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In the cure of this affection, two things must be taken care of:—In the first place, nature must be stimulated to expel these hurtful humours which obscure the senses, so that the woman may be brought back from that sleepy fit. Secondly, during the intervals of the attack, proper remedies must be employed, in order to remove the cause.
To stimulate nature, apply cupping-glasses to the hips and navel: apply ligatures to the thighs, rub the extremities with salt, mustard and vinegar, and shout and make a great noise in her ears. Hold asafoetida to the nose, or sacopenium steeped in vinegar; make her sneeze by blowing castor-powder, white pepper and hellebore up her nose; hold burnt feathers, hair, leather, or anything else with a strong, stinking smell under her nose, for bad odours are unpleasant to nature, and the animal spirits so strive against them, that the natural heat is restored by their means. The brain is sometimes so oppressed, that it becomes necessary to burn the outer skin of the head with hot oil, or with a hot iron, and strong injections and suppositories are useful. Take a handful each of sage, calamint, horehound, feverfew, marjoram, betony and hyssop; half an ounce of aniseed; two drachma each of coloquintida, white hellebore and salgem; boil these in two quarts of water till reduced to half; add two ounces of castor oil and two drachms of hiera piera and make an injection of it. Or take two ounces of boiled honey, half a scruple of spurge, four grains of coloquint, two grains of hellebore and drachm of salt; make a suppository. Hippocrates mentions a hysterical woman who could only be relieved of the paroxysms by pouring cold water on her: yet this is a strange cure, and should only be administered in the heat of summer, when the sun is in the tropic of Cancer.
If it be caused by the retention and corruption of the seed, let the mid-wife take oil of lilies, marjoram and bay leaves, and dissolve two grains of civet in them, and the same quantity of musk, and at the moment of the paroxysm let her dip her finger into the mixture and put it into the neck of the womb, and tickle and rub it with it.
When the fit is over, proceed to remove the cause. If it arises from suppression of the menses, look in Chapter XI, p. 102, for the cure. If it arises from the retention of the seed, a good husband will administer the cure, but those who cannot honourably obtain that remedy, must use such means as will dry up and diminish the seed, as diaciminum, diacalaminthes, etc. The seed of the agnus castus is highly valued as a draught, whether taken inwardly, applied outwardly or used as a suffumigation. It was held in high esteem by the Athenian women, for by its means they remained as pure vessels and preserved their chastity, by only strewing it on the bed on which they lay, and hence the name of agnus castus, which was given to it, as denoting its effects. Make an issue on the inside of each leg, four inches below the knee, and then make lozenges of two scruples of agric, half a scruple each of wild carrot seed and ligne aloes; three drachms of washed turpentine, and make a bolus with a conserve of flowers. Eight drachms of castor taken in white wine are very useful in this case, or you may make pills of it with dog's tooth, and take them on going to bed. Take an ounce of white briony root dried and cut up like carrots, put it into a little wine and place it on the fire, and drink when warm. Take one scruple each of myrrh, castor and asafoetida; four grains each of saffron and rue-seed, and make eight pills and take two every night on going to bed.
Galen, from his own experience, recommends powdered agaric, of which he frequently gave one scruple in white wine. Put a head of bruised garlic on the navel at bed time, and fasten it with a swathing band. Make a girdle for the waist of galbanum, and also a plaster for the stomach, and put civet and musk on one part of it, which must be applied to the navel. Take two drachms each of pulvis benedict, and of troches of agaric, a sufficient quantity of mithridate, and make two pessaries, and that will purge the matrix of wind and phlegm; foment the private parts with salad oil in which some feverfew and camomiles have been boiled. Take a handful of roseleaves and two scruples of cloves, sew them in a little cloth and boil them for ten minutes in malmsey; then apply them, as hot as they can be borne, to the mouth of the womb, but do not let the smell go up her nose. A dry diet must still be adhered to and the moderate use of Venus is advisable. Let her eat aniseed biscuits instead of bread, and roast meat instead of boiled.
Of the Descending or Falling of the Womb.
The descent of the womb is caused by a relaxation of the ligatures, whereby the matrix is carried backward, and in some women it protrudes to the size of an egg, and there are two kinds of this, distinguished by a descending and a precipitation. The descending of the womb is, when it sinks down to the entrance of the private parts, and appears either very little or not at all, to the eye. Its precipitation is when it is turned inside out like a purse, and hangs out between the thighs, like a cupping glass.
This is either external or internal. The external cause is difficult childbirth, violent pulling away, or inexperience in drawing away the child, violent coughing, sneezing, falls, blows, and carrying heavy burdens. The internal cause, is generally the flow of too much moisture into these parts, which hinders the operation of the womb, whereby the ligaments by which the womb is supported are relaxed. The particular cause, however, lies in the retention of the semen, or in the suppression of the monthly courses.
The principal gut and the bladder are often so crushed, that the passage of both evacuations is hindered. If the urine flows out white and thick, and the midriff is interfered with, the loins suffer, the private parts are in pain, and the womb descends to them, or else comes clean out.
If an old woman is thus affected, the cure is very difficult, because it weakens the womb, and therefore, though it may be put back into its proper place, yet it is apt to get displaced again, by a very slight amount of illness. And also with younger women, if this disease is inveterate, and if it is caused by putrefaction of the nerves, it is incurable.
The womb, being placed by nature between the straight gut and the bladder, ought not to be put back again until the powers of both are excited. Now that nature is relieved of her burden, let the woman be laid on her back so that her legs may be higher than her head; let her feet be drawn up towards her private parts, and her knees spread open. Then apply oil of sweet almonds and lilies, or a decoction of mallows, beet, fenugreek and linseed, to the swelling; when the inflammation is reduced, let the midwife rub her hand with oil of mastic, and restore the womb to its proper place. When the matrix is up, the patient's position must be changed. Her legs must be put out quite straight and laid together, and apply six cupping glasses to her breast and navel. Boil feverfew, mugwort, red rose leaves and comfrey in red wine; make a suffumigation for the matrix, and apply sweet scents to her nose. When she comes out of her bath, give her an ounce of syrup of feverfew with a drachm of dog's tooth (mithridate). Take three drachms each of laudanum and mastic, and make a plaster for the navel of it, and then make pessaries of asafoetida, saffron, comfrey, and mastic, adding a little castor oil.—Parius in such cases makes his pessaries only of cork, shaped like a small egg; he covered them with wax and mastic dissolved together, and fastening them to a thread, he put them into the womb.