This section is from the book "Shampooing Or Benefits Resulting From The Use Of The Indian Medicated Vapour Bath", by Sake Dene Mahomed. Also available from Amazon: Shampooing: Or Benefits Resulting From The Use Of The Indian Medicated Vapor Bath.
Wonderful also to relate, - since using the Steam Bath, I find myself so recovered, that I can read by candle light, without glasses, better than I was able to do for a long time past. On the whole, my malady has seemed to vanish under the Steam and Vapour Baths, as if by enchantment. It is my duty however to confess that (having been for several years subject to attacks of erysipelas on my left leg) my appetite failed about the third time bathing; and during the fourth day, and on the fifth, a violent attack of erysipelas, which had been preceded by the common symptoms, declared itself in the usual way, by the swelling and inflam-. mation then appearing on my left leg, but a perseverance in the use of the Steam Bath cured the erysipelas. I endeavoured to account for the attack by damp beds on the road; bad provisions, beer, and wine, at one place; exposure to damp weather while seeking for lodgings; being heated, while last in London; on the journey, etc.; but Mr. Mahomed said, it might have been caused by the Steam Bath, because "what was in the blood must be thrown out to admit a cure." - Perhaps he was right!
I shall now answer the objections that have been made to the use of the Steam Bath. From what has been just before stated, patients should not regularly expect to be cured without an ache, a pain, some eruptions, and, perhaps, other temporary suffering or inconvenience. Happy, indeed must they be, could they fairly calculate upon escaping all such! Very many patients however may do so, but not all - consider, an emetic makes us sick at stomach; and all physic is nauseous; drawing teeth is painful, and at times dangerous; the use of the knife or lance produces pain; escharotics and caustics burn and torture us; lithotomy and amputation are horrible even to the thought; yet we submit to all these, and to be confined and teased for weeks, months, and years, in the hope only of a cure! Why then are patients to feel disappointment, if they be not instantly or speedily cured by the Steam Bath - especially in cases of obstinate distemper? - Or, if the improper humours be driven by the steam out of their impure blood or juices, or out of the diseased parts of the general mass, and occasion some uneasiness, or even an eruption for a few days or longer, perhaps; for surely the improper humours must be driven out, to effect the required cures: or if the steam or vapour be unpleasant to the feelings of some persons, why should they not submit to the inconvenience, as they do to the use of medicines, for the chance of a cure?
Facts and practice are better than arguments and theory - Bathing, in steam, is said to weaken and make persons lean! I have, in my own person, as well as by the evidence of other bathers, proved those assertions to be false - I bathed 64 times, in 64 following days, for nearly 30 minutes each time, and was very weak, indeed, when I began, but every day became stronger, and my flesh plumper and firmer; and it is according to reason that the warm steam bath should strengthen, and not weaken; for if the steam does occasion perspiration, it is but for a very short time, and is not that collignative, or weakening perspiration which a patient should dread, but a perspiration, or exhalation, which throws out those putrid and deadly humours and particles, from the human body, which must be expelled, in order that the disease may be gotten rid of; and the steam-bath is, certainly, the quickest, easiest, and safest method of driving those deadly humours and particles out of the human body, and sooner allows the patient, therefore, to recover strength, than the operation of any kind of physic does - In all hot climates, hot baths have long been in common use, and instead of weakening, are known to cleanse and brace!
As to catching cold, or to feeling pains and aches, after bathing in steam, I can say that I bathed in the depth of winter, 64 times, exposed myself to the open air, after bathing, by using exercise, and never was before so free from cold in winter; and, I remarked, that I was less chilly, and bore the cold better than others who did not bathe; - my aches and pains were cured by bathing; but, if any patient should catch cold, or feel aches and pains continuing, the use of the steam bath will be the readiest cure. - I remember, Sir William Jones assured me, many years ago, that steam was a sovereign remedy for a cold in the head.
In Russia, the bathers, while warm and naked from the hot baths and stews, plunge themselves into cold water, and sometimes into rivers!!!
