The oyster just may be the most evocative symbol of passion in the food world. One of the most popular choices for Valentine’s Day, the oyster has a greater reputation as an aphrodisiac than any other food. In fact, when someone reaches out to me to ask about a specific aphrodisiac, the question is almost always about oysters benefits sexually.
So what really makes oysters an aphrodisiac?
There are psychologists who suggest that the success of an oyster as an aphrodisiac is all in our minds. (In other words, naysayers will tell you it’s the placebo effect.) But thanks to modern science, we now know that these shellfish have proven nutritional benefits that support claims that oysters benefit sexual performance.
However, even before there were tools to prove the aphrodisiac effects of shellfish, the oyster enjoyed an impressive reputation as an aphrodisiac. Because they grow wild around the world, it is no surprise that they feature as aphrodisiacs in both eastern and western cultures.
According to Temptations: igniting the pleasure and power of aphrodisiacs, they were listed as aphrodisiacs in ancient Chinese medicine specifically when they were eaten fresh and raw. They were even cultivated in saltwater ponds for this purpose. On the other side of the world, the Romans also started cultivating oysters in 103 B.C. to for the purpose of feeding both physical hunger and sexual appetites. In Roman culture, oysters were referenced as a food of Bacchanalian orgies.
The passion for oysters continued through the ages and at some point around the start of the seventeenth century, the word oyster evolved into slang for the female sex organs (in reference to the shellfish’s plush texture and gentle folds). According to sex-lexis, an online dictionary of sexual slang, this term later evolved into the now thankfully obsolete phrase oyster-catcher. But slang uses like these may link oysters with sex but there is absolutely nothing aphrodisiac about them.
Oddly there are those who believe the connection between oysters and romance is about a game of chance. It stems from a rumor that slurping a bivalve from its shell might reveal a pearl. Unfortunately, edible oysters are not a pearl-producing variety. So despite what you may have heard, this is not among oysters’ enticements.
What is a much more interesting link between oysters and seduction is a connection between an oyster’s aromatics and seduction. According to the research of the late Dr. Max Lake, that subtle, salty and briny scent is similar to a sex pheromone. (Pheromones are those scents of attraction our bodies react to on a subconscious level.) So it could be that simply placing a platter of oysters at the table could whet a diner’s sexual appetite.
But the potential of an oyster’s scent to subconsciously pique a diner’s sexual interest is really just a jumping-off point to the potential of oysters as aphrodisiacs. To truly understand and celebrate oysters as aphrodisiacs, we need to take a closer look at what oysters offer nutritionally and how that translates to improved sexual function and sexual excitement.
Oysters’ benefits are many when it comes to overall health and especially sexual health. These sensual shellfish make a luxurious and healthy treat. It is evident that the foundation of the oyster’s reputation as an aphrodisiac is the fact that oyster is an incredibly healthy food.
A 3-ounce serving of raw, Pacific oysters contains:
370mg omega-3 fatty acids
8g protein (16% DV)
230UI vitamin A (5% DV)
6.8mg vitamin C (11% DV)
.1mg thiamin (4% DV)
13.6mcg vitamin B12 (227% DV)
4.3mg iron (24%)
18.7mg magnesium (5% DV)
143 mg potassium (4% DV)
.8mg copper (39%)
14.1mg zinc (94% DV)
.5mg manganese (27% DV)
65.4mcg selenium (93% DV)
Now that we understand the powerful nutritional punch oysters contain, here are a few of the scientific reasons oysters benefit sexual health and specifically how they might affect men differently than women.
Oyster benefits for males
One of the greatest ways oysters are known for supporting men’s sexual health is by potentially improving blood flow. Oysters are a significant source of omega-3 fatty acids, which are proven to improve heart health and protect against heart disease. And what’s good for the heart is generally good for sexual function. So it should be no surprise that they are also linked with improved blood flow and may work to treat and/or prevent erectile dysfunction.
Although the serving of nutrients in a single oyster is negligible, a half dozen medium oysters give you more than double the DV of zinc. Anyone concerned about fertility should know that zinc is linked to the production of healthy sperm. In fact, according to an article published in 2018 in the Journal of Reproduction and Infertility, zinc can increase both the production and quality of sperm.
Of course, the health of sperm is only significant if you’re looking to boost fertility but there is another benefit of the zinc in oysters that’s good news for all men. Evidence supports the notion that zinc may be a key nutrient for testosterone production and the stimulation of libido in men.
