Nature's Way, Caravan Club Magazine

What do you think a lizard, red deer stag and an early purple orchid have in common?  No idea?  What if I add to the list the flowers of lords and ladies, sun spurge, periwinkle and pennyroyal, still no idea?  The final ingredient might give the game away and thatís the oyster.

I suspect you might now be thinking along the right lines.  If there had been an internet two hundred or more years ago and you had been down loading your emails then your inbox would be clogged up with SPAM advertisements for drugs containing these aphrodisiacs.  The list of naturally found substances used in potions to help with fertility and arousal is almost never ending.  I suspect that many are used in desperation but I am always intrigued as to how these ancient herbal remedies came about and to whether there is any truth behind them or whether they are simply old wivesí tales, or more probably in this case young wivesí tales!

Many of the old fertility potions are based on ingredients which resemble male or female genitalia.  If that idea is to be successful then there must be one plant that works better than any other, the lords and ladies, a flower which is ridiculously suggestive even to the most naÔve of observers.  There are two obvious elements to its flower structure, there is an extremely large protective sheath which embraces a phallic-like spadix designed to guide insects towards the plants tiny flowers.  Some of the flowerís local names including willy lily and cuckoo pint are suggestive of its sexual appearance (cuckoo pint probably originating from cuckooís pintle: pintle is a slang term for penis; cuckoo is used not just because the lords and ladiesí flowers can be seen at the same time as the cuckoo returns on migration but also because the cuckoo has long been associated with promiscuity). 

Also flowering during April is another plant said to have aphrodisiac qualities.  The early purple orchid grows from tubers which are said to resemble male genitals.  Each flower has two tubers though one is usually bigger than the other.  Women with a desire for love-making would create a potion for their men based upon crushing the larger of an orchidís two tubers in goatís milk, those that wished to cool their menís ardour would use the smaller of the two tubers!  Folk lore also suggested that men who ate the larger tubers were more likely to sire boys whereas women who ate the smaller of the tubers were more likely to raise girls.

The pennyroyal, a member of the mint family, has been widely used as an abortifacient, a substance which can induce abortion or miscarriage.  It seems that this use continued into the twentieth century but the same plant was also regarded as having the power to cure infertility in men and women as well as provoking lust.  The sun spurge is one of the most bizarre plants used as a sexual aid, the white sap from its stem was more commonly used as a cure for skin complaints including warts but it was found that when rubbed into the penis it would cause swelling.  I can only imagine the irritation that this might cause but it seems that sun spurge might have been our first Viagra. 

It isnít just plants that are used in love potions, one of the best aphrodisiacs is believed to be the oyster.  This long-standing belief dates back at least to the times of the Romans who gorged themselves on oysters during orgies.  It has been suggested that oysters can bear a fanciful likeness to the femaleís genitalia and that this is why they are used as an aphrodisiac.  In Britain oysters should only be eaten in months which contain the letter Ďrí, because the season for oyster fishing is between September and April, so if you want to give this one a try you had better not delay!

Other creatures with a link to our sexuality surprisingly include the lizard.  There are many beliefs regarding lizards all of which seem to depend upon coming into contact with one.  It seems that lizards can cure burns, warts and skin diseases as well as impotence.  These beliefs might relate to the lizard being so commonly used in black magic, the lizard is so often an ingredient in witchesí potions, or it might relate to the lizardís ability to shed and re-grow its tail, this is certainly suggestive of an ability to heal skin lesions. 

Less fanciful is the use of ground stagís antlers in love potions.  I can quite see that the antlers of a stag might have been highly prized by us in the past.  Think about it, antlers are re-grown each year by stags pumped up with testosterone, their single purpose is to fight off other stags during the rut and a single successful red deer stag will mate with up to twenty hinds in his harem.  What better pedigree for a love potion do you need?  My money is on this one and if you want to try it this is the right time of year to go out looking for antlers that have been shed by stags. 

It shouldnít really come as a surprise that the subject of fertility and arousal has attracted such a great deal of interest in our social history it is, after all, a fairly important part of our lives.  I canít find any evidence to suggest that any of these potions actually work and I canít personally recommend any of them, though that doesnít mean that I am dismissing them out of hand.  It might be that the act of producing a love potion for your partner, assuming that you tell them, may well be enough to make a difference.  For the foreseeable future my personal preference will remain the small black negligee, though it is starting to get a little tight under my arm pits!

WATCH OUT

The next few weeks are the best for listening to bird song.  Our garden birds are well into their breeding season with females sitting on nests and males singing every morning and as you read this article our summer migrants will be flooding back into the country.  Itís great to be able to identify birds by their song but it is much easier to relax and absorb the atmosphere.  This weekend when you are in the caravan get up early on at least one of the two mornings and make the most of the bird song in a nearby woodland.