Both beaver testicles and castoreum, a bitter-tasting secretion with a slightly fetid odor contained in the castor sacs of male or female beaver, have been articles of trade for use in traditional medicine. Yupik (Eskimo) medicine used dried beaver testicles like willow bark to relieve pain. Dried beaver testicles were also used as contraception. Beaver testicles were exported from the Levant (a region centered on Lebanon and Israel) from the tenth to nineteenth century. Claudius Aelianus comically described beavers chewing off their testicles to preserve themselves from hunters, which is not possible because the beaver's testicles are inside its body. European beavers (Castor fiber) were eventually hunted nearly to extinction in part for the production of castoreum, which was used as an analgesic, anti-inflammatory, and antipyretic. Castoreum was described in the 1911 British Pharmaceutical Codex for use in dysmenorrhea and hysterical conditions (i.e. pertaining to the womb), for raising blood pressure and increasing cardiac output. The activity of castoreum has been credited to the accumulation of salicin from willow trees in the beaver's diet, which is transformed to salicylic acid and has an action very similar to aspirin. Castoreum continues to be used in perfume production.
Much of the early European exploration and trade of Canada was based on the quest for beaver. The most valuable part of the beaver is its inner fur whose many minute barbs make it excellent for felting, especially for hats. In Canada a 'made beaver' or castor gras that an Indian had worn or slept on was more valuable than a fresh skin since this tended to wear off the outer guard hairs.Further information: Fur trade
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