This section of the book is from "The Complete Herbalist" by Dr. O. Phelps Brown. Also available from Amazon: The Complete Herbalist: The People Their Own Physicians By The Use Of Nature's Remedies.
We have now in many aspects considered the prudent course for the conjugal pair to pursue in search of wedded bliss. We have confined ourselves merely to their social relation, there yet remains for us to discuss a not less important subject, namely, that of connubial commerce. From what we have already written the inference is plain, that we advocate a dignified conduct, benignity of temper, subjection of anger, co-operation of purpose, etc., etc., and though there may be, nay, are, many other rocks upon which the matrimonial bark will impinge, the reflective mind will be guided in his behavior in every possible contingency by what we have more lengthily dwelt upon. The indices to marital happiness are reason, prudence, justice, and equality, and they who shape their course by them must attain the object. It shall now be our purpose to consider a subject that is not less important, and much less understood. In its discussion we will confine ourselves to particulars which married people mostly inquire after, and in which they need the most enlightenment.
The discussison of this delicate relation between the married pair is necessary, inasmuch as the unprofessional have access to scarcely any work of standard value and excellence from which they may gather the knowledge so indispensable, unless they are fortunate enough to have the privilege of reading the works of an extensive medical library. Even if this opportunity is afforded, the truth is not clearly presented to them, as such works are intended usually for the professional reader. I, therefore, am confident that I discharge an important duty, especially as I write particularly for the instruction of the popular mind, in presenting to my many readers the philosophy of that relation legitimatized by marriage. In consideration of the subject, I shall employ plain but decorous language, and attempt to present the facts so that they may be intelligible to all, and yet not wound any of the finer sensibilities of my readers. I have previously stated my aim to be merely to afford instruction to the masses relative to such medical subjects as have never been capably popularized, but have been , and are yet a theme on which incompetent charlatans have so ignorantly dwelt upon, and disseminated so much offensive literature. The medical profession is to blame for this. If they had not neglected to teach the popular mind the physiology of cohabitation, empirics would have found no market for their offensive and pernicious works, excepting, perhaps, among the morally depraved.
The married, which I positively know from the many opportunities afforded me in my professional career, are extremely ignorant of the philosophy and physiology appertaining to the special connubial relation, and absolutely know nothing of the hygienic limit or period. I know also that every married man and woman is extremely anxious to possess proper knowledge. As the access to works of scientific authority is extremely limited, they are led to accept the teachings of ignorant empirics, and thus unwittingly do much that is wrong and hurtful. The diffidence characterizing the marital pair to interrogate the family physician as to the proper course to pursue, also tends to keep them in ignorance. It is only when the abuse of the marital privilege becomes painfully apparent that the physician feels warranted to interpose his cautions, and counsel reform and moderation. This, however, occurs only in exceptional instances, the great majority are uninformed and unadvised, controlled only by self-interpretation of the right or wrong of their conduct, or by such information as is commonly possessed by the heads of families, which is often traditional, and usually faulty in its conclusions.
To supply, then, in a medical work for general circulation, the proper instruction as regards the important marital relation alluded to, needs no further justification, but every person actuated by a catholic spirit will, I am sure, deem the discussion eminently appropriate. The underlying purpose of wedded association is of greater importance than half who assume the relation are aware of. Marriage implies much more than a mere association of the sexes--it is rather an institution devised by society to regulate cohabitation and the propogation of species in the best manner. This is the only legitimate purpose of marriage, as aside from this relation between the sexes, every other one could be secured and maintained without matrimonial ties or obligations. Any system of rules or regulations subserving the purpose of controlling this particular marital relation so as to accord with the best known laws of physiology and hygiene, and best adapted for the requirements of propogation of the species, so that offspring will not be recklessly brought into the world, but calculated to secure to it the highest possible endowment of all the nobler human qualities, is decidedly the best marriage code. As an institution, marriage should be governed more by the physiological laws than by statute regulations, and the time may yet come when wilful disregard of physiological laws applicable to the matrimonial association of the sexes will be regarded as reprehensible or criminal as the violation of the statute laws governing the instutution. It is then quite important that those in marriage as well as those who contemplate matrimonial alliance, should possess adequate knowledge of the incumbent duties, contemplate the dignity and importance of wedlock, endeavor to promote the grand interests and welfare which the marital pair have at stake, avoid animalization and debasement of the connubial repast, endeavor to fitly endow their offspring, and so conduct themselves throughout the whole course of wedded association, that they may be rewarded with all the manifold blessings that should be gained by the grandest and closest association of human interests, purposes, and hearts.
It should never be forgotten by the married that our passions can be over-indulged precisely the same as our appetites. Hygiene requires that our appetites for food or drink should only be appeased to such an extent as will not create a loathing for that which was eaten or drunk, upon quitting the repast. If indulgence is carried to such a extent it amounts to intemperance and will be followed by the usual consequences of violation of hygienic law. It is precisely so with the marital repast: if the relation is assumed too frequently the temperate limit will be over-reached and hurtful consequences ensue. Excess is not only deleterious because destructive of the natural tone of the excitement, generative of nervous disorder, and other hurtful consequences; it is extremely apt to engender indifference after a certain period on the part of either or both of the conjugal pair. By indifference I mean to express that feeling of insatiety after indulgence, that want of mutual accord, or sense of unsatisfactory awakening of the emotions, which is sure to follow excesses. The desires are present but cannot be satisfactorily appeased, precisely as an appetite for a certain article or kind of food remains unsatiated if not within reach to be partaken of. This condition, directly a sequal to immoderation, is one of the greatest incentives to adultery. I am well satisfied that this unpardonable violation of matrimonial trust and fidelity is, in the majority of instances, due to neglect of observing temperance in the early years of marriage. The results of coitive intemperance should thus be strongly impressed upon the minds of every one married or contemplating marriage, as by moderation they will surely attain a higher altitude of connubial enjoyment, besides avoiding the violation of the highest and purest of all human trusts which if committed, is irreparably destructive of the integrity of matrimonial alliance.
The married pair should carefully guard against all excesses. Excess of connubial commerce is a severe tax to the nervous system, and very detrimental to health. The class of diseases met with by the physician, of which the remote cause is immoderation, is scarcely second to none in frequency. Besides, the orgasm is less profound if the banquet is too freely partaken of. The physician is frequently asked the question how often intercourse may be indulged in without injury. To this no answer can be given with numerical preciseness; but both sexes possess an unerring monitor, whose voice they should promptly heed. Whenever a sense of exhaustion is felt, after copulation, the violation of a physiological law is made manifest. No coitive act should be complete when it requires fatiguing efforts to accomplish it. It is sure to be followed by exhaustion, and the orgasm is neither elevating or satisfactory, and apt to generate an inharmony quite antagonistic to the designs of nature.