The Works of Aristotle - OF BARRENNESS; ITS SEVERAL KINDS, WITH PROPER REMEDIES AGAINST IT; AND THE SIGNS OF INSUFFICIENCY BOTH IN MEN AND WOMEN.

OF BARRENNESS; ITS SEVERAL KINDS, WITH PROPER REMEDIES AGAINST IT; AND THE SIGNS OF INSUFFICIENCY BOTH IN MEN AND WOMEN.

 

SECT. I. OF Barrenness in general.

As there is no general rule but will admit of some exception against this second part; for though I have promised to treat herein only of diseases peculiar to the female sex, yet this chapter will engage me to speak of a defect in men, barrenness being an effect incident to them also; and therefore it is so necessary to be handled with respect to men as well as women, that without treating of it so, I shall not be able to make good the old proverb of setting the saddle on the right horse.

Having premised this, and thereby anticipated an objection, shall now proceed to the subject of this chapter, which is barrenness.

Barrenness is either natural or accidental.

Natural barrenness is when a woman is barren, though the instruments of generation are perfect both in herself and husband, and no preposterous or diabolical course used to cause it, and neither age nor disease, nor any natural defect hindering, and yet the woman remains naturally barren, and conceives not.

Now this may proceed from a natural cause; for if the man and woman be of one complexion, they seldom have children; and the reason is clear, for the universal course of nature being formed by the Almighty of a composition of contraries, cannot be increased by a composition of likes; and therefore, if the constitution of the woman be hot and dry as well as of the man, there can be no conception and if, on the contrary, the man should be of a cold and moist constitution as well as the woman, the effect would be the same; and this barrenness is purely natural. The only way to help it is for people before they marry to observe each other's constitution and complexion, if they design to have children. If their complexions and constitutions be alike they are not fit to come together, for the discordant nature makes the only harmony in the work of generation.

Another natural cause of barrenness is want of love between the man and wife. Love is that vital principle that ought to inspire each organ in the act of generation, or else it will be spiritless and dull; for if their hearts be not united in love, bow should their seed unite to cause conception? and this is sufficiently evinced in that there never follows conception on a rape; therefore, if men and women design to have children, let them live so that their hearts as well as their bodies may be united, or else they may miss of their expectations.

A third cause of natural barrenness is the letting of virgin's blood in the arm before their natural courses are come down, which is usually in the fourteenth or fifteenth years of their age; sometimes perhaps before the thirteenth, but never before the twelfth. And because usually they are out of order, and indisposed before their purgations come down, their parents run to the doctor to know what is the matter; and he then prescribes opening a vein in the arm, seeing that it was fulness of blood which was the cause Of offending, and this makes her well at present; and when the young virgin happens to be in the same disorder again, the mother straight runs to the surgeon, and he directly uses the same remedy; and by these means the blood is diverted from its proper channel, that it comes not down the womb as in another woman; and so the womb dries up, and the woman is for ever barren. The way to prevent this is to let no virgin blood in the arm before her courses come down well; but if there be occasion, let her blood in the foot; for that will bring the blood downwards, and by that moans provoke the menstrues to come down.

Another cause of natural barrenness is the debility in copulation; if persons perform not that act with all the heat and ardour that nature requires, they may as well let it alone, and expect to have children without it; for frigidity and coldness never produces conception. Of the cure of this we will speak by and bye, after I have spoken of accidental barrenness, which is what is occasioned by some morbific matter or infirmity upon the body, either of the man or the woman, which, being removed, they become fruitful, And since (as I have before noted) the first and great law of creation was to increase and multiply, and barrenness is the direct opposition to the law, and frustrates the end of our creation; and that is a great affliction to divers to be without children, and often causes man and wife to have hard thoughts one of another, each party thinking the cause not in them. I shall here, for the satisfaction of well-meaning people, set down the signs and causes of insufficiency both in men and women; premising then first, that when people have no children, they must not presently blame either party, for neither may be in fault, but perhaps God sees it not good (for reasons best known unto Himself) to give them any; of which we have divers instances in history. And though the Almighty in the production of nature works by natural means, yet where He withholds His blessing natural means are ineffectual; for it is the blessing which is the power and energy by which nature brings her productions forth.

SECT. II. Signs and Causes of Insufficiency in Men.

