This section is from the book "The Beverages of the Chinese; Kung-fu or Tauist Medical Gymnastics; the Population of China; A Modern Chinese Anatomist and A Chapter in Chinese Surgery.", by John Dudgeon. Also available from Amazon: Kung Fu, or Taoist Medical Gymnastics.
A Dr. Yang Shih-ying of the Sung dynasty, author of the Jen Glial Chih Chih Fang says, what is still more wonderful, that ginger and tea combined cure dysentery. The ginger assists the male principle, and the tea the female; the one is cold, the other hot, and so the two principles are harmonized. Our author criticises these two supposed remedies very sharply. Celebrated emperors and scholars, he says, are said to have been cured by such and such remedies. The histories, however, take no notice of their illnesses and cures. Several centuries afterwards, such receipcs are praised by the druggists, in order to deceive ignorant people. We can afford to despise all such prescriptions, even when they are backed by the most illustrious names. Some physician states it, and the Great Herbal believes it. There is no cure for mistakes of this sort. Is such practice not like a dream of dreams?
The action of tea is noted, as already stated, as clearing the head and eyes, and removing the fat of the body like chw'en-hiung pleurospermum sp.,.
and ts'ung-pai onion bulbs. If taken strong, it will cure head-ache; but this is the end of its advantages, according to the Chinese. The injury which it causes is the scraping of the viscera, and the dissolving of the fat. In the case of great tea-drinkers, the air and blood are injured; and hence the skin loses its healthy colour, and their bodies become thin and yellow. Drinking constantly, these disadvantages pass unnoticed. Those in whom this tea-craving is set up do not understand this. No matter what good things a man may eat and become fat, he loses it all when he takes to tea;: he becomes thin, and his sense of taste is vitiated. If a table be smeared with grease and it be washed with tea, it looks as if new; so likewise with man's body, which is made up of blood and flesh, and produces fat by means of which the body is nourished. It can not, therefore, withstand tea. Hence the peoples outside China, on the North and West (the Mongols), daily consuming so much beef and mutton, must have recourse to tea; otherwise they could not get rid of their enormous and abundant fat, which they naturally take on, and it was in this way and with this object that trade was begun with them, and a duty levied upon tea. But why do the Chinese, who live upon rice and millet and wash their food down with a little wine, drink tea? They do not need it. People who eat flesh and drink milk must take tea, to remove and prevent the accumulation of fat. People who live well and are fat and white (lean people are supposed to be thin and black) ought to drink tea, for the air is obstructed; hence apoplexy and such like diseases. Here tea, which is bad, does good; so we have a substance quite contradictory, - bad and yet at the same time good! This difference in effect it is well to know.
Our author continues: - Tea prevents one from sleeping, and so injures one's vitality and blood. The work Po Wu speaks of the difficulty of obtaining sleep after drinking true tea. Li T'ing-fei Yuen dynasty, author of the Yen Shou Shu says: - One ought to drink little tea; still better, not to drink at all; and certainly not on an empty stomach. There is reason in this. We do not know who was the first to drink tea, and it is hard to advise all men not to drink it. We must advise people to drink little, and that weak, not too much and too strong; or, better still, take some other substances as a substitute. In diseases with thirst, the more you drink, the thirstier you become, and the diseases are more difficult to cure; so there is the greater reason for having recourse to substitutes. Our author here appends a list of thirty-five such substitutes. So for our author.
Tea has attained to an enormous consumption among the peoples of the North. With them it has an incontestable hygienic advantage, as stimulating and maintaining the animal heat. Moreover, it is also nourishing; and in some countries, as among the Mongols at the present day, not only is the infusion drunk but the leaves are eaten. The Chinese, when thirsty, often chew the leaves of the finer sorts. When it is drunk too strong, it agrees only with persons of a nerveless and lymphatic temperament. Men of dry and nervous constitutions, and weak and excitable women, ought to abstain, or to correct its too great activity with milk. Its medical uses are less extended. It is especially employed as a digestive and sudorific.
The consumption of tea is largely on the increase in the west. With many of the poor labouring classes, it serves as breakfast, dinner, and supper, with bread and butter and sometimes meat to it. The reason for this, over and above its stimulant properties, is probably the ease and readiness with which it can be proposed, and the ignorance of cooking, or the unwillingness or want of time to cook a proper meal. The proposed " free breakfast table" will in this respect, it is feared, accentuate the enfeeblement of body and mind, the inveterate dyspepsia, the general nervousness, loss of will power, palpitations of the heart, muscular tremors, etc., which are attributed to its addiction, by still further increasing its consumption, and consequently do more harm to the physique than the removal of a slight duty, which is not felt and will not be appreciated, will afford a boon. Du Halde remarks that it is a common saying among the Chinese - "Those who do not love tea, love wine." In this region, there is a saying - First tea, then wine."