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May 2017
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Men have been trying everything in order improve their sexual performance, both during youth and in old age, since ancient times and this article provides an overview of the irony and science behind various solutions to this problem. 

One of the most ancient symbols of masculine power is Min, an Ancient Egyptian god. It was said that, on leaving for war, the gods had left Min to look after the purity of their wives but, on returning, they found all of their wives pregnant, so, as revenge, they cut off his......right arm! This is why reliefs from this era show Min with a triumphant erection and no right arm.

Min was the god of Coptos and Panopolis and protector of the slopes of the eastern dessert. He was incarnated as a bull and Khentet-labet, ‘she who presides over the East’, was his mother and wife and, very soon, she was assimilated to Isis. Min is a very ancient God and the festival of Min, which occurred during the first month of summer, was celebrated by ancient populations, even dating back to Roman times, and it opened the harvesting season. During the festival, the king was carried on a litter and was surrounded by a large crowd and he was taken to present himself to the god in his temple. Then, Min, who was raised on an immense litter, would leave his sanctuary to meet the king who headed a procession which was followed by a white bull and went to his altar. The king would then cut an ear of wheat, according to the ritual, and go around the rooms where Min relaxed. Lastly, four birds were released to announce the renewal of the monarchy to the four points of the horizon and all of these ceremonies were accompanied by singers and dancers.

From this we can see that men have been trying every method since ancient times to improve their sexual performance, both when young but especially when getting older.

One theory that has (quite easily) passed the test of time is the idea that, in order to preserve one’s virility for as long as possible, men should couple with young women, which means changing partners even when they are old! In fact, ancient populations thought that the moods and blood of young women had aphrodisiac properties.
In 1742, Cohausen wrote a particular essay in his book Hermippus Redivivus, or A method is laid down for prolonging the life and vigour of a man, in which he sustained the ancient method used for reactivating vital powers in old age, which has a surprising recipe: "Let there be a small close room prepared and let there be set up in it five little beds, each for a single person. In these beds, let there lie five virgins under the age of thirteen and of wholesome constitution. Then, in the spring of the year, about the beginning of the month of May, let there be a hole pierced through the wall of the chamber, through which, let there be inserted the neck of a matrass, the body of the glass being exposed to the cold air without. It is easy to apprehend that, when the room is filled with the breath and matter perspired by these virgins, the vapours will continually pass through the neck of the matrass into the body of the vessel where, through the coldness of the circumambient air, they will be condensed into the clear water which is a tincture of admirable efficacy..."

Since then many methods have been put forward that are presumed to have aphrodisiac actions, but an entire encyclopaedia would not be big enough to hold all of these descriptions!
They range from sparrow brain to dragon fly broth, which are no longer used, to the more known and sought after ones like powered rhino horn. Another substance that apparently has aphrodisiac properties, and which is handed down mostly because of the serious side effects that happen after taking it rather than its aphrodisiac properties, is cantharidin. It is produced by crushing blister beetles which have bronze reflective bodies and which populate the Mediterranean basin and this substance causes irreversible damage to the liver and kidneys of the person to those who, recklessly, take it.
In the 12th Century, Muslim men, who were always faced with the desires of their wives, guarded the secret of a miraculous potion which was put on the private parts before sex. It consisted of a measure of carrot oil, a measure of radish, a quarter measure of mustard seed oil, all mixed together with live yellow ants, and, after leaving the oil in the sun for some hours, the result was guaranteed! Nowadays we know that formic acid that is contained in ants can cause irritation but it is still used for erotic purposes anyway.
In more recent times, even more aphrodisiac ideas have been proposed that are as original and which make use of electric energy or the cold, such as the idea suggested by the psychiatrist Hammond, from New York, in the 14th Century: he suggested applying electricity to the male genitals to increase their ‘energy’. What is more, in the same century, a special tool was thought up that was aimed at chilling the male member until it was almost completely frozen, but not to make it hard, rather to stimulate the man’s desire.

In fact, the cold shower method is used today, but for the opposite effect!

It was only in the 20th Century that the special sexual function of the testicles and the production of a certain substance was realised, which was later identified to be in testosterone, and how this substance could increase a male’s sexual appetite. This then lead on to the hunt for any food which contained extracts of an animal’s testicles and this search even went as far as transplanting monkey testicles on to men (there were over 400 volunteers) by the Russian surgeon Voronoff.

However, all of this came to an end after the pharmaceutical production of testosterone was realised. Testosterone based products, or any hormone based products, which increase the amount of testosterone in the blood stream (gonadotropins, antiestrogens, LH-RH, and so on) definitely do increase sexual appetite, however, because of the numerous side effects they have, their use is only justified when the individual has an androgenic deficit (hypogandism).

Aside from hormone based pharmaceuticals, because of the possible side effects they can have if taken by healthy men,  aphrodisiac properties have been attributed to yohimbina which also seems to help improve erectile dysfunctions, even though studies on it often say the opposite.
Ginseng is also supposed to have aphrodisiac properties and it can improve erectile functions in men who have erectile problems caused by psychological reasons.

New molecules used in erectile dysfunction (impotence) treatments, like Sildenafil (Viagra) and apomorphine (Ixsense, Taluvian), also improve erectile quality but they do not affect sexual desire, thus they cannot be considered as aphrodisiacs. 

The most aphrodisiac food appears to red chilli pepper, however it does not actually have a pharmacological effect on sexual desire, rather it has a ‘stinging’ effect on the prostate and on the seminal tract which often causes inflammation, making the organs which are involved in ejaculation more sensitive. Lastly, we must not forgot all of the wonderful sea food and crustaceans which appear to have an unexplanatory effect on the sexual desire of more lazy individuals when eating them in front of the right person!


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