This section is from the "Nature Cure: Philosophy and Practice Based on the Unity of Disease and Cure" book, by Henry Lindlahr.
This heading may seem paradoxical, but it is borne out by fact. Stimulants are poison to the system. Few people realize that their exhilarating and apparently tonic effects are produced by the paralysis of an important part of the nervous system.
If, as we have learned, wholesome food and drink in themselves do not contain and therefore cannot convey life force to the human body, much less can this be accomplished by stimulants.
The human body has many correspondences with a watch. Both have a motor or driving mechanism and an inhibitory or restraining apparatus.
If it were not for the inhibiting balances, the wound watchspring would run off and spend its force in a few moments. The expenditure of the latent force in the wound spring must be regulated by the inhibitory and balancing mechanism of the timepiece.
Similarly, the nervous system in the animal and human organism consists of two main divisions: the motor or driving and the inhibitory or restraining mechanisms.
The driving power is furnished by the sympathetic nerves and the motor nerves. They convey the vital energies and nerve impulses to the cells and organs of the body, thus initiating and regulating their activities.
We found that the human body is capable of liberating in a given time, say, in twenty-four hours, only a certain limited amount of vital energy, just as the wound spring of the watch is capable of liberating in a given time only a certain amount of kinetic energy.
As in the watch the force of the spring is controlled by the regulating balances (the anchor), so in the body the expenditure of vital energy must be regulated in such a manner that it is evenly distributed over the entire running time. This is accomplished by the inhibitory nervous system [the parasympathetics].
Every motor nerve must be balanced by an inhibitory nerve. The one furnishes the driving force, the other applies the brake. For instance, the heart muscle is supplied with motor force through the spinal nerves from the upper dorsal region, while the pneumogastric [vagus] nerve retards the action of the heart and in that way acts as a brake.
Another brake is supplied by the waste products of metabolism in the system, the uric acid, carbonic acid, oxalic acid, etc., and the many forms of xanthines, alkaloids, and ptomaines. As these accumulate in the organism during the hours of wakeful activity, they gradually clog the capillary circulation, benumb brain and nerves, and thus produce a feeling of exhaustion and tiredness and a craving for rest and sleep.
In this way, by means of the inhibitory nervous system and of the accumulating fatigue products in the body, Nature forces the organism to rest and recuperate when the available supply of vital force runs low. The lower the level of vital force, the more powerful will become the inhibitory influences.
Now we can understand why stimulation is produced by paralysis. Stimulants precipitate the fatigue products from the circulation into the tissues of the body. They do this by overcoming and paralyzing the power of the blood to dissolve and carry in solution uric acid and other acids and alkaloids that should be eliminated from the organism. Thus will be explained more fully in the volume on "Natural Dietetics."
Furthermore, stimulants temporarily benumb and paralyze the inhibitory nervous system. In other words, they lift the brakes from the motor nervous system, and allow the driving powers to run wild when Nature wanted them to slow up or stop.
To illustrate: A man has been working hard all day. Toward night his available supply of vitality has run low, his system is filled with uric acid, carbonic acid and other benumbing fatigue products, and he feels tired and sleepy, At this juncture he receives word that he must sit up all night with a sick relative. In order to brace himself for the extraordinary demand upon his vitality, our friend takes a cup of strong coffee, or a drink of whisky, or whatever his favorite stimulant may be.
The effect is marvelous. The tired feeling disappears, and he feels as though he could remain awake all night without effort.
What has produced this apparent renewal and increase of vital energy? Has the stimulant added to his system one iota of vitality? This cannot be, because stimulants do not contain anything that could impart vital force to the organism. What, then, has produced the seemingly strengthening effect?
The caffeine, alcohol or whatever the stimulating poison may have been has precipitated the fatigue products from the blood and deposited them in the tissues and organs of the body. Furthermore, the stimulant has benumbed the inhibitory nerves; in other words, it has lifted the brakes from the driving part of the organism, so that the wheels are running wild.