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The Fascinating History of Erectile Dysfunction: “Cures and Treatments”

Flaccid dick, through the ages

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Around 1600 BC, the Egyptians believed that impotence was the result of a natural disorder or an evil spell. One of their remedies used to ward off the ED curse was grinding up baby crocodile hearts mixed with wood oil to rub on the penis.


Another of the Ancient Egyptian treatments, using white and blue lotus flowers, is actually being rediscovered as one of the active ingredients, apomorphine, can effectively be used to treat ED.

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Fun fact, what we know as the infamous Spanish Fly, is actually a beetle. In about 300 BC, Aristotle, the Greek philosopher, extracted an “aphrodisiac” from the dried bodies of beetles also known as Spanish flies. The wife of the Roman emperor Tiberius snuck Spanish fly into family meals so she could blackmail relatives roused to sexual indiscretions.


Spanish fly was used for centuries as an aphrodisiac, but today we know that it is toxic and while it can cause a great deal of “swelling” it’s very unlikely to be a pleasant erection.


Image result for Malleus MaleficarumBy the Middle Ages, and for many years thereafter, impotence was believed to be caused by witches. In the ninth century, Hincmar, the Archbishop of Rheims, was the first to make the connection between witchcraft and impotence. In the preface of Daemonologie, King James I of England asserts the power of witches to weaken ‘the nature of some men, to make them unavailable for women’. A few hundred years later, in the medieval textbook for witch hunters, the Malleus Maleficarum (the “hammer of witches”), men with impotence problems were urged to track down the women who had bewitched their penises and persuade them, often with violence, to restore their erections. 


Image result for key holeAlong this same pattern of thinking, many believed that tying a magic knot into a ring or a key using cord or a strip of leather, and then hiding it, caused impotence of the groom at a wedding. This was known as the ‘magic ligature’. The impotence would last until the knot was found and undone by the person who cast the spell. A countermeasure against the ligature involved the groom urinating through the wedding ring the night before the wedding, or, once he discovered his impotence, he could piss through the keyhole of the church in which he as married. 



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