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Disease from Tea



The common beverage tea is often a cause of serious derange ment of health, if not of actual disease. The symptoms of dis turbance occur when even the best kind of tea is taken in excess, and almost inevitably from the mixture called "green" tea when that is taken even in moderate quantity.

It is common to speak of tea as a stimulant, and it is quite correct so to speak of it when the term is properly understood. Tea first quickens and then reduces the circulation, which is the action of a stimulant. But tea does more than this; it contains tannin, and is therefore styptic or astringent in its action, from which circumstance it is apt, in many persons, to produce consti pation and interference with the function of the liver. In some persons this astringent effect of tea is very bad. It gives rise to a continued indigestion, and to what is called biliousness.

The most important agent, however, in tea is the organic alkaloid theine. This alkaloid exercises a special influence on the nervous system which when carried to a considerable extent is, temporarily at least, if not permanently, injurious. At first the alkaloid seems to excite the nervous system, to produce a pleasant sensation, and to keep the mind agreeably enlivened and active. The effect is followed by depression, sinking sensation at the stomach, flatulency-, unsteadiness with feebleness of muscular power, and, not unfrequently, a lowness of spirits amounting almost to hypochondriacal despondency.

In those who live in the midst of poverty, and who, having insufficient food, meet the craving for natural food by taking large quantities of tea, a strong craving for it is engendered which leads to the taking of tea at almost every meal, greatly to the injury of the health. Poor women in the factory and cotton districts become actual sufferers from this cause. They are ren dered anaemic, nervous, hysterical, and physically feeble. In better classes of society similar if not such severe injury is effected by tea in those who indulge in it many times a day, and espe cially in those who indulge in what is called afternoon tea, a repast, if it may be so styled, partaken of late in the day, and, probably, when the stomach is nearly empty of food. The after noon tea, or drum, causes dyspepsia, flatulency, nervous depres sion, and low spirits, for relieving which not a few persons have recourse to alcoholic stimulation, a procedure simply calculated to give temporary relief and to increase and confirm the mischiefs that have been inflicted.

Tea taken late in the evening, except immediately after a moderate meal, interferes with the sleep of most persons by caus ing indigestion, with flatulency, and sense of oppression. Some are kept awake entirely by the action of the tea on the nervous system; others get off to sleep, but are troubled with dreams, restlessness, and muscular startings. In a few, incubus or night mare is a painful symptom induced by tea.

As persons advance in life the bad effects of tea sometimes pass away or are greatly modified, so that it can be tolerated by them as well as enjoyed; but in the young during the earliest periods of youth it is, I might really say, unexceptionally injuri ous. It leads to nervous exhaustion and to mental nervousness, so that the simplest natural phenomenon, a dark cloud, a deep shadow, or a sudden sound, excites anxiety and fear.

The most characteristic effects of tea are instanced in " tea tasters," persons who by profession are engaged to determine the qualities of teas by the process of tasting different specimens of strong teas. I have several times been consulted by gentlemen who have been thus occupied on account of the symptoms from which they were suffering. They complain of deficiency of secre tion of the saliva, of distaste for food, of deficient appetite, of nausea, of nervous depression with muscular tremors and feeble ness, of constipation, flatulency, and almost entire inability to sleep. On giving up the practice of tasting, the symptoms, as a rule, disappear in a few days.

I am not aware that actual organic disease ever takes place from the use of tea, and it would therefore be more correct to speak of the phenomena it induces as phenomena of functional derangement rather than of actual disease.

nervous, persons, actual, flatulency, food, sleep and system