This section of the book is from "The Complete Herbalist" by Dr. O. Phelps Brown. Also available from Amazon: The Complete Herbalist: The People Their Own Physicians By The Use Of Nature's Remedies.
Among the causes of this distressing complaint are disappointment, misfortunes of a heavy character, care, masturbation, excessive mental labor, undue anxiety, costiveness, neglect of cleanliness, indigestion, sedentary occupations, living in close and gloomy apartments, or wet and marshy localities, excessive indulgence in sexual pleasures, or anything which tends to weaken and disturb the nervous system, or over-stimulate the brain. The mental symptoms are countless. The chief one is a constant dread of some unexplainable evil; the patient fears that his wife, if he has one, is unfaithful, or hates him, or that his business is going to ruin, and he will be reduced to beggary, or that his friends despise him, or that he will be charged with the commission of some monstrous crime, or that he has all, or a majority of the worst physical diseases that surgeon or physician was ever summoned to treat. These are the lightest symptoms, and if not immediately tended to, will become aggravated, and go on increasing in violence and extent until the sufferer dies naturally from exhaustion and misery, gets hopelessly insane, or perhaps commits suicide. The organs of sense are more or less deranged and external sensations are magnified and corrupted even as those of the mind are. Thus, the eye appears to see all sorts of forms which it does not see: the smell detects odors which do not exist; the touch demonstrates to the brain objects with which it does not come in contact; the taste is perverted and disordered to an extent which seems, to an uninterested observer, impossible; and the ears convey imaginary sounds of the most perplexing and terrific character. The queer fancies of the hypochondriac are often of such a character as to obliterate pity for the unhappy individual, and provoke both disgust and laughter. Cases have been known where the victim imagined that he was a teapot, or had glass legs which would break upon the lightest exertion, or was made of jelly, and could not move without dissolving into an undistinguishable mass of gelatinous matter, or was as large as an elephant, or as small as a pipe-stem; or had horns growing from the head, or a bottle attached to the end of the nose, or was covered with creeping and venomous insects. Hypochondria is also productive of fainting spells, cold surface of the body, an eye either glassy and unnaturally brilliant, or without any lustre; palpitations, pains in the stomach, pale and livid countenance, and occasional paroxysms of fever.
TREATMENT. -- A cure may be effected by the employment of such medicines as will restore tone to the stomach and nervous system, and also by removing, as far as is possible, all the causes which lead to the origin and perpetuation of the malady. Where it is within the scope of the patient's means he should be kept continually on the move (without fatigue), a constant change of scene being one of the most desirable of self-acting remedies. All allusions to his real or fancied miseries should be avoided, or, if found necessary, of the kindest and most consoling description. It is always the case that the hypochondriac will be the harshest, the most suspicious, and the most ungenerous in every way, towards his best friends. This is an unfailing type of the disease. The friends must bear these annoyances patiently and self-denyingly. To lose one's temper with such a sufferer is to commit a great crime; out-of-door exercise must be as constant as is consistent with the weather and the patient's circumstances. Leave the hypochondriac alone as little as possible. Let him eat and drink but moderately of nourishing but easily-digested food, and above all things keep him from the use of stimulating drinks and tobacco. Music has been found highly beneficial in these cases -- anything is good, in fact, which affords lively amusement. A cold or tepid sponge bath should be taken morning and evening, and the rule of "early to bed and early to rise," should never be violated. The bowels must always be kept open -- a good passage every twenty-four hours being required -- and where the patient is extremely weak, a good substantial tonic, such as "Restorative Assimilant," should be administered three times a day. When the patient has a fainting smell, and thinks he is dying, give him motherwort tea, with spirits of camphor in it, if no other assistance happens to be at hand. This is only general treatment for temporary benefit. To eradicate the disease thoroughly it is necessary to know all about the individual case, and the chief causes of its origin and development. Nature's remedies may then be applied without fear of failure.