ONE cause may be in some viciousness in the yard, as if the same be crooked, or any ligaments thereof distorted and broken, whereby the ways and passages through which the seed should flow, come to be stopped or vitiated.

Another cause may be too much weakness of the yard, and tenderness thereof, so that it is not strongly enough erected to inject seed into the womb; for the strength and stiffness of the yard very much conduces to conception, by reason of the forcible conjection of the seed.

Also if the stones have received any hurt, so that they cannot exercise the proper gift in producing seed, or if they be oppressed with any inflammation or humour, wound, or ulcer, or drawn up within the belly, and not appearing outwardly, these are signs of insufficiency and causes of barrenness.

Also a man may be barren by reason of the defect of seed: as first if he cast forth no seed at all, or less in substance than is needful. Or secondly, if the seed be vicious, or unfit for generations, as on the one side, it happens in bodies that are gross and fat, the matter of it being defective, and on the other side too much leanness, or continual wasting or consumption of body, destroys seed; nature turning all the matter and substance thereof into nutriment of the body.

Too frequent copulation is also one great cause of barrenness in men; for it attracteth the seminal moisture from the stones before it is sufficiently prepared and concocted; so if any one by daily copulation do exhaust and draw out all the moisture of the seed, then do the stones draw the moist humours from the superior veins into themselves; and so having but a little blood in them, hey are forced of necessity to cast it out raw and unconcocted, and thus the stones are violently deprived of the moisture of their veins, and the superior veins from all the other parts of the body, or their proper nourishment, thereby depriving the body of its vital spirits; and therefore no wonder that those that use immoderate copulation are very weak in their bodies; seeing their whole body is thereby deprived of their best and purest blood, and of the spirit, insomuch that many who have been too much addicted to that pleasure have killed themselves in the very act; and therefore it is no wonder if such unconcocted and undigested seed be unfit for generation.

Gluttony, drunkenness, and other excesses, do so much hinder men from fruitfulness, that it makes them unfit for generation.

But among other causes of barrenness in men, this also is one that makes them barren, and almost of the nature of eunuchs, and that is the incision, or the cutting of their veins behind the ears, which in case of distempers is oftentimes done; for according to the opinion of most physicians and anatomists, the seed flows from the brain by those veins behind the ears more than from any other part of the body. From whence it is very probable that the transmission of the seed is hindered by the cutting of the veins behind the ears, so that it cannot descend at all to the testicles, or come thither very crude and raw. And thus much for the signs and causes of barrenness in men.

SECT. III. Signs and Causes of Insufficiency or Barrenness in Women.

ALTHOUGH there are many causes of the barrenness of women, yet the chief and principal are internal, respecting either the privy parts, the womb, or menstruous blood.

Therefore Hippocrates saith (speaking of the either easy or difficult conception of women) the first consideration is to be had of their species, for little women are more apt to conceive than great; slender than gross; white and fair, than ruddy and high-coloured; black than wan; those that have their veins conspicuous are more apt to conceive than others; but to the very flesh is evil: to have great swelled breasts is good.

The next thing to be considered is the monthly purgations, whether they have been duly every month and whether they flow plentifully, and are of a good colour, and whether they have been equal every month.

Then the womb or place of conception is to be considered. It ought to be clean and sound, dry and soft; not retracted nor drawn up; not prone, nor descending downwards, nor the mouth thereof turned away, nor too close shut. But to speak more particularly:

The first parts to be spoken of are the pudenda, or privities, and the womb; which parts are shut and inclosed either by nature or against nature; and from hence such in women are called Imperfores; as in some women the mouth of their womb continues compressed, or closed up from the time of their birth, until the coming down of their courses, and then on a sudden when their terms press forward to purgation, they are molested with great and unusual pains; some of these break of their own accord, others are dissected and opened by physicians, others never break at all, and it brings death.

All these Atius particularly handles, showing that the womb is shut three manner of ways, which hinders conception. And the first is, when the lips of the pudenda grow or cleave together; the second is, when there are certain membranes growing in the middle part of the matrix within; the third is, when (though the lips and bosom of the pudenda may appear fair and open) the mouth of the womb may be quite shut up; all which are occasions of barrenness, in that they hinder both the use of man, the monthly courses, and conception.

