I know, I know, that's not exactly a clear answer, but keep reading, because everything will become clear in a moment.
First, let's start back at the beginning.
When did oysters start to be considered an aphrodisiac?
Oysters as aphrodisiac dates back to at least the Roman Empire. During that time, a mathematician named Giacomo Girolamo Casanova, who was famous for having gone to bed with over 100 women, cited oysters as a big help in his "adventures in the bedroom." My question is how did he have time for all that? I guess I'll just have to read his memoir.
Since then, oysters have been considered an aphrodisiac in many cultures worldwide.
In 2005, oysters really stepped up their game as the "love enhancer"...
Oysters pranced into the limelight in 2005, when chemistry professor, George Fisher, from Miami's Barry University, gave a presentation at the American Chemical Society. In his presentation, Professor Fisher presented his discovery that mussels contained D-Aspartic acid, which had been found to increase the level of sex hormones in lab rats.
Okay, so the study didn't exactly involve oysters. And it was also done on lab rats instead of humans (and, let's not kid ourselves studies done on animals are often a poor predictor of how it will translate to humans). But that didn't stop several publications from broadcasting the statement: oysters are an aphrodisiac!
Several studies have since looked into the possibility that oysters are an aphrodisiac, and began studying it in humans.
But one problem stands in the way...
No studies have been able to prove that oysters stimulate desire, because it's unclear whether people are actually experiencing an increase in desire from the oysters, or it's an increase in desire for psychological reasons. In other words, if people are told they will probably start to feel turned on, many people will start to feel turned on... oysters or not. Conversely, people are unlikely to become turned on from just a food. The idea is that oysters, if they are an aphrodisiac, would have to be paired with a psychological readiness and willingness to be turned on. Which means there is no way to really conduct a study in which patients are given oysters without knowing what it is for.
So, are oysters aphrodisiacs?
We don't know. And it's unlikely that we'll find out anytime soon.
Barry R. Komisaruk, a professor of psychology at Rutgers University, Newark, has been studying desire and aphrodisiacs for years. Desire is a very tricky issue, he says. Its complicated and nobody really understands it very well.
But, if you feel like it helps, then why not?
Maybe it's just a placebo effect, but it still works.