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.
What is life? In general terms life may be said to be a subtle emanation of Deity -- a principle that pervades all the works of creation, whether organic or inorganic. It is a sort of ENTITY, whose nature is as mysterious and unfathomable as that of Divinity himself. Many scientific men have contended that life is electricity, and arguments and experiments have been adduced to show that such is the fact. For instance, a scientific body of France pulverized stone, and by the use of electricity produced from the atoms living insects. But this and similar experiments are accepted as evidence that electricity is not life, but is a leading phenomenon of its actuality. Life is something neither physical nor spiritual. It is allied to both, but is neither. It is not soul, for soul is something infinitely higher than life -- a something of which life itself is but an inadequate, visible manifestation.
Health is perhaps a subtle thing, yet most importantly palpable to our senses and perceptions. It is that state of the human body in which the structure of all the parts is sound, and their functions regularly and actively performed, rendering the individual fit for all the duties and enjoyment of life. Or, in other words, it is that condition of the animal economy when the functions of all the organs, beginning with the heart and lungs, act in natural and harmonious relation, the one with the other, and the whole together, rendering existence not only a state of completeness, but a pleasure, a beauty, and a charm, and therefore the chiefest cause and leading feature of all from which the human being derives that phase of joy called bliss. In the various temperaments the phenomena of health are somewhat different; hence, what would at once preserve it in one, might not preserve it in or restore it to another, until some reasonable period of time had elapsed. Health varies much in people of the many occupations which necessity and circumstances compel them to adopt for a livelihood or for pleasure, and the acuteness of the senses which would be necessary in some recreative or productive occupations, would be morbid in persons otherwise engaged. But the general symptoms of health are, in all temperaments, a sparkling eye, a clean skin, a white and rose-blended complexion (unless where the temperament naturally prescribes a rich and glowing olive), ruby lips, pearly teeth, untainted breath, glossy hair, expanded chest, elastic spine, muscular limbs, symmetrical waist, well built and firm pelvis, fleshy thighs and calves, and a buoyant grace of the whole body. Added to these we have a rich and melodious voice (wherever the slightest hoarseness or discordance of tone is noticed look for danger), and a calm and cultivated spirit in the old, a joyous spirit in the young. What munificent gifts are those, and who should fail, by every means in his power, to secure them? Disease is the opposite of health, and means any departure from the normal condition of the general organism, or any impairment or derangement of any function by which the regular action of any other one or of the whole are made or forced to work in an irregular or unnatural manner -- producing and entailing disorder, pain, misery, and death! We see disease in the lustreless and phrenzied eye, in the pallid and sunken cheeks, in the parched lips, in the jaundiced or yellow skin, in the contracted chest, in the difficult respiraiton, in the racking cough, in the expectoration of tubercles and sputa from the lungs, in the palpitating heart, in the scrofulous sores and ulcers, in the bloated or attenuated abdomen, in the disabled legs and arms, in decayed teeth and toothless jaws, in fetid breath, in crooked spine, in the deformed pelvis, in all derangements of the sexual organs, in baldness, in disordered stomach and bowels, in neuralgias, rheumatisms, leprosies, spasms, epilepsies, palsies, loss of the senses of sight, hearing, smelling, taste and touch, hypochondrias, manias, drunkenness, pains, aches, wounds, bruises, maimings, and in innumerable other agonies! With the simple methods by which health can be preserved by those who were born to health, how astonishing it is that disease and misery are the general rule, and health and pleasure the exception! Who of all the human race may now say, "I have health! I am actually living in a state of nature, or in that perfect mental and physical condition in which I was or ought to have been born." Not one, is my reply. We may therefore regard life as a negative rather than a positive quality of existence. Occasionally there may be freedom from the slightest degree of actual suffering, and yet that pleasuraable condition which woul be natural to the regular co-operative work of all the organs of the body will be wanting.
In health our moments fly on lightning wing, and
we are scarcely conscious of their rapid exit; in sickness, on the contrary,
our moments are clogged with leaden heels, and pass in that lingering manner
as to render our sufferings seemingly the more acute by reason of the slow
or tardy march of time. To the sick, time does not pass lightly,
but with the heavy tread of a giant.
How inestimable is that state of being comprehended under the name of health! -- yet how few are ever led to consider its priceless value and importance. Health, perfect health, is not to be found in our present age among the races of men; yet even in its negative aspect, its most deteriorated quality, what were all the joys, all the riches, all the advantages of this world without its possession? Unless all, from the highest to the lowest, from the king to the beggar, learn to prize health and avoid disease, -- death, who is no respector of persons, will continue to reap his rich harvests among them all. Caesar could not escape, nor could the renown of a thousand victories diffuse an anodynic or soporific influence over the pillow of the great Napoleon, nor save the laurels of Marengo from the blighting mists of St. Helena! Intellectual cultivation oftentimes sows the seeds of physical deterioration. When we see that the prince is equally liable to the same physical and mental miseries as the vagrant, it becomes everybody to bear in remembrance the axiom that a sound body is the natural basis of a sound mind, and vice versa, and that every rational method should be adopted to preserve them. I have shown briefly that there is no condition or state of man that is exempt from disease and death. It may now be asked, Are there no means of preventing the ravages of the one, and postponing the sad triumph of the other? No means of restoring lost health, or of rendering sickness compatible with contentment, or even happiness itself? Yes. The severest diseases are and may be prevented; and are curable and cured--even consumption itself when judicious treatment is applied. All right-thinking persons will admit that sickness may be obviated, disease mitigated, and even death robbed of his prey for years, by approved remedies rightly employed.