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Coffee - It Uses And Medicinal Qualities

( Originally Published Early 1900's )



Dr. Bock of Leipsic says : " The nervousness and peevishness of our times are chiefly attributable to tea and coffee ; " he says that " the digestive organs of confirmed coffee drinkers are in a state of chronic derangement, which reacts on the brain, producing fretful and lachrymose moods. Ladies addicted to strong coffee have a characteristic temper, which may be described as a mania for acting the persecuted saint," etc.

I cannot agree with Dr. Bock that the nervousness and peevishness of the present time are to be attributed to the use of coffee. If people are more nervous or in worse humor now than formerly, we may find other causes arising from the customs and habits of society much more likely to produce such a state of things than the use of this particular article of diet. I have no intention of pointing out many changes and peculiarities in the habits of the age, to show many other more prominent reasons for people being in bad humor besides the use of coffee. My object is to de-fend coffee from a slander aimed at one of our best friends—a friend more likely to relieve the morbid state of things complained of, than to produce it. Who that has experienced the good effects of coffee can sit quietly and hear it abused? Especially by an estimable physician who has written learned books on the nervous system. The nerves of every honest friend of coffee tremble with the shock of an attack from such a quarter.

Let us examine the effects of coffee on the economy. Taken in moderation it is a mental and bodily stimulant of a most agreeable nature ; and, followed by no harmful reaction, it produces contentment of mind, allays hunger and bodily weakness, and increases the incentive and capacity for work, makes man forget his misfortunes, and enables those who use it to remain a long time without food or sleep, to endure unusual fatigue, and preserve their cheerfulness and contentment. Jomand says : " An infusion made with ten ounces of coffee enabled me to live without other food for five consecutive days, without lessening my ordinary occupations, and to use more and more prolonged muscular exercise than I was accustomed to, without any other physical injury than a slight degree of fatigue and a little loss of flesh."

The mental exhilaration, physical activity, and wakefulness it causes, explain the fondness for it which has been shown by so many men of science, poets, scholars, and others devoted to thinking. It has, indeed, been called '' the intellectual beverage."

It supported the old age of Voltaire, and enabled Fontenelle to pass his hundred years.

The action of coffee is directed chiefly to the nervous system. It produces a warming, cordial impression on the stomach, quickly followed by a diffused, agreeable nervous excitement, which extends itself to the cerebral functions, giving rise to increased vigor of imagination and intellect, without any subsequent confusion or stupor, such as are characteristic of narcotics.

Coffee contains essential principles of nutrition far exceeding in importance its exhilarating properties, and is one of the most desirable articles for sustaining the system in certain prostrating diseases ; as compared with the nutrition to be derived from the best of soups, coffee has decidedly the advantage, am' to be preferred in many instances. Liebig says : " We shall never know how men were first led to the use of coffee, but that we may consider the article as remarkable for its action on the brain and the substance of the organs of motion, and as an element of food for organs as yet unknown, which are destine to convert the blood into nervous substance, and thus recruit the energy and the nervous moving and thinking faculties."

The medicinal effects of coffee are very great. In intermittent fever I have used it with the happiest effect in cutting short the attack, and if properly managed is better in many cases than the sulphate of quinine. In that low state of intermittent, as found on the banks of the Mississippi river and other malarial districts, accompanied with enlarged spleen and torpid liver, when judiciously administered it is one of the surest remedies. In these cases it should be given in decoction made with four ounces of well roasted and ground coffee, boiled in a quart (16 ounces) of water in a covered vessel, down to half a pint (4 ounces), and two tablespoonfuls given hot every two hours, commencing six hours before the expected attack, and keeping the patient well covered in bed. It has been found that in typhus fever coffee increases the elimination of urea, and so far purifies the blood without increasing the destructive metamorphosis of tissue, and that it lessens coma and low delirium.

In yellow fever, from a long experience, I consider coffee as my chief reliance, after other necessary remedies have been administered ; it restrains tissue change, and thus becomes a conservator of force, in that state in which the nervous system tends to collapse, because the blood has become impure ; it sustains the nervous power until the depuration and re-organization of the blood are accomplished, and has the advantage over other stimulants in inducing no injurious secondary effects.

In spasmodic asthma its utility is well established, and in whooping cough, stupor, lethargy, etc.

In the hysterical attacks of some females, for which the physician can form no diagnosis or cause for the peculiar and eccentric symptoms manifested ; a screaming, crying, staring, kicking patient, with no coherent answer for the medical adviser, at the same time with an evident tendency to act the persecuted saint—give her a cup of well made, strong, black coffee, she becomes quiet, revives, smiles benignly, as if she had swallowed a panacea that had suddenly delivered her from the clutches of the imps of Satan and wafted her from all the miseries of a condemned and tortured spirit to the elysian fields of houris.

We have used it as a remedy in croup, diphtheria, nephritis, chronic diarrhoea, etc. In poisoning from opium it is well known as the best remedy, and always on hand.

Hayne says : "That in a case of violent spasmodic disease, attended with short breath, palpitation of heart, and a pulse so much increased in frequency that it could scarcely be counted, immediate relief was obtained from cup of coffee, after the most powerful anti-spasmodics had been used in vain for several ' hours," etc.

After a hearty meal a cup of coffee will relieve that sense of oppression so apt to be experienced, and enable the stomach to perform its offices with comparative facility.

In fact, coffee carries healing on its wings. It is opposed to malaria, to all noxious vapors as a disinfectant it has wonderful powers; as an instantaneous deodorizer it has no equal; for the sick room, the fetid odors arising from the cutaneous exhalations are immediatley neutralized by passing a chafing dish with burning coffee grains through the room.



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