petrusplancius (petrusplancius) wrote in weirdhistory,

Dr Brown-Sequard's testicular extract

The distinguished physiologist, Charles Edouard Brown-Sequard (1817-94), was very celebrated in his day for having supposedly discovered an ‘elixir of life’ . "On June 1, 1889, before the Sociète de Biologie in Paris, he reported that he had increased his physical strength, mental abilities and appetite by self-injection with an extract derived from the testicles of dogs and guinea pigs; he claimed that his juicy liquide testiculaire increased his physical strength and intellectual prowess, relieved his constipation, and lengthened the arc of his urine."

"Although never substantiated, this claim prompted researchers around the world to pursue the new field of organotherapy, injecting testicular derivatives and transplanting human or animal testicles into patients to treat epilepsy, tuberculosis, diabetes, paralysis, gangrene, anemia, arteriosclerosis, influenza, Addison's disease, hysteria and migraine.
By the end of 1889 more than 12,000 physicians were administering Brown-
Sequard's fluid, and manufacturing chemists were making
fortunes selling the new “Elixir of Life.” In the United
States in particular physicians uneducated in the techniques
and inherent risks of animal injections exploited the public
fervor, putting many patients at risk for infection and

This is what he himself says about his mixture:

“I have made use, in subcutaneous injections, of
a liquid containing a very small quantity of
water mixed with the three following parts :
First, blood of the testicular veins ; secondly,
semen ; and thirdly, juice extracted from a testi-
cle, crushed immediately after it has been taken
from a dog or a guinea-pig... For each injection I have used
nearly one cubic centimeter of the filtered liquid.
The animals employed were a strong, and accord-
ing to all appearances, perfectly healthy dog
(from two to three years old), and a number of
very young or adult guinea-pigs.”

And these are some of the effects that he claimed (he
was about 70), first with regard to the distance that he could project
his urine:

"The average length of the jet during the ten days that preceded the
first injection was inferior by at least one quar-
ter of what it came to be during the twenty fol-
lowing days. It is therefore quite evident that
the power of the spinal cord over the bladder
was considerably increased."

And furthermore:

" One of the most troublesome miseries of ad-
vanced life consists in the diminution of the
power of defecation. To avoid repeating the de-
tails I have elsewhere given in that respect, I
will simply say that after the first days of my
experiments I have had a greater improvement
with regard to the expulsion of fecal matters
than in any other function. In fact a radical
change took place, and even on days of great
constipation the power I long ago possessed had

And last but not least:

" With regard to the facility of intellectual
labor, which had diminished within the last few
years, a return to my previous ordinary condi-
tion became quite manifest during and after the
first two or three days of my experiments.”

It is now realized that the only effects that
His mixture would have been solely due to a placebo
effect; it would not have contained any testosterone,
for example, because the hormone is not soluble
in the water that he used. But it is a most curious,
interesting and, well, weird story.

The original book containing his full account of his
self-experimentation, and some very amusing case-histories
regarding other people on whom the mixture was tried, can be
found here:

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