Folly, or interest, has circulated a report that the patient may be suffocated in the bath; and that the blood rushes to the head and the pulses are quickened therein. All these reports, I have, in my own person, proved to be false; and, if a patient could even fancy that suffocation was about to happen, the flannel, on the top of the bath, could be easily removed by the patient's own hand, even if the attendant were absent, and instantly the steam and vapour would exhale and escape, and leave the patient to breathe the free outer air of the room. Of the numbers that have used Mr. Mahomed's baths, there is not one who has been suffocated! Some have asserted that the steam will scald the patient! I have not heard an instance of it in Mr. Mahomed's baths. He can augment or decrease the quantity of steam, and increase or diminish the degrees of heat, at pleasure. There is a stop-cock just close to the feet of the patient, which, being turned, would, in an instant, check the whole of the steam from rising, and throw it off from the bath: besides, a thermometer is hung up in the bath, on which the patient may easily read and mark the degrees of heat, and, if the steam should become too hot to the feet, the patient can immediately let it escape from the bath, by throwing off the flannel from the top of the bath, as before stated.
As to the blood being turned to water by the steam, the very idea is absurd. Certainly, it must be admitted that every person and vegetable, and thing and matter in this world, is composed of the four original elements - earth, air, fire, and water; all our solid parts - as bones, flesh, etc. have water in the composition, and so has our blood, but that blood cannot be decomposed in the system, so as to be changed to water by any means. By severe and frequent bleeding, particularly, indeed, as also by various medicines, or by disease, the blood may be so impoverished or corrupted that the patient may become dropsical, or fall into other diseases; there is, therefore, great danger in frequent bleeding; for, if the famous Doctor Brown be correct, although the scum of the blood may be restored and increased, and the veins become fuller than ever sometimes after bleeding, yet the liquid with which they are then filled has not the richness of the former blood, inasmuch as the red globular particles, which are iron, are fewer, and the crassa-mentum or rich part of the blood, which has been taken away by the bleeding, is never restored to the system in its full purity - that happens, however, when the original blood has been drawn away from the veins; but steam cannot draw away, and, therefore, cannot leave its watery particles in the system, instead of the blood; nor can steam, like some powerful medicines, corrupt the blood by corrupting the whole human mass, and deranging the secretions and excretions, or some of them.
Steam cleanses, and all that it performs is, to cause the corrupt and deadly humours and particles to be expired, or exhaled: and to aid their passage from the blood by perspiration and the transpiration of the skin; or by the expiration of the lungs, and, in the lungs, to part with its oxygen or vital air, part of which is there taken into the blood, and is necessary to refresh and purify it, as the oxygen separated by the lungs from the atmospheric air does; but the steam contains more oxygen, or vital air, and less azote, or nitrogen, or deadly and pestiferous air, than the atmosphere does, and therefore restores the health better and sooner to the patient; and, as the atmospheric air is in part composed of water, the blood, if it could be changed to water, might be so changed by the atmospheric air, as well as by steam; but that is not found to be the case, nor is it the law of nature.
All objections that I have heard against the steam-bath, appear to me to be now fully answered: but one remark I have to make respecting it, which has also been made by others, that is - that it sometimes occasions drowsiness - but it does so by composing1 the nerves and giving ease to the whole frame; and that, evidently, is a benefit and help to the constitution. Repose is necessary to most cures; but, if the patient in any particular case wishes to avoid it, even gentle exercise will effectually overcome the drowsiness. The bath, also, like other modes of bathing, sometimes makes the mouth dry - rinsing- the mouth with cold water, or drinking a proper diluent beverage will be an easy remedy.
The vulgar adage has been quoted -"one man's meat is another man's poison," - and it has been said - "what will cure one, will not cure all." - Steam in one way or other, by exhalation caused by the sun's heat, by the water suspended in the atmosphere, etc. etc. may be said to pervade all nature, and I look upon the use of steam as a remedy to be, therefore, an exception to those adages or sayings called general rules - N. B - Perhaps the steam bath would be the best method for preparing patients for common seabathing - for if the pores be shut up by first using the cold water, the bad humours and disease may be thereby shut up in the body, and the patient become ill in consequence; but by the pores being effectually opened by the steam, the skin is thereby prepared, so as to enable the patient to receive all the benefit of sea-bathing.
John Shaw, L. L. D. At Messrs. Heyman and Co.'s Cateaton-street,
London. Brighton, January the 20th, 1818.