ginseng michele molinari via Compfight

It goes without saying that the line separating sexual desire and physical hunger is a thin one. In many cases, all it takes is for a food to look like a sexual organ to get our hearts thumping. The age-old belief that a food or substance does what it looks like is called the Doctrine of Signatures. According to this belief, the Universe reveals the use or virtues of a food by its shape and appearance. 

Here’s an example. Our passion for ginseng has been fueled for centuries by the Doctrine of Signatures. Ginseng notoriety comes from its shape; this root has leg-like appendages and resembles the human body. Occasionally a ginseng root will sprout an extra appendage that resembles the sexual organ. That ginseng root is considered very precious and may sell for hundreds or even thousands of dollars in some countries.

But does ginseng work? There is an enormous amount of research on the chemistry of ginseng and its effects on smaller animals. But there is very little research on humans and without scientific studies we have no proof whether there is anything more to ginseng than just imagination. Even if ginseng is mildly effective, you can’t be guaranteed the ginseng you buy at the local health food store will work, since there is no quality control of herbs in the United States.

Ginseng may be the most notorious, but it certainly isn’t the only plant that rose to stardom through the Doctrine of Signatures. Anything that is longer than it is wide was thought to resemble the male sexual organ and was likely to be linked to fertility.  . Hence, cucumbers, bananas and carrots rose to fertile fame. Plants shaped like testicles, such as onions, or the female anatomy, such as oysters, figs, ripe fruit, pomegranates and peppers, also were thought to enhance sexual potency, desire and fertility. Tomatoes were believed to increase sexual desire, which might explain why Don Juan included them in one of his love potions. Even the English word for “vanilla” stems from the Latin one for vagina because of a similarity in shape between the vanilla root and the vaginal canal. Of course, none of these foods have proven to have any effect on sexual function. Only the imagination and a great diet (like the one I present in my latest book, Eat Your Way to Sexy, can do that! I discuss aphrodesiacs in detail in that book, too.