Article #2: Effects Of Stimulants by Sylvester Graham, M.D.
In explaining and illustrating the constitutional laws of external relation, I have stated that every substance in nature from which the human body can derive nourishment, possesses specific and peculiar qualities which the human organs have vital powers to perceive and appreciate. Thus the visual properties of things are perceived by the special sense of sight; the auditory properties by the special sense of hearing; the olfactory properties, by the special sense of smell; the gustatory properties, by the special sense of taste; and the tangible properties by the special sense of touch. These external substances have also certain other properties, which are only perceived and appreciated by the special organic senses residing in the organs belonging to the domain of organic life, or the ganglionic system of nerves. These properties, in all proper alimentary substances, are the natural and appropriate stimuli of those nerves of organic sensibility which are adapted by the Creator to perceive and appreciate them, and to convey the impressions received from them to(the special centre which presides over the functions of the particular organ or apparatus, But we have seen that some alimentary substances are much more stimulating than others, in proportion to the quantity of nourishment which they actually afford the system, and that some substances in nature are purely stimulating without affording any nourishment.
The stimulation produced by these various substances is always necessarily exhausting to the vital properties of the tissues on which they act, just in proportion to its degree and duration; and every stimulus impairs the vital susceptibilities and powers, just in proportion as it is un-fitted for the real wants of the vital economy, and unfriendly to the vital interests.
But whatever may be the real character of the stimulus, every stimulation to which the system is accustomed increases, according to the power and extent of its influence, what is called the tone and the action of the parts on which it is exerted, and while the stimulation lasts, it always increases the feeling of strength and vigor in the system, whether any nourishment be imparted to the system or not.
Yet by so much as the stimulation exceeds in degree which is necessary for the full and healthy performance of the function or functions of the organs stimulated, by so much the more does the expenditure of vital power and waste of organized substance exceed for the time the replenishing and renovating economy of the system; and, consequently, the exhaustion and indirect debility which succeed the stimulation are always necessarily commensurate with the excess.
Hence, though that food which contains the greatest proportion of stimulating power to its quantity of nourishment causes, while its stimulation continues, a feeling of the greatest strength and vigor, it also necessarily produces the greatest exhaustion in the end, which is commensurately importunate and vehement in its demands for relief, by the repetition of the accustomed stimulus; and as the same food, more readily than any other, affords the demanded relief, by supplying the requisite degree of stimulation, our feelings always lead us to believe that it is really the most strengthening.
Hence, whenever a less stimulating diet is substituted for a more stimulating one, a corresponding physiological depression, or want of tone and action, always necessarily succeeds, varying in degree and duration according to the general condition of the system, and the suddenness and greatness of the change; and this depression is always attended by a feeling of weakness and lassitude, which is immediately removed, and the feeling of strength and vigor restored, by the accustomed degree of stimulation, by whatever produced, whether any increase of nourishment is actually afforded to the system or not.
The pure stimulants, therefore, which of themselves afford no nourishment to the system, and only serve to in-. crease the expenditure of vital properties and waste of organized substance, by increasing vital action, cause, while their stimulation lasts, a sense of increased strength and vigor; and thus we are led by our feelings to believe that the pure stimulants are really strengthening; and in the same manner we are deceived by even those pernicious stimulants which not only exhaust by stimulation, but irritate, debilitate', and impair, by their deleterious qualities.
The feeling of strength produced by stimulation, therefore, is no proof either that the stimulating substance is nourishing, or that it is salutary, nor even that it is not decidedly baneful.
But we have seen, that those proper alimentary substances whose stimulatory power is barely sufficient to excite a full and healthy performance of the functions of the digestive organs, in the appropriation of their nourishment to the system, are most conducive to the vital welfare of the body in all respects, causing all the processes of assimilation and organization' to be most perfectly performed, without any unnecessary expenditure of vital power, and thus contributing to the most permanent and uniform health and vigor of the body, and to the greatest longevity. For every degree of stimulating power beyond this, necessarily increases the vital exhaustion, without contributing in any measure to the welfare of the body.
With a true application of these well ascertained principles, the physiological evidence in relation to the natural dietetic character of man may be correctly apprehended and accurately estimated; yet the utmost caution and perspicacity and circumspection are requisite at every step, to avoid deception and error in the mazy and delusive paths of human experience and history.
Reprinted from Lectures on the Science of Human Life
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