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.
There are certain substances which act locally on the membranes and organs associated in the performance of the masculine function, leading to irritation of the nerves of the part, to an unnatural excitement, and consequently to premature exhaustion. Sometimes these are employed for some disorder through ignorance, and sometimes they are sought by those who would give a fictitious appearance of strength to their animal powers, and seek by artificial irri-tants to restore to the nerves a sensitiveness which they no longer possess. This is a most dangerous and reprehensible habit, and one which from ancient times has been condemned by physicians and lawgivers. Yet it is astonishing that even at this day we see love-powders and philters advertised in the newspapers. In nine out of ten cases these are wholly inert, and in the tenth case they are dangerous, certain to lead to some painful, and perchance fatal malady. Instances of rapid death from their poisonous action are abundant. Phosphorus and cantharides, of which they usually consist, are both perilous drugs to tamper with, and dispensed by ignorant hands are certain to result disastrously. The death of the Latin poet Lucretius, which has been made the subject of a masterly poem by Tennyson, of Lucullus, the famous Roman epicure, and of many others, are currently attributed to this cause. By the Roman laws the manufacture and sale of these dangerous medicaments were prohibited under pain of death, but in spite of stringent enactments, their use was uninterrupted. In this country, the majority of dealers, aware of the serious results which may follow the administration of any active drug, content themselves with dispensing perfectly innocuous powders. One of these informed us that he sold two barrels of pulverized caraway seed under the name of love-powders. This fact illustrates the incredible demand for such philters even in an enlightened, and, on the whole, moral nation.
The pastilles de serail and other preparations brought to us from Paris, that "lupanar of Europe," as it has been severely and truly called, under whatever high-sounding and Attractive names they may be sold, are equally objectionable.
We have before us the trade-receipts for a number of these preparations, and in every instance where they are anything more than mere highly spiced confectionery, they contain ingredients which cannot be used without incurring liability to serious and perhaps mental diseases. We emphatically warn against their use, as we do against every unnatural excitant of the genital functions.
The prolonged use of astringents and purgatives, to which many persons accustom themselves on account of some disorder of the stomach, or to remedy some skin affections, is quite apt to incite local irritation, and induce weak-of the sexual life. These agents, indeed, are placed by Dr. Albert Muller in the first rank of those capable of pro-ducing debilitating nocturnal losses. Their employment, therefore, especially in schools, and in nervous temperaments, which quickly respond to impressions, should be very limited, or left altogether to the medical attendant.
In some portions of Europe where rye bread is the staple food of the lower classes, no care is taken to sort out the grains of " spurred rye," or ergot, a substance which has a specific effect on the reproductive organs of both sexes. The consequence of this is seen very plainly in the population. Dr. Deslandes, in speaking of the natives of the valley of the Gironde, says: "They present a striking example how violent passions can be associated with weakened frames. Their food is scanty and lacking in nourishing properties, largely composed of rye meal from which the diseased grains have not been separated; their faces are disfigured, pinched, and pale, and their leanness almost shocking. They present an appearance of complete physical degradation, and yet their passions are precocious, and they yield to them with a real frenzy." These wretched people are also cursed with frequent abortions, the women with womb disease, and born sexes with a variety of mortification of the extremities, which is known from its cause "ergotic gangrene." Their example proves how essential it is to health and even to morals to have what in many districts is a common article of diet prepared with care, and with a knowledge of sanitary laws.
The freedom with which in some families fly blisters and spirits of turpentine are used in domestic medicine is one of the objections to the habit of attempting to doctor one's self and others without a sufficient acquaintance with drugs. Both these substances have a specific action on the organs of sex and the bladder and kidneys. The first mentioned, cantharides, has a popular reputation as an excitant of the passions, a so-called aphrodisiac. It is not so in any true sense, as the excitement it causes is not associated with feelings of pleasure, and moreover, its use is certain to be followed by pain and inflammation, and there are not a few examples where speedy death in great agony has supervened.