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History of Treatment of Erectile Dysfunction

Today, loss of male power is a real trouble for any man. However, it should rather be called a blow to their pride and self-esteem, because there are no social consequences of appearance of this problem. But was it the same before? How did our ancestors perceive impotence? Did this term have the same meaning in the New Europe? And in the Middle Ages? And what troubles to ancient Greek, Egyptian or Roman caused their sexual impotence?

Ancient World

Sexual impotence is a problem of not only today. Human race encountered it throughout all stages of its development. However, it would be erroneous to consider that in ancient times people perceived impotence in the same way as men do in the 21st century. As practice shows, meaning put in this concept changed quite spontaneously, and depending not only on the time frame, but also on territory within which it was applied.

Ancient Egypt

According to studies conducted at Urology and Nephrology Center at Mansour University (one of the largest in Egypt), ancient Egyptians had quite rich sex life, which they did not hesitate to describe in words and pictures. As in case of other early civilizations, erotic attraction was an integral part of their lives and had a serious enough significance. There were legends that sexual power was one of the fundamental factors for continuation of life already in afterlife, and therefore issue of impotence here was approached with all seriousness.

Therefore, in prescription of 663 Erbes papyrus (a kind of medical encyclopedia of ancient Egyptians) it is recommended to make poultices for penis on the basis of willow, acacia, yellow and red ocher, juniper and a number of other plants. And in the papyrus, dated 1700 BC, you can find the following recipe:

«Leaves of bramble spine (also known as Christ-thorn) and acacia must be crushed and mixed with honey in 1:1:1 proportional ratio. Soak a cloth with the resulting ointment and apply it as a bandage to the sore spot (in this case, penis).»

Not the least role in treatment was played by psychological influence. Procedures often accompanied by magical spells and appeals to gods, and sometimes spells did lie at their base. Thus, according to papyrus, written about 1000 BC, appeal to Khnum (who created the world allegedly with the help of phallus rather than potter’s wheel) was considered effective. And it was necessary to appeal to him both when creating medicine, and during application of it to penis.treatment of erectile dysfunction

Ancient Greece

In ancient Greece, erect penis was considered a symbol of maturity and strength. Sexual relations were closely intertwined with social relations. And since elite men always had submissive slaves, not only female, but also male, at their disposal, sexual passivity was considered a grave offense here. A real man could only be active in a relationship – to penetrate, but not substitute.

For treatment Greeks actively used a variety of aphrodisiacs, the very name of which went on behalf of Greek goddess of love – Aphrodite. Predominantly genitalia of animals were used. And, not only snakes (one of which is wrapped around the staff of Asclepius – god of healing), but also goats and cocks. According to Aristotle’s notes, excellent effect was provided by hippomanes – adhesive mucus that can be found on forehead of a newborn colt, as well as powder from Spanish flies, which today is considered ineffective due to its high toxicity and short duration of action.

Today it is quite difficult to assess effectiveness of these recipes, as only a small part of them was reflected in the works of modern scientists. For example, benefits of fresh onion juice became known for certain only after studies conducted by Jordan’s University of Science and Technology, which is located in Jordan. However, most of the methods are known only from scrappy records and manuscripts, which could be both chronicles for descendants, and some entertaining literature that does not carry semantic load. You can not discount human factor: someone could make a mistake while writing, someone – during decoding. For effectiveness of ancient methods only one thing speaks – their main ingredients, which are used in modern preparations. So honey is a part of Turkish exciting syrup Lokmanzade, and juniper extract – in phyto-balms «Male power». Of course, you can check everything by experiment. But it is unlikely that today (when there are many proven alternatives) someone will want to risk their health by eating lizard limbs or amniotic fluid of mares.

 Ancient Rome

Attitude toward sexual impotence in ancient Rome was very critical. Signs of masculinity (which was itself an ideal) in those days were considered self-sufficiency, male and physical strength and even some kind of aggression in expression of their desires. Recognition could only be achieved by strong and active ones, whereas incriminating in softness or effeminacy was comparable to insult. This is clearly illustrated in the novel «Satyricon» by Petronia Arbitrator, whose main character, after failed night and unsuccessful attempts of treatment, lost both male pride and social status.

