NEW YORK — The 50th anniversary of the birth control pill — the ultimate remedy which revolutionized the dating and mating game forever — presents a good excuse to contemplate some of the less studied, but all the more intriguing remedies people use to improve their sex lives, from Africa to China, India, Japan, Papua New Guinea and beyond.
And they do so by any means possible: conception, contraception, erection or deception.
A few described below are illegal. But then again, so is the birth control pill in many countries. This list is intended for mature audiences only and you may not want to try some of these at home.
1. Holy Footwater
At a recent healing ceremony of the Zulu tribe in South Africa, all 70 guests washed their feet in the same bucket of water before entering a traditional indlu, a circular building with a thatched rooftop.
In this area of South Africa, 40 percent of the population is estimated to be HIV positive, which makes just thinking about any possible cuts and scrapes on one's feet a high-adrenaline, divine-intervention-deserving experience. But that's not the worst of it. Read more about South Africa's battle with AIDS.
The traditional healer, sangoma, instructs people to drink this water to cleanse themselves of their worries and their evil spirits. People line up to refill empty bottles they brought from their homes so they'll have enough of the magic foot water for later use.
Footwater ceremony. (Iva Skoch/GlobalPost)
“I know what you might be thinking,” my Zulu interpreter says. “But it really works.”
People from the villages surrounding Eshowe, the spiritual center of the Zulu tribe, come to their local sangoma with all sorts of problems — unemployment, disease, lost cattle, possession by an evil spirit, lack of money, bad grades in school.
But the most common troubles in the green hills of Kwazulu Natal — where men dress in leopard fur collars and virgins dance around them topless — have to do with sex.
As mutually exclusive as they might seem, women are most troubled by their husband's mistresses, while men battle erection issues.
But there is hardly a problem a bit of footwater can't solve. Hold the water bottle up high. Let go. Smell it and take a swig of the brown wonder drug.
Still thinking about sex?
2. Muti, the Penis Trap
Another remedy from Africa, this one is used as a fidelity-enforcing device. Muti is a general name for traditional medicine in southern parts of Africa, usually potions made from plants and dispensed by local healers.
Here, a man applies such a potion inside his wife's vagina to prevent her from having sex with anyone else. Believers say once inside a woman, muti turns into a weapon and should anyone try to penetrate it clamps down, making the penis stick inside. Some believe the aggressive properties of muti can actually infiltrate through the penis into the bloodstream of a man and kill him immediately.
This method is popular among inmates and other men who are forced to leave one or all of their wives for extended periods. A source in Cape Town, a 45-year-old Xhosa man named Arthur who suspected his wife was cheating on him, said he tried the muti method but he didn't think it worked. “I think she's still cheating on me,” he said.
Those ready to take the next step in fidelity-enforcing methods can consider the “teeth,” (or rape axe), a penis trap using a similar set of moral principles but brought to spine-chilling, flesh-tearing, mechanical perfection. It works exactly the way it sounds.
3. Snake Gall
Of the many animals considered health food in China, the snake holds a paramount position. Every part of the reptile can be used for medicinal purposes to cure anything from hemorrhoids to hysteria.
But the one snake organ which everyone's after is the gall bladder.
Gall means “courage” in Chinese characters and courage means performance in the universal language of lust. Gall bladder is said to be an aphrodisiac as potent as Viagra, although, arguably, not nearly as convenient.
In the backstreets of Guillin, a picturesque town in southwestern China, restaurants keep their live snakes in cages. Their keepers swear none of the snakes are endangered and hence their consumption is perfectly legal, if not outright necessary for one's sexual enlightenment.
Drinking snake blood and gall. (Iva Skoch/GlobalPost)
Choosing a live snake and watching it get slaughtered is a part of the ritual. “You choose a snake that speaks to you,” says the keeper. It's a power play. You want the one that seems most of out reach, and maybe the one with that certain look in its eye. In that sense, picking the right snake resembles the conventional principles of dating.
So, at the end, the keeper pulls the liveliest snake with the fastest, longest tongue out of the cage. He cuts its head off with scissors. Blood is drained into a glass and mixed with grain alcohol. The snake is sliced and the gall bladder is dropped into a shot glass, smashed and mixed with some more alcohol, making it bright green. The blood tastes a bit metallic, the gall a bit bitter, but all you're tasting in the end is the alcohol.
And while you wait for the effects of gall bladder to kick in, you might as well have a bit more alcohol. And a bit more... until you start feeling courageous, funny, and beautiful.
Some say this exercise works just as well without the gall bladder.
