This section is from the book "Meals Medicinal", by W. T. Fernie. Also available from Amazon: Meals Medicinal: With "Herbal Simples" Curative Foods From the Cook in Place of Drugs From the Chemist.
An English citizen was being conducted round the galleries of the White House, New York, by an American gentleman, to whom he remarked, "What a large number of portraits you have here!" "Yes," said the guide, in a dry, matter-of-fact way, "in America we generally put our men of note in oil," speaking just as if they were tinned Sardines.
By the first London Pharmacopceia, 1618, an Oil of St. John's Wort (Hypericum perforatum), was ordered to be made. It possesses a specially beautiful red colour. This oil prepared from the plant-tops is highly useful for healing bed sores and ulcers. It has a particular virtue for allaying spinal irritability if rubbed into the back bone. The flowers when bruised between the fingers yield a bright red juice, so that the herb has obtained the title of (Sanguis hominis,) human blood. Furthermore, it is "Medicamentum in mansa intus sumendum "to be chewed for its curative effects.
As supplementary to the commendation of Cod-liver Oil specifically for. consumptive patients, some facts respecting the open-air treatment recently brought by physicians into universal vogue (as promising to altogether eradicate this dire and destructive disease, especially from among young persons having proclivities thereto), may be usefully brought under notice. The main ratio medendi of open-air treatment for consumptives depends on our present positive acquaintance with the bacillus which denotes tubercular consumption, and reveals itself in the sputa (phlegm, and spittle) of the infected patient; together with proofs incontestable that abundance of fresh, open, cold, dry air, by day, and by night, with plentiful sunshine, and generous food, even almost to excess, serve to exterminate this tuberculous bacillus. Nevertheless, so happy an issue during the individual lifetime, or experience of one generation, is only to be made sure of in cases of acquired consumption, without a deep-rooted, inherited tuberculous bias of longer inheritance, which is defiant of sanative expulsion by any such speedy, and plausible means. "The medical mind," as Dr. Pearse, of Plymouth, sagaciously admonishes, "is too much exercised about a bacillus as the cause of consumption, overlooking the great biological, orderly, wide, and profound correlations of this disease, - correlations which extend back often to many generations, whilst involving structure, and function." Bitter must as yet be the disappointments of many too hopeful victims, and of their over-sanguine friends, because of ingrained tubercular seeds, virulent enough to withstand a series, of lives, before being totally vanquished by science and open air.
All that can be patiently accomplished by the enlightened measures now under pursuance by skilled doctors, on extending lines, is to rescue the large body of consumptive sufferers in whom the disease has been personally acquired, and not inherited through innate tubercular propensities; whilst more slowly changing the whole constitutional existence of others, as yet beyond curative reach except by degrees throughout more than one lifetime. As to the methods, and prosecution of open-air treatment, sanatoriums for the purpose, in suitable positions on high ground as essential, are now multiplying under properly organized supervision. Their experience is as yet somewhat crude, yet on the whole convincing. Sir Thomas Barlow has said in a medical address (1902) at Manchester: "I believe it will be found that children are more tolerant of exposure to open winds than adults are; and the importance to healthy children of passing a great part of the day in the open air has been gradually apprehended by the rich; whilst the poor have been compelled to learn it as a rough lesson by their own conditions; but neither rich, nor poor, yet appreciate how large a slice of the twenty-four hours in every child's daily life is passed in the bedroom.
The traditional fear of air, and of wide-open windows, which is perhaps a survival of ancient malarial experience, has still to be unlearned in this country of ours." Again: "The test of a climate suitable for a consumptive to winter in is not the mean height of temperature, nor even the absence of extremes, but the number of available days for getting an appetite by air and exercise, under the open sky"; so taught Dr. King Chambers as long ago as 1876. Likewise, "in springtime the sunshine compensates for a good deal of cold, although perhaps much actual warmth is not then felt from its rays, for there is scarcely any warmth in the chemical rays of the sun, - those rays which stimulate plant life, and animal-life, yet are highly destructive to the microbes of disease. It is a significant observation that in April, and May, despite the cold winds which may prevail, the actinic power of the sun's rays reaches a maximum. At no other time in the year, not even during the hot days of July, and August, are the health-giving rays of the sun so intense as in spring. Certain chemical compounds prove to be more readily disintegrated, and at a quicker rate, in April and May, than in any other months of the year.
Quite a considerable number of chemical salts give greater evidence of the disturbing action of light in the spring than at any other season; and nature herself responds to this quickening impulse, for growth is greatest, and most vigorous when the chemical activity of the sun's rays is highest; and that is, of course, in the spring." The vital processes, as concerning recovery from, or yielding to morbid states, are specially influenced by the atmospheric conditions of spring-time; notably consumptive persons are reputed capable of resisting the advance of their disease if they surmount the month of May. Tennyson, who was a faithful observer of natural operations, gives heed.to this vernal influence in his touching poem, The May Queen: -
"All in the wild March morning I heard the Angels call, And in the wild March morning I heard them call my soul".
Furthermore, the early morning air contains more ozone than that of mid-day, which fact is to be explained by the electrical action of the dew for an hour or more after dawn, with an increase of peroxide of hydrogen beneficially, than in air later in the day. Dew is probably of vital importance to the well-being of both patients, and animals, to a greater extent than is known; and the beautiful expression in our Prayer Book, "Pour upon them the continual dew of thy blessing," may be specially remembered in this connection. "Itineris matutini gratiam accipimus." Charles Kingsley when away from his living at Eversley, 1849, for recovery after a severe illness, wrote home thus: "a tremendous gale of wind has acted on me exactly like Champagne, and a Cathedral organ combined in one." "Anythink for air and exercise' " (exclaims Sam Weller, in Pickwick), "as the wery old donkey observed ven they voke him up from his death-bed to carry ten gentlemen to Greenwich in a tax-cart".
During the first century of the Christian era, Celsus prescribed for combating consumption in certain cases the process of gestation, or mild shaking of the body. A modern physician now instructs thus: "I have been very much struck by the beneficial effects following a motor-car drive of from thirty to forty miles. Along with a feeling of marked exhilaration, an increased appetite, and improved sleep, there is a heightened healthy glow, which after a few days' prolonged treatment tends to become permanent. Also the disposition to cough is (in a consumptive patient) much diminished. I would, therefore, suggest to those in charge of sanatoria the advisability of combining a daily run on a good motor-car, at a pace fully up to the legal limit, with the ordinary open-air treatment. The patients should be placed in front of the car, so as to avoid inspiring dust which may be thrown up by the wheels." This may be taken to represent the gestation of Celsus, "up to date." Sydney Smith declared about the Scotch friends who visited him in Somersetshire, and found its climate enervating, that "they were but Northern barbarians after all, who like to breathe their air raw; we civilized people of the South prefer it cooked".