Notions about the human body (1886)

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This interesting bit of insight from the Los Angeles Daily Herald newspaper is actually a lengthy wind-up to a pitch for Warner’s Safe Cure — a heavily-advertised cure-all tonic that was said to be the ideal remedy for… well, whatever ailed you. (It would still be many years before magazines and newspapers marked such copy with the “advertisement” header.) Even if you’re not looking to get some of the Cure (which was 90% alcohol and a smattering of other commonplace herbs), the ad copy still offers a novel look at some of the health concerns and medical beliefs of the era.

What science says

The “fearful and wonderful” mechanism of the human system graphically portrayed

In the editorial columns of the New York Analyst, H Lassing, MD, editor, writes the following beautiful description of the laboratories of the human system. We think we have never read a finer or more trustworthy one:

“Man is the greatest of all chemical laboratories. Magnify the smallest cell of the body and what a factory is spread before the eyes! Countless chambers in which are globes of air, masses of solid matter, globules of dying liquid; a flash comes and the whole is consumed and needful heat is carried into every part of the system. Electrical forces also generate and are conveyed to the brain, the muscles and the various nerve centers.

In another set of a million chambers, we see various gases and vapors. By chemical action, these are changed and puritied in the lungs and the skin. The blood we often say is a great living river. In its current are masses which the air in the lungs did not affect: blocks of chalk; slabs of tartar; pieces of bone ash; strings of albumen; drops of molasses, and lines of alcohol. How are these waste masses disposed of? Begin where you will in this great stream you must come to the purifying places of the system. Here is all activity and an invisible force reaches out into the stream, seizes and carries this mass of waste into vast trenches, thence into a smaller reservoir, and finally into a larger reservoir, which regularly discharges its contents.

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This separation of lime, uric acid and other waste material from the blood without robbing it of a particle of the life fluid, passes human comprehension. In health, this blood purifying process is carried on without our knowledge. The organs in which it is done are faithful servants whose work is silent as long as health remains.

“People strangely wait until pain strikes a nerve before they will realize that they have any trouble. They do not know that pain concerns chiefly the exterior not the interior of the body. A certain set of nerves count connect these blood-purifying organs with the brain. They may not gnaw and bite as does the tooth-ache or a scratch, but they regularly, silently report. When these organs are failing these nerves indicate it by drawing the blood from the face and cheek, leaving the lip and eye blanched, by sending uric acid poison into the smallest veins, the skin then becoming gray, yellow or brown. They also prevent the purification of the blood in the lungs and cause pulmonary difficulties, weariness and pain.

“Who enjoys perfect health, especially in this land where we burn the candle in one mass? The athlete breaks down in the race; the editor falls at his desk; the merchant succumbs in his counting-room. These events should not have been unexpected, for nature long ago hung out her ‘lanterns of alarm.’ When the “accident” finally comes, its fatal effect is seen in a hundred forms; either as congestion, chronic weakness, as wrong action, as variable appetite, as head troubles, as palpitation and irregularities of the heart, as premature decay, as dryness and harshness of the skin, causing the hair to drop out or turn gray, as apoplexy, as paralysis, as general debility, blood poisoning, etc.

“Put no faith then in the wiseacre who says there is no danger as long as there is no pain. Put no faith in the physician, whoever he may be, who says it is a mere cold or a slight indisposition. He knows little, if any, more than you do about it. He can neither see nor examine these organs and depends entirely upon experimental tests, that you can make as well as he.

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“If the output is discolored or muddy, if it contains albumen, lymph, crystals, sweet or morbid matter, is red with escaped blood, or roily with gravel, mucus and froth, something is wrong and disease and death are not far away.

“These organs which we have described thus at length, they are really the most important ones in the human system, the ones in which a large majority of human ailments originate and are sustained, are the kidneys. They have not been much discussed in public because it is conceded that the profession has little known power over them. What is wanted for such organs is a simple medicine, which can do no harm to the most delicate but must be of the greatest benefit to the afflicted. Such a remedy, tried and proved by many thousands all over the world is Warner’s safe cure. With those in whom disease is deep seated it is the only specific. For those in whom the seeds are sown and the beginning of illness started it as unfailing reliance. It may be recommended to the well to prevent sickness and the sick to prevent death. With its aid, the great filtering engines of the system keep on in their silent work without interruption; without it they get out of gear and then disease and death open the door and cross the threshold.”

Such writing ought not only to please but to carry conviction that what H Lassing, MD — so high an authority says is true, and that his counsel is worthy the attention and heed of all prudent, right-minded people.

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