Billeder på siden

death for three, five, ten, twenty, forty, eighty, a hundred, or a hundred and fifty years. Some are born without any great tendency to a particular disease, while others are born with the most powerful predisposition to disease of some kind or other."—Graham, pars. 639, 663.

There is thus a vast amount of avoidable disease in societyof premature mortality taking place of deaths that by ordinary hygienic precautions could be averted, even where undoubted predisposition to disease has been largely inherited. The slightest attention bestowed on the mode in which the processes of organic life are conducted will make this truth apparent, and illustrate the marvellous aptitude of the Bath to prolong life by counteracting partially or entirely predispositions to disease.

We have seen (Chap. V.) that the whole organism of the human body, by which the functions of animal life are carried on, is subject to the continued action of two conflicting forces -one an inherent tendency to decay and die out, which is the law of all organised matter; the other, the preservative principle providentially designed to counteract that destructive tendency, so as to enable man to live out, in his natural healthy state, his allotted term of years on earth.

This inherent tendency in our organism must necessarily be continuously operative, always active, incessantly at work to accomplish its purpose-decay and death. But the preservative principle is equally active to supply new material with which to repair and replenish the waste so caused, and in this process of decay and renovation consists the very essence of all we know about our organic life. It follows, however, that when the constitutional organism of the individual is entirely sound, the normal activity with which these two conflicting forces perform their respective functions, produces, as the result, perfect health. Thus, when the balance between waste and supply is duly regulated as Providence designed it to be, Organic life is maintained in its highest excellence. It is the deviations from this standard, when the balance has inclined one way or the other-when waste is in excess of nutrient supply, or vice versa, which primarily cause all disease. Hence

predispositions to disease are nothing more than the natural effect of deviations from the sound constitutional standard originally assigned by the Creator to man-effects caused by parents who violate, one way or other, the laws of their being, and transmit to their innocent offspring the constitutional penalty of their transgression.

Thus, the greater number of infants born in civilized life, come into the world with predispositions to disease of one kind or other-with an inherited tendency to develope some imperfection calculated to abbreviate the natural term of existence which perfect constitutional organism is destined to endure, and it is to such cases that "Preventive Medicine"-which is essentially Hydropathic-is peculiarly applicable. The skilful scientific Hydropathist knows perfectly well that, when timely consulted, he can exercise a salutary influence over predispositions to disease. With rational confidence he can undertake, in some instances, to eradicate them altogether, and in others to arrest their fatal tendency so as to procrastinate their morbid development for years. This he is enabled most successfully to accomplish by availing himself of the functions of organic life of the process of continuous composition and decomposition which that life involves, and by the natural course of which it is computed that the whole organism becomes renovated once in seven years.

The whole secret of this command over the source and springs of life consists in facilitating, by natural means, the process of renovation. Liebig, who is an authority of the highest repute, has testified that "by means of the water-cure treatment a change of matter is effected in a greater degree in six weeks, than would happen in the ordinary course of nature in three years." But when Liebig wrote he knew nothing of the Bath as the perfection of Hydropathic agents, and by the healthful potency of its action on the organism of Nutritive life through the medium of the skin, the renovating process in disease can be even more rapidly accomplished than he surmised. The Bath acts naturally, salubriously, and promptly, with a marvellously

[ocr errors]

and unerring certainty that nothing else can equal, in facilitating the renewal process of organic life; and in this way it is that inherited predispositions to disease are susceptible of correction, or of total eradication, by its incomparable agency, in conjunction with the other means which scientific Hydropathy commands and applies.

It will thus be understood that to preserve health, and to prevent disease, are the great sanitary ends to be attained by the judicious use of the Bath as a social-a domestic-institution. Briefly, Health is preserved by the instrumentality of the Bath maintaining in vigorous action the vital organism of the skin, on which the functions of circulation, nutrition, and elimination so largely depend. Disease is prevented by hardening the body against the effects of variations and vicissitudes of temperature, which is of incalculable advantage in a climate so variable as ours; also, by imparting power to resist miasmatic and zymotic influences, and by strengthening the system against the aberrations of nutrition, and the prolific train of evils that follow the disturbance and derangement of the nutritive functions; and, furthermore, by correcting, eradicating, or keeping in subjection, inherited predispositions to disease. In this way the Bath rises to the dignity of an unequalled sanitary institution, and becomes an indispensable household necessity to those who desire to possess in their own homes a simple, safe, and pleasurable means for the preservation of health, the prolongation of life, and the heightening of its rational enjoyments.


The Bath as a Curative Agent-The value of TemperaturePopular errors concerning Heat and Cold-Ignorance of Medical Men respecting the Therapeutical Properties of Temperature-The Bath as a Therapeutic-It should not be employed in conjunction with Drug remedies-Its general applicability to alleviate all forms of bodily derangements.

[ocr errors]

We now come to the consideration of The Bath more particularly as a curative agent in the treatment of disease. What has been already said about its efficacy as a preservative of health, and as a prophylactic, has a direct bearing illustrative of its sanative influences. It is from the fact of the human body being able to endure a high degree of Heat, when the medium which conveys it is pure and comparatively dry air, that the Bath can be so safely and generally employed as a curative power. When so used, observes Erasmus Wilson, the Bath becomes a medicine of the most potent kind, and should, therefore, be left to medical management." Undoubtedly so; but that "medical management" should be enlightened and scientific-not identified with the absurd dogmas and destructive practices of the Drug school. No patient possessed of common sense ought ever to combine the prescriptions of the Physic-Doctor, with the use of the natural and salubrious agents employed by the accomplished Hydropathist.


For curative purposes the Bath requires generally higher temperatures than are necessary for ordinary sanitary use. value of the higher temperatures is founded on the well-known property of Heat to destroy organic impurities-as odour, miasma, animal poison. For instance, the poison of that terrible

scourge, scarlet fever, is entirely destroyed at 212°, and the same temperature is equally fatal to the poisons of all other fevers, and, there is every reason to believe, of the poisons of all other diseases. For sanitary purposes such a high temperature is neither necessary nor generally desirable. A range from 125° to 145° is amply sufficient for general use, because the object being to induce a gentle, continuous, and agreeable perspiration, this can be thoroughly, and, as a rule, much better, effected in a state of health, by a moderate rather than a high degree of temperature.

With respect, however, to the Therapeutic properties of Heat, the medical world is as yet in a very primitive state of knowledge. "We have hitherto known nothing of Heat as a treatment of disease," is the candid admission of Erasmus Wilson. "I do not know any work where it has been referred to in the most distant manner.' It is astonishing that such a statement can be truthfully made respecting the state of medical knowledge on this subject, and more astonishing that scienific minds should have lingered for hundreds of centuries ont the very threshhold, as it were, of a most important discovery, for since the days of Hippocrates hot applications in a variety of forms, as warm water and vapour baths, stupes, poultices, and other contrivances, have been always familiar to medical practitioners. Still hot-air, as now applied, was never made available as a medical agent until the establishment of the HotAir Bath by Dr. Barter, while the experience that has since been obtained promises to effect a revolution in the whole system of medical practice.

It is passing strange that it should have been so, because medical scholars were familiar with classical antiquity. In England we have the interesting remains of the Roman Baths, and in Ireland we had the "sweating-houses" in actual use from time immemorial down to our own day, while the customs of other countries revealed to us by travellers, ought to have instructed inquiring minds, that an institution like the Bath could not possibly have survived the decadence and ruin of

« ForrigeFortsæt »