Their Physical, Intellectual, and Moral Effects On The Human System.
By Dr. William A. Alcott,
Author of "The Library of Health," "House I Live In," "Vegetable Diet," "Health Tracts," "Use of Tobacco," etc.
Fifth Stereotype Edition.
New York: Published by Samuel R. Wells, No. 389 Broadway.
TEA AND COFFEE.
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Part I. - TEA.
HISTORY OF TEA.
Exhilarating properties of tea. Its introduction into Europe. Amount consumed. Increase of this consumption.
That every variety of tea sold in our American market, if good for anything, is, in a greater or less degree, exciting or exhilarating, is, I believe, generally known. Few would long continue to use an article - even with the addition of cream, milk or sugar - which had no other effect on the system than that of pure water, viz., to quench thirst.
Of the nature and extent of the excitement produced by tea, however, most persons appear to be ignorant. They are, in all probability, little aware that it pervades, by its influence, the whole vital domain; and so far as it excites or exhilarates at all does it by affecting the brain and nervous system, the stomach, heart, liver, etc., in nearly the same way with distilled and fermentated liquors, opium and tobacco. They rarely suspect that they are admitting to their embrace, in the guise of a friend, a most insidious and dangerous enemy - one who is silently, though slowly, undermining and destroying the very citadel of life itself. That such is the fact, however, I shall be compelled by a stern regard for truth, to prove.
Tea does not appear to have been known, in Europe or America, till about two hundred years ago. Now as Europe has been settled more than 3200 years, it follows that not less than 10,000,000,000 of its earlier inhabitants must have gone down to the grave without the knowledge of tea, while not more than about 500,000,000, or one twentieth part as many, have ever tasted it. Whether among the immense host who lived and dies without this Chinese beverage, there was any want of that physical vigor which enables men to till the soil, raise a structure, and fight the battles of their countries, may be left to the decision of those who are familiar with the scanty records of Greece, Rome, Britain, and the other mighty or polished nations, who, having had their infancy, maturity and decrepitude, are now well nigh forgotten.
The tea plant, of which there are two varieties - the viridis or green, and the bohea or black tea - is a native of China and Japan; and was for a long time confined to those countries. Of late, however, attempts have been made to cultivate it in the island of Java; and with the aid of Chinese laborers, in Brazil; and about twelve years ago it was introduced into France. It is highly probably that this plant, in both of its varieties, might be cultivated, indeed I fear it will be - in the United States.
I have said that tea did not find its way into Europe till about two hundred years ago. The East India Company appear to have imported it, in 1664. they brought two pound and two ounces of it, as a present to the British king. From that time to the present, its use has been increasing - sometimes more, sometimes less rapidly. The present yearly consumption of the article in Great Britain is variously estimated, but can hardly be less than 50,000,000 pounds. The other European countries use much less in proportion to their population; though in Russia and Holland the consumption is becoming considerable. France consumes but little, but what is wanting in tea, they make up in coffee, wine and tobacco.
Perhaps no country of Europe or America makes so much use of tea as the United States; its use, moreover, is rapidly increasing. In 1821, the amount imported was a little short of 5,000,000 pound. In 1836 - fifteen years afterward - it was 16,382,114. The increase, however, was the most rapid between the years 1830 and 1836 - being about 100 percent; while that between 1821 and 1828 was little more than 50 percent. A small part of the importations of each year were re-exported; but never, probably, to the extent of 2,000,000 pounds.
The amount imported from 1821 to 1838, inclusive of those two years, was something more than 150,000,000 pounds, at an estimated cost of the consumers of $125,000,000. That between 1834 and 1837 - four years - was over $60,000,000. The amount likely to be imported and consumed, between 1838 and 1850, allowing an average annual increase equal to that of the years 1833 to 1837, is about 240,000,000 pounds; and the expense, without reckoning the time, cost of fuel, etc., employed in its preparation, will probably fall but little short of $150,000,000.
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TEA A MEDICINE.
General remarks. Tea shown to be a medicinal substance. Effects produced by it. Experiment by a dentist of New York.
The object of the present chapter will be to show that tea, in all its varieties, and in all circumstances, is really and truly a medicine.
Who does not know that "a good cup of tea," as it is called, taken either at the close of a fatiguing day's work, or when we are drowsy, will remove the fatigue or dispel the drowsiness? Who has not read, in the life of that distinguished and philanthropic teacher, Anthony Benezet, that he always removed the fatigue of the school-room, by strong tea? And how many literary men have done, and are still doing that which is essentially the same?
But we need not go abroad very far in search of examples of the exciting or medicinal qualities of this substance. We find people, everywhere, especially females, in the daily use of this beverage, either to relieve fatigue, or to dispel drowsiness or pain. Yet no intelligent person, it is believed, will pretend, for one moment, that his strength is restore by the nutriment of the tea; for if there be any, it can only be in very small quantity. It takes some time - usually from two to four hours - for a substance to go through the whole digestive process, and be converted into blood, and give us strength in that way. Whereas the relief from tea is definitely sudden; almost instantaneous. It comes, doubtless, through the medium of the nervous system. The nerves of the stomach are excited - in other words - irritated - by the substance received; the irritation is conveyed to the brain; and this last is roused to impart an increased, though short-lived energy to the whole system.
Now whether this increased energy of the system - this fictitious strength - is imparted by tea, coffee, opium, alcohol or tobacco, or by several of them conjoined, makes, in my view, very little difference. None of these substances for a particle of blood, or give any natural, healthy strength. They only give strength by nervous irritation, and relieve fatigue or induce sleep, by the nervous depression or exhaustion which follows; and which is always in proportion to the previous excitement. The female who restores her strength by tea, the laborer who regains strength by spirituous liquors, and the Turk who recruits his energies by his pill of opium, are in precisely the same condition; so far, I mean, as the stimulation, merely, is concerned.