The most serious studies of the issue of erectile dysfunction of those years can be found in the works of Pliny the Elder. On the pages of his «Natural History» quite an extensive catalog of stimulants is imprinted, according to which:

  • leek is a fairly powerful aphrodisiac;
  • turpentine, obtained from resin of trees, is a stimulant of mild action;
  • leaves of clematis increase sexual desire, if before drinking soak them in vinegar;
  • asparagus can be used as a stimulant if it is crushed and consumed with pearl barley;
  • garlic gives necessary effect if it is crushed, mixed with crushed coriander and added to wine.

However, for the most part this list carries not only false, but also dangerous information. Thus, the same garlic, according to modern scientific experiments, has a direct effect on testosterone and spermatogenesis. And the more the daily dose of its use, the worse these indicators are.

Also in those days, male sexual organ was often compared to a lizard, which was prerequisite for equally interesting recipe:

«Head and legs of lizard were soaked in white wine, after which junk ordinary and fresh seeds of various plants were added to the infusion. The resulting potion was added to daily drinks, but not more than 1 drachma (4 – 7 g) at a time.»

Middle Ages: V – XVI Century

Middle Ages can be characterized as a period when the very concept of «impotence» appeared. This term (in sense of «helplessness», «impotence») was used in poem, dated 1420, by Thomas Hoccleve. For many years this illness was considered an intrigue, and perpetrators of its appearance were traditionally considered to be witches. However, as the problem was not solved together with burning of women on bonfires, people were also beginning to blame church for their impotence. At this time, there was a rethinking of the very nature of the phenomenon. This was no longer a flaw in a concrete person, in which he himself is to blame, but a disease that can appear in anyone on the whim of outside forces (witches, devils, etc.).

As for methods of treatment, they were quite exotic. So in writings of Albert the Great – a prominent representative of medieval scholasticism of the 13th century – the following recipes can be found:

  • penis of wolf is baked in the oven, after which it is cut into small pieces and eaten by the diseased;
  • roasted or dried meat of sparrows (known for their sexual activity) will instantly ignite a long-extinct sexual desire. However, if used excessively, it can cause constipation;
  • starfish – an excellent stimulant, however, can cause bleeding during ejaculation. To get rid of unpleasant effect, lettuce can help.

However, healers of different countries of those years tried to keep up. Since starfish and wolves in those days were difficult to obtain, men applied to their sex organs a mixture of chopped hearts of chicken and deer fat.

Notably, these methods not only look wild, but they are also inherently so. If starfish, as one of elements, is still found in some medicinal tinctures (such as, for example, «Seafood»), then all the other «ingredients» have not demonstrated their effectiveness.

Early Modern Age: XVII – XX Century

During this period the term «impotence» was formed in a sense familiar to modern person. It is mentioned in the book «History of Church of Britain», published in 1655, where male power of Pope himself is questioned. Erectile dysfunction is finally affirmed as a disease with which one can fight. It is possible, but not necessary. Condemnation of search for medicine that could cure male infirmity, continue until the XIX century. The most prominent of them can be called:

  1. statement of American physician Frederick Hollik, who argued that only one substance – cannabis (also known as hemp) – can help in restoring vigor and sexual desire without unpleasant consequences;
  2. work of American William Hammond, who seriously argued that the main cause of trouble are sexual relations at early age and masturbation.

However, if you go back to our days, you can find that modern science distinguishes the same hemp as one of the most probable causes of impotence. Canadian Neighbor Pharmacy studies show that among adolescents who smoke cannabis, occurrence of vascular erectile dysfunction is much more common than that of their peers who adhere to HLS.

Development of European medicine of those years is strongly influenced by Persia, whose echoes are felt today. In place of exotic recipes come balsams and infusions based on natural ingredients, which, however, are increasingly being counterfeited.

