Anomalies and Curiosities of Medicine

Anomalies and Curiosities of Medicine
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第226章

Thus when the people of dog-town were feeding on the fish called oxyrrhyncus, the citizens of the town which revered the oxyrrhyncus began to eat dogs. Hence arose a riot.' The antipathy of the Jews to pork has given rise to quite different explanations. The custom is probably a relic of totemistic belief. That the unclean animals--animals not to be eaten--such as the pig, the mouse, and the weasel, were originally totems of the children of Israel, Professor Robertson Smith believes is shown by various passages in the Old Testament.

"When animals and plants ceased to be held sacred they were endowed with sundry magical or mystic properties. The apple has been supposed to possess peculiar virtues, especially in the way of health. 'The relation of the apple to health,' says Mr.

Conway, 'is traceable to Arabia. Sometimes it is regarded as a bane. In Hessia it is said an apple must not be eaten on New Year's Day, as it will produce an abscess. But generally it is curative. In Pomerania it is eaten on Easter morning against fevers; in Westphalia (mixed with saffron) against jaundice;while in Silesia an apple is scraped from top to stalk to cure diarrhea, and upward to cure costiveness.' According to an old English fancy, if any one who is suffering from a wound in the head should eat strawberries it will lead to fatal results. In the South of England the folk say that the devil puts his cloven foot upon the blackberries on Michaelmas Day, and hence none should be gathered or eaten after that day. On the other hand, in Scotland the peasants say that the devil throws his cloak over the blackberries and makes them unwholesome after that day, while in Ireland he is said to stamp on the berries. Even that humble plant, the cabbage, has been invested with some mystery. It was said that the fairies were fond of its leaves, and rode to their midnight dances on cabbage-stalks. The German women used to say that 'Babies come out of the cabbage-heads.' The Irish peasant ties a cabbage-leaf around the neck for sore throat. According to Gerarde, the Spartans ate watercress with their bread, firmly believing that it increased their wit and wisdom. The old proverb is, 'Eat cress to learn more wit.'

"There is another phase to food-superstitions, and that is the theory that the qualities of the eaten pass into the eater. Mr.

Tylor refers to the habit of the Dyak young men in abstaining from deer-meat lest it should make them timid, while the warriors of some South American tribes eat the meat of tigers, stags, and boars for courage and speed. He mentions the story of an English gentleman at Shanghai who at the time of the Taeping attack met his Chinese servant carrying home the heart of a rebel, which he intended to eat to make him brave. There is a certain amount of truth in the theory that the quality of food does affect the mind and body. Buckle in his 'History of Civilization' took this view, and tried to prove that the character of a people depends on their diet."Idiosyncrasies to Drugs.--In the absorption and the assimilation of drugs idiosyncrasies are often noted; in fact, they are so common that we can almost say that no one drug acts in the same degree or manner on different individuals. In some instances the untoward action assumes such a serious aspect as to render extreme caution necessary in the administration of the most inert substances. A medicine ordinarily so bland as cod-liver oil may give rise to disagreeable eruptions. Christison speaks of a boy ten years old who was said to have been killed by the ingestion of two ounces of Epsom salts without inducing purgation; yet this common purge is universally used without the slightest fear or caution. On the other hand, the extreme tolerance exhibited by certain individuals to certain drugs offers a new phase of this subject. There are well-authenticated cases on record in which death has been caused in children by the ingestion of a small fraction of a grain of opium. While exhibiting especial tolerance from peculiar disposition and long habit, Thomas De Quincey, the celebrated English litterateur, makes a statement in his "Confessions" that with impunity he took as much as 320 grains of opium a day, and was accustomed at one period of his life to call every day for "a glass of laudanum negus, warm, and without sugar," to use his own expression, after the manner a toper would call for a "hot-Scotch."The individuality noted in the assimilation and the ingestion of drugs is functional as well as anatomic. Numerous cases have been seen by all physicians. The severe toxic symptoms from a whiff of cocain-spray, the acute distress from the tenth of a grain of morphin, the gastric crises and profuse urticarial eruptions following a single dose of quinin,--all are proofs of it. The "personal equation" is one of the most important factors in therapeutics, reminding us of the old rule, "Treat the patient, not the disease."The idiosyncrasy may be either temporary or permanent, and there are many conditions that influence it. The time and place of administration; the degree of pathologic lesion in the subject;the difference in the physiologic capability of individual organs of similar nature in the same body; the degree of human vitality influencing absorption and resistance; the peculiar epochs of life; the element of habituation, and the grade and strength of the drug, influencing its virtue,--all have an important bearing on untoward action and tolerance of poisons.

It is not in the province of this work to discuss at length the explanations offered for these individual idiosyncrasies. Many authors have done so, and Lewin has devoted a whole volume to this subject, of which, fortunately, an English translation has been made by Mulheron, and to these the interested reader is referred for further information. In the following lines examples of idiosyncrasy to the most common remedial substances will be cited, taking the drugs up alphabetically.

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