A Brief History of Erectile Dysfunction Treatments


Image by e-MagineArt.com

Erectile dysfunction is by no means a recent development in medical history, nor is it one that’s been kept quiet or away from public discussion. Means of stimulating sexual desire in men hark back to Ancient Greece and Rome: with Pliny the Elder’s Natural History advocating various root vegetables and plants as potent aphrodisiacs.

These days, research indicates that 5% of men are likely to experience forms of erectile dysfunction by the age of 40. Of course, that’s merely an estimate – not all men who experience problems attempt to seek treatment, making both exact figures and potential cures difficult to study fully. Even so, age is only one factor affecting erectile dysfunction – it can also be a symptom of medical conditions like diabetes and hypertension, or a side effect of certain medications (or smoking).

The Unusual Thing about Male Penises

In comparison to other mammals, male humans have larger genitalia relative to body size. This can be traced to the evolution of the upright stance – one that led, over time, to the unconcealed display of the penis. Furthermore, the male genitalia contain no means of attachment, nor any bones that might restrict movement. While this makes face-to-face intercourse possible between male and female humans, as well as the process thereof more pleasurable, it is also the root of the development of erectile dysfunction in male humans.

Dr. John R. Brinkley

Skipping over many years of archaic recipes to stimulate male organs, it was during the 1920s and 30s in the United States that John R. Brinkley attempted to cure erectile dysfunction through the use of medication. Unfortunately, his methods included costly goat gland implants and mercurochrome injections, which resulted in his medical license being revoked. He reportedly fled to Mexico, where he continued to advertise his techniques.

Implants and Pumps

After the infamous Dr. Brinkley, it wasn’t until the 1960s and 70s that further developments in curing erectile dysfunction were put into practice. The 1960s saw the vacuum pump implemented by Geddins D. Osbon – although his invention was known then ‘youth equivalent device’ – a surgical device designed to create an erection through vacuum, supposedly personally used by Osbon for more than 20 years while he popularised and perfected his creation.

The device was approved by the US Food and Drug Administration in 1982, but faced strong scepticism in the medical community. It wasn’t until later on that the vacuum pump became an acceptable alternative recommended by doctors (except to patients with coagulation disorders and sickle-cell disease). In the 70s, surgeons started providing patients with inflatable penile implants.


It wasn’t until 1983 that Giles Brindley introduced the effectiveness of phentolamine on inducing an erection. Injecting non-specific vasodilator (as alpha-blocking agent) into his own veins caused corporal smooth muscle relaxation. This proved to be a vital discovery, paving the way for development of oral treatments that would operate on similar grounds.

The Discovery of Viagra

Of course, there was one main discovery that truly revolutionised the treatment of erectile dysfunction. Sildenafil, or Viagra, was and still is one of the most effective treatments of erectile dysfunction, though it was originally marketed as a medication for heart disease. For a while, Viagra was the only product of its kind available, but in 2003 both Levitra and Cialis were marketed as other types of medication for Viagra – similar to Viagra in some ways but overall very different types of drugs.

Know any weird old remedies intended to cure erectile dysfunction? Share them in the comments!


Gavin Harvey is a travel and health enthusiast, and enjoys blogging about his interests in both areas.

Gavin Harvey

Gavin Harvey is a personal trainer with a passion for travel. When he's not busy touring the world, he can be found in the gym or at home with his partner and two cats. You can keep up with his latest adventures by following him on twitter.

3 thoughts on “A Brief History of Erectile Dysfunction Treatments

  • March 20, 2013 at 11:30 pm

    You’ve neglected to mention the treatment of ED by psychologists and sex therapists. Although medications are very helpful, there are all kinds of emotional and relationship issues that cannot be addressed with a pill.

  • March 18, 2013 at 12:47 pm

    The physiology and dynamics of the male penile erection are very complicated and delicately balanced. That is why medical science has been finding it pretty difficult to solve the problems of erectile dysfunction. The much we know about this problem is only a tip of the iceberg and many cases of this problem are completely idiopathic and, sometimes, personal to such a person! The fact that humans are called Homo sapiens has added to the complications as well. Our ability to reason and think has corrupted the whole body system as far as sex is concerned. That is why, for example, we sometimes make it a pastime to think of only sex, and sex and nothing else. Such mindset works on the psyche and the entire psychology of the male prompting him to always think of satisfying his female partner in the event of sex. This, in no small measure, could affect the ability to have sex and with time could become a norm, leading to psychological impotence manifesting itself as ‘erectile dysfunction’. Male lower animals don’t bother about all these and that’s why such incidences of erectile dysfunction are either unheard of or absent amongst them! These lower animals could copulate at just any moment and at their wish!

    Of course medications, food and our lifestyle could affect the erectile ability of the male genital organ. But these could be reversed in the sense that the offending medications could be withdrawn, the food could be withdrawn and the lifestyle could be changed. And these have worked to reverse the male impotence, provided there is no impotence secondary to a debilitating disease. The male folk (and even the females) should understand that obesity and overweight could affect the efficiency of the genitalia. An overweight or obese male could test this if only he could reduce his weight by just a trifle 5kg! Subsequently, he would discover that his penis would begin to respond to sexual urges, would easily get erect and remain erect before the sexual act! Overweight/obesity is a serious killer of male potency! Adding honey to your diet would help also. Men who live in places where honey forms a staple food or food adjunct remain potent right into their 90s! If you remain potent until you are 90 years old, what else do you want? Would you want to remain potent well into 100 years of age? Tell me how many people even live up to 90 years.

    Without trying to disparage technology, I should add also that there is a growing trend of ‘neo-male-impotence’ occasioned by high radiations emanating from our cell phones or smartphones. I mention these gadgets because they are the ones that are closely attached to our bodies! Many men wear their cellphones/smartphones like baby diapers round their waist; some carry them in front or side pockets of their trousers (long pants). Can you imagine the amount of electromagnetic waves impinging on the groin area where the penis resides? Can you imagine what these electromagnetic waves could do to the testicular cells that produce testosterone? Could you imagine what these waves could do to the various blood vessels (arteries, veins, venules and capillaries) that supply blood and remove blood to and from the erectile tissues of the penis? If you understand the male penis anatomy and the physiology of the male penis erection, then you would appreciate what I am talking about! Cellphone companies might want to disparage this claim in order to protect their businesses but conventional wisdom shows that if you expose a living cell, or tissue to electromagnetic wave as occurs between the cellphones and the penile region, then there is bound to be a deterioration of the penile cells. Period! What we should be talking about is how to shield away these electromagnetic waves; that is another aspect of science and technology. Cellphone technology is good and it has come to stay, but we should equally try to protect ourselves from its possible evil effects!

  • March 18, 2013 at 9:14 am

    Hi Gavin,
    I thought I’d tell you about senserect. It’s a product that helps to support erectile function without any drugs or supplements. It’s a totally different approach… preventative and effective. http://www.senserect.com/
    Check it out. Would love to hear your thoughts.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *