This section is from the book "Health Without Medicine. A Treatise On The Laws Of The Human System", by Larkin B. Coles. Also available from Amazon: Philosophy Of Health.
Dr. Cottereau says, "I have seen some young persons who have taken excessive doses of coffee to excite them to labor, fall into a state of stupidity, lose their appetite, and grow thin in an astonishing manner."
A. Saint-Arroman, to whom credit is due for furnishing the above extracts, says, "According to these counsels, given by men of skill, it is easy to comprehend that coffee is sometimes more injurious than the great consumption of it would seem to indicate. Thus, how many persons are there who would know the cause of a disease not understood, and would be less disordered, if they thoroughly knew the effects of this liquor, and the circumstances in which it cannot fail to be injurious."
It need only be added that, in the estimation of the writer of this little work -- after having used it for several years, and since that having abstained from it for twelve or fifteen years -- coffee, in all cases, and under all circumstances, is bad; that its stimulating qualities are decidedly injurious to the system, and ought never to be used except when required as an antidote to poison, or for some other medicinal purpose. And what makes it to be dreaded more than many other injurious things is, its evil working is so unseen and delusive. While it does not show itself like alcohol, yet its evil work is as certainly undermining the nervous system; and while it tempts us to believe that it strengthens and supports -- because it excites -- it slowly enervates. It affects the whole system, and especially the nervous system, by its effects on the stomach. But besides this, it creates a morbid action of the liver; especially where there is a tendency to bilious affections. It affects the circulation of the blood, and the quality of the blood itself, so that a great coffee-drinker can generally be known by his complexion; it gives to the skin a dead, dull, sallow appearance.
Coffee affects not only the body to its injury, but also the mind. It has been called an "intellectual drink," because it excites the mind temporarily to unwonted activity. "But, unfortunately," says the French writer last quoted, "it is not without great prejudice to mind and body that man procures such over-excitements. After them come prostration, sadness, and exhaustion of the moral and physical forces; the mind becomes enervated, the body languishes. To a rich imagination succeeds a penury of ideas; and if the consumer does not stop, genius will soon give place to stupidity.
The longevity of some coffee-drinkers has been sometimes urged as proof that coffee does no harm. But we might just as well bring forward the fact that some great alcohol-drinkers, or some great opium-eaters, have lived sometimes to old age, in proof that alcohol and opium are harmless luxuries. It is impossible to judge always of the evil effects of an article we are using by any immediate perceptible result. We must inquire what is its nature; and then draw our conclusions as to what will be its effect. The most violent poisons may be used, after a habit is established, with apparent impunity; such as tobacco, opium, and arsenic; and yet no one would dare to say these are harmless luxuries. They are not harmless; they expose their consumers to premature sickness, old age, and death. And they see not the breakers until they are dashed upon them.
Tea is another objectionable article, because of its stimulating properties. This is a direct and active stimulant. Its effects are very similar to those of alcoholic drinks, except that of drunkenness. Like alcohol, it gives, for a time, increased vivacity of spirits. Like alcohol, it increases, beyond its healthy and natural action, the whole animal and mental machinery; after which there must come a reaction -- a corresponding languor and debility. The washwoman becomes exhausted, and must have her bowl of tea to recruit her energies, instead of giving nature a chance to recover herself. She depends upon art rather than nature, and each time lowers the standard of her own permanent strength. She accomplishes more in a short time, while her strength is artificial instead of natural, but is gradually, though perhaps imperceptibly, wearing herself out before her time. The nurse keeps herself awake nights by this artificial process; and each time, by imperceptible steps, lessens her natural strength. She thinks with the wash-woman, that tea does her good -- strengthens her, because, like the rum-drinker, she feels better under its immediate effects.
The time was when ministers, instead of being largely inspired with the Holy Ghost, wrote and delivered their sermons under the inspiration of ardent spirits; but now, seeing that to be morally and physically wrong, they not infrequently labor under that artificial inspiration, which is quite as effectual, contained in tea. By this process, they gradually impair their own natural energy of body and mind.
See a party of Indies met to spend an afternoon, in a sewing-circle, it may be; toward the close of the afternoon, their fund of conversationals becomes somewhat exhausted; but soon come the tea and eatables; and notwithstanding the opposing influences of a full stomach, the drooping mind becomes greatly animated, the tongue is let loose, and the words come flowing forth like the falling drops of a great shower in summer-time. What does all this mean? Whence the cause of such a change? It is the inspiration of the strong cups of tea. Then is the time for small thoughts and many words; or it may be the sending forth of firebrands of gossip and slander; or if, perchance, religion be the topic, the inspiring power of tea will create an excited feeling very closely resembling that produced when alcohol runs over in the form of penitential tears.
Tea, in large doses, produces convulsive motions, and a kind of intoxication. It enters into the circulation, and affects the complexion; it is not difficult to detect a great tea-drinker by looking at his skin; which loses its bright and lively cast, and puts on a deadly, lifeless, dried, and sometimes sallow appearance. It is said that in China the great tea-drinkers are thin and weak, their complexion leaden, their teeth black, and themselves affected with diabetes. Cases have not unfrequently come under the immediate inspection of the writer, where tea had for years almost literally been the food and drink; especially of seamstresses, who would sit up late nights. In such cases, about the only remedy would be, to prohibit the further use of it. But generally this prohibition would be no longer heeded than while being uttered; for their dependence on it, and love for it, could not be easily broken up; and but small compensation in some cases would seem to be gained by its discontinuance; for tea had almost eaten them up; leaving little more than bone and sinew, and a few scraps of dried flesh.
In short, whoever uses tea or coffee as a common drink, spends his money for that which does him not only no good, but evil, and that continually. They are both innutritious, and stimulating to a degree which it is difficult for their devotees to calculate. Now which shall we do? Abstain, and bring under this evil appetite, or will we gratify it? Will we deny ourselves, and derive the incalculable benefit as a compensation, or recklessly go on, and take the consequences? Will young ladies and gentlemen treat their physical and mental systems lawfully, and save to themselves a good constitution, or will they, at all hazards, indulge themselves in unlawful appetites, and have no principle by which to govern themselves, but their own gratification? Will they have regard to their own benefit, and that of coming generations, or will they, like the devotee to the intoxicating bowl, live for today, and let to-morrow provide for itself?