Stimulants, in medicine, generally denote those subtances, or means, by which the action of certain parts of the body is increased, for instance, the circulation of the blood, or the activity of the muscular fibres, so as to affect, in a more or less favourable manner, the whole system of the nerves. In short, these remedies are chiefly designed to raise the vital power, by producing such changes in the organized frame, as will render the latter more susceptible of those healthy impressions (by others termed irritability) on which the proper exercise of all the animal and vital functions principally depends. Hence, the greatest precaution is requisite, in the choice and adaptation of stimulants to the particular constitutionand circumstances of the individual; so that the energy of the active principle of life may not, at the same time, be too much weakened ; or, by a long continuance of such means, be totally exhausted.
It would be incompatible with our plan, to enter into a minute discussion of this important subject: we shall, therefore, content ourselves with observing that, in the application of stimulants, the principal attention ought to be directed to ascertain, by induction, from the existing degree of debility or nervous inactivity, whether any, and what portion of the vital principle in the patient, may occasionally be roused or excited into action : - the result of such inquiry, can be determined only by the experienced medical practitioner. The truth of his assertion, will be more evident from the following list of stimulating remedies, any of which may, in certain cases, prove useful, if properly employed: thus wine, camphor, musk, castor, opium, phosphorous, marum germander, cinnamon, volatile alkali; nay, even friction, electricity, and the application of nettles - all have, in various instances, afforded relief, when directed with judgment.
For guiding those readers, who are in search of general information, we shall briefly state the principal cases, in which stimulants may be resorted to: 1. In ardent fevers attended with extreme nervous debility, especially those of the malignant kind, where the patient has neither strength to discharge the morbid miasma affecting him, nor to counteract the noxious influence of disease. 2. In all the chronic disorders arising from intestinal obstructions; acrid humours ; long-continued depressing passions; want of sufficient nutriment ; privation of fresh air; too great exertions of the mind, especially night-study ; and debauches of every description. 3. In fainting-fits, or swoonings, where the highest degree of bodily weakness is only apparent, so that they originate from a suppression, rather than from the want of nervous energy. 4. In paralytic affections, produced by any of the causes before specified. - Hence, it will be easily understood, that the nature of stimulants, requires not only the knowledge of selecting, but also great circumspection in applying them to proper subjects.