Prolonging sexual vigor has always perked our interest. Looking back through history, aphrodisiacs turned out to be placebos. But placebos work up to 35% of the time. Today, these placebos are replaced with pharmacologically active aphrodisiacs, Viagra, Cialis, and others.

Anything that scientifically reports to prolong or recover sexual vigor perks up our interest. Over the centuries, the next great discovery was always greeted with promise and excitement.
Any form of stimulation that caused sexual excitement was considered an aphrodisiac. It could have been food, drink, poultice, or even a mechanical device. Many of these were used to cure impotence.

A pharmacological active substance that can elicit a person of either sex increased desire for and ability to engage in coitus, is defined today as an aphrodisiac.

The oldest aphrodisiacs were from the 8th century B.C., found on Babylonian cuneiform tablets. If your potency came to an end, you behead a partridge, put its blood in water, swallowed its heart, and let the liquid stand overnight which made the mixture more potent when it was drunk in the morning.

Genesis (30:12-17) saw the mandragora or mandrake as valuable, but did not give it aphrodiisiac powers. The first wife of Jacob, Leah, was infertile. Her son Reuben collected some mandrake. Jacob’s second wife Rachel wanted the plants and in exchange for the plants let Leah sleep with Jacob that night and Leah became pregnant. The root of mandragora resembled the legs of a man, and this was believed to benefit manhood. It however was used more as a soporific.


There was a belief in ancient times that things that have physical similarities will have similar effects. Substituting one for the other could be medically useful. This concept was repopularized by Paadelsus again in the 16th century. It was known as the doctrine of signatures, and termed “sympathetic magic”
A German Oswald Croll, a follower of Parcelsus summarized this belief in a Treatise of Signatures of Internal Things” in 1608. If you want to be a physician and understand medicine you must know the external signs of nature and understand the internal significance of them.

Nature by its silent notes speaks to us and reveals the ingenuity and manners of everyone. Plants can open the treasure of hidden things to us sickly mortals.

Plants were named for their therapeutic use. Two famous plants in Greco-Roman times were orchis (testicle) and satyrion (satyr). The orchis got its name by its double bulbous root. If you ate the greater root, it made you father a son. The lesser root, when eaten by women helped conceive girls. The women in Thessalia did not drink goat’s milk, but chose the tenere root to promote fertility.

Pliny in the 1 st century AD considered the orchis to be a variety of the plant satyrion, which also has a double root. It is shaped like human testes and swells and contracts in alternate years.

It had several names including Priapiscus. It’s bulbous root is as big as an apple, is red and has some white like an egg. It was drunk with black hard wine before sleeping with a woman. Another variety of satyrion was called erythraicon by Pliny. If the root was held in the hand and taken with dry wine, a stronger passion was assured.

Ginseng (Panax), another plant in the doctrine of signatures was discovered in Quebec in the 18th century. It was a major export to the Orient and is even widely used today.

In 1950, the U.S. exported 200 tons of ginseng annually to China. The Chinese called it “ the form of Man”. The Canadian missionaries found the Iroquois name for this plant was “man’s thighs separated.

The Cherokees also used a decoction of this root as a drink to get rid of menstrual camps. There is no evidence the Indians ever used it as an aphrodisiac.

The Spanish fly”, Cantharides, is probably the most famous and least understood of all the alleged aphrodisiacs. It was used for centuries for many illnesses. The cantharides is extracted from a beetle in southern Europe and North Africa.

In ancient times it was used as a diuretic. But in 1830, over 8 tons of these insects were imported into England. In small quantities it caused a greater erection of the penis, but in large amount it caused the bladder to bleed.

In 1816, an American John Francis of New York publicized it as a treatment for impotence in old men. It actually causes inflammation of the urethra and priaprism, a painful erection without sexually excitement. The British Encyclopedia 1966 edition had it as one of the two recognized aphrodisiacs, despite its toxicity and failure.

Strychnine (Nux vomic) was the first aphrodisiac. It was used centuries to induce vomiting. Because it excited the nervous system, Trousseau in 1836 published a report where he used it to rehabilitate paraplegics. An overdose, caused priapism in the paraplegics. They thought it showed a recovery of virility in the male paraplegics.

Galvanic (D.C.) and faradic (A.C.) current was use in 19th century, also for impotence. An insulated positive electrode was placed in the urethra and the external faradic applicator was placed over the external genitalia at the perineum.

Numerous animal parts, products and symbols were used since primitive times. The horn of a unicorn, considered a phallic symbol was used in Europe as an antidote against poisons and to teat plague. A prescription by Maimonides (1156) had one take the penis of an ox, dry it, grind it, and sprinkle it on a soft-boiled egg and sip and drink it.

Horse testes were dried and made into a powder to drink. The right testis of an ass was taken in wine or worn as a bracelet. Today elk horns from Montana are sent to Japan and considered an aphrodisiac,

The turtle nests in Florida are often raided for their unhatched eggs and sold as aphrodisiacs. Solutions from guinea pigs and dogs containing testicular venous blood, semen and testicular juice were crushed and injected to restore seminal fluid that was lost over the many years of sex. This became popularized by Brown-Sequard after he wrote of injecting himself with these juices with success.

This led to human testes transplants by Steinach, a Viennese physiologist, in 1920. He reported the results of 1000 injections in 656 men with an 85% success rate. Rheumatism improved 84%, and impotence in 63%. Monkey glands were later used.

In 1935 testosterone was crystallized from bull testes. Now there was finally a hormone to inject impotent men. There were no controls and numerous frauds existed. Most aphrodisiacs worked as placebos.

Today alcohol and marijuana are used to treat impotence, but there is no evidence they work. You may drink so much alcohol that you no longer suppress your inhibitions and can act out your normal sexual drive.

As a matter of fact alcohol is an anti-aphrodisiac. On an alcoholic binge, erections are difficult. That is why so many sales of Viagra are sold to men under 40. Cannabis, hashish, and marihuana in small doses lower inhibitions and have also a placebo effect.

Other plants were also used to improve virility: Cayenne pepper from South America, black snakeroot resin from Cimicifuga, oleoresin from Cubeb plant in Java, damiana from Mexican Turnera leaves, ergot alkaloid from Claviceps which was injected into the dorsal vein of the penis, bloodroot an extract from the Sanguinaria plant, yohimine from the bark of West Africa’s Corynanthe yohimbe plant, lecithin phospholipids from animal sources, gold chloride, iron arsentate, and zinc phoshide.

Now after several thousand of years of futile trial and error, advance have been made in understanding sexual physiology. We now have drugs that reliably produce sexual stimulation. They however have some side effects.

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