A recent LinkedIn Halloween post from Peacock salt showed a mediaeval print of women salting a man. The scene on this print inspired me to dig into the historic and scientific background of this peculiar habit, which is also described with inverted roles. The pictures below make reference to mediaeval theatre plays[1],[2]

Both salt treatments aim to increase the libido of their marital partners. The rituals have their origin in ancient myths, starting with the birth of Aphrodite from salty foam. As often, ancient myths carry a grain of truth. In their publication “Aphrodite, sex and salt—from butterfly to man”, Bernard M. Moinier and Tilman B. Drüeke summarize scientific evidence and mythological observations on the relation of salt, sexuality and fertility.[3] And indeed, scientific evidence is found for altered sexual function as a potential problem in the management of hypertension by salt restriction.[4] Low salt intake can be the cause of “chronic fatigue syndrome”, a disorder characterized by profound disabling fatigue, including sexual inactivity and reduced libido[5].

[1] 1. Anonyme, Les Femmes sallent leurs maris pour du doux les rendre guéris, XVIe siècle, gravure sur bois, Paris, Cabinet des Estampes de la Bibliothèque nationale de France.

[2] Discours facétieux des Hommes qui font saller leurs femmes. (Bibliothèque nationale de France, Rothschild 1087.) Publié entre 1598 et 1605 à Paris.

[3] Bernard M. Moinier and Tilman B. Drüeke, Aphrodite, sex and salt—from butterfly to man, Nephrol Dial Transplant (2008) 23: 2154–2161

[4] Wassertheil-Smoller S, Oberman A, Blaufox MD et al. The Trial of Antihypertensive Interventions and Management (TAIM) study. Final results with regard to blood pressure, cardiovascular risk, and quality of life. Am J Hypertens 1992; 551: 37–44

[5] Wassertheil-Smoller S, Blaufox MD, Oberman A et al. Effects of antihypertensives on sexual function and quality of life: the TAIM study. Ann Intern Med 1991; 114: 613–620.


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