Spanish fly an Aphrodisiac

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spanish fly aphrodisiac

It’s not a fly from Spain. Neither is it a fly that buzzes Spanish. It's actually an emerald green beetle, commonly known as the blister beetle which is commonly used today for animal husbandry (animal mating particularly). The beetle is 15-22 mm long and 5-8 mm wide and is found on plants from the Caprifoliaceae (honeysuckle) and Oleaceae (olive) families. Using it on animals incites the beasts to mate; it is for this reason that it was considered ages ago as a potent aphrodisiac.

The Spanish fly can be found in Spain but it certainly can also be found in other countries in the Mediterranean region, including Russia and some Asian countries. The reason it's known as the “blister beetle” is that when it feels threatened it secrets a caustic substance from its leg joints which, upon contact with human skin, causes irritation and can easily produce blisters. This colorless, odorless, crystalline substance is called cantharidin or cantharides. The traditional way of obtaining the cantharidin is not to collect or extract it in any way, but simply to gather beetles and to dry and crush them into a powder which will therefore contain cantharidin. The crushed powder of Spanish fly is of yellowish brown to brown-olive color with iridescent reflections, of disagreeable scent and bitter flavor.

The reason why it’s considered an aphrodisiac is because, once the beetle powder has been ingested, our body will excrete it in urine; and there, subsequently, it will irritate the urethral passages that leads to itching and swelling of genitals. In the early days, this swelling was mistaken for sexual arousal and gave rise to the belief that the powder had aphrodisiac qualities. In reality the swelling of the genitals is a result of serious inflammation and can be very painful, not pleasurable, and unfortunately the kidneys will suffer inflammation as well and may be permanently damaged. Today cantharidin is considered highly toxic and its presence in the body can result in severe gastrointestinal disturbances, sometimes leading to convulsions and even a coma that will further lead to death. It might have been successfully used as an aphrodisiac before since it was well documented as so (perhaps people back then loved it all swollen and irritated when making love); but considering the amount required is just a miniscule to be both harmful and aphrodisiac-like, and the difference between the effective dose and the harmful dose is quite narrow, why the hell should you play with it in the first place?

Its medical use dates back to descriptions from Hippocrates. Plasters made from wings of these beetles have been used to raise blisters. In ancient China, cantharides beetles were mixed with human dung, arsenic and wolfsbane to make the world's first recorded stink bomb. It is also one of the world’s most well-known aphrodisiacs. In Roman times, Livia, the scheming wife of Augustus Caesar, would slip it into food hoping to inspire her guests to some indiscretion with which she could later blackmail them. Henry IV (1050-1106) is known to have consumed Spanish fly at the risk of his health. In 1572, the famous French surgeon Ambroise ParĂ© wrote an account of a man suffering from "the most frightful satyriasis" after having taken a potion composed of nettles and cantharides. In the 1670s, Spanish fly was mixed with dried moles and bat's blood for a love charm made by the black magician La Voisin. It was slipped into the food of Louis XIV to secure the king's lust for Madame de Montespan. In the 18th century cantharides became fashionable, known as pastilles Richelieu in France. Marquis de Sade is claimed to have given aniseed-flavored pastilles that were laced with Spanish fly to prostitutes at an orgy in 1772. Two of the prostitutes nearly lost their lives. He was sentenced to death for poisoning and sodomy, but later reprieved on appeal. In 1954 in London, Arthur Ford became infatuated with his office colleague, Betty Grant, and decided to give her and another female co-worker coconut bon bons which he laced with cantharidin powder. The women started vomiting blood within an hour and collapsed in extreme pain. The next day they died. He was later convicted and was sent to prison.

Cantharidin is extremely dangerous but the advertised products like "Herbal Spanish fly", "Mexican Spanish Fly", and "Spanish Fly Potions" are simply cayenne pepper in capsules, sometimes blended with the powder of ginseng, kelp, ginger or gotu kola. They are just substitutes to produce that spicy flavor for the palette, of course, and not to swell the genitals. The products with the name "Spanische Fliege (Spanish fly)" that are available in Germany is the one that contains the active cantharidin substance but represent no danger with a normal application since they are actually only a homeopathic dosage level, diluted to be effectively non-existent.


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