Francis Bacon on Opium, Coffee and Tobacco, etc….

[Francis Bacon on Opium, Coffee and Tobacco, etc. He recommends a yearly course of opium, preferably in spring, but not too much, because while the Turks can handle it, too much kills Englishmen.

Bacon (22 January 1561 – 9 April 1626) was an English nobleman serving as Attorney General and Lord Chancellor. He is famous as a statesman, philosopher and scientist. He was an acquaintance of John Dee, and a contemporary of Christopher Marlowe (who died in 1593) and of Walter Raleigh and Francis Drake – and of major discoveries from America and Asia, including tobacco and coffee in the English “Age of Discovery.”

His History of Life and Death is a medical text which was well regarded in his time. Here he discusses the use of opiates and other drugs to “calm the spirits,” as we (still) say.]

Francis Bacon’s History Of Life And Death
The Operation Upon The Spirits, That They May Retain Their Youth And Renew Their Vigour.

1. The spirits are the agents and workmen that produce all the effects in the body. This appears manifest both by general consent and by innumerable instances.

2. If it were possible for young spirits to be put into an old body, it is probable that this great wheel might put the lesser wheels in motion, and turn back the course of nature.

3. In every kind of consumption, whether by fire or age, the more the spirit of the thing, or the heat, preys upon the moisture, the shorter is the duration of that thing. This occurs everywhere, and is plain.

4. The spirits are to be put into such a temperament., and such a degree of activity that (as one says) they shall not drink and absorb, but only sip the juices of the body.

5. There are two kinds of flames; the one active but weak, as the flame of straw or chips, that consumes and discharges lighter substances, but has little effect upon the harder; the other strong and steady, as the flame of large timber and the like, which attacks likewise hard and tough bodies.

6. The brisk and yet weak flame dries up bodies, and make them effete and sapless; whilst the strong flame softens and melts them.

7. Of dissipating medicines, some only draw forth the thinner parts of tumours, and thereby harden them; but some discuss them vigorously, acid thereby soften them.

8. Of purging and clearing medicines likewise, some carry suddenly off the more fluid parts, and some draw the more obstinate and viscous.

9. The spirits should be clad and armed with such a heat that they may prefer rather to pluck asunder and undermine the hard and obstinate parts, than to discharge and carry off such as are weak and prepared; for by this means the body becomes fresh and firm.

10. The spirits should be so tempered and ordered, as to become in substance dense, not rare; in heat lasting, not eager; in quantity sufficient for the offices of life, not redundant or excessive; in motion settled, not starting or irregular.

11. Vapours evidently operate powerfully upon the spirits; as is shown by sleep, intoxication, melancholy and mirthful passions, and recovery of the spirits in swoons and fainting fits by odours.

12. The spirits are condensed in four ways; by putting them to flight, by cooling, by soothing, or by quieting them. And first of their condensation by flight.

13. Whatever puts to flight from all sides drives the body to its centre, and therefore condenses.

14. Opium is by far the most powerful and effectual means for condensing the spirits by flight; and next to it opiates and soporifics in general.

15. The power of opium to condense the spirits is very remarkable; for perhaps three grains will in a short time so coagulate them that they cannot separate, but are quenched and rendered immoveable.

16. Opium and similar drugs do not put the spirits to flight by their coldness (for they have parts manifestly warm), but contrariwise they cool by putting the spirits to flight.

17. The flight of the spirits by means of opium and opiates is best seen when they are applied externally; for the spirits instantly retire and will return no more, but the part mortifies and turns to a gangrene.

18. Opiates give relief in great pain, as the stone, or amputation of a limb; principally by putting the spirits to flight.

19. Opiates draw a good effect from a bad cause; for the flight of the spirits is bad, but the condensation thereof by that flight is good.

20. The Greeks imputed much to opium, both for health, and prolongation of life; but the Arabs still more; so that their higher medicines (which they call “God’s Hands “) have opium for their basis and principal ingredient, with a mixture of other things to counteract and correct the noxious qualities thereof; such are treacle, mithridate, and the like.

21. All remedies successfully used in pestilential aid malignant diseases to check and curb the spirits, lest they become unruly and turbulent, may be advantageously transferred to the prolongation of life. For the condensation of the spirits, which is best secured by opiates, is beneficial in both cases.

