Most of our knowledge has come down through written traditions which have been preserved in specific cultures and occasionally passed on to other cultures through trade and other contacts. In this way, for example, it is possible to trace a history of medical knowledge from the Egyptians to the Arabs and Greeks and thereby to the Romans. During the Dark Ages and until the Renaissance in Europe, much knowledge was considered heretical and was suppressed. The uneducated masses had to rely on folk knowledge, which has proved to be surprisingly resilient. The growth of travel and exploration which followed the Renaissance introduced knowledge from new cultures to Europe, notably from India and China. More recently though, anthropological surveys have found some quite small isolated tribal groups with their own body of medical knowledge, however primitive. There is always a large magical component in the application of this knowledge but common factors have often emerged between races and cultures in the use of plants, drugs and ritual ceremonies in the pursuit of sexual success and fertility. This chapter provides some accounts of the use of drugs and magic as aphrodisiacs in ancient times in order to indicate how little we have changed in our basic attitudes to sex. That there is nothing new under the sun is amply illustrated by the early reports of the use of opium and hashish. Even the love charms and potions of historic times will be recognized as still existing under a thin gloss of civilization. Over 5000 years of cultural development have not noticeably diminished the naivety and gullibility of man.
KeywordsArsenic Smoke Oxalate Alkaloid Bark
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