The Works of Aristotle the Famous Philosopher

Page 50 of 76

All these Aetius particularly handles, showing that the womb is shut three manner of ways, which hinders conception. And the first is when the pudenda grow and cleave together. The second is, when these certain membranes grow 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, as they hinder the intercourse with man, the monthly courses, and conception.

But amongst all causes of barrenness in women, the greatest is in the womb, which is the field of generation; and if this field is corrupt, it is in vain to expect any fruit, be it ever so well sown. It may be unfit for generation by reason of many distempers to which it is subject; as for instance, overmuch heat and overmuch 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 overmuch dryness of 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 burns all parts of the body, so that no conception can live in the womb.

When unnatural humours are engendered, as too much phlegm, tympanies, wind, water, worms, or any other evil humour abounding contrary to nature, it causes barrenness as do all terms not coming down in due order.

A woman may also have accidental causes of barrenness (at least such as may hinder her conception), as sudden frights, anger, grief and perturbation of 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 cause of barrenness be in the man, through overmuch heat in the seed, the woman may easily feel that in receiving it.

If the nature of the woman be too hot, and so unfit for conception, it will appear by her 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 in the woman, sprinkle the man's urine upon a lettuce leaf, and the woman's urine 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 the man or the 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 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 she is barren. Some also take garlic and beer, and cause the woman to lie upon her back upon it, and if she feel the scent thereof in her nose, it is a sign of her being fruitful.

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 a man, and the other half in the urine of the woman, for the space of twenty-four hours; then take it out, and put the man's by itself, and the woman's by itself; set it in a flower-pot, or some other thing, where let it dry; 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; but if they grow not at all, they are both naturally barren.

Cure. If the barrenness proceeds from stoppage of the menstrua, let the woman sweat, for that opens the parts; and the best way to sweat is in a hot-house. Then let the womb be strengthened by drinking a draught of white wine, wherein a handful of stinking arrach, 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 the 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 as many as can be got; let these be boiled in beer, and taken for her drink.

Take one part of gentian-root, two parts of centaury, distil them with ale in an alembic after you have bruised the gentian-roots and infused them well. This water is an admirable remedy to provoke the terms. But if you have not this water in readiness, take a drachm of centaury, and half a drachm of gentian-roots bruised, boiled in posset drink, and drink half a drachm of it at night going to bed. Seed of wild navew beaten to powder, and a drachm 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, 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 menstrua, then strengthen the womb as you were taught before; afterwards anoint the veins of the back with oil of roses, oil of myrtle and oil of quinces every night, and then wrap a piece of white baise about your veins, the cotton side next to 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 woundwort, 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 drachms; myrrh, white pepper, galbanum, of each one drachm; dissolve the gum and opium in white wine; beat the rest into powder and make pills, mixing them together exactly, and let the patient take two each night going to bed; but let the pills not exceed fifteen grains.

If barrenness proceed from a flux in the womb, the cure must be according to the cause producing it, or which the flux proceeds from, which may be known by signs; for a flux of the womb, being a continual distillation from it for a long time together, the colour of what is voided shows what humour it is that offends; in some it is red, and that proceeds from blood putrified, in some it is yellow, and that denotes choler; in others white and pale, and 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 these are known by the following signs:

The place of conception is continually moist with the humours, the face 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, and the cephalic vein is fittest to draw back the blood; then let the juice of plantain and comfrey be injected into the womb. If phlegm be a 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 drachm of myrrh, taken every morning, is an excellent remedy against this malady. If choler be the cause, let her take burrage, buglos, red roses, endive and succory roots, lettuce and white poppy-seed, of each a handful; boil these in white wine until one half be wasted; let her drink half a pint every morning to which half pint add syrup of chicory and syrup of peach-flowers, of each an ounce, with a little rhubarb, and this will gently purge her. If it proceed from putrified blood, let her be bled in the foot, and then strengthen the womb, as I have directed in stopping the menstrua.

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