Cretan orchid Ophrys cretica), can be found on Crete and throughout the Mediterranean region.
Wild orchids are known as exotic cultures and ornamental plants and are treasured collectibles. They have a minor cultural and ethnobotanical meaning.
Greek Myths About Orchids
The name orchid comes from the Greek orchis, “testicles,” because the roots of many varieties resemble testicles. It first appeared in the work of Theophrastus. Orchis first described the salep orchid [knaben herb (from knabe, “testicles“]. According to Greek myth, the first orchid came from a youngling named Orchis, who was the son of a satyr and a nymph. With his mighty phallus he deflowered a maiden who was chosen for Dionysus in a wild bacchanal, and the followers of the god, the giant Maenads, tore him to pieces. Orchis’s father begged Dionysus to bring his son back to life, and Dionysus allowed this wish only partially: a wonderful orchid grew from the testicles of the man.
“Orchis (also called cynosorchis) has leaves scattered on the earth around the stalk, and the bottom of it is similar to an olive—tender but narrower, smooth and longer; a stalk the height of twenty centimetres on which are flowers of a purple hue. The root is bulbous, somewhat long, narrow like the olive, double, one part above, the other beneath, one full but the other soft and full of wrinkles. The root is eaten (boiled) like bulbus. It is said that if the bigger root is eaten by men, it makes their offspring males, and the lesser eaten by women makes them conceive females. It is further reported that women in Thessaly drank the soft bulbs with goat’s milk in order to stimulate desire, but for the suppression and weakening of love cravings, through the enjoyment of one, the effects of the other are reversed.” Even today, there is a Cretan association with this old concept: “The woman who eats the large bulbs will give birth to a boy, but after the enjoyment of the smaller bulb, she will give birth to a girl.”
The bulbs of the chi jian (Gastrodia elata BL.) have been ingested in China as an aphrodisiac since ancient times. The root contains vanillin, vanillyl alcohol, alkaloids, and vitamin A. It was used in Chinese folk medicine as an agent against epilepsy. The easily mistaken summer root (Orobanche sp., Orobanchaceae) was used in the same way as the Gastrodia in China and Tibet. The bulbous root of Orobanche ammophilia was taken as an aphrodisiac.
Lady’s Slipper Orchids
Cypripedium, German lady’s slipper, is one of the most famous orchid genera. The Latin name tells more: it is composed of Krypros (Cyprus), zypriotin, Aphrodite (cf. cowry shells, copper), and pedilum, “shoe, sandal.” Linnaeus came up with the genus name because of its association with the Cypriot Aphrodite myth. The description Cypripedium calceolus (slipper orchid) occurs in Europe and North America.
These pretty, wild orchids call for some erotic folkloric names, such as Venus flower, buck’s pouch, ox pouch, bull sack, and, later, chaste Christian names, such as Mary’s shoe, priest’s shoe, or priest’s testes (Swiss; cf. cattails). In addition, the Parisian Art Nouveau associated the orchid’s blossoms with feminine eroticism.
Despite the erotically suggestive name lady’s slipper, the plant was rarely used as an aphrodisiac. Only in North America is the lady’s slipper orchid (Cypripedium calceolus L. var. pubescens [Willd] correll [syn. Cypripedium pubescens Willd]) used as an aphrodisiac. People there drink the garliclike root bulb in wine.
A tinctura serpentariae is made of lady’s slipper orchids, ipecacuanha, saffron, camphor, and opium. The mashed bulbs came to market under the name Oleoresina cypripedii. In Arkansas, the lady’s slipper was known in the early twentieth century as a strong aphrodisiac for women.
Piper spp., Piperaceae (Pepper Family)
Pepper is everything that makes life sharp—in the kitchen and the bedroom.
In our regions, most people are aware of only three pepper varieties: black, white, and green. Actually, these three different spices are all derived from the same plant (Piper nigrum L.). As long as the unripe fruits are fresh, the seeds will remain green (and can be pickled). When the fruits have ripened, they become bitter and dry, and then take on their characteristic white or black appearance.
Along with common pepper, which represents one of the most significant spices in the world and is the ingredient of many spice mixtures, especially those containing curry, the tropical genus Piper offers several hundred varieties. Some of these have an economic or medicinal significance. The betel pepper (Piper betle L.), which is in widespread use in South and Southeast Asia in betel quids, belongs to this category, along with the cubeb pepper (Piper cubeba L.), which is known as an aphrodisiac, and the intoxicating pepper or kava-kava (Piper methysticum G. Forst.), which is used in Polynesia as a psychoactive drug. The long pepper (Piper longum L.) has played a large role in both Indian cuisine and Ayurvedic medicine.
The red pepper, which is available in spice markets, belongs to the same family of the Piper genre. It stems from a tropical tree (Schinus molle L., the Peruvian pepper tree) in central and South America.
Cultural History of Peppers
Pepper has played a historically meaningful role in the world. It was originally domestic only to India—“where pepper grows”—and there it was used as a spice, aphrodisiac, and medicine. Alexander the Great brought pepper with him to Europe after his invasion of India. There, the greed for the treasured spice was so great that many nations argued about the sea route to India. European addiction to pepper helped to cause the elimination of Native Americans (cf. chili pepper, allspice).