It has been said that the first effects of tea are exciting. Certain it is, that not a few tea drinkers, at times, so far lose their powers of self-possession and self-command, as to say and do many things which, in their cooler hours, they deeply regret. Not only is the tongue loose, but the whole countenance is flushed, and the eye preternaturally animated. In truth, as in the case of receiving a moderate dose of opium or alcohol, the vital energies are roused to a degree which changes even the gait; and perhaps, for a time, promotes general activity and industry.
But it is in the sedative or depressing effects of tea that we find the strongest proof of its medicinal character. Besides, if it did not first raise us above the line of healthy action, we should never find ourselves sinking so far below it afterward.
Among the indications that the system is suffering from the sedative, depressing, or secondary effects of tea, are headache, wakefulness, palpitation of the heart; trembling; loss of appetite; indigestion; nervous prostration; great susceptibility to fatigue; and chronic affections of the vital organs, accompanied often by emaciation, sallowness of the skin, and a peculiar appearance of the surface of the body, that reminds one of the applications of an astringent.*
It ought, however, to be observed, in connection with the last mentioned indication, that if the countenance is naturally fresh, it may in some instances require many years to induce the change of color. Nor is it denied that other influences may combine with the tea to produce any of the symptoms which have been mentioned.
Who are they that complain most of nervousness, irregular appetite and sleep, unequal warmth and strength, and general ill health? Who suffer most from the dread of poverty, misfortune, sickness, death, and future woe? Who find most fault with the work around them, and with the dispensations and arrangements of Divine Providence? Who complain most of the emptiness and sickliness of all things below the sin? I do not ask who entertains the strongest belief in the vanity of all sublunary things, but who complains and frets most? Assuredly, they are the individuals who use the most nervous excitants; among whom tea and coffee drinkers often have the pre-eminence. Not, indeed, when under the first influence of their favorite beverage, but whole they are suffering from its sedative or secondary effects.
But this leads me to say, that tea is even show to be a sedative medicine by its effects. Dr. Burdell, a dentist of New York, having often noticed the great nervousness of tea drinkers, made the following experiment:
Having steeped a pound of young hyson tea in pure soft water, and strained out the grounds, the liquor was subsequently evaporated to half a pint. This extract was applied to the nerves of those teeth which required an operation in order to lessen their sensibility, and thus prevent at least a part of the pain. The experiment was attended with complete success; and he has ever since continued the use of the extract in this way, it is said, this substance may be used as an effectual substitute for opium, oil of cloves, creosote and arsenic, all of which have been more or less used by the mass of the people, and even by dentists themselves, for the purpose of lessening or destroying the sensibility of the dental nerves.
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TEA A POSITIVE POISON.
Every medicine a poison. Particular evidence in regard to tea. The tea disease. Ten cases of disease caused by tea. Testimony of various authors on the effects of tea on the human system.
It may be said, perhaps, that to treat of tea as both a medicine and a poison, is to make a distinction without a difference, since every efficient medicine is a poison of course. There is truth in the suggestion; nevertheless it is more convenient to arrange my thoughts on the subject under two separate heads.
One evidence that tea is poisonous, is found in the fact that, like alcohol, stramonium, belladonna, and many other medicines, it produces its specific disease - the tea disease. This part of our subject will be best illustrated by the experiments and deductions of Mr. John Cole, a distinguished member of the Royal College of Surgeons in London.
Mr. Cole does not, indeed, attempt to show that every tea drinker has the tea disease: a point as difficult to establish as that every one who uses alcoholic drinks of any kind has the drunkard's disease. All who use tea, however, are on the high road to the tea disease, just as every dram drinker, and in truth every wine, cider and beer drinker, is on the road to delirium tremens.
There is one thing, moreover, which seems a little peculiar in relation to the effects of tea. Though it disturbs, most readily, those constitutions whose tone has been lowered from the healthy standard, by fatigue, debility, loss of blood, etc., yet it has also the power, when taken a long time in excessive quantity, of reducing the health constitution to that state in which it become accessible to its own deleterious influence. The following is his description; the progress of the disease, in those whose systems were already prepared to be injuriously affected by it.
"In a longer or short time after taking the beverage, (from a few minutes to two or three hours,) an uncomfortable feeling arises in the stomach - a craving, sinking emptiness - which soon acquired a degree of intensity that is almost insupportable. The hunger-like gnawing and craving are described as being, and to the last degree, painful to endure. The stomach being full, has no effect in preventing its accession; neither does eating to relieve it. This is often all that is felt for a long time; but by degrees a fluttering, as of a bird, in the left side, is superadded; and a feeling of fullness pervades the chest, with breathless and frequent sighing. The fullness is more especially felt about the clavicles, (or collar bones,) and the root of the neck.
"When black tea or coffee has been taken, considerable excitement often ushers in this succession of phenomena; the face becomes flushed, the eyes sparkle with unusual brilliance; all the earlier effects of intoxication from alcohol are observable - the pulse being full and throbbing, and considerably quickened. If green tea have been taken, the previous excitement isles, or perhaps not at all perceptible; the skin soon becomes pale, the eyes become sunken, the pulse feeble, quick and fluttering, or slow and weak.
"Whichever may have been taken, in the progress of the affection, the hands and feet often become cold as marble and bedewed with a clammy sweat. Efforts to warm them are made in vain, even in the hottest weather; a feeling of coldness and numbness also invades the back part of the head.
