This section is from the book "Aphrodisiacs And Anti-Aphrodisiacs", by John Davenport. Also available from Amazon: Love Stimulants, Aphrodisiacs and Anti-aphrodisiacs.
Agnus castus, so called from the down on its surface resembling that upon the skin of a lamb, and from its supposed anti-aphrodisiacal qualities, was in great repute among the Athenians, whose women, during the celebration of the Thesmophoria or feasts and sacrifices in honour of Ceres or Thesmophoria, the legislatress, abstained for some days from all the pleasures of love, separating themselves entirely for that time from the men. It was also usual with them during the solemnities to strew their beds with agnus castus, fleabane, and other herbs as were supposed to have the power of expelling amorous inclinations. Arnaud de Villeneuve* exaggerates, almost to a ridiculous degree, the virtue of the agnus castus, asserting as he does, that the surest way to preserve chastity, is to carry about the person, a knife with a handle made of its wood. It was also, and perhaps is still, much used by the monks, who made an emulsion of its seeds steeped in Nenuphar water, and of which they daily drank a portion, wearing at the same time round their loins a girdle made of its branches. Lettuce has also the reputation of being anti-aphrodisiacal. Lobel instances the case of an English nobleman who had long been desirous of having an heir to his estates, but all in vain.
Being, however, at length advised to discontinue eating lettuces, of which he was particularly fond, his wishes were gratified by his being blessed with a numerous offspring.
* Arnaud de Villeneuve was one of the luminaries of the 13th century, being distinguished for his profound knowledge of medicine, chemistry, astrology, and theology. He discovered the sulphuric, muriatic and nitric acids, and was the first to compose alcohol and the essence of terebinth or turpentine.
The desire for coition was also supposed to be diminished by drinking a decoction of the pounded leaves of the willow. Vervain, dried coriander, and also mustard, drunk in a fluid state, are also said to prevent the erection of the penis. Alexander Benedictus declares that a topaz having been previously rubbed against the right testicle of a wolf, then steeped in oil or in rose water and worn as a ring, induces a disgust for venereal pleasures, as does also, if we may credit the same sapient physiologist, a powder made of dried frog. The two following prescriptions are also said to be of great efficacy:-
"Da verbena in potu, et non erigitur virga sex diebus. Utere mentha sicca cum aceto: genitalia illinita succo hyoscyami aut cicutae coitus appetitum sedant.
It has even been asserted that coffee possesses the same property. In the year 1695 it was maintained, in a thesis at the Ecole de Medicine at Paris, that the daily use of coffee deprived both man and woman of the generative power. M. Hecquet * relates the following anecdote as a proof of such effect: -
* Traite des dispenses du careme.
A Queen of Persia seeing some grooms using all their efforts to throw a horse upon the ground, enquired the reason of the trouble they were thus taking. Her attendants gave her to understand as delicately as they could, that it was for the purpose of castrating him.
" How unnecessary is so much trouble," said her majesty, "they have only to give him coffee, and their object will be fully and easily attained." *
Most probably the queen spoke from her own experience of its anti-aphrodisiacal effects upon her royal consort.
There are some diseases which are considered as anti-aphrodisiacal, on account of the decided aversion which the patient who is afflicted with them feels for the pleasures of the sexual union. Thus a species of epidemic leprosy is common among the Cossacks of the Jaik, which is attended by pains in the joints and a disgust for copulation, a disgust the more extraordinary, not only because exanthematous diseases, in general excite a desire for the above act, but also inasmuch as this malady, in particular usually attacks persons in the prime of their youth. Another disease analogous to the one just mentioned, the Plica-Polonica, rages, during the autumnal season, in Poland, Lithuania, and Tartary. It is said to have been introduced into the first of these countries by the Tartars, who had it originally from India. One of the most singular phenomena attending this disorder, and which evidently proves the close sympathy existing between the head and the organs of generation, is that when the patient is bald, the Plica not unfrequently fastens upon the sexual parts, and acquires such a length as to descend below the calves of the legs.
The mode of treatment, that of mercury and sudori-fics, proves the mucous character of the disorder, and, consequently, accounts for its well known tendency to strike the whole animal economy with that prostration of strength which produces a total indifference to the sex-Continual exercise on horseback was considered by Hippocrates * as anti-aphrodisiacal and Van Sweiten commenting upon that opinion, justly observes that the continual joltings caused by so violent an exercise, added to the compression produced upon the parts of generation by the weight of the body, was by no means unlikely to produce a local relaxation of those organs to such an extent as to prevent erection altogether.
*"Any man," said Abernethy, the celebrated and ecentric surgeon, "that drinks coffee and soda water, and smokes cigars, may lie with my wife".
If whatever opposes an obstacle to the gratification of the sexual appetite may be considered as having a place among the anti-aphrodisiacs, certain mechanical processes may be ranked as such. Of these, fibula-lion, from the Latin word fibula (a buckle or ring) was the very reverse of circumcision, since the operation consisted in drawing the prepuce over the glans, and preventing its return, by the insertion of the ring, †
The Fibula (buckle) is so called, because it serves to fix together and to re-unite parts which are separated. It was, formerly a surgical instrument which, besides the use now particularly in question, served also to keep closed the lips of any extensive wounds. It is mentioned as being so applied by Oribuse, ‡ and by Scribonius Largus.§ Employed, therefore, as it was for various uses, the fibula appears to have different shapes, now but little known to us. Rhodius¶ has treated of all those mentioned in the writings of antiquity.
* De Aer: Aqua et Locis. Liber, caput x.
† Comment, in Boerh. Aphor. sec. 1063, Vol. III.
‡ Dt Machinis, C. IV.
§ No. 206. ¶ Exercitatio dt acid, Cap. 4, et seq.
Meinsius thinks that the custom of infibulating may be traced back to the time of the siege of Troy, for the singer Demodocus, who was left with Clytemnestra by Agamemnon, * appears to that critic, to have been a eunuch, or, at least, to have been infibulated. †
† Introd. to Hesiod, cap. VI. p. 14. Edit. Plautin, 1603, in voce aoιδοө.