Weird History

The 10 Strangest Pre-Viagra Cures for Impotence 

Matt Manser
Updated February 20, 2019 1.3k votes 421 voters 77.6k views 10 items

List Rules Vote up the impotence cures so weird they make the idea of asking your doctor for Viagra seem appealing.

Viagra was approved for sale in the United States in 1998, but prior to that, men with erectile dysfunction had to make do with pre-Viagra impotence cures. And many of these erectile dysfunction cures from history were quite bizarre, to say the least.

Throughout history, men who couldn't perform have felt tremendous shame and embarrassment. To relieve this shame, some men took extreme measures. This includes everything from radiation to electric shocks and using various parts from animals to help them get it up. In other words, men have gone to great lengths to help their equipment grow to great lengths.

Now that products like Viagra and Cialis exist, men can treat impotence in a much safer way. (Although there are side effects, like the dreaded four-hour erection.) But they had to treat ED before Viagra, so here are some weird ways people treated impotence in the past. If you're a man struggling with this issue, you can at least be glad you weren't around 100 years ago.

Goat Testicle Transplant
Goat Testicle Transplant... is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list The 10 Strangest Pre-Viagra Cures for Impotence
Photo: Vicente Castell/Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain

In 1917, John R. Brinkley went to Milford, KS, with a sketchy medical degree and treated people in the town. One farmer, Bill Stittsworth, asked Brinkley to treat him for "sexual weakness," but Brinkley said there was no cure at the time. But Stittsworth then noticed a sexually aggressive goat and joked that it was too bad he didn't have goat testicles. Stittswort thought maybe it was worth a shot and begged Brinkley to try it out. Nine months later, Stittsworth's wife gave birth to a child, thanks to Brinkley's cure. At least that's what Brinkley would have you believe.

In reality, none of it is true - except for the part where he implanted goat testicles into men's testicular sacs. He definitely did do that. Unsurprisingly, it did not work.

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Urethral Rods
Urethral Rods is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list The 10 Strangest Pre-Viagra Cures for Impotence
Photo: Internet Archive Book Images/flickr/No known copyright restrictions

Urethral rods, also called urethral sounds, are exactly what you think they are - long metal rods inserted directly into the urethra. In the early 1800s, it was thought that this could produce an erection. An electric rod was sometimes used as well. One publication encouraged sending a mild current for 5-8 minutes.

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Animal Sperm
Animal Sperm is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list The 10 Strangest Pre-Viagra Cures for Impotence
Photo: Internet Archive Book Images/Wikimedia Commons/no known copyright restrictions

French doctor Charles Edouard Brown-Sequard theorized that an injection of animal semen could cure impotence. In the late 1800s,  Dr. Brown-Sequard was 72 and he decided to insert semen from the testicles of dogs and guinea pigs into his own testicles. You know, just to see what would happen. Following the procedure, many of Dr. Brown-Sequard's colleagues were impressed by his relative vitality. So, they decided to test the treatment on their own patients. They all became experimental guinea pigs by using semen from actual guinea pigs.

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Crocodile Hearts
Crocodile Hearts is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list The 10 Strangest Pre-Viagra Cures for Impotence
Photo: Unknown/Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain

Ancient Egyptians believed impotence could be the result of a natural disorder... or that it could have been caused by an evil curse. One cure used for removing that curse? Baby crocodiles. Specifically, the hearts of baby crocodiles would be ground up and rubbed on the penis. The Ancient Egyptians also tried rubbing wood oil on the penis. No word on its actual effectiveness.

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