Because women are by nature weaker than men and because they are most frequently afflicted in childbirth, diseases very often abound in them, especially around the organs devoted to the work of Nature. Moreover, women, from the condition of their fragility, out of shame and embarrassment, do not dare reveal their anguish over their diseases (which happen in such a private place) to a physician. Therefore, their misfortune, which ought to be pitied—and especially the influence of a certain woman stirring my heart—have impelled me to give a clear explanation regarding their diseases in caring for their health.
Because there is not enough heat in women to dry up the bad and superfluous humors which are in them, nor is their weakness able to tolerate sufficient labor so that Nature might expel the excess to the outside through sweat as it does in men, Nature established a certain purgation especially for women: that is, the menses, to temper their poverty of heat. The common people call the menses “the flowers,” because just as trees do not bring forth fruit without flowers, so women without their flowers are cheated of the ability to conceive. This purgation occurs in women just as nocturnal emission happens to men. For Nature, if burdened by certain humors, either in men or in women, always tries to expel or set aside its yoke and reduce its labor.
Trotula, from Book of the Conditions of Women, c.1100. Excerpted from the Medicine issue of Lapham’s Quarterly.
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