5 Sex-Enhancing Rituals From Around the World

5 Sex-Enhancing Rituals Around the World
© Dr. Dwayne Meadows, NOAA/NMFS/OPR


Recent reports suggest we're finally out of a 'sex recession', and Gen Z are reprioritising intimacy. Sex is back – and, as a result, so are aphrodisiacs.

This feature is a part of Origins, a new series from Trippin and All Corners, uncovering the forgotten roots of today's pop culture trends.

Aphrodisiacs are as old as sex itself. For as long as animals and humans have been procreating, both groups of species have been finding ways to do it more effectively, or do it better. For us humans – where sex is tied to pleasure – a history of aphrodisiacs can be found across cultures around the world, used to enhance the experience.

Sex certainly sells, and – much like the wellness industry – we’ve witnessed the commercialisation of sexual wellness itself; from the rise in libido boosters to sex-orientated products. Pop culture figures have jumped on this wave and utilised its marketing value. Last year, Christina Aguilera co-founded the sexual wellness and intimacy products brand Playground. Meanwhile, Gwyneth Paltrow was quick to jump on the trend with the launch of Goop Sex in 2023. Candles from the brand, titled This Smells Like My Vagina and priced at $75, sold out. “Sex chocolates” created by Tab proliferated across TikTok and became a viral sensation. Modern aphrodisiacs may seem like a new novelty on platforms such as TikTok, but they continue the historical trend of using natural enhancers to boost our sex lives.

The lineage of natural aphrodisiacs can be traced back thousands of years. They were documented in ancient Chinese history, Greek mythology and Egyptian culture.

In 2016, Hollywood sex symbol Pamela Anderson declared we needed a “sensual revolution”. In 2024, this revolution – which prioritises intimacy and open communication – is underway, with sexual wellness emerging as a post-pandemic travel trend. Following an extensive period of isolation, there’s an uptick of travellers looking to step outside of the realm of their day-to-day lives, booking trips motivated by sexual exploration. The notion of “vacation sex” is a well-documented one (remember Sun, Sea and Suspicious Parents?) that’s never fallen out of fashion with travel. Pair this with the rise of sexual wellness and the result is a surge in sexual intimacy retreats and hotels offering sexual wellness-related spa packages. Travel is often motivated by factors such as wellbeing, reconnection and exploration – pillars of the sexual wellness trend. So, why not add sex into the equation? More and more, we’re seeing individuals plan trips using sexual wellness as their prime motivator.

As part of our Origins series, we take a look at some well-loved natural aphrodisiacs that were used across history, or are being used now, and trace them back to the cultures that birthed them. One caveat: these are not necessarily scientifically proven.


Fried Tarantulas

Fried tarantulas Cambodia

Thai zebra spiders, also known as “a-ping” or “edible” spiders, are a delicacy eaten in the Cambodian town of Skuon. It’s said to have aphrodisiacal properties by boosting an individual’s mood for love. They first became known as a delicacy during the Khmer Rouge era, the Communist Party of Kampuchea that ruled from 1975 to 1979. Aside from its status as a prized aphrodisiac, they’re also thought to have healing properties that are able to ease breathing disorders and cure backache.


Bagna Càuda

Bagna Cauda
© Fernando Lopez Anido

Bagna Càuda – which translates to “hot bath” – is a garlic dip made with anchovies and it dates back thousands of years. Originating from the Piedmont region of northwestern Italy, it’s typically served as a dip for bread and vegetables. There are different stories as to its use. Not only is it said to be potent aphrodisiac – if you can get past its heady aroma – but in the Middle Ages, it was allegedly used as a charm to ward off witches and wizards. However, some say it was created by a witch to counteract infertility and to increase an individual’s reproductivity. Aristocrats looked down upon this flavoursome dip for its scent, and the garlic was given to peasants as leftovers. Now, it’s a hot, warming delicacy that’s especially enjoyed during the winter months.


Horny Goat Weed

Horny goat weed
© Maja Dumat

Horny goat weed is a medicinal herb that’s commonly known as an aphrodisiac, used to help with low libido and erectile dysfunction. There’s little scientific evidence of its aphrodisiacal properties, and it’s said to have a range of other medicinal purposes, such as helping to ease post-menopausal symptoms, osteoporosis and hayfever.

This aphrodisiac is part of the Epimedium genus, a species of flowering plant that’s native to China, Japan and Korea, but can now also be found growing in parts of Europe and Africa. It’s a form of traditional Chinese medicine that’s since become readily available in the form of supplements across a range of health stores, like Holland & Barretts.

How did it become known as a potential cure for erectile dysfunction? Legend says that a goat herd noticed his goats became more sexually stimulated after feasting on the plant. It currently stands as one of the oldest herbs associated with sexual health.


Sea Cucumber

Sea cucumber
© David Burdick/NOAA Photo Library

Not only are some forms of genitalia – namely, the tiger penis – consumed as an aphrodisiac, but underwater creatures resembling the phallus are considered to be a cure to male impotence too. With its tubular appearance and defence mechanism of stiffening and ejaculating a sticky, white secretion when threatened by a predator, you can draw some physical similarities between this aphrodisiac and the phallus.

Its origins as an aphrodisiac are rooted in Chinese culture, and it’s thought to have nourishing qualities for kidneys and the blood, thereby boosting stamina and sex drive as a result. There are some scientifically proven health benefits of the sea cucumber. Studies have shown that it contains a bioactive potency that could improve the quality and quantity of sperm in an individual. How to eat it? In China, it’s braised or stir fried and served with vegetables and rice.



© Eckard Wolff-Postler

Silphium was initially called the silphion plant, and it’s a giant form of fennel that, legend says, grew along the Libyan coast. It was first discovered after a particular wash of “black” rain swept across the east coast of Libya over two thousand years ago, causing the plant to bloom across the coast. It’s been suggested, through linguistic evidence, that people in Libya were aware of the silphion plant. It was later renamed Silphium, and became a much-loved herb in Rome during the ancient ages. Used as an aphrodisiac as well as a form of birth control and perfume, this herb was so prized that it was printed on Greek money and Julius Caesar allegedly kept a stash of it in the treasury. This well-loved herb was frequently referenced in Roman poems and songs too.

As for its appearance, silphium sprouted small yellow flowers and contained heart-shaped seeds that’s said to be the reason why we associate the symbol with love today. It was the juice of the plant that was consumed as an aphrodisiac, and the dried version of its sap was sold in markets. Its leaves were also eaten or grated onto food as a garnish. However, the plant was impossible to farm – a mystery that remains unsolved today – and it vanished from the earth. It’s not known whether it grows anywhere now and is speculated to have become extinct.

This feature is a part of Origins, a new series from Trippin and All Corners, uncovering the forgotten roots of today's pop culture trends.

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