The Works of Aristotle - OF THE OBSTRUCTION OF CONCEPTION; WITH THE CAU5E AND CURE OF BARRENNESS, AND THE SIGNS OF INSUFFICIENCY BOTH IN MEN AND WOMEN.

OF THE OBSTRUCTION OF CONCEPTION; WITH THE CAU5E AND CURE OF BARRENNESS, AND THE SIGNS OF INSUFFICIENCY BOTH IN MEN AND WOMEN.

BEFORE I proceed any further, it is highly necessary that I treat of the obstructions of conception: which naturally leads me to treat of barrenness, the grand obstruction of conception.

SEC. I. Of Barrenness.

BARRENNESS is a natural and accidental defect, which hinders conception: for that which hinders conception causeth barrenness. There are several causes why conception may be hindered; as too much heat or cold dries up the seed, and makes it corrupt; this extinguishes the life of the seed, and that making it waterish, and unfit for generation. It may be caused also by the stoppage of the over-flowing of the courses, and by swellings, ulcers, or inflammations of the womb, or by an excrescence of flesh growing about the mouth of the Matrix, whereby the seed is hindered from being injected into the womb; and want of love in persons copulating may also hinder conception, as it is apparent from those women that are deflowered against their will; no conception following any forced copulation.

And here let me caution parents against one thing that often causeth barrenness, which might easily be prevented: and that is, against letting virgins blood in the arm before their courses come down: these come down in virgins usually in the fourteenth year of their age, seldom before the thirteenth, but never before the twelfth. Now, because usually young virgins are out of order before they first break down, the mother goes with her to the doctor, who, finding that fulness of blood is the occasion of her illness, orders her to be let blood in the arm; upon which she becomes well for a time, the superfluous blood being taken away: and this remedy, which is worse than the disease, being repeated four or five times, the blood comes not down at all to the womb, as it does in other women, but dries up, and is for ever barren; whereas, had she been let blood in the foot, it would have brought the blood downwards, and so have provoked the terms, and prevented the mischief.

Another cause of barrenness is for want of convenient moderate equality, which the woman ought to have with the man; as if he be hot, she must be cold; if he be dry, she moist; but if they are both dry, or both of a moist constitution, they cannot propagate, though in this case neither of them may be barren, singly considered; for he or she, though now as barren as the barren fig-tree, yet joined with an apt constitution, may become as fruitful as the vine.

Another cause of barrenness may be the disuse of copulation: for some there are of that frigid constitution, that they either use not the means at all, or else perform it with so much languor and coldness, that it is not likely it should prove efficacious: for the act of coition should be performed with the greatest ardour and intenseness of desire imaginable, or else they may as well let it alone; a frigid disposition being the effect of a cold distemper, and must be cured by such things as heat and nourishment. For

 

Without good drink and feeding high,
Desire to Venus soon will die.

 

Such, therefore, ought to feed upon cock stones, lamb stones, sparrows, partridges, quails, and pheasant's eggs; for 'tis an infallible aphorism in physic, that whatsoever any creature is extremely addicted to they operate to the same end by their mutual virtue in the man that eats them. Therefore, partridges, quails, sparrows, etc., being extremely addicted to venery, they work the same effect in those who eat them: and this likewise is worthy to be noted that in what part of the body the faculty that you would strengthen lies, take the same part of another creature in whom that faculty is strong, as a medicine: therefore, cock stones, etc., are medicinal in this distemper. Let such persons also eat such food as is very nourishing, as parsnips, alisanders, skirits, and pine nuts; and let them take a dram of diatryon as an electuary every morning. The stones of a fox dried to a powder, a dram taken every morning in tent, is also very good in this case; and so also is a dram of satyrion roots, taken in like manner.

 

SECT. II. Of the Signs of Insufficiency in Men; and Barrenness in Women.

AFTER married people have lived long together, and both seem likely, and yet neither of them have had children, there often arises discontent between them, and both are troubled because they know not on what side the fault is. And though authors have left several ways to know whether the man or the woman be defective, yet, because I cannot confide in their judgments, I shall pass them by in silence, and rather lay down a few rules that may be depended upon, than many that are uncertain. But I must premise that women are subject to so many infirmities more than men, that the cause of barrenness is oftener on their side than the man's. For if the man has the instrument of generation perfect, being in health, and keeping a regular and temperate diet and exercise, I know of no accidental cause of barrenness in him; whereas the cause of barrenness in a woman lies in her womb, and the infirmities incident thereunto; some of which are stopping of the Menstrua, or their over-flowing; as also the falling out thereof, and the inflammation, windiness, heat, and dryness thereof; for each of which we shall prescribe proper cures. but to be more particular.