  • So, one of charlatans, Samuel Solomon, offered a balm for heart that was supposed to improve quality of sperm, and increase muscle tone in intimate places. According to the author, main ingredients of the drug were brandy, cardamom and Spanish fly. In fact, composition included extracts of gentian, cardamom and other ineffective, but not particularly harmful plants.
  • Glenn Frank also saw salvation from impotence in damiana. When there were problems with erection, he used a mixture of damiana, zinc phosphide and cocaine. But today doctors can unequivocally assert that such composition (or rather, cocaine, as its main ingredient), on the contrary, leads only to aggravation of situation.
  • William Acton, one of the leading doctors of Victorian era, recommended his patients to use a syrup of orange crusts or ginger root with strychnine and phosphoric acid (which were then especially popular). Effect of such infusion was present, however, it could be obtained without a half of the components. Thus, modern studies have shown that use of orange juice contributed to an improvement in blood flow in system of cavernous bodies, which is extremely useful in arteriogenic form of erectile dysfunction. However, considering this drink as a panacea for impotence, after all, is impossible. Maximum what it is capable of, is to provide a preventive or strengthening effect. But ginger, on the contrary, is rightfully considered one of the key aphrodisiacs of traditional medicine. As follows from studies conducted in Uganda, this plant is able to enhance excitability of neurogenic receptors of erogenous zones, thereby returning to men former «power».

It should be noted that if the majority of European prejudices associated with causes of impotence and its treatment are now fading into oblivion, folk medicines in some domestic villages are still practiced successfully.

Modern Age: 1918 – 1999

This period has become quite effective in the fight against impotence. First, thanks to development of science, most of myths related to this disease were dispelled (including connection with masturbation). Scientists came to conclusion that there is nothing shameful in this act, and it is even useful to masturbate in absence of sexual relations.

Second, the very term «impotence» recedes into the background, giving way to a softer and more correct «erectile dysfunction». And, third, doctors finally managed to divide causes of the problem into physical and psychological ones, which contributed to formation of integrated approach to treatment. Particular attention was paid to surgical methods of solving the problem.

So, a French surgeon of Russian origin, Sergei Abramovich Voronov in 1919, managed to make a stir. He invented a technique whereby tissues of chimpanzee’s eggs could be inoculated to human testicles, thus restoring not only sexual activity, but also patient’s genital functions. However, only a few years later this method lost its relevance and Voronov’s achievements were very quickly forgotten.

They were replaced by implants. In the 80s, American Medical Systems offered three models of prostheses, implanted into penis of men. The result of such treatment was depressing: percentage of unsuccessful surgeries and infections during them was extremely high. However, ordinary people were not scared. According to different data, from 250,000 to 300,000 implants were installed in just 10 years.

As for pharmacological preparations, Viagra, the first oral medication for treatment of erectile dysfunction, was approved by the US.treatment of erectile dysfunction

Present Days

Today, when a variety of sexual dysfunctions occur in 63% of male population, impotence is perceived much softer than in ancient times. Because of it, people are not dismissed from work (unless, of course, it is a demonstration of «power»), they do not become a social outcast. Now erectile dysfunction has more effect on men’s self-esteem, their psycho-emotional state and interpersonal relationships.

As for modern methods of treatment, conditionally they can be distinguished into:

  • means based on plant components;
  • drugs that include PDE-5 inhibitors (Viagra, Cialis);
  • vacuum devices (pumps), affecting penis by mechanically;
  • medicines introduced into cavernous body of penis by injection (alprostadil, papaverine);
  • injections that are made in canal for urination;
  • relaxation methods (massage and psychotherapy);
  • changing the way of life (rethinking values, giving up alcohol and smoking, increasing physical exercises);
  • vascular surgeries, which today are considered extremely inefficient, because effect from them persists no more than 1 – 2 years;
  • prosthesis of reproductive organ.


Obviously, issue of sexual impotence worries mankind throughout its existence. However, approach to it changes with the role of men in society. Today, when gender framework is considered rather conditional, and impotence is perceived as «old age» – something that is inevitable, but you want to delay it. While earlier its presence influenced not only psycho-emotional state of a person, but also its position in society.

As for methods of treating erectile dysfunction, we can observe a diametrically opposite picture. Their number, like their effectiveness, has increased significantly. People who are ready to put an end to their intimate life have a chance not only to restore, but also to stabilize it. And although borrowings from previous centuries still have a place to be, innovative methods and preparations surely push them back.