"This is the milder form of the disease, (if I may so term it,) the one which is most commonly seen; but occasionally a variety of aggravated symptoms arise. To the coldness and benumbed feeling of the back of the head, there is added formication of the scalp, (sensation as if ants were creeping in it,) violent pain in the head, dimness of the sight, unsteadiness in walking, and vertigo; and these are accompanied by a fluttering, feeble pulse. To the feeling of fullness of the chest and about the clavicles, are added threatening of suffocation, insensibility, and convulsions. The sufferings felt in the stomach are aggravated to violent spasms. The flutterings at the heart become pain, violent palpitation, or enfeebled action, bringing on a syncope. I may add, here, that the mind does not escape injury, but partakes of the disorders of the body, as is seen by the temper becoming peevish and irritable, so as to render the sufferer a torment to all about him."
Who does not see, in a substance that can induce all these mischiefs on the living system, a less sever though certain poison? Is there a possibility of mistake?
But Mr. C. brings forward a list of ten cases of disease from tea drinking, of which the following is an abstract. It should be premised, however, that except during what he calls paroxysms, this distinguished surgeon was not in the habit of giving medicine - relying solely, for a cure, on total abstinence from the drinks which produced this mischief.
His first case was that of a female, thirty-five years of age, who complained of great pain in the stomach after eating, with a sense of sinking and emptiness, and such a feeling of faintness that she could hardly walk, followed by fluttering in the side, fullness about the clavicles, and vomiting.
The second was that of a female, forty years of age. She was just recovering from catarrhal fever, when one morning after taking her breakfast, she was seized with symptoms similar to those already mentioned, except the vomiting. It appeared on inquiry that her tea that morning (it was black tea) had been made stronger than usual, and that she had also drank more than was customary with her.
His third case was that of a female, thirty years of age, who had long been in the use of very strong green tea, in large quantity. For a year before Mr. C. was called, she had been subject to violent spasms of the stomach, which had at times become so frequent and sever, that the slightest exertion, even a little walking, was sufficient to bring them on. When Mr. C arrived, she was suffering from spasms of unusual violence. She had likewise the other usual symptoms of tea disease. On inquiry, he was fully satisfied that all the trouble, in this case, was the effect of tea. She was directed to abstain from it; and for several weeks had no return of the spasms, nor any other symptom particular of disease. But one day, on venturing upon a single cup of her favorite beverage, she had a slight attack of her old complaint. She resumed her abstinence, and remained well.
The fourth case was that of another female, thirty years old. She had the usual symptoms of tea disease, or tea poison, with the usual nervous suffering. The tea she had used was green tea. She had been in the use of digitalis and colchicum a fortnight, with no other effect than to add to her sufferings, as might have been expected from the addition of two more poisons to the one which was already undermining her constitution. She abstained from tea, and in three days recovered.
The fifth case was that of a female, twenty-five years of age, famous in her profession of tea drinking. Mr. C. prohibited tea as usual; but was surprised to find, after having made his daily visits for a week or so, she was no better. On a more rigid search, he found she was still indulging herself clandestinely. She complied, at length with his prohibition, and in a few days was well.
Case sixth was that of an author and parliamentary reporter, of middle age. He was a green tea drinker - sometimes using it strong, as his common drink, for five or six hours together, to keep up his mental strength. He had become so enslaved, that two or three times a week, he was found lying in a state of insensibility on the floor.
A middle aged mother was the seventh. She had been subject for some time to occasional fits of insensibility, which occurred in the evening. She had used black tea twice a day, which Mr. C., suspecting to be the cause of the mischief, forbade her, and she quickly recovered - I should have said that the had taken the strongest medicines without success.
A shop-keeper, forty years of age, is next mentioned. He was not only a great tea-drinker, but also a coffee drinker. His head was more affected than that of the others. To total abstinence from every drink but water was added, in this case, for ten days, a little valerian.
The ninth case was that of a young man of twenty-two - a great drunkard, even at this early age, on black tea. In addition to the other symptoms of tea disease, he was at length attacked with bleeding at the nose, and convulsions. He was cured in the usual manner, in a very short time.
The last case mentioned is that of a female - a most devoted slave of the tea-pot. She had been suffering long, but would not abandon the cause of her suffering, till a severe cough with a bloody expectoration, compelled her to do it.
Mr. C. concludes his remarks by observing - "I could extend the number of cases so as to form a body of evidence which it would be difficult to resist. Those I have brought forward are, I think, sufficient to excite considerable doubt as to the harmless qualities of
"The cups that cheer, but not inebriate."
"If it be true," he adds, "that the continued disturbance of the function of an organ will induce change of structure, what are we to expect from the use of tea twice a day, when it deranges the function of the heart for three or four hours after each time of its being taken? If the answer be that it may be expected to produce some structural disease, then there arises this other question - May not the greater prevalence of cardiac (or heart) disease, of late years, have been considerably influence by the increased consumption of tea and coffee?
But Mr. Cole is not the only individual who has suspected tea of containing poison. Distinguished men of both hemispheres have entertained the same suspicions; and several have verified them by experiment.
