The Coffee Plant. Nat. Ord. Cincho-naceae. Linn. Syst. Pentandria Monogynia. Hab. Arabia, Persia, East and West Indies.
Med. Prop. and Action. The berry (vulgo Coffee), when dried and burnt, is tonic and stimulant. In small doses, a strong decoction of Coffee is capable of arresting diarrha; whilst, in large doses, it acts as a cathartic. Dr. Pick-fordj attributes this partly to the condition of the motor nerves, which, being weakened, are, by its moderate stimulus, restored to their normal condition; and thereby diarrhoea, depending upon their deranged condition, is relieved. When large doses are taken, the motor nerves become over-stimulated; and on this increased action arises an increased amount of alvine secretion. He considers, also, that Coffee undoubtedly possesses the property of promoting digestion, and of increasing the biliary secretion. This last opinion is in accordance with Liebig's§ views, who points out the singular fact that Caffeine, the peculiar principle of Coffee, is identical with Theine, the peculiar principle of Tea; and that both these substances, with the addition of oxygen and the elements of water, can yield Taurine, the nitrogenized compound peculiar to bile. The experiments of Stuhlmann and Falek show that Caffeine proves fatal to animals in comparatively small doses. It destroys by exhaustion of nervous power, and seems to act especially upon the heart and parietes of the vessels.|| Caffeine, or a strong solution containing it, produces in man restlessness, palpitations, and other nervous symptoms. It also appears to check the metamorphoses of the animal body, as shown by the diminished formation of Urea, which takes place under its use.¶ Hence it has been proposed to administer strong Coffee in various febrile diseases in which there is excessive metamorphosis of the tissues. Coffee is of importance as a means of disguising the taste of nauseous medicines, particularly Quinine, Senna, and Epsom Salts.
In Spasmodic Asthma, I have constantly found Coffee of the greatest service in allaying the severity of a paroxysm. Sir J. Pringle** ranks it as the best of all palliatives. He directs the Coffee to be made very strong, an ounce to a cup; this is to be taken hot, and repeated every quarter or half-hour. Drs. Bree, Percival, and Musgrave, and, more recently, Laennec and Dr. C. B. Williams testify to its value. Dr. Forbes, * however, places no reliance on it as a general remedy, but ranks it as one of those narcotics and stimulants which are occasionally useful. It is a simple and safe remedy, and should not be neglected. Asthmatic patients should avoid using Coffee as an ordinary beverage, lest the habit of taking it should impair its efficacy as a remedial agent.
* Edin. Med. Journ., Sept. 1862. Essentials of Materia medica and Therapeutics, p. 161. Medical Gazette, Nov. 24, 1848. § Animal Chemistry, 2nd Ed. p. 179. || See Ranking's Abstract, 1859, vol.
xxix. p. 351.
¶ Garred, Essentials of Materia Medica and Therapeutics, p. 232.
** Percival's Med. Essays, vol. iii. p. 270.
Lib. of Med., vol. iii p. 92.