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Men have been searching for a cure to erectile dysfunction (ED) since the dawn of civilisation. The first known reference to ED was made in the Samhita of Sushruta − a 2,800-year-old Sanskrit medical text − in which everything from porpoise lard to sparrow testicles is proposed as a treatment for ED.
Luckily, ED medication has come a long way since then. With men’s wellness brands like Numan leading the discussion around men’s sexual health, effective ED medication is now more accessible than ever. Nonetheless, let’s take a trip back in time to marvel at the weird and wonderful ED remedies that have been whipped up over the millennia.
- Goat testicles boiled in milk
When it comes to erections, it seems ancient Hindus were somewhat ahead of the curve. They correctly guessed that ED could be caused by mental distress, stating in the Samhita of Sushruta that ED is the result of “bitter thoughts of recollection on the mind”. However, it starts to get a bit wackier when some questionable cures for the condition are suggested.
One such cure is an elaborate poultice consisting of seven exotic ingredients – including hog’s lard and “a copious quantity” of sugar cane juice. Once consumed, the Sushruta states “a man would be able to visit a hundred women”. But this is just the tip of the iceberg. According to the Sushruta, there are other ways a man could “visit a hundred women”. Options include boiling the testes of a goat in milk, adding sesame seeds, and then adding the lard of a porpoise – or, for those feeling a little more adventurous, lubricating the soles of the feet with a lotion of boiled alligator testes and clarified butter. But this last option comes with a catch. Indeed, a man can expect to experience “undiminished vigour” if he lathers his feet in this bizarre unction – just so long as his feet do not touch the ground.
- Oil of jasmine lube
The Aqrabadhin of Al‐Kindhi, an ancient Arabic list of medicines dating back to the 7–9th century BC, recommends oil of jasmine and asafoetida (an extract of a plant from the giant fennel family) as an ED remedy. After leaving the jasmine and asafoetida in a container to commingle for a few days, the user is instructed to oil their “male organ” with the ointment before intercourse.
This, of course, sounds like a more pleasant option than smearing animal testicle paste on your feet. But that’s until you realise asafoetida – also known as “devil’s dung” – has a unique property. It reeks. The extract is notorious for its pungent stench, which is reported to smell like sulphur and rotting eggs. Regardless of its dubious ability to treat ED, one whiff of its overpowering odour might just be enough to reverse any erection-boosting qualities it may have.
- Baby crocodile hearts
Another ancient scripture that suggests using reptile organs to treat ED is the Ebers Papyrus. This Egyptian medical document recommends mixing baby crocodile hearts with wood oil, and then spreading it on the husband’s penis to restore his potency. Another ED remedy consisting of 37 substances is also mentioned in the papyrus. Although most of the ingredients have not yet been identified, the known ingredients are juniper, pine, salt, various oils and watermelon. The rest of the ingredients, like much of ancient Egypt, remain shrouded in mystery.
- Urinating through a wedding ring
In the Middle Ages, erectile dysfunction was thought to be caused by witches. One dastardly way witches supposedly cast their erection-thwarting spells was by creating what was known as a “magic ligature”. This involved tying a magic knot into a ring or a key using cord or a strip of leather, and then hiding it during a groom’s wedding. The impotence spell would then last until the knot was found and untied by the person who cast it. To avoid being affected by the hex, the grooms would urinate through their wedding ring the night before their wedding.
- Drinking wine with rust in it
According to Greek mythology, erectile dysfunction in adulthood is caused by sexual anxiety in childhood. In one legend, King Phylacus of Phylace asked his physician, Melampus, to cure his son’s ED. Melampus worked out that the reason why Phylacus’ son had ED was because Phylacus had approached him with a blood-stained knife when he was a child. Afraid his father was going to castrate him, his fear manifested itself in the form of ED in his adulthood. The solution? Melampus instructed the king to scrape the rust from the knife (which had since been embedded in a tree) into a glass of wine. When Phylacus’ son drank the wine, he was cured of his ED.