The Garden's Sexiest Plants

Author Helen Yoest holds forth on the rumored libido-enhancing effects of plants with benefits.

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Plants with Benefits 12

Plants with Benefits 12

Did you know that nutmeg is considered "Viagra for women?" You will if you read Helen Yoest's new book, Plants with Benefits. 

Photo by: Image courtesy of St. Lynn's Press

Image courtesy of St. Lynn's Press

“I didn’t set out to write a botanical Kama Sutra,” says author Helen Yoest in the introduction to her new book Plants with Benefits: An Uninhibited Guide to the Aphrodisiac Herbs, Fruits, Flowers & Veggies In Your Garden. “I am a gardener. I’m intrigued by the idea that many plants have a special appeal to one or more of our senses…I think that’s one reason some gardens give us such a deep feeling of contentment.”

So she pitched the idea of gardening for all five senses to her publisher, who suggested she narrow the focus to aphrodisiac plants. Sex sells, right? “So began my quest to understand how plants can play with our erotic feelings, as well as stimulate our sense of well-being and receptivity to intimacy,” Yoest writes. “Very soon it became clear that Mother Nature, in collusion with that sly fellow, Pan, had not only provided us humans with a cornucopia of plants that feed and heal us, but that assure our continual interest in procreation.”

From almonds to watermelon, Yoest shares the history of each aphrodisiac and anecdotes, plus growing details and tips and even a few recipes (tomato temptation, anyone?). 

Ready to talk dirty? Here are just a few of her findings:

10 Sexy Plants

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"If you were a male in the 19th century France, your prenuptial dinner included three courses of these sexy spears," author of Plants With Benefits: An Uninhibited Guide to the Aphrodisiac Herbs, Fruits, Flowers and Veggies in Your Garden Helen Yoest says. "They couldn’t have known at the time, but asparagus is rich in folic acid, which is said to boost histamine production," says Yoest, an essential ingredient in the arsenal of love.

Photo By: Image by David Spain


"The avocado’s aphrodisiac reputation was so widely known (and feared) by the Aztecs that parents kept their virgin daughters indoors during the harvest of the 'fertility fruit,'" Yoest says. 

Photo By: Image by Carolyn Binder


"Absente contains anise, or aniseed, which was used as both a food and aphrodisiac during Classical times," Yoest says. "Pliny the Elder and physician and botanist Dioscorides recorded its use in flavoring foods and wine. According to popular lore, you could increase desire by sucking on the seeds of this annual herb."

Photo By: Image by David Spain


"In ancient times, women would rub dry basil powder on their bodies to become more sexually attractive," Yoest says. "In Italy today, sweet basil is the symbol of love and is called 'kiss me Nicholas.' Placed on the windowsill, it signals for a lover." 

Photo By: Photo by Carolyn Binder


"The Greeks referred to the carrot as a philtron, meaning a love potion or love charm (from philos, meaning loving)," Yoest says. "The Romans also believed in the carrot’s aphrodisiac attributes. Carrots were common in a Roman garden where the root and seed were thought to increase the libido."

Photo By: Image by David Spain


"The ancient Egyptians used date palm leaves as an emblem of longevity. Hathor, the Egyptian goddess of life, joy, music, dancing, and fertility (note how they all go together) surrounded her sanctuary with a palm grove for easy access," says Yoest.

Photo By: Image by Helen Yoest


"The fig was said to be Cleopatra’s favorite food," Yoest says. "I can’t blame her, since its voluptuous shape, succulent chew, and honey-scented taste does take you away for a moment." 

Photo By: Image by Helen Yoest


Ginger, says Yoest has been called a natural fertility booster and can "even assist with impotence." 

Photo By: Image by Steve Asbell


"Hippocras, or spiced wine, includes several plants with benefits including cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, cloves, cardamom, coriander, cayenne and honey," Yoest says. "During the Roman Empire, Hippocras was a well-loved drink for its aphrodisiac reputation on many levels: The scent of red wine resembles a man’s pheromones, thus exciting women."

Photo By: Image by Ken Gergle

Cocoa Beans

"It is thought that the Aztecs were the first to draw a link between the cocoa bean and sexual desire," Yoest says. "The story goes that the Aztec ruler Montezuma called it the 'divine drink' and consumed 50 goblets of cacao daily for strength. We probably don’t need to go to these heroics, but a sip with a date is a nice start (or end) to a wonderful evening." 

Photo By: Image by Carolyn Binder

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