This section is from the "Nature Cure: Philosophy and Practice Based on the Unity of Disease and Cure" book, by Henry Lindlahr.
But this means drawing upon the reserve supplies of nerve fats and of the vital energy stored in them, which Nature wants to save for extraordinary demands upon the system in times of illness or extreme exertion. Therefore this procedure is contrary to Nature's intent. Nature tried to force the tired body to rest and sleep, so that it could store up a new supply of vital force.
Under the paralyzing influence of the stimulant upon the inhibitory nerves, the organism now draws upon the reserve stores of nerve fats and vital energies for the necessary strength to accomplish the extra nightwork.
At the same time, the organism remains awake and active during the time it should be replenishing energy for the next day's work, which means that the latter also has to be done at the expense of the reserve supply of life force.
During sleep only do we replenish our reserve stores of vitality. The expenditure of vital energies ceases, but their liberation in the system continues.
Therefore sleep is the "sweet restorer". Nothing can take its place. No amount of food and drink, no tonics or stimulants can make up for the loss of sleep. Continued complete deprivation of sleep is bound to end in a short time in physical and mental exhaustion, in insanity and death.
That the body, during sleep, acts as a storage battery for vital energy is proved by the fact that in deep, sound sleep the aura disappears entirely from around the body.
The aura is to the organism what the exhaust steam is to the engine. It is formed by the electromagnetic fluids which have performed their work in the body and then escape from it, giving the appearance of a many-colored halo.
With the first awakening of conscious mental activity after sleep, the aura appears, indicating that the expenditure of vital force has recommenced.
In the above diagram we have an illustration of the true effect of stimulants upon the system. The heavy line A-B represents the normal level of available vital energy in a certain body for a given time, say, for twenty-four hours. At point C a stimulant is taken. This paralyzes the inhibitory nerves and temporarily precipitates the fatigue products from the blood.
As we have seen, this allows an increased, unnatural expenditure of vital energy, which raises the latter to point D. But when the effect of the stimulant has been spent, the vital energy drops from the artificially attained high point not only back to the normal level, but below it to point E.
The increased expenditure of vital energy was made possible at the expense of the reserve supply of vitality; therefore the depression following it is in proportion to the preceding stimulation. This is in accordance with the law: "Action and reaction are equal, but opposite."
The falling of the vital energy below the normal to point E is accompanied by a feeling of exhaustion and depression which creates a desire to repeat the pleasurable experience of an abundant supply of vitality, and thus leads to a repetition of the artificial stimulation. As a result of this, the expenditure of vitality is again raised above the normal to point F, only to fall again below the normal, to G, etc.
In this way the person who resorts to stimulants to keep up his strength or to increase it, is never normal, never on the level, never at his best. He is either overstimulated or abnormally depressed. His efforts are bound to be fitful and his work uneven in quality. Furthermore, it will be only a matter of time until he exhausts his reserve supply of nerve fats and vital energy and then suffers nervous bankruptcy in the forms of nervous prostration, neurasthenia or insanity.
Such a person is acting like the spendthrift whose capital in the bank allows him to expend ten dollars a day, but who, instead, draws several times the amount of his legitimate daily interest. There can be but one outcome to this: in due time the cashier will inform him that his account is overdrawn.
The same principles hold true with regard to stimulants given at the sickbed.
One of the arguments I constantly hear from students and physicians of the "Old School" of medicine is: "Some of your methods may be all right, but what would you do at the sickbed of a patient who is so weak and low that he may die at any moment? Would you just let him die? Would you not give him something to keep him alive?"
I certainly would, if I could. But I do not believe that poisons can give life. If there is enough vitality in that dying body to react to the poisonous stimulant by a temporary increase of vital activity, then that same amount of vitality will keep the heart beating and the respiration going a little longer at the slower pace. Nature regulates the heartbeat and the other functions according to the amount and availability of vital force. If the heart beats slow, it is because Nature is trying to economize vitality.
In the inevitable depression following the artificial whipping up of the vital energies, many times the flame is snuffed out entirely when otherwise it might have continued to burn at the slower rate for some time longer.
However, I do not deny the advisability of administering stimulants in cases of shock. When a shock has caused the stopping of the wheels of life, another shock by a stimulant may set them in motion again.