Open main menu

Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 24.djvu/825

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
805
THE REMEDIES OF NATURE.

cause remains can bring only temporary relief, or even increases the subsequent malignity of the disorder. Strong black tea may thus act as a charm for a day or so; but with the next morning the trouble not only returns, but returns aggravated by the supposed remedy, for chronic headache has no more potent single cause than the habitual use of narcotic drinks. A frugal, non-stimulating regimen, on the other hand, brings help more slowly but permanently, unless the patient abuses the restored vigor of his digestive organs. Acute headaches can generally be traced to influences which tend to obstruct the free circulation of the blood—tight clothing, coldness of the extremities, oppressive atmospheric conditions, etc.—and can be cured only by a direct removal of the cause. As a symptomatic result of a vitiated state of the humors, as in scrofula and venereal diseases, headaches that defy all medicine often yield to a grape-cure.[1]

Heart-burn, or Cardialgia.—Both words are misnomers, the seat of the pain being the pit of the stomach, and the cause gastric acidity; remedies—fasting and "passive exercise," a ride in a jolting cart, kneading of the abdomen, etc.

Hypochondria, Chronic Melancholy, Spleen.—Robert Burton, in his "Anatomy of Melancholy," enumerates some six thousand causes of chronic despondency, and about as many different remedies, of which only six or seven are apt to afford permanent relief: frugality, temperance, early rising, life with a rational object (altruistic, if egotism palls), constructive exercise in the open air, a sunny climate, and social sunshine—the company of children and optimists.

Insomnia.—The proximate cause of sleeplessness is plethora of the cerebral blood-vessels, and a palliative cure can be effected by anything that lessens the tendency of the circulation toward the head. But a permanent cure may require time and patience. By night-studies brain-workers sometimes contract chronic insomnia in that worst form which finds relief only in the stupor of a low fever, alternating with consecutive days of nervous headaches. Reforming topers often have to pass through the same ordeal, before the deranged nervous system can be restored to its normal condition. Fresh air, especially of a low temperature, pedestrian exercise, and an aperient diet, are the best natural remedies. Under no circumstances should sleeplessness be overcome by narcotics. An opium torpor can not fulfill the functions of refreshing sleep; we might as well benumb the patient by a whack on the skull.

Jaundice.—Jaundice and chlorosis are kindred affections, and the yellow tinge of the skin is often in both cases due to an impoverished state of the blood—especially a deficiency in the proportion of the red blood-corpuscles—rather than to a diffusion of bilious secrtions. Jaundice, as a consequence of obstinate agues, is evidently the result of a catalytic process which disintegrates the constituent parts

  1. "Enteric Disorders," "Popular Science Monthly," vol. xxiv, p. 457.