"As early as 1767," says Mr. Graham, in his Lectures on the Science of Human Life, "Dr. Smith, of Edinburgh, demonstrated, by a series of careful experiments, that an infusion of green tea has the same effect as henbane, tobacco, cicuta, etc., on the living tissues of the animal properties. In 1772 Dr. Lettsom, of Ireland, made a series of similar experiments, with similar results. And still later, Dr. Beddoes, of England, by a series of experiments, several times repeated, completely demonstrated that tea is as powerfully destructive to life as laurel water, opium, or digitalis. Indeed, it is entirely certain that a small quantity of a strong decoction of tea or coffee will destroy human life, in one unaccustomed to the use of it, as quickly as an equal quantity of laudanum." Dr. Beddoes applied a strong decoction of tea to hears just taken from living frogs, which extinguished their vitality almost instantly.
Dr. Cullen, a Scotch physician of great eminence, whose writings are among the standard books of our best medical schools, observes that "scientific experiments prove than an infusion of green tea has the effect to destroy the sensibility of the nerves, and the irritability of the muscles." He says still further, and without excluding black tea, (the properties of which, as we shall see presently, are essentially the same with those of the green tea, only more active) - "From the experiments above mentioned, and from the observations which I have made in the course of fifty years, upon all sorts of persons, I am convinced that the properties of tea are both narcotic and sedative.
But what does Dr. Cullen mean by narcotics? His definition is - "As their power and operation (that of narcotics generally) may be extended so far as to extinguish the vital principle altogether, they form that set of substances which properly and strictly may be called poisonous."
Dr. Combe, in his work on Digestion and Dietetics, observes, that "when made very strong, or taken in large quantity, especially late in the evening, they (tea and coffee) not only ruin the stomach, but very seriously derange the health of the brain and nervous system.
The Encyclopedia Americana says - "The effects of tea on the human system are those of a very mild narcotic taken in small quantities - that is exhilarating."
The Catechism of Health, usually attributed to Dr. Bell, of Philadelphia, says that "tea (black tea I suppose he means, as well as green) when drank strong and in large quantity, impairs the powers of the stomach, produces various nervous symptoms," etc.
Prof. Sweetser, of New York, in a work on Digestion and its Disorders, says of both kinds of tea, black and green, that owing to a volatile oil they contain, they are both stimulant to the nervous system." After proceeding to mention all or nearly all the effects which have been described to tea by Mr. Cole and others, and noticing the custom of physicians of referring them to other causes rather than the tea, he concludes by saying - "I am inclined to think that the evil is to be ascribed to the peculiar properties of the tea itself."
Dr. Hooper, in his Medical Dictionary, says - "Tea, in its natural state, is a narcotic plant, on account of which the Chinese refrain from its use till it has been divested of this property by keeping it at least twelve months. When taken too copiously, it is apt to occasion weakness, tremor, palsies, and various other symptoms, arising from narcotic plants."
"Not a case of sick headache," says Dr. Burdell, of New York, "has ever occurred within my knowledge, except with the drinkers of narcotic drinks, (meaning tea and coffee,) and not a case has failed of cure, on the entire renunciation of these drinks."
Dr. Beaumont, a surgeon in the United States army, whose experiments have attracted the attention of the whole medical world, says - "Even coffee and tea, the common beverage of all classes of people, have a tendency to debilitate the digestive organs. Let anyone who is in the habit of drinking either of these articles in a weak decoction, take two or three cups made very strong, and he will soon be aware of their injurious tendency. Yet this is only an addition to the strength of the narcotic he is in the constant habit of using."
The reader will observe that Dr. Beaumont calls tea, no less than coffee, a narcotic. His testimony, with many, will be the more valuable, when it is know that he does not bring it to support a theory, but as the result of mere experiment - in other words, as matter of pure science.
Green tea, moreover, is spoken of, in some of our journals, especially the Boston Medical and Surgical Journal, as being very efficient, as a remedy in the case of burns and scalds, on account, most unquestionably, of its narcotic, anodyne, or poisonous properties. The Transylvania Journal of Medicine regards it as any anodyne; as truly so, in some cases, as opium.
But I have not yet done. From the busy commercial world are derived the following curious and interesting statements.
The London Quarterly Review says there is a manufactory near Canton in China, where the worst kinds of coarse black tea are converted into green tea, by heating the leaves moderately on iron, and white lead; by which process it acquires a blooming blue color, not unlike that of plums, and that crispy appearance which is supposed to indicate the fine green teas. The writer says he saw 50,000 chests of this spurious article ready for shipping, and on inquiring for what market it was intended, was told that it was for the American.
Other statements speak of Prussian blue and plaster of Paris; but whatever the truth in the case may be, we have reason, at the least, to suspect that a large share of the teas imported, are damaged, or worthless teas, manufactured to suit the market. The Americans must have tea, and the Chinese, an accommodating people are ready to furnish them with it!
It is said, I know, that if it could be proved that the green teas are poisonous, the same testimony cannot be brought against black tea. But I have endeavored to show, from various authorities, that even black teas com in for a share of poison. Mr. Brande, the distinguished chemist, has ascertained, by actual and patient experiment, that there is no perceptible difference, in this respect, between green teas and black teas.
Suppose, however, it were not so. Admit, for the moment, that black tea is harmless. How small a proportion of this sort of tea is consumed among us: The proportion of the various kinds of black teas imported, amount to only six-twentieths of the whole, as may be seen by the following table:
Bohea, ... 1-20th of the whole.
Souchong and other black teas, ... 5-20ths of the whole.
Hyson and Young Hyson, ... 9-20ths of the whole.
Hyson Skin & other green teas, ... 4-20ths of the whole.
Imperial and Gunpowder, ... 1-20th of the whole.
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TENDENCY TO DISEASE.
Tea injures the teeth. How. Hot and cold drinks. Neglect of mastication. Use of tea by ancestors. Effects on the senses. Tea always more or less injurious.
