Marie Shew: We Shall Be Eccentric In The Extreme

“Our advice, then, to all, both old and young, is this—get rid of the habit as soon as possible”

— Water-Cure for Ladies by Marie Louise Shew, Revised by Joel Shew, M.D., First Published in New York, 1844.


— page 47, Water-Cure for Ladies by Marie Louise Shew, Revised by Joel Shew, M.D., First Published in New York, 1844.

“The facts in regard to the dietetic use of salt, according to Dr. S. Graham, are these:
1. Salt is wholly innutritious ;—it affords no nourishment to any structure or substance of the human body.
2. It is utterly indigestible ;—it enters the body as a mineral substance,—it is absorbed unchanged, as a mineral substance,—it goes the rounds of the general circulation as an unassimilated, mineral substance, and is finally eliminated from the body, through the kidneys, lungs, skin, &c., as an unassimilated, mineral substance.
3. Its acrid quality is offensive to the vital sensibilities of the organs, —always causing vital reaction or resistance ; and this vital reaction constitutes the only stimulation ever provided by salt; and is, therefore, always attended with a commensurate degree of irritation and vital expenditure, and followed by a correspondent degree of indirect debility and atony ; and consequently it always and inevitably tends to produce chronic debility, preternatural irritability and disease;—the stomach, intestines, absorbents, veins, heart, arteries, and all the other organs of the system, are always irritated, exhausted and debilitated, by its presence. 4. It never, in any measure, promotes digestion nor any of the assimilating functions of the system ; on the contrary, it always retards those functions, and is unfavorable to all the vital changes.

The scripture argument, in favor of salt, cannot be brought to bear upon the question in any way to favor its dietetic use. Salt when good, according to scripture, is certainly a preserver—an antiseptic,—a retarder of decomposition or putrefaction; and “good men have a like effect upon the moral world. But when salt has lost its antiseptic property, it is good for nothing:—and when men who profess to be good exert no antiseptic influence on the moral world around them, they are like salt that has lost its savor.”

Salt is a powerful medicinal substance, and if medicine other than water must be used, this in certain cases is one of the best. Should it be admitted, (which we do not,) that medicine is thus needed, it would not follow that salt were better used dietetically. The very idea of medicine, in the common meaning of this term, would be an argument against its dietetic use. But we are told both by the professional and the laity, that salt is so abundant in nature—and that animals naturally take salt. It is known that animals never take of the salt water of the ocean; nor do they lick the stones, grass, &c., upon which the salt may be deposited. Salt is by far the most prominent ingredient in the water of the ocean, so that it would be reasonable to infer that if salt were natural or necessary, as is supposed, animals would instinctively take it where so easily obtained. Then we are constantly told of the “deer-licks” of the west and elsewhere. In reference to these, we have not been able to obtain any chemical analysis of such springs. We
have from good authority, however, that such springs are more brackish than saltish, and that salt is not the prominent ingredient in such springs. Nor are we entirely certain that animals resorting to these springs partake of the water, whatever it may be. There are other reasons why animals should thus gather about cool watery places.

That animals may be trained to relish salt or any other stimulant, cannot be denied. But if it were necessary or best for animal existence, or if it were necessary for medicine, it may well be asked, why are salt springs so seldom found? Why not within the reach of all animals ? Most decisively, leaving the water of oceans and seas out of the question, which they will not take, comparatively but a very small portion of wild animals could in a state of nature ever have access to salt. This would be in direct contradiction to all the analogies of nature.

Since this matter has become a question, some of our farmers have made the experiment with animals, by keeping them entirely without salt.

Sheep on farms and in fields, side by side, have been thus reared ; and it is the universal testimony, where such experiments have been made, that animals invariably do best without salt. A friend was lately personally informed by a highly respectable and well known clergyman of Ohio, that for years his animals had not had salt; nor would they take it if offered. He stated unhesitatingly that they thrived better without it; that when un-accustomed to it from the first, the mother also not having salt, they always refused it; that he had during the past year thus reared a calf which brought the first premium at a fair of the country around. If cows that are kept without salt are made to eat it by mixing it in their food, it is found to be true that a decided decrease in the quantity of milk is the result. There is no mistake in this matter. If it is true that animals at salt licks do take salt, we see no good reason why the taste may not be acquired. Animals can be easily trained to the use of salt. If for any reason they should be induced to frequent such spots, gradually they might get the taste in various ways, until the stimulating effect inclines them to seek it.

It is a mistake to suppose that food cannot be relished without salt. Doubtless there are substances used, the disgusting taste of which is somewhat bettered by the more tolerable one of salt, and yet it is true in those cases that the salt, as it always must, takes its specific action upon the system. But in the use of all proper substances for human diet, let any one carefully make the experiment of abstaining-wholly from salt for a few weeks, or at most a few months,—they will find that there is higher gustatory enjoyment than with the salt. We will not pretend to say but that the stomach may be brought into such a state, that by discontinuing the use of salt there might very temporarily be induced a state of depression or agony of the organ, as has by some been contended; but this we even doubt.

The tendency of salt is to resist decomposition. Now, digestion, although a process peculiar to itself, is a species of decomposition. It therefore follows that salt must in some degree resist digestion. This resistance, it may be said, is more than overcome by the stimulus given the stomach. But facts prove the contrary. Let a person, who has been accustomed to salt from infancy, and his parents also before him, so that there is all the power of habit possible, make this experiment; one day he dines upon certain kinds of food seasoned with salt; the next day, under the same circumstances precisely, he takes the same kind and quantity of food without salt. The digestion of the last meal will be found to progress altogether more pleasantly than the first. Any one can easily make the experiment, and, if rightly conducted, will find this result certain.

We are informed by a physician from Paris, that there is a certain order of convents in France, where the inmates have been in the habit for centuries of abstaining wholly from salt, and also from animal food. This is done as a matter of penance, and it is notorious, that such persons are remarkable for permanent health and long life. There are certain Indian tribes who use no salt, and who are yet strong and healthy—remarkably so; so that whatever may be said by chemical physiologists and others of the necessity for taking this stimulant into the stomach, and thus into the circulation, facts plainly prove that this supposed necessity is chemical, and does not exist.

“It is well known,” says Dr. S. Graham, ” that sailors and others, when confined for a considerable time to salted food, become afflicted with scurvy, always a very distressing and often a very fatal disease. From careful and extended experience, I am strongly pressed to the conclusion that the use of salt is largely concerned in the production of cancers and other glandular diseases of the human system—that it exceedingly aggravates many chronic complaints ;—and that it increases the liability of the body to diseases of every kind ;—that it is directly conducive to scrofulous, pulmonary, and skin diseases, and disorders of the mucous membrane. In short, there is every reason to believe, that it not only serves to predispose the body to every form of disease, but also seems to aggravate and perpetuate every species of disease when it is actually induced, and that it seems to hasten on a premature old age, by rendering the solids dry and inelastic.”

Our advice, then, to all, both old and young, is this—get rid of the habit as soon as possible”

— from, Water-Cure for Ladies by Marie Louise Shew, Revised by Joel Shew, M.D., First Published in New York, 1844.


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