In Greek mythology, ambrosia was the food of the gods, as nectar was their drink (from the Greek ambrotes, "immortal"). It gave to those who ate it immortal youth and beauty. It was brought by doves to Jupiter, and was occasionally bestowed upon such human beings as were the peculiar favorites of the gods. Ambrosia was also used as a fragrant salve, which the goddesses employed to heighten their beauty; with which Jupiter himself anointed his locks; and which had the property of preserving bodies from decay.


The term was applied by Pliny, and by early herbalists, to various plants. Hindu mythology has also its amrita, the beverage of the gods; and the gods of the Scandinavian pantheon were preserved in perpetual vigor by eating the apples guarded by Idun.