Pep up your sex life with a pinch of salt.

Is your sex life not up to scratch? Is your partner failing to deliver the goods? Are you not getting the satisfaction that you feel you deserve then follow the advice of the good Doctor Moffet and put your partner on a salt rich diet.

Experience teacheth, that Mice lying in Holes laden…with Salt, breed thrice faster there, than if they are laden with other Merchandize. Huntsmen likewise and shepherds seeing a slowness of lust in their Dogs and Cattle, feed then with Salt means to hasten coupling; and what maketh Doves and Goats so lusty and lascivious that they desire to feed upon salt things. Finally remember that lechery (in Latin) is not idlely or at adventure termed Salaritus, Saltishness, or every man knows that the salter our humours be, the more prone and inclinable we are to lechery. Wherefore whosoever coveteth to be freed of that fire … let them altogether abstaine from Salt.

So now you know, if you want more action pile on the salt. If how ever your partner is too demanding put them on a salt free diet.

The above quote is from Thomas Moffet’s Health’s Improvements or Rules Comprising and Discovering the Nature, Method, and Manner of Preparing all Sorts of Food Used, Thomas Newcomb, London, 1655, p. 247. I came across this wonderful piece of early modern sexual therapy in Anna Marie Roos’ (@roos_annamarie) excellent The Salt of the Earth[1] a must read for all those interested in the history of alchemy in the Early Modern Period especially if interested in the transition from alchemy to chemistry. A thanks is due to Ted Hand (@t3dy) who first drew my attention to this wonderful tome.


By a strange coincidence whilst reading Dr Roos’ book I was also doing background reading for a lecture on the history of microscopy in the 17th century that I’m holding later in the year when I stumbled across the Good Doctor Moffet a second time curiosity awakened I thought I would try and find out a little bit more about our erstwhile sexual therapist.

Thomas Moffet (or Muffet or Moufet) was probably born in Shoreditch as the second son of a haberdasher, also called Thomas, in 1553. He was educated at the Merchant Taylors’ School before going up to Cambridge in 1569. He graduated BA in 1573 studying, amongst other things, medicine under John Caius. He graduated MA in 1576 and like many other Englishmen of the period went abroad to further his studies. He studied medicine at Basel under the care of Felix Platter in whose house he also boarded. It was Platter’s book De corporis humani structura et usu … libri III, which supplied the medical background to Kepler’s new theory of vision in his Ad Vitellionem paralipomena from 1604. Whilst in Basel Moffet acquired a passion for the medical theories of Paracelsus; a passion that caused him problem with his doctorate and also with the medical establishment when he later returned to England. He finally graduated MD in 1579 after rewriting his initially rejected Paracelsian thesis and set up a medical practice in Frankfurt.

He travelled extensively in Europe and became very interested in the silkworm culture in Italy about which he would later publish a thesis in the form of a poem.  On his travels he became acquainted with several prominent academics including Joachim Camerarius jun in Nürnberg also a doctor of medicine and a leading natural historian. On a later trip to Europe Moffet met Peter Severinus and Tycho Brahe in Copenhagen. Severinus was one of the leading European Paracelsians, court medicus to the Danish King and one of Brahe’s patrons. Brahe was also a Paracelsian medical practitioner. Back in England in 1583 Moffet wrote and published a book on Paracelsian chemical medicine De jure et praestantia chemicorum medicamentorum dedicated to Severinus. The book established him a good reputation in continental Europe.

Despite initial opposition to his medical views from the English establishment Moffet became a very successful medical practitioner with many wealthy and influential clients. He was even on the committee that compiled the College of Physicians’ Pharmacopoeia Londinensis the physicians’ prescription bible that was famously translated into English by the apothecary Nicholas Culpepper in order to make it accessible to those too poor to afford a qualified physician.

Moffet died in 1604 a successful and respected medicus who had contributed much in his medical writings to the establishment of the Paracelsian chemical medicine in England but he is more remembered for two posthumous publications. The first is his Health’s Improvements, with which I started this post, which is a compendium of thoughts on diets and eating habits first published in 1655, which seems to have enjoyed a certain popularity.

It was Moffet’s other posthumous publication that turned up in my reading on the history of microscopy. In 1634 Sir Thomas Mayerne published Insectorum sive, Minimorum animalium theartrum, which was republished in English translation by J Rowland as The Theater of Insects or Lesser Living Creatures in 1658.


This compendium of entomological studies had completed a rather long and devious journey before it was finally published. Originally written by Thomas Penny (1532 – 1589) a friend and medical colleague of Moffet’s it incorporated an unpublished manuscript of the great Swiss naturalist Conrad Gesner’s, with whom Penny had worked at the time of his death, as well as investigation made by Edward Wotton (1492 – 1555) another physician and mutual friend. Incomplete at Penny’s death the manuscript passed into Moffet’s hands. Moffet revised and extended the manuscript but was unable to find a publisher for the long text (over 500 pages) with more than 650 illustrations. By the time Moffet died the manuscript was still unpublished and passed through several hands before Mayere acquired and published it.


The book is one of the most important pre-microscope works on entomology. Unfortunately it’s not possible to say which of the four authors contributed what to the book but it seems relatively clear that Penny was the main author and Moffet largely just the editor.

One final strange fact about Moffet is the unsubstantiated contention that the Little Miss Muffet of nursery rhyme fame was Moffet’s daughter based on his reputation as an early arachnologist.

Little Miss Muffet sat on a tuffet

Eating her curds and whey

When down came a spider

Which sat down beside her

And frightened Miss Muffet away

[1] Anna Marie Roos, The Salt of the Earth: Natural Philosophy, Medicine, and Chymistry in England 1650-1750, Brill, Leiden & Boston, 2007, p. 23


Filed under Early Scientific Publishing, History of science, Renaissance Science

5 responses to “Pep up your sex life with a pinch of salt.

  1. Spice, not salt: for years, we’ve been told to spice up our sex lives.

    My condiments to you on a fascinating post.

  2. Jeb

    A very distinguished instructor with a wicked sense of humour once said to me many years ago. “Young man you must read at least one book every day, I find it helps if it’s pornographic.” No idea why but for some reason or other I have never forgotten his words.

    I like the way you ended, read the theater of insects but not the rules of food. Won’t forget to look at it sometime as rhyme will remind me.


  3. Pingback: The Giants’ Shoulders #58: Without theme | Asylum Science

  4. Pingback: Pep up your sex life with a pinch of salt. | The Renaissance Mathematicus | Luceafar Luceafarul VIII `Lucifer

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