Among British holidaymakers looking for love, the Italians are considered the most desirable nationality. However, a fling with a fellow Briton comes a close second. Bringing up the rear for both men and females were Americans and people from the Caribbean.

The mediaeval Catholic church ranked lust as the first of the Seven Deadly Sins. It is usually thought of as involving obsessive or excessive thoughts of a sexual nature. Its opposite virtue is chastity.

Traditionally, garlic has been the nemesis of desire, but it may not be as much of a passion-killer as some think. In one survey, nine out of 10 people said that they would not be bothered by their partner eating garlic before an intimate session. (But men are are 50 per cent more likely than women to reject a partner who reeks of the plant.)

The word desire dates from the 13th century and has its roots in the Old French desirer, and from the Latin, desiderare ("to long for or wish for"). The original sense perhaps derives from the phrase "to await what the stars will bring" from de sidere ("from the stars").

Lack of libido is common in women, but quite rare in men. Even men with who have difficulty maintaining an erection (erectile dysfunction) usually have a normal sex drive.

The term libido was popularised by Sigmund Freud, who defined it as the instinct energy or force contained in what he called the id (the largely unconscious structure of the psyche). Freud pointed out that these libidinal drives can conflict with the conventions of civilised behaviour.

An aphrodisiac is an agent that is believed to increase sexual desire. Foodstuffs commonly believed to do the trick include chocolate, rocket, oysters and ginseng (see page 15 for more).

The word aphrodisiac comes from Aphrodite, the classical Greek goddess of love, lust, beauty and sexual reproduction. Ritual prostitution was common in her shrines.

In hana kotoba, the Japanese language of flowers, the cactus flower represents lust - and an ill-judged gift could offend the recipient. A yellow camellia, signifying longing, might be a safer gesture for a suitor.

In Dante's Divine Comedy, those overcome by lust are punished in first circle of hell. Their souls are blown to and fro by a violent storm.

Water-melons contain citrulline which, according to scientists, works in much the same way as Viagra and has the same basic effect. There is only one problem you would need to eat at least six servings of water-melon to replicate the drug's effect, and even that would mostly be the rind.

In Uganda, a species of tree called the Omuboro also known as the "sex tree" has been driven close to extinction by demand for its roots, which are reputed to have aphrodisiacal properties.