But amongst all the causes of barrenness in women the greatest is in the womb, which is the field of generation; and if this field be corrupt, it is in vain to expect any fruit, let it be ever so well sown, for it may be unfit for generation, by reason of many distempers to which it is subject; as, for instance, over much heat, and over much cold; for women, whose wombs are too thick and cold, cannot conceive, because coldness extinguishes the heat of the human seed. Immoderate moisture of the womb also destroys the seed of man, and makes it ineffectual, as corn sown in ponds and marshes; and so does over much dryness in the womb, so that the seed perisheth for want of nutriment. Immoderate heat of the womb is also a cause of barrenness, for it scorcheth up the seed, as corn sown in the drought of summer; for immoderate heat hurts all the parts of the body, for no conception can live in the woman.

And when unnatural humours are engendered, as too much phlegm, tympanies, wind, water, worms, or any such evil humours abounding contrary to nature, it causeth barrenness; as does all the terms not coming down in due order, as I have already said.

A woman may also have other accidental causes of barrenness (at least such as may hinder her conception), as sudden frights, anger, grief, and perturbation of the mind, too violent exercises, as leaping, dancing, running after copulation, and the like. But I will now add some signs by which these things may be known.

If the barrenness be in the man through overmuch heat in his seed, the woman may easily feel in receiving it.

If the nature of the woman be too hot, and so unfit for conception, it will appear by having her terms very little, and the colour inclining to yellowness, she is also very hasty, choleric, and crafty, her pulse beats very swift, and she is very desirous of copulation.

To know whether the fault is in the man or the woman, sprinkle the man's urine upon a lettuce leaf and the woman's upon another, and that which dries away first is unfruitful. Also take five wheaten corns, and seven beans, put them into an earthen pot, and let the party make water therein. Let this stand seven days, and if in that time they begin to sprout, then the party is fruitful; but if they sprout not, then the party is barren, whether it be man or woman. This is a certain sign.

There are some that make this experiment of a woman's fruitfulness: Take myrrh, red storax and some odoriferous things, and make a perfume of it, which let the woman receive into the neck of the womb through a funnel: if the woman feels the smoke ascend through her body to the nose, then she is fruitful, otherwise barren. Some also take garlic and beer, and let the woman lie on her back upon it, and if she feel the scent thereof to her nose it is a sign of fruitfulness.

Culpepper and others also give a great deal of credit to the following experiment:

Take a handful of barley, and steep half of it in the urine of the man, and the other half in the urine of the woman, for the space of four and twenty hours, and then take it out, and set the man's by itself, and the woman's by itself; set it in a flower pot, or some other thing where you may let it dry; then water the man's every morning with his own urine, and the woman's with hers; and that which grows first is the most fruitful, and if one grow not at all that party is naturally barren.

But having now spoken enough of the disease, it is high time to assign the cure.

If barrenness proceeds from stoppage of the menstrues, let the woman sweat, for that opens the parts; and the best way to sweat is in a hot house. Then let the woman be strengthened by drinking a draught of white wine, wherein a handful of stinking arrack, first bruised, has been boiled; for by a secret magnetic virtue it strengthens the womb and by a sympathetic quality removes any disease thereof. To which add also a handful of vervain, which is very good to strengthen both the womb and head, which are commonly afflicted together by sympathy. Having used these two or three days, if they come not down, take of calamint, pennyroyal, thyme, betony, dittany, burnet, feverfew, mugwort, sage, peony roots, juniper berries, half a handful of each, or so many as can he got; let all these be boiled in beer, and taken for her ordinary drink.

Take one part of the gentian root, two parts of centaury, distil them with ale in an alembic, alter you have bruised the gentian roots, and infused them well. This water is an admirable remedy to provoko the terms. But if you have not this water in readiness, take a dram of centaury, and half a dram of gentian roots bruised, boiled in posset drink, and drink a draught of it at night going to bed. Seed of wild navew beaten to powder, and a drain of it taken in the morning in white wine, also is very good; but if it answers not, she must be let blood in the legs. And be sure you administer your medicines a little before the full of the moon, or between the new and full moon, by no means in the wane of the moon; if you do, you will find them ineffectual.