In speaking of tea as a medicine, I have had occasion to prove, at length, its tendency to produce what Mr. Cole has denominated the tea disease; and under both that and another head, have more than alluded to its efficacy in producing headache, dyspepsia, etc. In this chapter, I shall endeavor to come to particulars.
Tea injures the teeth, indirectly, and induces premature decay. The vulgar belief, that hot, cold, sweet and acrid substances injure the teeth by mere contact, is probably untrue. Not even mercury does this, nor henbane, nor hemlock. A very powerful and highly concentrated acid might indeed do it, if they were unhappily exposed to it. The injury, however, it usually done in what may be called an indirect manner. Let us consider this subject.
It is a generally received doctrine, among medical men, that whatever injures the gums, injures the teeth, through that medium. Now many things which are received into the mouth injure the gums. Every thing which is either extremely hot or extremely cold, does this. Tea is usually taken too hot, and by rendering the gums diseases, produces caries of the teeth. This is one way in which the mischief I have alluded to, is brought about.
But the teeth are injured through the medium of the stomach. The same membrane which lines the mouth, extends to the stomach and lines it; and whatever instrumentalities affect the latter unfavorably, have a proportional effect upon the former. Among these are hot and cold drinks. So that hot tea has a double agency in producing that species of disease, of which I am now speaking.
One evidence of the tendency of hot drinks to induce caries of the teeth and gums, is derived from an examination of the cows near cities, fed on still slops, and other slops at too high a temperature. When this subject was strongly agitated in New York, a few years since, the teeth of cows on some of the milk farms in that vicinity, were examined, and the results were most striking. In the case of the cow which was fed upon natural food, the teeth were perfectly healthy, and the enamel - the hard substance which coats the tooth wherever it projects beyond the gum - was quite healthy and sound. The portions of the jaw which support the teeth, forming their sockets, called the alveolar process, were also healthy. Nor was there any accumulation of tartar between the teeth; on the contrary, they were firm and white.
But in the cow fed upon still slops, hot from an adjacent distillery, the whiteness of the teeth was gone; in other words, they had lost their enamel. Nor was the decay wholly confined to the enameled part of the teeth, for even the bony part had suffered, as was shown by a general diminution of size. Caries had also commenced, as was evident from the black spots. Indeed the alveolar processes had themselves become diseased; ulcers formed at the roots of the teeth; the portion of the jawbone opposite these roots had become affected and was broken off, and one of the teeth had quite disappeared.
But whatever injures the lining membrane of the stomach to such an extent as to react upon the teeth, must, of course, affect the nerves of this great central organ of the body, and not only produce disease at this point, but also in every organ or part of the system which sympathizes strongly with it. Dyspepsia, nervous or sick headache, heart disease, palsy, and sometimes epilepsy - in truth, every form of nervousness and nervous disease which can be named, may be, at times, the legitimate and certain fruit of tea drinking. Or when these diseases originate in other sources, they are always greatly aggravated by it.
In particular does tea drinking tend to paralytic affections, and to nervous headache. Let not the slave to tea solace herself with the idea that tea cures her headache. It may, it is true, afford temporary relief; it often has done so. But the complaint is always aggravated by it, and the seeds of other diseases are often sown.
Decay of teeth, and disease of the stomach, moreover, are hastened by other causes. It is a well known fact that the teeth, like most other parts of the animal machine, last much better for being used, at least moderately. But they who wash down their food with their tea, masticate less in the same proportion; and consequently have their teeth more subject to decay.
For this very reason, too - that is, from the fact that the food is less perfectly masticated and insalivated - digestion is less perfect. Dr. Arbuthnot says - "Mastication is a very necessary preparation of solid aliment, without which there can be no good digestion." Solid aliment, well chewed, is moist enough without any addition. When, however, we swallow large quantities of any drink, cold or hot, the absorbents of the stomach are taxed, and its vital energies expended in carrying off the superfluous liquid; so that the process of digestion, being commenced and carried on by a weakened stomach, must necessarily be in the same proportion imperfect. Hence many unpleasant sensations, such as fullness, wind, distention, heat, acidity, and even pain; and hence, too, as the final result, chronic inflammation, schirrhus, cancer, and many more diseases.
Some of the evil effects of tea drinking fall with greatest weight upon females. How many women who think they cannot get along a single day without tea, owe to it their cold feet and hands, their liability to frequent cold, their peculiar difficulties, especially their weakening ones, and their loss of appetite. No wonder tea drinkers are so frequently small eaters, when their tea has gradually destroyed their appetite!
One cause of scrofulous constitution - I mean by inheritance - is to be found in the use of tea by ancestors. Whatever weakens the nerves - especially those of the stomach - in a mother, is sure to entail a tendency to disease on her offspring, which will not infrequently prove to be scrofula or tuberculous consumption.
The senses, or rather the organs of the sense, are sometimes made to suffer from the slow poison of tea; -- especially the organs of vision and taste. The hearing is affected, at least indirectly, by colds, which are more frequent for the use of tea. Sometimes the voice is affected by tea drinking; but this is a less frequent result than any of the former.
It is not, of course, for one moment to be believed, that black tea tens to disease as much as green tea; or tea that is weak, as much as that which is strong. But it is to be believed and maintained, that tea of both kinds, and in every degree of strength, tends to disease in a greater or less degree, because in every form and at every degree of strength, it is more or less poisonous.
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INJURY TO THE INTELLECT.
Reason why tea may be expected to injure the intellect. The customary opinion considered. Facts and causes. Literary giants.