In old writing, pepper was recognized as hot medicine and as a heating ingredient of love potions. Like Indians, who spice their tea with long pepper, Greeks and Romans included the fiery spice in wine. Pepper is most often an ingredient of aphrodisiac meals, electuary, love potions, and sultan’s paste. It is a spice of love.
The Munda, a tribe that lived in India, prepareds a paste of crushed black pepper, dralukuna (common curculigo) rhizome,* and goat’s milk as a tonic against impotence.
*Curculigo orchioides Gaertn. [syn. Hypoxis orchioides Kurz., Hypoxidaceae (Amaryllidaceae)]. Dralukuna (common curculigo, kali musli, kavrakanda, pilliteda, talmuli, turum) was solely used as an aphrodisiac and medicine against impotence in India. The rhizome (Xian Mao, “immortal grass”) is a remedy for impotence in traditional Chinese medicine. The rhizome contains glycosides, yuccagenin, the alkaloid lycorine, and MeO-ketone (3-MeO,5-Ac,31-Tritriacontane. Likewise, the root Hypoxis (Curculigo) aurea Lour was consumed in Asia. In the Seychelles, people drink a decoction of the phallic aerial root (like screw pine) of coco marron (Curculigo seychellensis Gaertn.): “Older men used the decoction of a root as an aphrodisiac. The drink is said to create fast and long erections. The root is also said to be effective for impotence, tuberculosis, senility, and hemorrhoids.”
Pepper in Linguistic Usage
Pepper also spices up the erotically colored vernacular. Those who have pepper or who have peppered up their behind have sex appeal and a sexy temperament. In obscene German vernacular, to pepper means to have sex, the vulva is a pepper bush, the penis is a pepper caster, the testicles are pepper nuts, and a brothel is a pepper house. Who would not like “to stamp pepper into mortar,” as the old saying goes? When a woman does not want sex, she replies, “No pepper will be stamped into my mortar.”
“Well-peppered is half digested” also means “well-peppered is half seduced.” This popular saying is related to a former use of pepper in sexual magic: “Girls use it to produce an unappetizing love magic: they swallow three pepper kernels on an empty stomach, excrete them, grind them into a powder, and bake them into a cake which they gave to their beloved.”
Pepper Varieties Used as Aphrodisiacs
There are approximately 1,000 to 1,200 varieties within the Piper genus, many of which have ethnobotanical meanings. Half of all Piper spp. comes from the American tropics. Among these are epiphytic living plants, climbing plants, half shrubs, and small trees. Numerous essential oils exist in the genus, so that many leaves, flowers, and fruits are strongly aromatic. Because of this, they incite cultural attention. Many Piper varieties reportedly have psychoactive and other aphrodisiac effects. Safrole and asarone are identified in different varieties (such as in Piper divaricatum Meyer, P. manassausense, P. futokadsura, and P. sarmentosum).
The American tropics have many Piper varieties that look very similar to the kava-kava shrub. Essential oils (safrole, et cetera) are obtained from the rich leaves of all of these plants and are used as spices and natural aphrodisiacs.
Meca xochitl (Piper amalago) belongs to the Aztec cacao spices. The matico pepper (Piper elongatum Vahl [syn. Artanthe elongata (Vahl) Miq., Piper angustifolium R. et Pav., Piper purpurascens D. Dietr., Steffensia elongata (Vahl) Kunth.]) is considered a traditional spice for cacao in Mexico. The leaves contain 0.3 to 6 percent essential oils, which in turn contain asarone and parsley napiole in addition to the main ingredient dill apiole. In Panama, matico pepper is used as an aphrodisiac and stimulant.
Peppercorns (Fructus Piperis Nigri, Piperis Nigri Fructus) from Piper nigrum contain the sharp-tasting alkaloids piperidine (0.4 to 0.8 percent) and chavicine, enzymes, resin, and essential oil (1 to 2.3 percent; also called pepper oil). It additionally contains 5.2 to 13.3 percent piperine (responsible for the typical pepper taste), piperanine, piperonal, sabinene, limonene, 3-carene, eugenol, safrole, dihydrocarveol, caryophyllene, caryophyllene oxide, cryptone, trans-pinocarveol, cis-p-2- menthene-1-ol, and cis-p-2,8- menthadien-1-ol.
“Piperidine (C5 H11 N: hexahydropyridine, pentamethylenimine) is a matrix and building block of many important alkaloids, including the so-called piperidine alkaloids, such as anabasine, arecoline [cf. stimulants], pelletierine, piperine, coniine (cf. hemlock), lobelanine, and cocaine and tropane alkaloids” (Römpp, or Encyclopedia of Chemistry). Similarly, piperazine (C4 H10 N2) is derived from the substitution of a CH 2 group with an NH group.
Piperazine has recently become an ingredient of herbal ecstasy preparations that are used as sexual stimulants and recreational drugs. Viagra is also chemically derived from piperazine.
Pepper is available in herbal markets in all varieties.
Piperazine-containing preparations can be found on the Internet (as herbal supplements).
Reprinted with permission from The Encyclopedia of Aphrodisiacs: Psychoactive Substances for Use in Sexual Practices by Christian Rätsch and Claudia Müller-Ebeling and published by Healing Arts Press, an imprint of Inner Traditions, 2003.
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