Open main menu

Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 24.djvu/473

This page has been validated.
457
THE REMEDIES OF NATURE.

morphose the character of the patient, and all manner of symptoms ascribed to "heart-disease," aneurism, intestinal parasites, spinal or cerebral affections, are often simply due to depraved humors and their reaction on the nervous system. By increasing the action of the circulatory system, physical exercise promotes the elimination of such humors, with their whole train of morbid consequences—chlorosis, tantrums, troubled dreams, and the nervous affections proper; restlessness and want of vital energy. What amounts of "tonic" nostrums—keeping their promise of restoring the vigor of the system by producing a fever-energy—would be thrown in the gutter, if the patient could be persuaded to try the receipt of Jacob Engel! "When I reflect on the immunity of hard-working people from the effects of wrong and over feeding," says Dr. Boerhaave, "I can not help thinking that most of our fashionable diseases might be cured mechanically instead of chemically, by climbing a bitterwood-tree, or chopping it down, if you like, rather than swallowing a decoction of its disgusting leaves." For male patients, gardening, in all its branches, is about as fashionable as the said diseases, and no liberal man would shrink from the expense of a board fence, if it would induce his drug-poisoned wife to try her hand at turf-spading, or, as a last resort, at hoeing, or even a bit of wheelbarrow-work. Lawn-tennis will not answer the occasion. There is no need of going to extremes and exhausting the little remaining strength of the patient, but without a certain amount of fatigue the specific fails to operate, and experience will show that labor with a practical purpose—gardening, boat-rowing, or amateur carpentering—enables people to beguile themselves into a far greater amount of hard work than the drill-master of a gymnasium could get them to undergo. Besides the potential energy that turns hardships into play-work, athletes have the further advantage of a greater disease-resisting capacity. Their constitution does not yield to every trifling accident; their nerves can stand the wear and tear of ordinary excitements; a little change in the weather does not disturb their sleep; they can digest more than other people. Any kind of exercise that tends to strengthen—not a special set cf muscles, but the muscular system in general—has a proportionate influence on the general vigor of the nervous organism, and thereby on its pathological power of resistance.

For nervous children my first prescription would be—the open woods and a merry playmate; for the chlorotic affections of their elder comrades—some diverting, but withal fatiguing, form of manual labor. In the minds of too many parents there is a vague notion that rough work brutalizes the character. The truth is, that it regulates its defects: it calms the temper, it affords an outlet to things that would otherwise vent themselves in fretfulness and ugly passions. Most school-teachers know that city children are more fidgety, more irritable and mischievous than their village comrades; and the most