This section is from the book "Practical Dietetics With Special Reference To Diet In Disease", by William Gilman Thompson. Also available from Amazon: Practical Dietetics with Special Reference to Diet in Disease.
It is the almost universal experience of mankind that the taking of food and drink merely to satisfy the cravings of physical needs does not at the same time wholly satisfy the desire of the mind for occasional invigoration, for restoration of bodily function after fatigue, for support during sustained muscular exertion, for an incentive to activity, and for conviviality. In some form or other, although in greatly varying degree, a stimulant is demanded by almost every one to meet the emergencies with which he is from time to time confronted.
To this end the civilised European imports his tea from China, his coffee from Java, his cocoa from Brazil, his tobacco from America or Cuba, his opium from India, and his alcohol from more immediate neighbours. His semicivilised or wholly barbaric brother who lacks the ability or means to procure such refreshment from foreign sources relies upon his own ingenuity to devise fermented drinks from every available substance. Thus, the Tartar ferments milk into koumiss, the Mexican ferments the Maguey (Agave Americana) into pulque, the Central African ferments a wine from the palm, the Apache of southern Arizona ferments a cactus into the intoxicating mescal, the Kamtchatkan ferments a peculiar drink from a poisonous fungus, and honey, rice, corn, barley, rye, grapes, dates - in fact, nearly every cereal and every fruit - is in some part of the world made to yield the cup which cheers, and too often inebriates as well.
It is true that there are those who find it possible to live without ever tasting even the mildest stimulants of any kind, and there are sects of men, like the Mohammedans and Buddhists, to whom the use of alcohol in every form is absolutely forbidden by their religion; but most of them discover other means of satisfying an instinctive craving for occasional stimulation, and ready substitutes for the prohibited intoxicants are found close at hand in hasheesh, opium, excessive tea consumption, etc. The economic and social aspects of this subject alone are of vast importance, and the question of the utility of stimulants and beverages is in itself no small branch of dietetics.
The several substances classed under these headings are found to serve in one or more of the following ways:
I. To relieve thirst and introduce fluid into the circulation.
II. As diuretics.
III. As diaphoretics.
IV. As diluents of the food and of the waste material in the body.
V. As stimulants of the nerves and other organs.
VI. As intoxicants.
VII. As demulcents.
VIII. As tonics, and to promote digestion.
IX. As astringents.
X. For nutrition.
The effects of all beverages and stimulants are far more pronounced if they are taken into an empty stomach, which insures their prompt absorption.
I. To relieve thirst all fluids which are not too sweet may be used, but sour beverages, such as acid lemonade or raspberry vinegar, the effervescing carbonated waters, solutions of potassium bitartrate, or dilute mineral acids in water, are generally the most acceptable.
II. As diuretics the mineral waters and carbonated waters hold the first rank. With many persons coffee is also an active diuretic. So are beer, gin, champagne, and, to a lesser degree, other forms of alcohol, and tea.
III. As diaphoretics, hot spirits and water or hot tea may be used.
IV. As diluents of the ingested food and of the waste material of the body the alkaline and carbonated effervescing or bland waters are the best.
V. As stimulants of the nerves and other organs, the milder forms of alcoholic beverages, diluted spirits, tea, and coffee are used.
VI. As intoxicants, beers, ales, strong wines, champagne, and strong liquors are the most powerful agents. Koumiss as originally made in the steppes of Russia, and many fermented substances, are also employed for the same purpose.
VII. As demulcents, mucilaginous, farinaceous, and gelatinous beverages are used for fevers, etc. Such are decoctions of Iceland moss (cetraria) or Irish moss, barley or oatmeal water, arrowroot and other light gruels, solutions of gelatin, flaxseed tea, etc. When taken hot they are soothing for coughs and promote expectoration.
VIII. For use as tonics and to aid digestion may be mentioned malt extracts, ales, light wines, clarets, Burgundies, diluted brandy or whisky, chalybeate and arsenical waters, and alkaline waters drunk before meals.
IX. As astringents, red wines and tea are of chief importance.
Stimulants have two separate actions: First, a prompt exhilarating effect or exaltation of the nervous system, which endures for a few hours, and, secondly, a period of depression which usually bears a more or less definite relation to the degree of previous excitation. The second period is sometimes longer or more intense than the first, producing an actual balance of loss of vitality in the system.
Various dietetic drinks have been advocated for their supposed specific action in stimulating a torpid liver and as laxatives or as diuretics; such, for example, are various "herb teas," etc., but they are of doubtful efficacy.
Many fruit essences and sirups are offered for sale for use in making cooling drinks and invalid beverages. When thoroughly reliable preparations are obtained they are of good service, but many of them are adulterated. For example - for lemonade, mixtures of malic, citric, and tartaric acids are often substituted. As a rule, it is better to extract the juice from the fresh fruit, and unless large quantities are required, this is almost as cheap. Unfermented California grape juice may be had in very pure condition, and it constitutes an excellent beverage for invalids, being wholly free from alcohol. "Grape food " serves a similar purpose (p. 188).
The preparations under consideration may be diluted with ice water, or with any one of the simple effervescing waters, such as carbonic-acid water, Vichy, Seltzer, Apollinaris, etc.
Of all these beverages, lemonade and orangeade are perhaps the most useful in the sick-room. These are agreeable, cooling, and refreshing in fevers, mildly diuretic, and beneficial in many ways. A very wholesome drink is made by putting the juice of two lemons with three or four lumps of sugar into a tumbler of iced Vichy, Seltzer, or Apollinaris, and stirring in a saltspoonful of bicarbonate of sodium; to be drunk while effervescing.
Root beer, sarsaparilla, and ginger ale are wholesome beverages when pure. Ginger ale is likely to cause colic unless a reliable article is obtained from a trustworthy dealer. It makes a useful "long drink " for alcoholic subjects who are attempting to recover from a debauch. They crave some beverage which has life and sparkle, and the ginger itself is helpful to the stomach.