Weird Historical Love Potion Ingredients

I’ve been working on my new book, CASTING LOVE SPELLS, and just finished writing the section on “WEIRD HISTORICAL LOVE POTION INGREDIENTS.” I thought my patrons might like to read this entire book section — months before the public gets to see it when the book comes out this Fall. The image used is an illustration that will also be in the book. It is the Spanish Fly, also known as the Blister Beetle.



When we think of love potions, we picture a corked bottle containing a mystical brew of romance. But history tells us that the ingredients used were not all that appealing and sometimes illegal. Fresh blood, powdered bones, crushed insects – none of this sounds all that romantic by today’s standards where we give bouquets of flowers and boxes of chocolates to entice love. All of these examples are presented for historical purposes. Their inclusion here is not a recommendation by me.


But the Medieval Love Cake took elaborate steps to make someone fall in love with you. After mixing all of the traditional ingredients for the cake (more bread-like as we would consider it today), the dough would be rubbed all over the naked body, including the genitals and armpits, to absorb the body sweat into the dough. It was then baked and fed to the object of their desire.


Most people have heard of ‘ Spanish fly’ mentioned in movies, television shows, and books. Also known as the Blister Beetle, it was used in potions dating back to Hippocrates. Latin writers document how the beetles were dried and crushed into a powder and then used as a potent aphrodisiac in numerous potions. These potions were said to be quite popular in the court of the Roman Emperor Augustus. Not recommended since Spanish Fly is considered toxic, causing permanent liver and kidney damage.


It is also known as the Caviar of the East. Popular in China for over 1,000 years, it is used to stir up desire in the bedroom. Astoundingly expensive, it is made up of the saliva found on the nests of swiftlets. The nest is simmered slowly in water to extract the saliva, and the soup has a thin gelatin-like consistency.


For those wanting to explore the occult in the 16th century, many turned to the book The Boke of Secretes of Albertus Magnus of the Vertues of Herbes, Stones and Certaine Beastes. One formula for increasing the affections between a husband and wife was to crush earthworms and blend them with periwinkle, which was then mixed into a spouse’s food.

In 17th century Mexico, women would crush worms to mix with herbs, milk, and corn to feed their man to keep him in love and at home. An alternative would be to rub it on his chest at night while they slept.


While parts of animals were often used in potions, so were human remains – even though many considered it taboo. A few harmless ways were by using a string of hair or menstrual blood as an ingredient. One especially dark recipe included the bone marrow and spleen of a murdered boy (not at all recommended.) But it could get more ominous, such as collecting bones from the graveyard to grind into powder.


Throughout history and across many cultures, snakes have played a part in magical practice. In Indonesia and Southeast Asia, the cobra’s blood is thought to kickstart the libido and get the sexual juices flowing. To drink the blood directly from the body of a freshly beheaded cobra is considered to be the most powerful.


Since the horn of a rhino could also be a phallic symbol, it is said that erectile dysfunction can be cured by consuming the powdered horn of this great beast. Keep in mind, as rhinos are on the verge of extinction, poaching them is illegal.


In South America, Leafcutter ants have been eaten as an aphrodisiac to enhance sexual desire since pre-Columbian times. They are a traditional wedding gift in the region. What few may realize is that only the queen ants are edible. The legs and wings are removed before they are toasted.


Hummingbirds were thought to be supernatural in many cultures. Even today, practitioners continue to break the law by collecting the bodies of these regal birds on the black market and turning them into love spells. The body is wrapped in the photograph of the two lovers then placed in a jar where it is covered in honey and cinnamon to keep the relationship sweet and spicy.

After writing and rereading this selection of unsavory ingredients, I am reminded of the line from the Meat Loaf song – “I would do anything for love. But I won’t do that.”