Since the most remote periods of the existence of man, the eating of fish has been accredited with the property of in-creasing sexual activity. It was for this reason that the old Egyptians forbade the eating of fish by the priests. There must be some truth in this, since the idea has persisted up to the present time. Brillat-Savarin, in expressing his belief in this property of fish, cited as an example the notoriety achieved in this direction by the members of several clubs the rules of which forbade the use of meat and required that fish be eaten every day. They acquired the same reputation, says Brillat-Savarin, as that enjoyed by Hercules with the daughters of Danaus (“elles finirent par donner à eux une réputation semblable à celle d’Hercule chez les filles de Danaus ou du Maréchal de Saxe auprès de Mademoiselle Lecouvreur”).
He also referred to the story of the Sultan Saladin and the two dervishes. As the guests of the Sultan, the latter were served with an abundance of meat; he also gave them two odalisks, who were, however, unable to seduce them. They escaped from this temptation “as pure as the diamond of Visapur.” When later the Sultan fed his guests for several weeks almost exclusively upon fish, they were no longer able to follow the example of St. Anthony of Padua. Both of the holy men fell victims of a fish diet. Davy’ also mentions the striking fact that fish-eating populations have a very numerous progeny. As he says, no other people are their equals in this.
Other articles of diet, particularly eggs and caviar, are also generally supposed to exert a stimulating action upon sexual activity. It is customary to say, vox populi vox Dei, and as far as foods are concerned I would be inclined to consider that in the case of such empiric beliefs, which have been handed down to us from time immemorial, even medical sciencewhich has undoubtedly frequently profited by such statementsshould not pass them by without notice, as there might possibly be something in them. It seems to me quite certain that a plentiful diet containing, in particular, much protein would have an excitant influence upon the sexual function. We are familiar with the fact that the male sexual glands, when they are well filled, exert a certain stimulus upon the sexual sensory centers. The heads of the spermatozoa, like cell nuclei, consist chiefly of nucleoproteids: When a considerable amount of food rich in nuclein is absorbed in the diet, the spermatozoa become more numerous and are more apt to exert an exciting effect, but when these nuclein bodies are absorbed in inadequate quantities it may be assumed that the spermatozoa can only be formed in small number. Our common experiences would seem to indicate this, for we know that a rich, plentiful diet frequently increases the sexual impulse, while, on the other hand, with poor and somewhat insufficient foodespecially a strict vegetarian dietit is usually diminished. An interesting illustration of this was witnessed by me at Salamanca several years ago, during a journey to the International Medical Congress in Lisbon, in the month of April. I saw in the streets quite a number of dogs running loose; one of them, a female, was following a thin, hungry-looking male dog, and although Darwin says that the female sex is of a more retiring nature than the malea fact which I ascribe to the necessity of a more careful maintenance of the power of reproduction in the sexual organsthis doggie took the greatest pains to attract the male dog by resorting to all the usual endearments peculiar to these animals; all in vain, however, for he failed to carry out his natural duties. This starved animal, in which the ribs and in fact all the bones could be counted, could not be cajoled into such an expenditure of energy, which his miserable food was not capable of supplying. This was a manifestation of sexual apathy which is not often to be noticed in a male dog during the month of April.
It would appear that with a plentiful diet certain foods, such as eggs and fishas has been confirmed by my own observationshave a stimulating effect upon sexual activity. Whitteween, who was busy at an educational establishment for abandoned young people in Ermeloo, also observed that fish, and likewise codliver oil, caused decided stimulation upon the sexual function. The question is, then, whether this peculiarity of fish does not lie in its chemical compositionin some mineral substance which would exert a powerful influence upon the sexual organs. Phosphorus would here first invite our attention, as it is contained in so considerable an amount in these foods.
Very interesting in this connection is a fact reported by Ragner Berg, who found, in the Lahmann Sanatorium “Weisser Hirsch,” that lecithin acts as an aphrodisiac; this would agree with what we have already stated. If a diet rich in nucleins acts as an excitant upon the sexual function, this may be explained by the stimulating effect of such a diet upon the thyroid gland, for we know how intimate is the relation of this gland with the sexual organs. The favorable action of the phosphorus and lecithin-containing foods is also explainable through their influence in exciting nervous activity.
We might add, moreover, that truffles are supposed to act upon the sexual activity. As Brillat-Savarin says, “elles peuvent rendre les femmes plus aimables et les hommes plus amoureux” (they make women more amiable and men more amorous). Truffles are also very rich in phosphorus, as well as in iron. A similar action is ascribed to crabs and lobsters, for they also contain much phosphorus.
Iron, like phosphorus, has a decided influence upon the sexual activity. As we stated in our work on “Old Age Deferred,” iron influences the formation of blood in a round-about way through the ovaries, which, as is now admitted by all, greatly influence blood formation. Foods containing iron and phosphorus thus appear to have a very favorable effect upon sexual activity. The most marked influence is exerted by eggs, caviar, and truffles, which all contain much iron, though that contained in the last-named is in part very poorly assimilated.
The manner in which Brillat-Savarin treated a Parisian who found himself in a state of exhaustion after sexual excesses was most original. He ordered that an old cock be ground up in a mortar; 2 pounds of the very best beef, a handful of parsley, and 3 turnips, each in a separate pan, were boiled for three-quarters o,f an hour; then all these ingredients were mixed and boiled for another quarter of an hour, a little water being added from time to time. Of this strong bouillon he ordered that one cupful be taken by the patient every three hours during the first day, and afterward one cupful every morning for several days. This procedure is interesting for the reason that, in the employment of the sexual organs of the cock, the principles of organotherapy were re-sorted to long before our time.
Conditions existing in the animal world are also interesting in this connection. I may mention here that according to my observations in England horses were in heat and sexually inclined after having eaten the horse-beans which are so much used in that country. It is for this reason that the hunting horses are there fed chiefly upon oats and are not given any of the horse-beans, as they would then become unmanageable because of their sexual excitement. Since horse-beans are much richer in phosphorus than oats, it may be assumed that by a proper selection of foods containing certain nutrient salts the sexual activity may be greatly stimulated.