12 bizarre aphrodisiacs from around the world

12 bizarre aphrodisiacs from around the world


There’s nothing like a near-death experience to get you and your partner in the mood. Handled improperly, fugu (or blowfish) has enough tetrodotoxin to poison you 30 times over! Many people have died from eating fugu, but if prepared the right way, it leaves adventurous eaters with a tingling sensation that is said to be one of the reasons it increases libido. You can safely help yourself to fugu in Japan, as long as the chef who prepares it has the special license and technique to handle it properly.


Secreted by a sperm whale, ambergris is used both as a food and as an ingredient in some luxury perfumes. Casanova apparently used ambergris-infused perfume to make the ladies swoon, and it has a history in the Middle East of being consumed to increase a man’s virility. One royal family in that region reportedly combines ambergris with milk and honey to create the passion-inducing dish.

Ambergris is banned in many countries however, including Australia and the US, because of the endangered status of the sperm whale. But in other countries, including the UK and those in the European Union (EU), it is legal to salvage a lump of ambergris from beaches and sell it. Although all whale and dolphin species are protected under EU law, ambergris is regarded as an excretion, and therefore a benign byproduct.

Spanish fly

Whale secretions aren’t the only kind on this list. The secretions of the Spanish fly (which is really a type of beetle) are thought to be nature’s Viagra. Consuming it can prepare a man’s body for sex (if you catch our drift), but it can also come with some pretty uncomfortable side effects. Blistering and urinary tract problems can occur as a result of consuming the Spanish fly’s secretions. Still, people buy it all over Europe.

Maca root

Maca has been used as a libido enhancer for thousands of years, and it has been scientifically proven to increase sperm count and arousal in animals. Whether it does the same job for humans is still up for debate, but that hasn’t stopped people from using maca to increase their sexual desire. Unlike ambergris or Spanish flies, you can easily put maca powder into a smoothie.

Cobra blood

There is no scientific data supporting the claim that cobra blood increases desire or virility, but many people in Asian countries, including China and Vietnam, believe that drinking a glass of cobra blood heightens a man’s strength and libido. Because the snake is revered by people of these nations, they believe that the strong qualities of the cobra will be transferred to you if you drink its bodily fluids. Some drink it straight, while others mix it in with rice wine for a cocktail. Your average Bloody Mary looks much tamer now, doesn’t it?

Bird’s nest soup

The can of Campbell’s soup in your cupboard might have cost you a buck or two, but 30 grams of bird’s nest soup costs $100. So, what is so special about this soup that makes it so expensive? Bird spit! This Chinese dish is made from the nests of a type of bird called a swiftlet, which fortifies its nest with its saliva. Harvesters go to great lengths to procure this rare ingredient, as swiftlet nests are found high up in cave walls.

Sea cucumbers

There are foods that are thought to be aphrodisiacs simply because of their shape. The sea-floor-dwelling cucumber is such one. Its phallic shape is part of the reason people believe it can increase your sex drive. (The power of suggestion, right?) Valued by people from China, it represents a multi-billion-dollar industry. Over 1400 species of sea cucumber are said to exist, but only around 70 of those species are harvested. WARNING: Of these 70 species, 10 per cent are now regarded as endangered, due largely to exploitation.


Durian is a very divisive fruit; some people love it, some hate it because of its notoriously foul odour. A study done in India has proved that consumption of the durian fruit increases male sex drive and sperm count. So, if you can make it past the stench, you might be curious to see what it can do for you.


You may not think about it when you’re snagging a sandwich on your lunch break, but mustard is actually a documented aphrodisiac. The Ancient Greeks figured out that mustard seeds improve overall blood flow, which is important for men when it comes to getting it on. The Chinese think it promotes sexual desire because of the spice’s heat factor. It looks like a little spice in your meal can spice up your bedroom!

Caterpillar fungus

Found only on the Tibetan plateau, caterpillar fungus, Ophiocordyceps sinensis, is the world’s most valuable parasite. A relative of the tropical fungus Ophiocordyceps unilateralis, which turns ants into zombies, caterpillar fungus infects the larvae of ghost moths. Known as “the Viagra of the Himalayas”, it has long been part of traditional Chinese medicine, and in recent decades, demand for it has risen so sharply that it can sell up to three times its weight in gold – around $130,000 a kilo. A Tibetan text from the 1400s describes the fungus as being most helpful in the bedroom, increasing one’s sex drive and overall virility.

Leafcutter ants

If your in-laws gave you a box of ants as a wedding gift, you’d probably never speak to them again. In South American countries such as Colombia, though, this is a common practice. Leafcutter ants are considered an aphrodisiac in that region and are often sold roasted on the street as on-the-go delicacies.

Duck eggs

A popular street food in the Philippines and Laos are duck eggs, known as balut. But these aren’t the kind of eggs you keep to fry up at home; these eggs contain a duck fetus that is already a few weeks into its gestation period. It may not sound appetising, but it is filled with nutrients and is said to increase a person’s energy. If you’re lacking energy in the bedroom, this could be the snack you’ve been looking for.

Written by Taylor Markarian. This article first appeared on Reader’s Digest. For more of what you love from the world’s best-loved magazine, here’s our best subscription offer.