How erectile dysfunction was treated before Viagra

Electricity and other ancient treatments for erectile dysfunction

How far would you go to treat erectile dysfunction? How would you feel about taking electric shocks to your penis, eating roasted wolf genitals, or burning a witch? Thankfully modern medicine has given us Viagra so you don’t need to do any of these things, but once upon a time these were men’s only option. Brace yourself, and get ready for a list of ancient impotence treatments that will put you off your food.

Eating… well, anything, really

Over the years there have been dozens of suggestions of foods which will “cure” erectile dysfunction, often on no basis stronger than “this animal is manly, so eating a bit of the animal will make you manly”. This is clearly fool proof logic. Some of the highlights on the anti-impotence menu include chewing on roasted wolf penis, lizard’s feet, snakes, and goat and rooster genitals. If you don’t want to eat the magical substance, that’s alright. The Ancient Egyptians suggested you just rub the ground up heart of a baby crocodile on your penis. Vegetarian? Don’t worry, you’ve got plenty of choice too! Leeks, garlic in a coriander and white wine mix, vinegar soaked clematis leaves or just a bit of a turpentine tree would do the trick. Yum.

Burn the witches!

If you have a problem and can’t fix it yourself, why not blame someone? In the late 1400s, a book was published by German clergyman and inquisitor Heinrich Kramer which claimed impotence was caused by witches. And if they couldn’t cause impotence, they’d prevent you from ejaculating - he even wrote that women could steal your penis. It’s not too surprising that this lead to calls for executions of women deemed to be witches.

Electricity will solve anything

You might think that wearable tech is a relatively new concept, but in the late 1800s savvy businessmen had “found” a treatment for erectile dysfunction (ED) in the form of a belt. Electricity! It was the magic of the moment, and although doctors weren’t too keen to endorse it, big business had no qualms with supporting whatever would sell.

At the time experiencing ED was not only taboo, but in some parts of the world, grounds for divorce. No wonder men would try whatever solutions were suggested. This electric belt - some makes of which included a extra electric loop to put your penis through - was supposed to work by increasing energy in the affected area. Unsurprisingly, there’s no evidence it actually works, and by the 1900s the enthusiasm for the mechanism began to die off.

Monkey testicles

Arguably the most obscure of the suggested remedies for ED came even later than the electric belt. It came about in the 1920s, which can’t be stated enough - this bizarre procedure was considered genuinely effective less than a hundred years ago. Dr. Serge Voronoff believed he had not only found a cure for erectile dysfunction, but also a recipe for eternal youth. All you had to do was have a few centimetres of monkey testicle sewn into your scrotum.

It’s exactly as mad as it sounds, but people were convinced and men who were ashamed, desperate, and had more money than sense, underwent the procedure anyway. It’s believed that between 1920 and 1940, 2000 odd monkey-to-man transplants were completed. His work became discredited when those who had undergone the operation began to age, and he was widely ridiculed. However, he did live to 95, so make of that what you will.

Not all suggested miracle cures were awful, though. Frederick Hollick, a 19th century physician and sex educator, believed that cannabis was the solution for ED. It’s not correct, but it’s at least got a little more sense to it than some ideas. However, Hollick also opposed masturbation, homosexuality, celibacy, and interracial relationships, so he wasn’t the most reliable of sources.

Thankfully things changed when Viagra was created in the late 1990s. ED became a more talked about subject and lost a lot of its stigma. It no longer became something to be ashamed of, but a well known medical issue. Recent changes in regulation mean you can now even buy Viagra online without need for a prescription, and services like Eddie even let you get a subscription to it. Oh, how times have changed.

Content Marketing Officer
Content Marketing Officer
Libby Mayfield

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