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4 Surprising Ancient Causes of Erectile Dysfunction

ByDave Stopher

Oct 24, 2019 #health

The exact causes of erectile dysfunction (ED) have boggled the minds of men for thousands of years. In their quest to find out the sources of their ED, they have come up with some pretty extraordinary (and outright outlandish) theories. To appreciate just how far we have come since the days of old, here are 4 of the most surprising causes of ED conjured up by our ancient forefathers.

Cursed by a witch 

In the Middle Ages, it was a commonly held belief that erectile dysfunction was caused by witches. Perhaps, then, before the three witches’ famous incantation in Macbeth, the chant went a little something like this: “Double, double toil and trouble / Fire burn and erections struggle”.

In the preface of King James I’s Daemonologie – a philosophical dissertation about contemporary black magic  – he claimed that witches had the power to weaken “the nature of some men, to make them unavailable for women”.

A popular contrivance witches used to wreak havoc on men’s erections was the “magic ligature”. By tying a magic knot into a ring or a key using cord or a strip of leather, and then hiding it, a witch could make a man impotent on the day of his wedding.

The impotence spell would persist until the person who cast it retrieved the ligature and untied the knot. However, to protect himself against a witch’s curse the groom could urinate through his wedding ring the night before the wedding.

Thomas Aquinas, an influential contemporary theologian and philosopher, wrote that “demons are something and that they can do harm by their operations and impede carnal copulation”.  In less complicated words, he too believed that witches had the ability to interfere with people’s sex lives.

But what happens if a witch successfully casts an impotence spell on you? The Malleus Maleficarum (the hammer of witches), a textbook for witch hunters published in 1486 recommends trying to “persuade the witch to restore it”. If gentle persuasion doesn’t do the trick, then the book makes it very clear what to do next: “use violence”.

The book then attempts to justify this instruction by providing a graphic example of an instance in which a man, who had lost his penis to a witch’s curse (“he could see or touch nothing but his smooth body”), was able to restore it by throttling her with a towel.

Thanks to modern ED treatments like sildenafil, men no longer have to strangle witches to treat their erectile dysfunction. Nor do they have to pee through a wedding ring the night before their big day (unless, perhaps, they are having a medieval-themed wedding). Instead, men’s wellness brands like Numan offer ED solutions so effective a witch’s ligature wouldn’t stand a chance against them.

Losing too much sperm

Towards the end of the 18th century ED was believed to be caused by an excessive loss of sperm. If a man masturbated too much, his semen would deplete to levels that were too low to maintain an erection.

Proferring a solution to this problem, Dr. Samuel Solomon (who is regularly referred to in scholarly articles as a “quack”) created “Gilead”, a balm that was supposed to quash a man’s desire to masturbate and preserve his semen reserves. The balm was rumoured to contain “dissolved gold” as well as ingredients from the Holy Land.

However, it was later discovered that it was, in fact, composed of lemon peel and Spanish Fly beetles (which is perhaps where its golden hue came from), as well as cardamom and brandy. Due to its alcoholic content, it transpired that patients were mistaking “the frenzy of inebriation for the natural glow of renovated health”.

Disagreeable women

The earliest known reference to ED comes from the Samhita of Sushruta, a 2,800-year-old Sanskrit medical text that is believed to have pioneered many modern surgical techniques, including plastic surgery.

Amongst the causes of ED proposed in the Samhita are diseases of the genital organs, birth defects, and mental disorders. However the most surprising cause of ED mentioned is that ED can be caused by intercourse with a “disagreeable woman”.

If a man was forced to have sex with a woman he didn’t fancy (one who “fails to sufficiently rouse up the sexual desire in the heart of her mate”), he could be afflicted by ED.

The cure was simple enough: the affected man could eat the testes of a goat after they had been boiled in milk and had sesame seeds and porpoise lard added to them. This would restore a man’s vigour so profoundly that he would be able to “visit a hundred women”.

This is not the only bizarre ED cure to come from the Samhita. Another way in which a man would be able to “visit 100 women” was if he lubricated his feet with a paste made from the boiled testes of alligators, mice, frogs, sparrows – and clarified butter.

Once he was lubed up, the man would experience “undiminished vigour”. But the paste’s effects would only last as long as he didn’t “touch the ground with his feet”. Those who used this concoction were no doubt experts at handstands, then.

Unbalanced Yin and Yang

Central to the practice of Traditional Chinese Medicine is the concept of Yin and Yang. This is the belief that all things exist in inseparable and contradictory opposites, such as male-female, light-dark, and old-young. The ancient Chinese believed disease was caused by an imbalance in one’s Yin and Yang, and that ED was the result of one’s Yin diminishing to a low level.

On the other hand, when one’s Yang is at the optimal state a man can benefit from healthy erections. His Yin must also be in harmony with his Yang to ensure healthy sperm production and good sperm quality. If his Yin becomes unbalanced he may experience problems with his ejaculation and fertility.

Managing one’s Yin and Yang is a delicate balancing act. So if it becomes unbalanced, how do you go about restoring it? According to Taoist Monk David James Lees, one’s Yin and Yang can be brought to balance through their diet and lifestyle choices.

Foods that promote a healthy Yin include dairy products, beans, and vegetables such as sweet potatoes, squash, and sprouts. Likewise, foods that enhance the Yang are grains and seeds, vegetables such as parsnip, kale, and onion, and “warming teas” like chai, ginger tea, and jasmine tea.

Excessive amounts of cold or raw foods should be avoided (lest you sabotage your Yang), and stimulating food and drinks that contain sugar, alcohol, or caffeine should not be consumed so you can keep your Yin in check.

As well as a healthy diet, Lees asserts certain lifestyle factors can balance one’s Yin and Yang. Things such as getting a good night’s sleep, gentle, mindful forms of exercise like tai chi and yoga and emotional self-help therapies such as meditation all contribute to restoring your Yin and Yang to their correct levels.

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