Let’s face it, as men, there are few things that freak us out as much as our dongs not working. It’s the symbol of our masculine power and erectile dysfunction strips us of that. So people have turned to a huge variety of goofy “cures” to fix the issue. Some, like Viagra, work just fine. Others, like the ten bizarre cures for erectile dysfunction we’re going to show you here, do not.
Many erectile dysfunction remedies from antiquity involve the use of an irritant to stimulate blood flow into the penis. Stinging nettles were a common choice, mixed into a poultice and applied liberally, but the Kama Sutra had another solution that was even scarier. The legendary Hindu book of sex positions and practices recommended men catch wasps, remove their stingers and grind them up into a sandy mixture. That mixture was then to be rubbed all over the penis so that the venom of the wasp would produce an erection.
Dietary cures for impotence and erectile dysfunction have been recommended throughout the ages, and they’re usually foods you wouldn’t normally think to eat. In the 13th century, the friar and aspiring physician Albertus Magnus wrote a tome called Die Animalbus, concerning the many uses of the animal kingdom. For male troubles, Albertus recommended that impotent men get hold of a wolf’s penis, roast it in the oven, cut it into small pieces and chew it whenever they felt the need for some sexual stimulation. He also believed that starfish was an overpowering aphrodisiac that, if used too much, could prompt a man to ejaculate blood. Yuck.
People had all sorts of excuses for why erectile dysfunction happened, and one of the scariest was too much masturbation. The theory was that excessive self-love would damage the responsive tissues of the penis, making it unable to sustain an erection. One horrifying 19th century cure for this issue was the implantation of curved rods called urethral strictures through the hole at the tip of the penis. Once they were all the way in, a bulb at the end would be squeezed to push nitric acid through and into the bladder. Not only was this treatment painful and dangerous, but it didn’t work.
Long considered a cure for both erectile dysfunction and female frigidity, Spanish Fly is a chemical extract called cantharidin that is harvested from an emerald-green beetle native to southern Europe. When ingested, Spanish Fly produces a sensation of irritation in the urinary tract, which can stimulate erections. It also instills a feeling of nervousness and agitation, which isn’t necessarily good for sexy time. Unfortunately, it’s incredibly powerful and even the smallest dose can cause serious health problems and even death – it was extensively used as a poison in the 14th century by the Medici family.
One less painful but still unpleasant cure for impotence – advanced by ayurvedic physicians in India as well as Taoist doctors in China – was urine therapy. The consumption of copious amounts of your own pee was believed to restore the manly vigor that you released when you used the bathroom. Urine does contain trace amounts of the male hormones androgen and testosterone, but they’re not going to accomplish anything. Amazingly enough, some people still believe that this works; they not only drink it but also spray and massage the pee into their genitals. That must smell really awful.
Recognizing that the balls are the source of sperm led many doctors to attempt to cure erectile dysfunction with transplants. In 1914, Dr. G. Frank Lydston implanted the testicle of a suicide victim into his own scrotum, kicking off a wave of experiments that saw doctors doing all kinds of shenanigans down there. One California doctor implanted testicles from death row convicts as well as injecting men with solutions made from boar, ram and goat testes. Needless to say, none of this stuff had any positive effect, despite their claims to the contrary.
In the markets of Peru, one of the most popular pick-me-ups for men having trouble getting it up is "extracto de rana," also known as frog juice. Vendors have tanks of live frogs and you pick the one you want. The counterman then grabs the frog, beats its head against a counter and skins it. The carcass goes into a blender with white bean broth, honey, aloe vera and a Peruvian herb called maca. One spin cycle later and you have a smoothie that’s purported to cure whatever ails you, including erectile dysfunction.
When the Curies discovered the principles of radioactivity in the late 1800s, people everywhere flocked to find uses for the new “miracle substance.” Unfortunately, they didn’t know about the cancer-causing properties of radiation, and things got ugly pretty quick. Radium was actually sold as a suppository to renew sexual vigor in men dealing with impotence and erectile dysfunction. The idea of putting a lump of radioactive metal up your butt just so you can get your swerve on is pretty terrifying, but people did it in droves – and nobody even transformed into a superhero.
This one might actually work, but the idea is just frightening. Scientists in Georgia have been exploring the potential of using the venom of the Brazilian wandering spider, a poisonous arachnid that can grow up to four inches in diameter. The bite of this creepy critter causes you to lose control of your muscles – but it also causes erections that last for more than four hours. A physiologist has isolated the molecule in the venom that causes that effect and tested it on rats, but this is one you don’t want to try at home. If left untreated, the spider bite can lead to death by asphyxiation.
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Electricity was also considered to be a cure for flaccidity, and in the 19th century, battery technology advanced to the level where men could wear “electric belts” that hid under their clothes and provided regular shocks to the penis with a wire loop that coiled around the organ. Some also provided jolts to the prostate for good measure. These belts were intended to be worn constantly to gradually restore vigor to the unit, and tens of thousands of them were sold between 1890 and 1920 before they went out of fashion.