Onion juice, mercury, and other ancient contraceptives

Indoor plumbing, modern medicine, WiFi – we all know there are plenty of benefits to 21st century living. But what about when it comes to your sex life? How did our grandmothers (and their grandmothers, and their grandmothers…) prevent unplanned pregnancies?

The answer to that is both enlightening, and at times, terrifying. Thanks to a new video by the Discovery Digital Networks’ comedy show Anyhoo, we now have seven more reasons to be thankful to live in a time with a better understanding of sexual health.

And so, without further ado, seven wacky contraceptives from history:

1)   Lemons: The citric acid in lemons is a natural spermicide; Jewish women would apply the juice topically or use it in a cleansing solution.

2)   Cotton: In ancient Egypt, women ground dates, acacia tree bark, honey and seed wool into a mixture that would then be inserted into the vagina during sex. Interestingly, it was the acacia that really did the trick – acacia ferments into lactic acid, another natural spermicide.

3)   Mercury: This one is really scary. Women in ancient China would drink hot mercury after sex to prevent unwanted pregnancies. But as we now know, mercury is highly toxic and can even be lethal, so pregnancy would probably be the least of your worries. Do not try this one at home!

4)   Crocodile feces: As an alternative to cotton, Egyptian women could also mix crocodile feces with cotton. The slight alkalinity of the dung would have made it moderately effective – but we’re not sure how amorous you’d be feeling with this one!

5)   Bloodletting: In the 1600s, medical thinking held that semen was really blood turned white by the heat of sex. French physican Jacques Ferrand recommended bloodletting for men to lower their libidos – sometimes even until the man he passed out.

6)   Onion juice: Another submission courtesy of the Egyptians: ancient Egyptian men would often apply onion juice to their penis before coitus to prevent pregnancy.

7)   Coitus Obstructus: Last but not certainly not least, men in ancient China would press hard on a point between their penis and anus, believing that it would delay ejaculation and send semen back up the spine and into the brain.

So there you have it – seven more reasons to be thankful for science. Did we miss any other interesting ancient contraceptives? Share your knowledge below!

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