​Making sense of aphrodisiacs

Aphrodisiacs are widely believed to put the spark into romance. But do these "love potions" really work? Michelle Miller has been doing some research:

When it comes to aphrodisiacs, New York chef Marc Forgione is something of a love guru. This Valentine's Day, his menu's a booster shot for passion and desire.

"After about seven, eight courses you'll have somewhere in the 20s, like, 24, 25 different aphrodisiacs," he said.

"So you should be ready to go?" asked Miller.

"We hope so!"

An early course: A special parfait, starring that prima-aphrodisiac, the oyster, along with lesser-known aphrodisiacs like apples, horseradish and beetroot.

"The beets help to relax your mind, and your body, and your soul, and kind of get you ready," said Forgione.

You'd be surprised how many things are considered an aphrodisiac.

"Almost anything that exists has been considered and tried as an aphrodisiac over time -- from ambergris to zebra tongues, and a very long list in-between," said Meryl Rosofsky, a physician who teaches food studies at New York University.

"What does that say about us?"

"Aphrodisiacs are bounded only by our imaginations, which thankfully are more fertile than the bodies we're trying to stimulate!"

According to Rosofsky, aphrodisiacs have been around for millennia, "probably since the beginning of humankind. We all have the biological imperative to secure a meal and a date, and we have that in common with other species."

Some pretty famous lovers populate aphrodisiac lore: Cleopatra seduced with milk baths and rose petals. The Aztec ruler Montezuma downed 50 cups of chocolate before visiting his harem.

And then there was Casanova, one of whose favorite tricks was to seduce a young virgin by slipping raw oysters through her parted lips.

So what makes something an aphrodisiac?

It starts with the name itself: Aphrodite was the goddess of love in Greek mythology. When she sprang from the sea on an oyster shell, lots of seafood became an aphrodisiac sure-bet.