If tea affects the brain and nerves, and produces not only that state of things which is everywhere known and called by the general term "nervousness," but also the severer forms of nervous disease; if moreover, it affects those avenues to knowledge, the senses, it is manifest it must affect all those powers and faculties of the mind whose results we call intellect.
I am not ignorant that this beverage is taken by thousands, as a sharpener of the intellect; unaware, wholly so, of its remoter benumbing tendency. But this no more proves its usefulness, than does the confidence of the ignorant in brandy, tobacco, or opium, for the same purpose. On the contrary, the very fact that it increases, at first, the vividness of the sensations, causes a preternatural activity of the ideas, and unlooses the tongue, only serves to raise our suspicions against it. There is no doubt that the mind of every person is made more dull, in the end, by its use.
It is said of one of the giants of our American literature, that after a long season of mental depression, amounting, sometimes, to a fit of hypochondria - induced, no doubt, from former potations - he would suddenly resume his teacups, and accomplish, for a few days, a prodigious amount of mental labor, after which he would sink down, and become again, for a long period, a more hibernating animal. Yet he destroyed himself, prematurely, in this way, in the end. Dr. Johnson, moreover, another giant of literature of another century and country, is believed to have essentially injured his intellectual faculties - if indeed he did not greatly hasten his dissolution - by his excess in tea drinking. Other cases might be cited.
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ITS EFFECT ON MORALS.
Tea drinking leads to intemperance. It subjects us to the dominion of our appetite. Is demoralizing by its waste.
Among the thousands who use tea, there are not a few who know it to be a foolish habit, and there are even some who believe it to be absolutely wrong. And yet in spite of their convictions, many there are who will not discontinue it.
I need no stop to prove that a daily indulgence in what we know to be wrong, is of immoral tendency; nor that Christians, and indeed all other people, are under obligation to get rid of every improper or foolish habit, and to do all to the glory of God. It is sufficient to announce the fact, and leave the matter to the conscientiousness of the reader.
A more important step is, to show that the tendency of tea drinking to intemperance, is immoral. Whatever takes away from us the power of self-government, and leaves us the slaves of others or of our own propensities, is of this description, and is therefore wrong.
Some may startle at the intimation that tea drinking leads to intemperance. But such persons should know that whatever keeps up or encourages a morbid or unnatural thirst in the community, exposes to the danger of gratifying that thirst with extra stimulants. Indeed, tea is itself an extra stimulus, and is drank for the sake of the stimulus, whatever some may think to the contrary. He who is in the habit of exciting his nervous system with tea, however slightly - so that he can labor or think the better for it - is already in the path of intemperance, in the strictest sense of the term, and has no guaranty that he shall not advance, in the high road he has entered, to its grosser and more destructive forms.
The tea drinking subjects us, in no trifling degree, to the dominion of the animal appetites, will, I think, hardly be doubted. He who is dependent, for strength of body or mind, to any thing whatever which is a mere excitant of the nervous system, has his spiritual nature, in a degree somewhat in proportion, enslaved to the animal propensities. Such a result is inevitable.
But the tremendous waste which the use of this beverage occasions, to which I have alluded in the first chapter - I mean the mere pecuniary waste - is another evidence of its demoralizing tendency. It is no light thing to spend ten or twelve millions of dollars ever year* on an article which is acknowledge, at best, to be a mere luxury, and not in any ordinary sense of the term, a necessary. It is not only presupposing much callousness of moral feeling, but greatly adds to it. Especially is this true then of a community that boasts of its charities when some of the noblest of those charities - of which, too, we make our boast - do not coast us, nationally, but a quarter of a million. Take, for example, the foreign missionary cause. Is it not passing strange that a Christian community, which with every possible exertion can scarcely be roused to give $250,000 a year for the conversion of the world, will spend more than forty times that sum for its tea? Is not the influence, then, of tea drinking demoralizing?
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THE USUAL DEFENSE OF TEA DRINKERS.
First defense. Second - all things said to be poisonous. Tea invigorating. Nourishing. Plea of experience. Experiments of Dr. Beaumont. Stomach "accommodating." Defense of obstinacy .
Some will say - "But suppose it were granted that tea is a medicine - a point which you have labored long and hard to prove - what is this against its use? Has not the tomato been recommended by physicians and others for this very reason, that it has medical properties? Is it not so with the onion? Still more; are not more of all our condiments - mustard, pepper, spice, saleratus, ginger, cinnamon, and even salt and vinegar - in themselves medicines?
I do not deny that the substances here mentioned are either medicines, or contain medicinal properties; but I cannot admit the justness of the inference which is made. For however healthy mankind are in the use of those substances with their meals, they would certainly be more healthy without them. Medicine, properly speaking, is a foreign substance; a foe to the powers of life. It has no natural affinity to the stomach, nor to any proper articles of food or drink which are received into it. This is true, whether in the form of calomel, opium, alcohol, mustard or pepper; and in the smallest as well as the largest quantity. It is true of the small quantity of medicine found in tomatoes, onions and tea. They are not the better as food or drink for possessing medical properties; but the worse. Medicine and food are, in their action and effects, wholly incompatible with each other.
"But you have said," I shall also be told, "that tea of all kinds is more or less poisonous. Now what is that to him who uses it? All things we eat or drink contain poison, more or less, or they would probably do us no good."
This defense of tea is more lame than the former. For, in the first place, it is not true that poison is necessary to our support, as some ignorantly maintain. Nor is it even true that all things contain it that we eat. Not one of the farinaceous grains contains poison - a particle of it - in any ordinary circumstances. Ergot, a strong poison, is indeed occasionally found in rye, but its appearance is only occasional. The same may be said of a few other poisons which find their way into our grains. But pure, healthy grain, I say again, has no poison in it. Nor have apples, pears, melons, currants, strawberries and other common fruits; with potatoes, beets, etc. and peas and beans.
