What Aphrodisiacs Actually Work?

When Aztec emperor Montezuma wanted to set the mood for a special lady, he ate fistfuls of cacao beans. He believed the cacao fueled his sexual desire, making it a night to remember for the lucky Aztec maiden. Ever since then, many people have believed that chocolate will get their juices flowing. However, a new study from researchers at the University of Guelph in Ontario, Canada, found that chocolate’s aphrodisiac effects are all mental—cocoa is as effective as an aphrodisiac as Spanish fly (which actually is a beetle, and poisonous).

Massimo Marcone, a professor of food science, and John Melnyk, a graduate student in food science, scrutinized hundreds of studies about aphrodisiacs, evaluating whether each substance had an actual effect.

After throwing out studies with dubious scientific rigors, they determined that panax ginseng, saffron, and yohimbine (from the yohimbe trees in West Africa) actually improved sexual functioning—saffron and ginseng even treat erectile dysfunction, and ginseng helps menopausal women increase sexual satisfaction.

While people claimed to experience an increased sexual appetite after ingesting muira puama (a flowering Brazilian plant), the MACA root (an Andean mustard plant), and chocolate, Marcone and Melnyk note there is no evidence that chocolate increases sexual arousal or enjoyment. Marcone suggests people might perceive better sexual experiences because the phenylethylamine in chocolate impacts serotonin and endorphin levels in the brain. And the researchers found that while alcohol increases sexual desire it decreases sexual performance.

So if you need something to get you in the mood, consider investing about $1,300 in a 16-ounce tin of saffron, the world’s most expensive spice. Don’t you wish chocolate really was an aphrodisiac?

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College Board Wants to Erase Thousands of Years From AP World History, and Teachers Aren't Happy
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One would be forgiven for thinking that the Ides of March are upon us, because Julius Caesar is being taken out once again—this time from the Advanced Placement World History exam. The College Board in charge of the AP program is planning to remove the Roman leader, and every other historical figure who lived and died prior to 1450, from high school students’ tests, The New York Times reports.

The nonprofit board recently announced that it would revise the test, beginning in 2019, to make it more manageable for teachers and students alike. The current exam covers over 10,000 years of world history, and according to the board, “no other AP course requires such an expanse of content to be covered over a single school year.”

As an alternative, the board suggested that schools offer two separate year-long courses to cover the entirety of world history, including a Pre-AP World History and Geography class focusing on the Ancient Period (before 600 BCE) up through the Postclassical Period (ending around 1450). However, as Politico points out, a pre-course for which the College Board would charge a fee "isn’t likely to be picked up by cash-strapped public schools," and high school students wouldn't be as inclined to take the pre-AP course since there would be no exam or college credit for it.

Many teachers and historians are pushing back against the proposed changes and asking the board to leave the course untouched. Much of the controversy surrounds the 1450 start date and the fact that no pre-colonial history would be tested.

“They couldn’t have picked a more Eurocentric date,” Merry E. Wiesner-Hanks, who previously helped develop AP History exams and courses, told The New York Times. “If you start in 1450, the first thing you’ll talk about in terms of Africa is the slave trade. The first thing you’ll talk about in terms of the Americas is people dying from smallpox and other things. It’s not a start date that encourages looking at the agency and creativity of people outside Europe.”

A group of teachers who attended an AP open forum in Salt Lake City also protested the changes. One Michigan educator, Tyler George, told Politico, “Students need to understand that there was a beautiful, vast, and engaging world before Europeans ‘discovered’ it.”

The board is now reportedly reconsidering its decision and may push the start date of the course back some several hundred years. Their decision will be announced in July.

[h/t The New York Times]

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North America: East or West Coast?
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