If a man or a woman, in whom the instruments of generation appear in no way defective, would know whether the cause of barrenness be in themselves or their bed-fellow, let them take a handful of barley, or any other corn that will grow quickly and steep half of it in the urine of the man, and the other half of it in the urine of the woman, during the space of twenty-four hours. Then take it out and set it, the man's by itself, and the woman's by itself, in a flower pot, or something else, where you may keep them dry. Then water the man's every morning with his own urine, and the woman's with hers; and that which grows is most fruitful: and that which does not grow, denotes the person barren.

Nor let any despise this trial, for seeing physicians will by urine undertake to tell a person of his or her diseases, why should not urine also show whether a person be fruitful or not? But if in a man the instrument of generation is not perfect it will be obvious to the sight; and if the yard be so feeble that it will not admit of erection, it can never convey the seed into the womb, nor can there be in such a case any conception. But this is so plain and easily discerned that it needs must be obvious to both parties, and the man who finds himself debilitated ought not to marry.

The case can't be so bad with the woman, though she be barren, but what her husband may make use of her, unless she be impenetrable, which (though it sometimes does) yet but rarely and therefore the man is the most inexcusable if he transgress.

Besides what I have already mentioned, signs of barrenness in women are: if she be of an over hot constitution, of a dry body, subject to anger, hath black hair, a quick pulse, her purgations flow but little, and that with pain, and yet has a violent desire to coition; but if she be of a cold constitution then are the signs contrary to those recited. If barrenness be caused through an evil quality of the womb, it may be known by making a suffumigation of red storax, myrrh, caffia wood, nutmeg, cinnamon, and letting her receive the fume of it into her womb covering her very close. If the odour passeth through the body up into the mouth and nostrils she is fruitful. But if she feel not the fume in her mouth and nose, it denotes barrenness one of these ways, viz., That the seed is either through cold extinguished, or through heat dissipated. And if a woman be suspected to be unfruitful, cast natural brimstone, such as is dug out of the mine, into her urine, and if worms breed therein she is fruitful. But this shall suffice to be said of the causes and signs of barrenness, as 'tis now time to proceed to the cure.

 

SECT. III. Of the Cure of Barrenness.

IN the cure of barrenness respect must be had to the cause; for the cause must be first removed, and then the womb strengthened, and the spirits of the seed enlivened by corroborating applications.

if barrenness proceeds from over much heat, let her use inwardly, succory, endive, violets, water-lillies, sorrel and lettuce, with syrups and conserves made there of thus:

Take conserve of borage, violets, succory, water-lillies, of each an ounce, half an ounce of conserve of roses: diamarganition frigid. Diatryon, sancalon, of each half a dram; with syrup violets, or juice of citron, make an electuary.

Let her also take of endive, water-lillies, borage flowers of each a handful, rhubarb, myrobolans of each three drams, with water make a decoction; add to the straining, the syrup laxative of violets one ounce, syrup of cassia half an ounce, manna three drams; make all into a potion. Take of the syrup of mugwort one ounce, syrup of maidenhair two ounces, pulv. elect. trionsat. make all up into a julep. Apply to the veins and privities fomentations of the juice of lettuce violets, roses, mallows, vine leaves and nightshade: let her also anoint her secret parts with the cooling ointment of galls. Baths are good for her to sit in. Let the air be clear, her garments thin, her food lettuce, endive, succory, and barley; but let her have no hot meats nor strong wines, except it be waterish and thin. Rest is good for her both in body and mind; she must use but little copulation, but may sleep as much as she will.

If barrenness be occasioned by the predominancy of cold, extinguishing the power of the seed, which may be known by her desiring venery, and receiving no pleasure in the act of copulation, even while the man is spending his seed; her terms are phlegmatic, thick, slimy and now not rightly: in this case let her take syrup of calamint, mugwort, betony, of each one ounce, water of pennyroyal, featherfew, hyssop, sage, of each two ounces; and make a julep. Let her take every morning two spoonfuls of cinnamon water, with one scruple of mithridate. Also let her take oil of aniseed one scruple and a half, jessamine, diachylon both, dinoschi diaglang of each one dram; sugar four ounces; with water of cinnamon make lozenges, and take of them a dram and a half twice a day, two hours before meals. Let her also fasten cupping glasses to her hips and belly, and let her take storax, calamite one ounce; mastich, cloves, cloves, cinnamon, nutmeg, lignum, aloes, frankincense, of each half an ounce, musk ten grains, ambergrease half a scruple, with rosewater make a confection; divide it into four parts, of one make a pomum odoratum to swell to, if she be not hysterical; of the second, make a mass of pills and let her take three every night; of the third, make a pessary, and put it up; of the fourth, make a suffumigation for the womb.

