This section is from the book "The Transmission Of Life. Counsels On The Nature And Hygiene Of The Masculine Function", by George H. Napheys. Also available from Amazon: The Transmission of Life.
Rabelais' hero, Panurge, in the passage from the celebrated romance, insists on Rondibilis suggesting some other means of controlling his carnal desires than the use of wine. This the obliging doctor willingly does, rehearsing a long list of specifics, such as the agnus castus, the " cold seeds," and "hippopotamus skin," as of sovereign virtue in subduing passion. Unfortunately an experience of a few generations has not supported in this instance the erudite doctor's words. There are, indeed, many cases where it is highly desirable to have at our command some such medicaments, which in a sense are aids and allies to the moral nature, if not strengthening good resolutions at any rate weaknening impulses, which is next best.
We are glad, therefore, that when the articles recommended by the older physicians fell into disfavor, modern observation discovered others with unquestionable powers in this direction. One or two of the ancient remedies have also stood their ground. Among them, the most prominent is camphor. This was familiar to the practitioners of the middle ages, and in a famous work on hygiene written about the time of the first crusade by the professors of the school of Salernum, in Italy, and known as the Regimen Sanitatis, The Laws of Health, there occurs the following line :-
"Camphora per nares, castrat odore mares;" "The smell of camphor makes eunuchs of men."
The most recent authority on this use of camphor is Dr. Albert Muller. whose work was published in 1869. He sums up the evidence by concluding that very small doses, half a grain to a grain, in most instances diminishes the sensibility of the organs of sex, but only for a short time, and not invariably. In some cases, which cannot be distinguished beforehand, even such small amounts produce irritability of the bladder, and therefore should not be used. On the whole, it is not a safe drug for any but a physician to administer.
The active principle of hops, called lupulin, and the pollen of that plant, have a more decided effect than camphor, and are far safer. Beer drinkers - that is, if they drink beer made by the addition of a strong infusion of hops to the malt, as is the case with good English bitter beer - soon experience a sluggishness of feeling, which often passes into indifference.
Saltpetre, or nitrate of potash, enjoys a similar reputation, but acts injuriously on the general health when taken in quantities, and for this reason should be employed with hesitation, if at all, and under advice.
There are several other drugs with the same properties, but as they can only be used with discretion by those who have made a study of their effects upon the economy, it would neither be advantageous nor prudent to extend the list much further. We shall moreover recur to the topic when we come to treat the means for controlling certain diseased conditions of the function, and shall leave this subject by stating that in our own practice we have witnessed decided and satisfactory results from the administration of bromide of potassium. The peculiar and sometimes alarming effects of this drug on the mental powers, although they are only temporary, yet act as a drawback to its popularization. It is still a question whether permanent weakening of the memory may not be a sequel of its excessive or too long continued use. Like all substances purely medicinal in nature, we advise none to experiment with it, but to take it under the advice of a physician.