If barrenness proceed from the overflowing of the menstrues, then strengthen the womb as you were taught before; afterwards anoint the reins of the back with alt of roses, oil of myrtle, oil of quinces, every night, and then wrap a piece of white bays about your reins, the cotton side next the skin, and keep the same always to it. But above all, I recommend this medicine to you. Take comfrey leaves or roots, and clown wound wort, of each a handful, bruise them well and boil them in ale, and drink a good draught of it now and then, or take cinnamon, cassia lignea, opium, of each two drams, myrrh, white pepper, galbanum, of each one dram, dissolve the gum and opium in white wine; beat the rest into powder; then make into pills, by mixing of them together exactly, and let the patient take two pills every night going to bed; but let the pill not exceed fifteen grains.

If barrenness proceed from a flux of the womb, the cure must be according to the cause producing it, or which the flux proceeds from, which may be known by its signs: for a flux of the womb being a continual distillation from it for a long time together, the colour of what it voided shows what humour it is that offends; in some it is red, and that proceeds from blood putrefied; in some it is yellow, and that denotes choler; in others white and pale, and that denotes phlegm. If pure blood comes out, as if a vein were opened, some corrosion or gnawing of the womb is to be feared. All them are known by these signs.

The place of the conception is continually moist with the humours, the fate is ill-coloured, the party loathes meat, and breathes with difficulty, the eyes are much swollen, which is sometimes without pain. If the offending humour be pure blood, then you must let blood in the arm, as the cephalic vein is fittest to draw back the blood, and then let the juice of plantain and comfrey be injected into the womb. If phlegm be the cause let cinnamon be a spice used in all her meats and drinks; and let her take a little Venice treacle or mithridate every morning. Let her boil burnet, mugwort, feverfew, and vervain, in all her broths. Also half a dram of myrrh taken every morning, is an excellent remedy against this malady. If choler be the cause, let her take burrage, bugloss, red roses, endive, and succory roots, lettuce and white poppy seed, of each a handful; boil these in white wine till one half be wasted; let her drink half a pint every morning; to which half a pint add syrup of peach-flowers and syrup of cichony, of each an ounce, with a little rhubarb, and this will gently purge her. if it proceeds from putrefied blood, let her be blooded in the foot, and then strengthen the womb, as I have directed in stopping of the menstrues.

If barrenness be occasioned by the falling out of the womb, as sometimes happens, let her apply sweet scents to her nose, such as civet, galbanum, storax, calamitis, wood of aloes, and such other things as are of that nature; and let her lay stinking things to the womb, such as asafoetida, oil of amber, or the smoke of her own hair being burnt; for this is a certain truth, that the womb flies from all stinking, and to all sweet things. But the most infallible cure in this case is this: take a common burdock leaf (which you may keep dry if your please, all the year), apply this to her head, and it will draw the womb upward. In fits of the mother apply it to the sole of her feet, and it will draw the womb downwards. Bur seed, beaten into a powder, draws the womb which way you please according as it is applied.

If barrenness proceeds from a hot cause, let the party take whey, and clarify it, and drink it for her ordinary drink. Let her also inject the juice of plantain into the womb with a syringe; if it be in winter, when you can get the juice, make a strong decoction of the leaves and roots in water, and inject that up with a syringe; but let it be but blood-warm, and you will find this medicine of great efficacy. And further, to take away barrenness proceeding from hot causes, take often conserve of roses, cold lozenges made of tragacanth, the confections of tralsantali, and use to smell the camphire, rose water, and saunders. It is also good to bleed the basilica or liver vein, and take four or five ounces of blood, and then take this purge; take electuarum de eipithymo de succo rosarum, of each two drams and a half, clarified whey four ounces; mix them well together, and take it in the morning fasting; sleep after it about an hour and a half, and fast four hours after it, and about an hour before you eat anything drink a good draught of whey. Also take lily water, four ounces; mandragora water, one ounce; saffron, half a scruple; beat the saffron to powder, and mix it with the waters, and drink them warm in the morning; use this eight days together.

 

Some excellent Remedies against Barrenness and to cause Fruitfulness.

TAKE broom flowers, smallage, parsley seed, cummin, mugwort, feverfew, of each half a scruple; aloes half an ounce; India salt, saffron, of each half a dram; beat and mix them well together, and put it to five ounces of feverfew-water warm, stop it up close and let it stand and dry in a warm place, and thus do two or three times one after another, then make each dram into six pills, and take one of them every day before supper.