If barrenness arises from the faculties of the womb being weakened, and the life of the seed suffocated by over much humidity flowing on those parts, let her take of betony, marjoram, mugwort, pennyroyal, balm, of each one handful; root of onrum, fennel, elecampane of each two drams; aniseed, cummin seed, of each a dram, with sugar and water a sufficient quantity, of which make a syrup, take three ounces every other morning. Then purge with these pills following: take of pu. ext. two scruples; diagridion two grains; species de castor one scruple, make them up into nine pills with syrup of mugwort. Also take spec. diagmme diamoschl, diambre, of each one dram; cinnamon one dram and a half; mace, cloves, nutmegs, of each half a dram; sugar six ounces with syrup of featherfew make lozenges to be taken every morning. Likewise let her take the decoction of sarsaparilla and viga aurea, with a good quantity of sage, which is a herb of that virtue that Cornelius Agrippa honoured it with the title of Sacra Herba, a holy herb; and Dodonæus, in his history of plants, reports that after a great plague had happened in Egypt, which had almost depopulated the country, the surviving women were commanded to drink the juice of sage, that they might multiply the faster. Let her also anoint her genitals with the oil of aniseed and spikenard. Trochisks to smother the womb are also very good. To make which let her take mace, cinnamon, storax, amber of each one dram: cloves, laden, of each half a dram; turpentine a sufficient quantity. Lastly, take the roots of valerian and elecampane, of each one pound; of galangal three ounces; origan, lavender, marjoram, betony, mugwort, bay-leaves, calamint, of each three handfuls; with water make an infusion, in which let her sit after she has her courses. But to proceed.

If barrenness be caused by the dryness of the womb consuming the matter of the seed, let her take every day almond milk and goat's milk extracted with honey; eat often of the root satyrion candied, and of the electuary of disatyron. Let her also take three sheep's heads, and boil them till the flesh comes from the bone, then take of the mileot, violets, camomile, mercury, orchies, with the roots of each, one pound; fenugreek, linseed, valerian roots, of each a handful; let all these be decocted in the aforesaid broth and let the woman sit in the decoction up to the navel.

Also take of deer's suet half an ounce; cow's marrow, styracis liquidæ, of each a dram; oil of sweet almonds two ounces, with silk or cotton make a pessary, and make injections only of fresh butter and oil of sweet almonds.

It sometimes happens that barrenness is caused by remissness in the manner of the act of coition; and though there be no impediment on either side, yet if both sexes meet not in that act with equal vigour, no conception follows; for many times the man is too quick for the woman, or rather, the woman too slow for the man, and is not prepared to receive the seed with that delight which she ought, when it is emitted by the man; and those who follow the opinion of the ancients, that the woman contributes seed in the formation of the child as well as the man, are of opinion that there ought to be a joint emission both of the man and woman at the same instant, which, administering to both a very great delight, perfects the work of conception. But if in this case the woman be slack, it will be proper for the man to follow the advice given in Chap. III., Sect. 2, where both sexes are shown how to manage themselves in the act of coition, that by so stirring up in the woman a desire for venery, she may meet his embraces with the greatest ardour. If this should prove ineffectual, let her before the act of coition foment the privities with the decoction of betony, sage, hyssop, and calamint, anoint the mouth and head of the womb with musks and civet; and the cause of barrenness being removed, let the womb be corroborated by the following applications.

Take of bay berries, mastich, nutmeg, frankincense, cypress nuts, zadani, galbani, of each one dram; styracis liquidæ, two scruples; cloves half a scruple; ambergrease, two grains; musk, six grains; then with oil of spikenard, make a pessary. Also take red roses, with frankincense, lapidis hæmatitis, of each half an ounce; sanguis draconis, fine bole mastich, of each two drams; nutmeg, cloves, of each one dram; spikenard, half a scruple, and with oil of wormwood make a plaster for the lower part of the belly. And let her eat of eryngo roots, candied, and make an injection of the juice of the roots of satryon; and then let her use copulation soon after the menses are ceased. Conception being most apt to follow: for then the womb is thirsty and dry, and aptest both to draw the seed and to retain it by the roughness of the inward superfices. A woman should be careful to avoid excess in all things, as being the greatest enemy to conception. For, should a woman conceive under care, study, etc., the child will probably he foolish, because the animal faculties of the parents were confused.

 

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