Is it asked how then we can obtain the poison of alcohol from them? I answer, by a chemical change, viz., fermentation. Whatever contains saccharine or sugary matter can be made to ferment; and fermentation produces - I might almost say creates - alcohol. So the separation of plaster of Paris, by a chemical process, results in oil of vitriol and quick lime, two rank poisons; but who will say there is any vitriol or lime in the plaster? One might eat a quart of it, if the stomach could hold so much, and not be poisoned, in the slightest degree. Let this, then, be a sufficient reply to the charge that all things contain poison.
I know, indeed, that many things which are not poisonous, can be made to destroy. Thus cold water which, if pure, never has a particle of poison in it, if taken excessively cold when the system is over-heated or over-fatigued, or otherwise disabled, may destroy, sometimes almost instantly. A surfeit may be produced, and a crop of eruptions on the inner surface of the stomach, by merely overloading it with apples or bread. But there is no poisoning, properly speaking in either case. A poison is a substance which, in every quantity, however, small, and in all circumstances of health, has a destructive tendency on the powers of life, or is anti-vital. Such is the case with alcohol, opium, calomel, prussic acid, tobacco, tea, and, as I shall show in another place, coffee; and in truth all things which are properly medicinal.
It is said, perhaps, that if tea contains poison at all, it is in such small quantity, as to render it harmless. But it remains to be proved that poison ceases to be poison, because minutely divided. Indeed, there are not wanting facts which lead us to suspect the reverse to be true, so far as its application to the living system is concerned. It was known before the days of the homoeopathists, that very small doses of active medicine, frequently repeated, such as calomel, digitalis, and opium, by insinuating themselves into all parts of the system, poison it, or in other words, produce their specific effects, in a greater degree, in proportion to the whole quantity given, than larger doses. Can it be that tea is an exception to the general law?
"But it is invigorating, and we need some stimulus or other. I should faint without my tea; especially when my labor is severe."
So says the spirit drinker, too; the tobacco chewer and smoker; the snuff and opium taker; and for aught I can see, with the same show of reason. All claim the need of stimulus, by which they mean a stimulus to the nerves; and all claim that their favorite stimulus gives them strength.
That no one can be sustained without stimuli of some sort, it certainly true. The air which is the food of the lungs, the light which may be regarded as in some sort the food of the eye, and all other things which excite or move to healthy action any part of the human system, are stimulants. In general, however, when in common conversation we speak of stimulants or stimuli, as applicable to the human system, we mean those things which excite or irritate the nervous extremities, whether on the external or the internal surface of the body. But these do not give us permanent strength. The aid they afford us is deceptive. They make us stronger and more active, and perhaps warmer for a time; but as soon as their strength, usually of very short duration, comes to be exhausted there is a falling away or loss of strength fully equal to, and it is believed somewhat greater than the previous exaltation. Tea, then, though it gives us strength leaves us, when its strength is gone, in a worse condition than it found us.
That the fainting sensation is purely nervous, and by no means the necessary result of a want of proper food, is shown by the first case cited by Mr. Cole, as well as by the general fact, that a little spirits, opium, wine, or even cider, as well as tea or coffee, will remove it, and that almost instantly; whereas it takes a considerable time, for food to be brought to a condition in which it can give the strength.
"But is it true, then, that tea contains no nourishment?"
Not a particle, in itself considered. Water, which by the way makes up the far greater part of the liquid we call tea, is only nutritive, (at least in ordinary circumstances,) in this sense, that it dilutes the blood, and by producing a more healthy state of this fluid, renders it the more fit for the process of assimilation.
I grant, indeed, that as it is usually taken, that is, with milk or cream and sugar, it contains a little nutriment though even here it might justly be said that a small piece of bread or a small quantity of fruit, would contain more. Why should we drink twelve or twenty or thirty ounces of fluid, to get less than half an ounce of solid nutriment? But we may be assured that this apology is mere pretense; and that it is the nervous excitement which is sought, in tea drinking.
Still it will be said by some, that they are confident, in spite of all our reasoning, tea does them no harm. Is not experience, they will say, the safest guide - the best school-master?
I have no wish to set aside experience; on the contrary, we should always endeavor to make the most of it. But there is a false experience, as well as a true; and we should seek and cleave to the latter. Where a thing produces immediate pain and disturbance in the stomach or elsewhere, it is generally best to let it alone. But it often happens that many things injure us which common observation would not detect, at once; and we are forced to correct our own experience by the observation or study of that of others.
The following statement and facts will illustrate, in a most striking manner this part of our subject.
Alexis St. Martin had his left side so wounded as to leave, on recovery, an external opening, an inch or more in diameter, through which could be seen, when the bandage and compress which he usually wore, were removed, the exact condition, and to some extent, the operations of the stomach. In these circumstances, Dr. Beaumont instituted a series of experiments on the nature and effects of the gastric juice, in the progress of which he made many curious discoveries.
