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.
The true philosophy of life is to live and enjoy -- to use and not abuse the essentials to human longevity and happiness. As we read in Holy Writ, in the earlier history of man, when the air was free from infection, the soil exempt from pollution, and man's food was plain and natural, individuals lived on the average four or five hundred years; the maximum point of longevity recorded -- that in the case of Methuselah -- being nine hundred and sixty-nine years. Without speculating upon the problem whether the years of the early historians included the same period of time as the years of our present almanac, it is sufficient for all practical purposes to know the general law, or dwindled to the "shortest span," by our voluntary or individual habits. If it can be proved that any one man has lived one hundred, two hundred, or even three hundred years, under favorable hygienic circumstances, it will be sufficient evidence of a physiological principle that most men may attain to similar extreme longevity, by a mere simple obedience to the natural laws of his being.
The examples of extreme longevity are too numerous to be detailed even in a book of many pages, but a few examples may be cited on this point. Haller, the celebrated English physician, during his time collected more than one thousand cases of persons in Europe who attained the ages of from one hundred to one hundred and seventy years. In Baker's "Curse of England," we find a list of one hundred individuals whose ages ranged from ninety-five to three hundred and seventy! Twenty-two of these reached the age of one hundred and fifty and upwards, and thirty exceeded one hundred and twenty years. Modern statistics exhibit numerous examples of persons in the United States and all parts of the world attaining more than one hundred years. Indeed, it was common to the American Indians, previous to the introduction of "fire-water" among them, to live to one hundred years of age; although, as a general rule, the duration of life among savage races is much shorter than among the civilized and cultivated people of the globe.
In our present artificial state of society, it is not probable that one in a thousand persons dies a natural death. Alas! disease and violence sweep, with few exceptions, the entire human family to an untimely grave. Even the celebrated Thomas Parr, who died at one hundred and fifty-two years of age, came to an unnatural death by eating too heartily at a feast given in his honor by an English king; while Richard Lloyd, who was in full health and vigor at one hundred and thirty-two years, died soon after from being persuaded to eat flesh meat and drink malt liquor, to which he had never been accustomed in all his life before.
On physiological principles, natural death results from a gradual consolidation of the structures of the body. In infancy the fluids are in much larger proportion than the solids, but as we grow older the fluids decrease and the solids increase -- thus gradually changing the flexibility and elasticity of youth to the stiffness and immobility of age. Thus in a perfectly normal condition of the organism, all the functions, powers and senses decline in the same harmonious relations in which they were developed. As the process of condensation goes on equally and imperceptibly, the motive powers grow torpid, the nutritive functions are enfeebled, the sensibility becomes dull, the external senses are obtunded, and lastly, the mental manifestations disappear -- death occurs without a struggle or a groan.
Certain political and social economists have attempted to prove that old age and a vast population are not desirable things, on the ground that, while population increases geometrically, the alimentary productions of the earth only increase arithmetically; hence, that some scheme of death or destruction is requisite or indispensable to kill off, or clear the ground of existing human beings as fast as the coming generations demand their places. In other words, that it is necessary that disease, violence, pestilence, murder, wars, and death should previal, because of the earth's incapacity to produce sufficient food for the whole race of human beings, were all permitted to live out their natural lives and die a natural death. A small amount of rational investigation will show the fallacies of all such theories. Indeed, under existing governments and social arrangements, more than three-fourths of all the lands and all the labor, so far as the production of the means of human sustenance is concerned, is literally wasted, or worse than wasted; while a large extent of the earth's surface has never yet been brought under cultivation, and that part which is cultivated the best admits of vast improvement.
Casting all speculation aside, it will not be denied that this earth was made the residence of man, and that God expressly enjoined upon him to be fruitful, and to occupy and replenish the earth, giving him at the same time dominion over all the vegetable and animal kingdoms, as a means for subsistence and happiness, while progressing through the gradual stages of his natural or terrestrial existence without first furnishing him with the means of an abundant supply of all the elements requisite for a long life of health and joy. Man, however has grossly violated the laws of nature, and blundered on in his perversity, till life has actually become a grievous burden, and extreme old age a great and moral curse, instead of a divine and special blessing.
Were it necessary, a thousand reasons might be given for believing that the earth now has, and always will have, room and food enough for all the population that can be produced by human beings who live agreeably to the laws of their natural organism. Indeed, it is a philosophical maxim that "intensive life cannot be extensive." The races of man have now a hurried, stimulated, forced and disorderly existence, marrying at too early an age, bringing myriads of children into the world, "scarce half made up," only to perish by thousands in the earliest infancy, or to drawl out a miserable and unhealthy existence, if their lives are prolonged to manhood's estate, and sink at last, even then, into premature graves, from continued and perverse abuses of the hygienic and dietetic rules of life.
As already said, if the body develops itseslf slowly and healthfully (as it always will in its natural state), it is only reasonable to suppose that the periods of infancy, childhood, and adolescence or maturity would be greatly prolonged by the more simple conformity to the original laws of our being; the period of youth might and would be extended to what we now call "old age," say "threescore and ten," and "threescore and ten" would be but the beginning of vigorous manhood to be indefinitely prolonged, reaching on to a hundred, or even two hundred years!
The special means to insure sound health and a long life are to avoid all errors in diet and personal habits. As the fluids and solids of the human organism are formed from the materials taken into the stomach as food and drink, it follows that we all ought to abstain more than we do from concentrated materials of aliment, and live more on fruits and vegetable substances, and fret ourselves less with the cares of the world; so all individuals would be able to maintain the juices of the body, and reduce, in a large degree, the solid elements which induce rigidity of muscles, thickening of membrane, contraction of organs, all leading to disease, premature debility, old age, and death.
Let us all then strive to return to the elementary principles of organic or human life. Let our diet be plain, simple, and of a juicy nature. Let us refrain from excesses of all kinds, whether connected with our mental or physical powers, and thereby secure a long lease on life, attended with a thousand blessings unknown to those who lead "fast lives," eat and drink immoderately, and indulge in the various forms of intemperate or luxurious habits. It is never too late to commence a reform in all these things. The oldest person now living might prolong his life to an indefinite period, by avoiding the errors named, and submitting himself to the prior-ordeal mandates of nature. To assist Nature in her work of regeneration and recuperation of the human organism, my "Renovating Pills" will be found of most wonderful efficacy in connection with the hygienic and dietetic requirements already indicated. They will thus prolong the period of youth to vigorous manhood, and vigorous manhood to the extremest limit of life ever yet vouchsafed to the human being. The already "old and feeble," so-called, may be sure of having their lives greatly prolonged, and finally, in the inevitable ordinances of Heaven, or the laws of gradual progress and decay, passing away with cheerful resignation and peace to that mysterious bourne from which no mortal traveller ever has returned.