Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 8.djvu/115

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105
IS ALCOHOL A FOOD?

Liebig stated that, in temperance families where beer was withheld and money given in compensation, it was soon found that the monthly consumption of bread was so strikingly increased that the beer was twice paid for—once in money, and a second time in bread. He also reported the experience of the landlord of the Hôtel de Russie, at Frankfort, during the Peace Congress; the members of the Congress were mostly teetotalers, and a regular deficiency was observed every day in certain dishes, especially in farinaceous dishes, pudding, etc. So unheard of a deficiency, in an establishment where for years the amount of dishes for a given number of persons had so well been known, excited the landlord's astonishment. It was found that the men made up in pudding what they neglected in wine. Finally, every one knows how little the drunkard eats.

Again, in cases of disease, there are numerous instances which it is difficult to refer to any thing but the food-property of alcohol. Dr. Anstie refers to one very instructive case of the kind, which also came under his care in 1861, and which obviously left a great impression upon his mind. A young man, only eighteen years of age, was so reduced by a severe attack of acute rheumatism, that he was unable to retain food of any kind upon his stomach. He was sustained for several days upon an allowance of twelve ounces of water and twelve ounces (¾ pint) of gin per day. His recovery under this treatment was very rapid and complete, and almost without any trace of the emaciation and wasting that ordinarily follow upon such a disease. The lad, previous to this illness, was of a strictly sober and temperate habit, and, during the use of gin, the abnormal frequency of the pulse and of the breathing came gradually down to the proper standard of ordinary health; and there was never at any time the slightest tendency to—intoxication which is a very notable point in such cases.

Dr. D'Lalor, before quoted, also mentions the case of a child only fourteen months old, suffering from inflammation of the lungs, and whose stomach could retain nothing but port wine. For twelve days it subsisted entirely upon wine; it was rapidly cured, with no wasting of any account; nor, although it drank large quantities of alcohol, was it ever intoxicated.

These cases are very important on account of their exceptional character; but they are quite in accordance with the well-established power of brandy and wine to sustain the life of sinking men in the critical periods of exhausting fevers; and they afford ground for the familiar and popular belief that there is support in wine and spirituous drink—as held of old and exemplified in the well-known recommendation of St. Paul to his ailing disciple.

Dr. Anstie's conclusion from such evidence, and from a very large hospital experience, is that, beyond all possibility of doubt, pure alcohol, with the addition of only a small quantity of water, will pro-