Oyster benefits for females
Although it is not as important for women as it is for men, the zinc in oysters will also help women with hormone production, since ladies need testosterone for sex drive as well as fertility. In addition, the Cleveland Clinic recommends this protein-rich seafood specifically for women over 40 because this shellfish is rich in copper along with zinc, both of which can help prevent macular degeneration.
One of my favorite health benefits of oysters for women is that they’re a source of vitamin D. And this vitamin is essential for women to maintain bone density. They may even reduce the risk of osteoporosis. Although this doesn’t directly impact a woman’s libido, bone health can have an impact on sexual performance.
What do oysters do to you sexually?
Now that we understand the nutrition in this famously aphrodisiac seafood to help you maintain sexual health and overall health, let’s take a look at how oysters may directly impact sex.
The zinc in oysters that’s so essential for maintaining sexual health may also help increase sexual arousal. That’s because zinc is important to dopamine production. And there is some evidence that increasing dopamine can naturally increase sexual arousal. It is widely thought to help with erectile dysfunction but there is also evidence that healthy dopamine levels may help women increase sexual desire.
But there’s potentially an even more interesting way in which oysters may influence sexual function. In a 2005 study conducted by researchers from Barry University, revealed that oysters, along with other bivalves such as clams and mussels, may have a positive effect on sex hormone levels. According to the researchers, who presented their findings to the American Chemical Society, these bivalves contain the amino acids D-aspartic acid (D-Asp) and N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA), found to stimulate the release of sexual hormones in rats.
Despite the fact that it’s now scientifically proven that oysters can impact sex drive, no further research has determined what amount of these remarkable amino acids an eater would need to consume to have an impact on sexual desire and sexual function. (That is if these amino acids are as effective on humans as they appear in animal studies.)
Random fun and bizarre FAQ about oysters benefits sexually
Will oysters help you last longer in bed?
And while it is true that oysters are among the foods most often associated with sexual prowess, there is little to no scientific evidence that eating them will directly influence the length of your sexual performance. So if you find yourself having a more sustained sexual performance after eating oysters, it might be the placebo effect. Then again, it could be the protein.
Oysters are protein-rich. According to the USDA, a single raw oyster offers a significant 4.72g of protein. And you need protein for sustained energy. (Legendary lover Casanova supposedly consumed 50 of the aphrodisiac bivalves each day to keep his libido in top form.) So it’s probably safe to assume they’re among the better food choices you can make on Valentine’s Day or any occasion when you hope to get lucky.
Then there’s the zinc. (Don’t forget, a single oyster can offer more than 50% of the DV for zinc.) As I mentioned before, the zinc in oysters helps with testosterone levels. But zinc is also known to support blood flow and heart health. So it can help keep your heart pumping for a long night of passion.
But can I truly say that these fruits of the sea are going to make you last longer in bed? Well, I guess that’s for you to decide.
How long does it take for oysters to kick in?
Many people wonder how long it takes to go from eating oysters to feeling like a love machine. We’ve established that oysters are a natural aphrodisiac with a number of nutrients to support your libido, not to mention overall health. So we know that eating oysters can be great for sexual health. But there’s really no guarantee that eating oysters for dinner will make you feel like tearing your clothes off by the end of the meal.
The salty, briny aroma, which I mentioned earlier is believed to smell a lot like a human sex pheromone, may tug a few strings of passion. But I can’t say I’ve ever heard of anyone experiencing sexual ecstasy from sniffing shellfish. That being said, the mind is a powerful tool. So if you believe eating oysters for sex will work, it is likely that oysters will turn your meal into a sensual experience.
What happens if you feed oysters viagra? (Someone actually tried this)
If you’ve read much about the fact that an oyster is an aphrodisiac food, you might have stumbled upon a crazy story about feeding oysters aphrodisiacs. In 2007, in a bid to up oysters’ libido-boosting power, one mad, Australian oyster farmer to slip crushed Viagra into his oyster beds. The resulting bivalves were rejected by Australian health officials. But there was some Asian interest in the drugged-up mollusks.
So are pumped-up oysters a thing?
Heck no! The makers of Viagra slapped a lawsuit on the creative fisherman for misuse of a trademarked name in making his aphrodisiac oysters. This brought a quick end to the farmer’s plans to market his chemically altered seafood around the world.
Edited by Delahna Flagg: This article was reviewed and additional research provided by Center for Mind-Body Medicine certified practitioner and Eat Something Sexy Nutrition Director Delahna Flagg.
Disclaimer: Please note that the information provided in this article is intended for informational purposes only. It is important to consult your physician before making dietary changes.
This article was written in 2010 and most recently updated in February 2023.
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