For a purging medicine against barrenness: take conserve of benedicta lax, one quarter of an ounce; depsillo, three drams; electuary de succo rosarum, one dram; mix them together with feverfew water, and drink it in the morning betimes. About three days after the patient hath taken the purge, let her be let blood four or five ounces in the median or common black vein in the right foot; and then take five days, one after another, filed ivory, a dram and a half in feverfew water; and during the time let her sit in the following bath an hour together morning and night: Take wild yellow rapes, daucus, balsam wood and fruit, ash-keys, of each two handfuls, red and white behen, broom flowers, of each a handful; musk three grains; amber, saffron, of each a scruple; boil all in water sufficiently; but the musk, saffron, amber, and broom flowers, put them into the decoction after it is boiled and strained.

A confection very good against barrenness: Take pistachia, pingles, eringoes, of each half an ounce; saffron one dram; lignum aloes, gallingade, mace, coriophilla, balm flowers, red and white behen, of each four scruples; shaven ivory, cassia bark, of each two scruples; white sugar six ounces; decoct all these well together in twelve ounces of balm water, and stir it well together; then put to it musk and amber, of each a scruple; take thereof the quantity of a nutmeg three times a day, in the morning, an hour before noon, and an hour after supper.

But if the cause of barrenness either in man or woman be through scarcity or diminution of the natural seed, then such things are to be taken as do increase the seed, and incite or stir up to venery, and further conception, which I shall here set down, and then conclude this chapter of barrenness.

For this, yellow rape seed baked in bread is very good; also young fat flesh not too much salted; also saffron, the tails stincus, and long pepper prepared in wine. But such sour, sharp, doughy, and slimy meats, long sleep after meat with surfeiting and drunkenness, and as much as they keep themselves from sorrowing.

These things following increase the natural seed, and stir up venery, and recover the seed again, when it is lost, viz., eggs, milk, rice boiled in milk, sparrows brains, flesh, bones and all; the stones and pizzles of bulls, bucks, rams, and bears; also cock stones, lamb stones, partridges, quails, and pheasant eggs; and this is an undeniable aphorism, that whatever any creature is addicted unto they move or incite the woman or man that eats them to the like; and therefore partridges, quails, sparrows, etc., being extremely addicted to venery, they work the same effect in those men and women that eat them. Also take notice, that in what part of the body the faculty which you would strengthen lies, take the same part of the body of another creature, in whom the faculty is strong, as a medicine. As, for instance, the procreative faculty lies in the testicles, therefore cock stones, lamb stones etc., are proper to stir up venery. I will also give you another general rule: all creatures that are fruitful, being eaten, make them fruitful that eat them; as crabs, lobsters, prawns, pigeons, etc. The stones of a fox dried and beaten to powder, and a dram taken in the morning in sheep's milk, and the stones of a boar taken in the like manner, are very good. The heart of a male quail carried about the man, and the heart of a female quail carried about the woman, causeth natural love and fruitfulness. Let them also that would increase their seed eat and drink of the best as much as they can, for, fino cerere et libero friget Venus, is an old proverb; which is, without good meat and good drink Venus will be frozen to death.

Pottages are good to increase the seed, such as are made of beans, pease, and lupines, and mix the rest with sugar. French beans, wheat sodden in broth, aniseed, also onions stewed, garlic, leeks, yellow rapes, fresh bugwort roots, eryngo roots confected, ginger confected, etc. Of fruits, hazel nuts, cypress nuts, pistachia, almonds, and Marchpanes made thereof. Spices good to increase seed, are cinnamon, cardamom, galangal, long pepper, cloves, ginger, saffron; asafoetida, taken a dram and a half in good wine, is very good for this purpose.

The weakness and debility of a man's yard being a great hindrance to procreation, let him to strengthen it use the following ointments: take wax, oil of bevercod, marjoram gentle, and oil of coflus, of each a like quantity, mix it into an ointment, and put to it a little musk, and with It anoint the yard, cods, etc. Take of house emmets three drams, oil of white sefannum, oil of lilies, of each an ounce; pound and bruise the ants, and put them to the oil, and let them stand in the sun six days, then strain out the oil, and add to it euphorbium one scruple, pepper and rue, of each one dram, mustard seed half a dram. Set this again altogether in the sun two or three days, then anoint the instruments of generation therewith. But so much for this chapter.

 

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