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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 61.djvu/77

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MESCAL: A STUDY OF A DIVINE PLANT.

condition the less likely is he to experience any unpleasant results from taking mescal.

It was inevitable that an attempt should be made to drag mescal into the already overcrowded field of therapeutical agents. Curiously enough, the first affection which it was used to treat was neurasthenia, and the results were said to be good, but nothing further has been heard of it. In various quarters it has been suggested for use in insanity, and at Carmarthen Asylum Dr. Goodall, as he informs me, has made many trials with it, on melancholic and stuporose patients, pushing the drug eventually in large doses, but beyond dilatation of pupils and rapidity of heart action, the results were nil. I have myself never felt hopeful about mescal as a therapeutic agent, and though it is possible that of the various alkaloids obtained from it some may be found useful, it is not easy to see in what diseased conditions the crude drug itself is indicated. The fact that its best results are obtained in perfectly healthy individuals would alone counter-indicate its use as a remedial agent, and at present there seems no excuse whatever for thrusting it into the pharmacopœia.

The chief interest of mescal is for the physiologist and the psychologist.[1] It may be added that for every healthy person a single experience, at all events, of what mescal has to teach would be an educational advantage of no little value. As one of my subjects, who strongly feels this educational value of mescal though he has no wish to repeat the experience, remarks: "The connection between the normal condition of my body and my intelligence had broken—my body had become in a measure a stranger to my reason—so that on reasserting itself it seemed, with reference to my reason which had remained perfectly sane and alert, for a moment sufficiently unfamiliar for me to become conscious of its individual and peculiar character. It was as if I had unexpectedly attained an objective knowledge of my own personality." Thus it is that the Indians who raised this remarkable plant to divine rank, and dedicated to it a cult, have in some measure been justified, and even in civilization there remains some place for the rites of mescal.


  1. 'What an excellent use for a medical congress,' Mr. Francis Galton writes to me, 'to put one half of the members under mescal, and to make the other half observe them.'