4. Tiger Penis Soup
From Korea to Cambodia, many have long indulged in a delicacy — tiger penis soup. This is an especially controversial aphrodisiac because there's enormous demand and only so much tiger to go around.
The white tiger, which is supposed to be best for this purpose, has been put on the endangered species list thanks, in big part, to growing demand for its genitals. The penis of a tiger, usually dried and consumed orally, in soup or straight up, is said to increase virility to levels that defy reason.
But skeptics, such as Huang Lin Huang of the Committee on Chinese Medicine and Pharmacy at the Department of Health of Taiwan, said in an interview with Asia One that a tiger's penis is only less than two inches long and it would shorten to half of the size when dried.
Medical books point to horse and deer penises because they can grow up to eight inches, but there's apparently no mention of a tiger's penis because it's so short. "Those big and long ones you see in the market and claimed to be tigers' are fake," he said. He added that the sexual intercourse time of a tiger was also very short. Huang suggests the penis of tiger is more legend than anything else.
Which brings up another, rather obvious, point. Fairy tales can work as effective aphrodisiacs.
Dried tiger penis. (Natalie Behring/Reuters)
5. Eel Porn
From Japan, the land of endless sexual fetishes of the barely publishable kind – from used panties vending machines to mass spitting orgies and recycled strawberry desserts – comes the one remedy that's bound to ruin unagi sushi for many a connoisseur out there: Japanese eel porn.
Consider yourself warned.
Live eels. (Yannis Behrakis/Reuters)
Eel is one of the most popular fish that sells on the Tsukiji fish market in Tokyo. Hundreds of them wriggle in pocks, flirting with passersby. While some shoppers might salivate imagining them smoked on a brick of sticky rice, others prefer them raw.
But during the act of ophidicism, a practice documented as far back as Ancient Greece, a woman inserts a live eel (or snake) in her vagina and and lets it squirm around to achieve orgasm. Eel appearances have a healthy following in Japanese pornography, even though they are highly controversial, not just because zoophelia is generally frowned upon, but because eel can carry salmonella and other parasites.
6. Vagina Worship
In Yoni Puja — an Indian sacred ritual derived from the Sanskrit words yoni (vulva or sacred temple) and puja (worship) — believers engage in an intense, unilateral meditation with the “yoni.” Male worshipers believe that in order to receive all hidden powers of the universe, they must learn to worship yoni with dedication, love and patience.
In this tantric answer to shoe shopping, the Goddess' yoni gets unconditionally adored and stimulated, and depending on the sect, even penetrated.
Any divine juices produced by the woman are consumed by worshipers. Even better, if it comes to the mixing of the juices produced by the woman with those produced by a man, a divine nectar is created. The nectar is mixed with wine and relished by the believers as well as by the Goddess herself.
Tantrics believe the divine nectar is the most powerful of all nectars, made more potent only if the juices of a menstruating woman are used.
7. Semen Treatment
The Etoro tribesmen in Papua New Guinea, have been tapping the magical powers of semen for centuries. As a part of a coming of age ritual, young Etoro men must drink semen of their elders in order to become strong and sexually mature. The Etoro, whom anthropologists describe as a tribe engaging in ritualized homosexuality, believe the vigorous powers of the fluid are largely wasted on women unless they use it for conception.
The sentiment isn't shared by most other cultures in the world. Researchers in clinical labs and fraternity houses alike have been reporting inconceivable health and wellness benefits of semen to the female body and psyche, and claim it can treat anything from depression to chapped lips and sore throats. A study by the State University of New York in Albany found that semen relieves stress and found a positive correlation between unprotected sex and lower depression rates.
8. The Big Yawn
Speaking of the correlation between antidepressants and sex, one of the most brilliant inventions of all time has been made by the Swiss company Geigy, now Novartis, in the 1960s.
Like some of the best remedies, it happened accidentally. Their scientists came up with a powerful tricyclic antidepressant called Clomipramine, which is still used today to treat, among other symptoms, major depression, panic disorder, narcolepsy and — interestingly enough — premature ejaculation.
It wouldn't be that interesting if the drug didn't also cause a curious side effect in 5 percent of patients who use it, one that experts clinically refer to as “inadvertent orgasms while yawning.”
This could be a side effect worth reaping now, 50 years after the invention of oral contraceptives, just as researchers have published a new study which concludes that the birth control pill — as great an invention as it is — decreases sexual desire in women. Is it a coincidence that the use of antidepressants has gone up simultaneously?
If there's one remedy that would have a greater following among the Sex and the City generation than the birth control pill, it would be the one which cultivates a yawn into an orgasm.