A big, orange pumpkin on a green lawn.
Photo: Fredde 99

Pumpkin May Be the Ultimate Aphrodisiac

A study finds that the smell of pumpkin is a powerful turn-on for men.
By Tiffany Jow
October 31, 2020
2 minute read

According to Dr. Alan R. Hirsch, the neurologist and psychiatrist who founded Chicago’s Smell and Taste Treatment and Research Foundation, nearly 20 percent of people who suffer from a diminished sense of smell also suffer from sexual dysfunction. “We’re certainly not the first to acknowledge this,” he told the medical journal Alternative & Complementary Therapies. “More than a hundred years ago Freud said that, in order for society to remain civilized, it was necessary to repress our olfactory instincts.” The most effective smell for arousing men, his team discovered, is that of pumpkin—specifically, pumpkin mixed with the scent of lavender. In a study conducted by Hirsch’s foundation, 40 percent of participants—who were each connected to a plethysmograph, a device that measures blood flow caused by sexual arousal—were turned on the most by the distinct autumn aroma, which was delivered via a scented mask along with 23 other fragrances.

Hirsch isn’t exactly sure why the scent of an orange squash lights a man’s fire. It could be the pathway that connects the olfactory bulb to pleasure centers in the brain, his team suggests, or the “odors could induce a Pavlovian conditioned response reminding subjects of their sexual partners or their favorite foods.” (Remarkably, 20 percent of participants got a thrill from the scent combination of pumpkin and doughnuts.) While the jury’s still out on the reasons behind the gourd’s titillating effects, one thing is all but certain: The next time we get a whiff of pumpkin spice, fall festivities won’t be the only thing that comes to mind.