On Thursday I squished in a talk about aphrodisiac plants Chelsea Physic Garden. I won’t go into detail about the history again, but this place has real gem status. You can feel the weight of history in this 400 year old spot of learning and cultivation. It was a gorgeous sunny day and all the wind-tunnel ladies who lunch were out in force in the garden cafe doing their thing. The food actually looked really good, very good WI style. And if you’ve ever been to the WI food stalls at any festival you know they deliver. (Not literally, that would just be too good).
So here I was for a lecture on Aphrodisiac plants by Peter Houghton from Kings College. And what was most amusing was that the lecturer was wearing a dog collar, I couldn’t really wipe the smirk off my face. We focused on the overlap between botany>chemistry>pharmacology.
You really must go and check out the garden, before any talk – the anecdotes and descriptions beside the plants really set the scene. A contraceptive plant: Epimedium Alpinium ‘The root that make a woman barren that taake it inwardly’, whilst the Galium Verum or Yellow Lady’s Bedstraw ‘The root thereof being drunke in wine stirreth up bodily lust’ and Symphytym Tuberosum or Comfery with the knobby root ‘It is given to drinke against the paine in the backe, through wresting or overmuch use of women.’
Go go go you naughty Elizabethans with your remedy for all! So we learnt about the early Doctrine of Signatures – basically if the plant, root or bulb looked a bit like the problem area, that was match fit to fix it.
To summarise there’s a lot of work to be done in this area -still. The Chinese are obviously a little further up the curve of the tiger’s tail and focus on a dramatically different flora spectrum. Yes there are many many powerful plants that have a heady perfume to seduce, can heat the body through ingestion, there are plants to make you woozy and so more willing and simply some that open up the blood vessels…to encourage swelling. The vicar, I mean lecturer ended on a rather unequivocal note: You can’t mess with some of these plants – it could end in rape. Oh my.