22. The Turks find opium, even in large quantities, innocent and cordial, so that they even take it before a battle to give them courage. But to us, except in small quantities, and with strong correctives, it is fatal.

23. Opium and opiates are clearly found to excite the sexual passion, which shows their power to strengthen the spirits.

24. Distilled water of the wild poppy being doubtless a mild opiate, is successfully given in surfeit, fevers, and various diseases; and let no one wonder at the variety of its use. For this is common to opiates, as the spirits being strengthened and condensed will fight against any disease.

25. The Turks use likewise a kind of herb, called ” coffee,” which they dry, grind to powder, and drink in warm water. They affirm that it gives no small vigour both to their courage and their wit. Yet this taken in large quantities will excite and disturb the mind; which shows it to be of a similar nature to opiates.

26. There is a certain root, celebrated through all the East, called ” betel,” which the Indians and others use to carry in their mouths, and chew ; whereby they are wonderfully re-freshed, and enabled to endure fatigues, and throw off disorders, and strengthened for sexual intercourse. It appears to be a kind of narcotic, because it blackens the teeth exceedingly.

27. The use of tobacco has immensely increased in our time. It affects men with a kind of secret pleasure, so that persons once accustomed to it can scarce leave it off: It tends no doubt to relieve the body, and remove weariness; and its virtue is commonly thought to lie in this, that it opens the passages and draws off the humours. But it may be more properly referred to the condensation of the spirits; for it is a kind of henbane, and manifestly affects the head, as all opiates do.

28. Humours are sometimes generated in the body, which are a kind of opiates themselves; as is found in some kinds of melancholy, wherewith if a man be seized, he is very long-lived.

29. Simple opiates, which are likewise called narcotics and stupefactives, are opium itself, which is the juice of the poppy, the plant and seed of the poppy, henbane, mandragora, hem-lock, tobacco, and nightshade.

30. Compound opiates are, treacle, mithridate, trifera, laudanum of Paracelsus, diacodium, diascordium, philonium, and pills of houndstongue.

31. From these observations certain directions or advices may be drawn for the prolongation of life, according to this intention, namely, the condensing of the spirits by opiate.

32. From youth upwards, therefore, let there be every year a kind of opiate diet. Let it be taken at the end of May; for in summer the spirit: are most wasted and weakened, and there is less fear of cold humours. Let the opiate be of a superior kind, not so strong as those in use, either as to the quantity of opium or to the proportion of very hot ingredients. Let it be taken in the morning between sleeps. Let the diet at the time be more simple and sparing, without wine, spices, or things that produce vapours. Let the medicine be taken only on alternate days, and be continued for a fortnight. Such directions appear to me to answer the intention satisfactorily.

33. Opiates may not only be taken through the mouth, but likewise inhaled in the form of smoke; but it should be such as not to excite the expulsive faculty too strongly, nor draw out the humours, but only to work upon the spirits within the brain for a short time. Wherefore a suffumigation of tobacco, lign-aloes, dried leaves of rosemary, and a little myrrh, inhaled in the morning through the mouth and nostrils, would be very beneficial.

34. In the powerful opiates, as -theriacum, mithridate, and the rest, it would not be amiss, especially in youth, to take the distilled waters rather than the bodies themselves. For in distillation the vapour rises, while the heat of the inodicine generally settles; and distilled waters in the virtues conveyed by vapours are mostly good, in others weak.

35. Some medicines have a degree, weak and secret,- and therefore safe, of opiate virtue. These impart a slow and abundant vapour, but not malignant, as opiates do. And hence they do not put the spirits to flight, but yet they collect and somewhat thicken them.

36. The medicines that make opiates are, first of all saffron and its flowers; then Indian leaf, ambergris, a preparation of coriander seed, amomum and pseudamomum, lignum Rho-dium, orange-flower water, or better still, the infusion of fresh orange-flowers in oil of almonds, nutmegs pricked full of holes and soaked in rose-water.

37. Though opiates, as has been mentioned, are to be used seldom and at certain times, yet this secondary kind may be taken frequently and in daily diet, and will conduce greatly to the prolongation of life. An apothecary of Calieut, by the use of amber, is said to have lived 160 years; and the nobles of Barbary, where the common people are short-lived, are found by a use of the same means to be long-lived. Our own an-cestors, who were longer-lived than we arc, made great use of saffron, in cakes, broths, and the like. And so much for the first means of condensing the spirits; namely, by opiates and their subordinates.

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