The impression common in this country, that warm drinks, especially in winter, are more healthful than cold, is not warranted by any experience, nor by the laws of the physical system. At dinner cold drinks are universal, and no one deems them injurious. It is only at the other two meals that they are supposed to be hurtful.
"Water is a safe drink for all constitutions, provided it be resorted to in obedience to the dictates of natural thirst only, and not of habit. Unless the desire for it is felt, there is no occasion for its use during a meal.
"The primary effect of all distilled and fermented liquors is to stimulate the nervous system and quicken the circulation. In infancy and childhood the circulation is rapid and easily excited, and the nervous system is strongly acted upon even by the slightest external impressions. Hence, slight causes of irritation readily excite febrile and convulsive disorders. In youth, the natural tendency of the constitution is still to excitement, and consequently, as a general rule, the stimulus of fermented liquors is injurious."
These remarks by Dr. Combe show that parents, who find that stimulating drinks are not injurious to themselves, may mistake in inferring from this that they will not be injurious to their children.
He continues thus: "In mature age, when digestion is good, and the system in full vigor, if the mode of life be not too exhausting, the nervous functions and general circulation are in their best condition, and require no stimulus for their support. The bodily energy is then easily sustained by nutritious food and a regular regimen, and consequently artificial excitement only increases the wasting of the natural strength."
It may be asked, in this connection, why the stimulus of animal food is not to be regarded in the same light as that of stimulating drinks. In reply, a very essential difference may be pointed out. Animal food furnishes nutriment to the organs which it stimulates, but stimulating drinks excite the organs to quickened action without affording any nourishment.
It has been supposed by some that tea and coffee have at least a degree of nourishing power. But it is proved that it is the milk and sugar, and not the main portion of the drink, which imparts the nourishment. Tea has not one particle of nourishing properties; and what little exists in the coffee-berry is lost by roasting it in the usual mode. All that these articles do is simply to stimulate without nourishing.
Although there is little hope of banishing these drinks, there is still a chance that something may be gained in attempts to regulate their use by the rules of temperance. If, then, a housekeeper can not banish tea and coffee entirely, she may use her influence to prevent excess, both by her instructions, and by the power of control committed more or less to her hands.
It is important for every housekeeper to know that the health of a family very much depends on the purity of water used for cooking and drinking. There are three causes of impure and unhealthful water. One is, the existence in it of vegetable or animal matter, which can be remedied by filtering through sand and charcoal. Another cause is, the existence of mineral matter, especially in limestone countries, producing diseases of the bladder. This is remedied, in a measure, by boiling, which secures a deposit of the lime on the vessel used. The third cause is, the corroding of zinc and lead used in pipes and reservoirs, producing oxides that are slow poisons. The only remedy is prevention, by having supply-pipes made of iron, like gas-pipe, instead of zinc and lead; or the lately invented lead pipe lined with tin, which metal is not corrosive. The obstacle to this is, that the trade of the plumbers would be greatly diminished by the use of reliable pipes. When water must be used from supply-pipes of lead or zinc, it is well to let the water run some time before drinking it, and to use as little as possible, taking milk instead; and being further satisfied for inner necessities by the water supplied by fruits and vegetables. The water in these is always pure. But in using milk as a drink, it must be remembered that it is also rich food, and that less of other food must be taken when milk is thus used, or bilious troubles will result from excess of food.
The use of opium, especially by women, is usually caused at first by medical prescriptions containing it. All that has been stated as to the effect of alcohol in the brain is true of opium, while to break a habit thus induced is almost hopeless. Every woman who takes or who administers this drug is dealing as with poisoned arrows, whose wounds are without cure.
The use of tobacco in this country, and especially among young boys, is increasing at a fearful rate. On this subject we have the unanimous opinion of all medical men, the following being specimens.
A distinguished medical writer thus states the case: "Every physician knows that the agreeable sensations that tempt to the use of tobacco are caused by nicotine, which is a rank poison, as much so as prussic acid or arsenic. When smoked, the poison is absorbed by the blood of the mouth, and carried to the brain. When chewed, the nicotine passes to the blood through the mouth and stomach. In both cases, the whole nervous system is thrown into abnormal excitement to expel the poison, and it is this excitement that causes agreeable sensations. The excitement thus caused is invariably followed by a diminution of nervous power, in exact proportion to the preceding excitement to expel the evil from the system."
Few will dispute the general truth and effect of the above statement, so that the question is one to be settled on the same principle as applies to the use of alcoholic drinks. Is it, then, according to the generous principles of Christ's religion, for those who are strong and able to bear this poison, to tempt the young, the ignorant, and the weak to a practice not needful to any healthful enjoyment, and which leads multitudes to disease, and often to vice? For the use of tobacco tends always to lessen nerve-power, and probably every one out of five that indulges in its use awakens a morbid craving for increased stimulus, lessens the power of self-control, diminishes the strength of the constitution, and sets an example that influences the weak to the path of danger and of frequent ruin.
The great danger of this age is an increasing, intense worldliness, and disbelief in the foundation principle of the religion of Christ, that we are to reap through everlasting ages the consequences of habits formed in this life. In the light of his Word, they only who are truly wise "shall shine as the firmament, and they that turn many to righteousness, as the stars, forever and ever."
It is increased faith or belief in the teachings of Christ's religion, as to the influence of this life upon the life to come, which alone can save our country and the world from that inrushing tide of sensualism and worldliness now seeming to threaten the best hopes and prospects of our race.
And woman, as the chief educator of our race, and the prime minister of the family state, is bound, in the use of meats and drinks, to employ the powerful and distinctive motives of the religion of Christ in forming habits of tem-perance and benevolent self-sacrifice for the good of others.