An aphrodisiac is a substance used to boost libido and also treat sexual dysfunction (e.g. erectile dysfunction, ED).
When you hear the word “aphrodisiac”, what’s the first thing that comes to mind? Hmm… Probably the Spanish fly, one of the most legendary of all aphrodisiacs. But what exactly is this Spanish fly? Is it so named because it’s only found in Spain? Does it really boost your sex drive/libido?
You’re about to find all that out…
What Is Spanish Fly?
Spanish fly is an aphrodisiac that has been the subject of a number of jokes in the past — from frat houses to Bill Cosby — about how you could slip it into a lady’s drink and “supposedly” turn her on.
Little surprise for you here. It is not just a joke or a myth.
The aphrodisiac actually does exist, but, contrary to popular belief, it doesn’t work on women. (I’m a buzzkill huh?). If your own idea of ‘it works’ is a swollen painful urethra in males, then yes, it definitely works. The active chemical responsible for the supposed aphrodisiac property is cantharidin, a colorless and odorless substance secreted by the blister beetles, and especially the Spanish fly.
Now, let’s take a look at the Spanish fly insect.
What Is The Spanish Fly?
The original named Spanish fly is, oddly enough, neither a fly nor is it from Spain (it’s found mainly in southern Europe and around some parts of southern Asia). Rather, it is an emerald-green beetle ( Lytta vesicatoria) in the Meloidae insect family, also known as blister beetles. Thanks to a substance called cantharidin (which is secreted rather as a defense mechanism), blister beetles are a presumed source of aphrodisiac.
Cantharidin. It’ll Burn Ya!
Cantharidin is a colorless, odorless solid at room temperature first seperated by Pierre Robiquet, who stated that it was a defense mechanism from predators and also to protect the insect’s eggs. The male beetle secretes the substance and passes it to the female during mating, sort of like a ‘wedding gift’. The reason why blister beetles are so named is because of this substance.
How? Chill, I’ll tell you.
Cantharidin is a highly powerful vesicant (i.e. blistering agent) and external exposure to it can irritate the skin, cause severe burns and blisters — painless ones. However if carefully measured and dosed, cantharidin can be used for effective treatment for conditions, such as warts and also a viral skin infection called molluscum contagiosum.
Don’t try this at home or you’ll get burnt, for real. Not unless you’re a doctor, of course.
The Greatest Aphrodisiac Myth (Or Part-myth)
Spanish Fly is a powerful (but dangerous) aphrodisiac which has been used since ancient times. Spanish fly was recognized, and its use employed by Hippocrates (to treat dropsy) and Traditional Chinese doctors for rabies and ulcer. It is rumored that Empress Livia of Rome slipped Spanish Fly into the meal of the members of the royal family so as to blackmail them by provoking their sexual arousal. Also, the poet named Lucretius allegedly died from a cantharidin overdose while preparing for a bout of sex. This confirms the status of Spanish fly as an ‘aphrodisiac’, used in ancient times.
Spanish fly is a powerful ‘aphrodisiac’, if used in little amounts.
In moderate amounts, it irritates the mucosal urethral lining — this is not noticeable in women, though — and especially in men, increases the size of the penis due to swelling of the urethra. What people take to be a long-lasting erection is in fact a long-lasting painful swelling of the male organ. Consumption of cantharidin in large doses poses life-threatening complications such as blisters in the mouth and also throat, erosion of the lining of the gastrointestinal system causing internal bleeding, and kidneys destruction. In summary, too much of everything is bad (obviously, in this case) and you should always know where to pull the plug and say STOP.