One of these was, that the lining membrane of the stomach might be so inflamed and broken out, and filled with eruptions and ulcerations, as not only to secrete pus, but to bleed, without the subject of so much disease being conscious of the least suffering, and without his health being in any way affected "in any sensible degree." This condition of the stomach, without any consciousness of the fact on the part of the possessor, was quite frequent; and though more generally the consequence of improper indulgence in eating or drinking, was also induced by a more moderated use of spirits, wine, beer, or any intoxicating liquor, when continued for some days. "Eating voraciously, or to excess," says Dr. Beaumont; "swallowing food coarsely masticated, or too fast; the introduction of solid pieces of meat suspended by cords into the stomach, or of muslin bags of aliment secured in the same way, almost invariably produce similar effects, if repeated a number of times in close succession." "Extensive active or chronic disease may exist," he adds, "in the membranous tissues of the stomach and bowels, more frequently than has generally been believed. In the case of the subject of these experiments inflammation certainly does exist to a considerable extent, even in an apparent state of health.
Now suppose St. Martin, relying on his sensations alone, were to insist that eating too fast, swallowing unmasticated food, or the use of beer, cider, wine, tea or coffee, did not hurt him, while the observations of Dr. Beaumont told a different story, ought we to believe him? He certainly would speak from experience. Is he to be believed, or shall his experience be corrected by the observations of Dr. Beaumont?
I have found many individuals whose experience told them they could not digest their dinner till they had taken a cud of tobacco into their mouths; and one or two, till they had swallowed some of the juice. Should this experience be regarded as true, or should it be deemed false experience, and as such be corrected?
Others still are to be found - in great numbers, too - who believe their experience proves the necessity, at least in their own case, of using opium or brandy. They can do more work, and do it better, they say; why then is it not best for them? But how long can they do more work, and do it better? How long before they must increase the quantity of their stimulus, or else be found falling off? And how many other diseases are they meanwhile sowing the seeds of - preparatory to a future harvest of suffering.
"The stomach," we are told, "is a very accommodating, and habit very powerful." I grant the force of habit, and the accommodating power of the stomach. I grant even the whole truth of the story of Mithridates, king of Pontus - that he accustomed himself to the deadly influence of hemlock. But what then? Was Mithridates uninjured by it? Did it produce no inflammation of the lining membrane of his stomach and alimentary canal? Was it neither the cause nor the aggravation of disease? If it is said he lived to be about seventy years of age, I reply, that I have known confirmed drunkards at a still greater age, and also confirmed opium takers; men who began their intemperate lives much earlier than Mithridates began his hemlock. Does their narrow escape, when thousands for one of them have fallen, prove their rum, and opium, and hemlock, safe, much less useful? Yet on the principle of being guided by our own experience solely, such might be the conclusion. Such, in fact, is the practical conclusion of all who cite Mithridates to prove that the stomach is "accommodating," without any evil consequences following from this accommodation.
For, in the first place, the stomach is, without doubt, diseased; and this state of things, besides being unpleasant and undesirable in itself, as a general rule, predisposes to other diseases, and renders all other maladies which sent in more severe than they naturally would be, and more likely to be fatal. Secondly, if owing to a strong natural constitution, the individual should last to a comparative old age, yet he will never last as long as he would have lasted had he avoided the poison. But suppose, in the third place, this were possible, his posterity, should any follow, would inevitably inherit disease as the consequence; and if otherwise, his example would influence those whose posterity would be visited in the same way. There is no discharge in this war. All accommodations of the stomach, or indeed of any other part or organ, are made at the future expense of the system, or are to be paid for, with interest, by posterity.
"But is there not a difference of constitution? Is not one man's meat another's poison?" Not in the sense commonly received. There is a difference of constitution among men, just as there is among horses or cattle, but no greater. The human constitution, in its unperverted state, is one, as much as the horse constitution is one. And, as a general rule, the food or drink which is best for one person, is best for another, unless custom has so changed him, that second nature is stronger than first nature. Men endure tobacco, and run, and tea, and hemlock, and many even become fond of them, just as cows come to feed on fish, cats on bread, and dogs on tobacco.
"But I feel so lost without tea," others complainingly tell us, "that I cannot feel I have had a breakfast without it." And not a few housekeepers have a similar, or rather a still greater difficulty in preparing a table without it. All this, however, may be got over in time, and only shows the great power of habit.
"Well, after al, I like a short life and a merry one," I have heard people say. "I have no notion of denying myself one of the comforts of life, for the sake of five or ten more wretched years at the ends of it." But a part of the mistake here is, that in adding ten years to life, it is not al added to the end. The middle is prolonged in the same proportion with the rest. And as to a merry life, it so happens, though the declaration may not be accredited, that the longest and healthiest life is the most merry, despite of its self-denials.
Lastly, it will be said by a few, that they "would continue the use of tea, if they knew it injured them." They love it, and will have it, at every hazard of soul and body. "It is nobody's business," they add, "but their own."
But is this so? Are you not a member of society? And do you not violate a duty you owe to society, when you pursue a course of conduct which unfits you, in the least degree, for usefulness? Has your example no influence? And have you a right to set a bad example, even though the evil you thereby confirm were but small? Should you do thus, would you regard yourself a good citizen; and ought you to be regarded as such by others?
Have you no relative duties to perform? Have you no father, mother, brother, sister, son or daughter, who may need your wasted earnings - to say nothing of wasted vital energies - provided you never should? Can you, with clear conscience, waste that time or money - and time itself is money - which, if not wanted in the education of your children, may be wanted by them or by some of your other friends hereafter? Besides, are there no deeds of charity to be done in the world?
It may not be well to appeal too frequently to the Christian professions and Christian principles of the tea drinker; for in a few instances he may disclaim them. Generally speaking, however, tea drinkers profess a belief in Christianity. They admit the authority of Paul and his contemporaries and coadjutors. Yet these writers tell us, "No man liveth to himself, and no man dieth to himself;" and that we should glorify God in our body and spirit which are alike his.