The dried leaves which we infuse, and call Tea, are produced by the Thea Viridis, of the natural order Theacae. The tea-plant is a native of China, Japan, Tonquin, and Assam, in India. The different varieties are caused by different modes of cultivation, or of preparation of the same species.
Tea has slightly stimulant and astringent properties, and besides its daily use as a beverage, it is taken medicinally.
Dr. Thompson says, "Tea possesses a natural fragrance which requires no addition. The Chinese say, that only common tea requires scenting; nevertheless there are various scented teas which are in high estimation even in China Tea is liable to immense adulteration—much after it reaches this country, but partly in China. The Chinese annually dry many million pounds of the leaves of different plants to mingle with the genuine; and the leaves of the following species have been detected from time to time in samples of tea of British fabrication;—beech, elm, horse-chestnut, plane, bastard-plane, fancy-oak, willow, poplar, hawthorn and sloe."
"One of the most frequent adulterations of tea is its admixture with exhausted leaves which have been redried .... Catechu is a frequent addition to the exhausted and other leaves, to give them astringency. Sulphate of iron, rose-pink, logwood, plumbago, indigo, etcetera. are all used at times in the adulteration of tea.
Such additions are highly deleterious.....Green tea is so greatly adulterated, that, although there is certainly a genuine preparation of this kind, it seems doubtful whether any is sold pure. From authentic examinations, it appears that all the green teas imported into this country, are faced with a powder consisting either of Prussian blue, or sulphate of lime, or gypsum, or of some other colouring matters.
Tea, especially the green, exerts a very powerful influence upon the nervous system. "There are some persons upon whom green tea produces nearly the same effect as digitalis, and it has been medicinally employed in the diseases for which that herb so decidedly obtained a high reputation. Where persons have any tendency to dyspeptic affections, they are very apt to be aggravated by the use of tea.
Dr. Graham says, "Tea appears to me to exert a very injurious influence on the stomach, bowels, and nerves—a very marked and irritating effect on the nervous system, and is drank in this country far too often and too strong. It Rims a refreshing and anti-spasmodic beverage, but should not be taken either strong or hot; the addition of milk renders it more wholesome, that of sugar less so. Individuals of a rigid and solid fibre are less injured by it than those of an opposite habit; but none should take more than two small tea-cupfuls morning and evening. I cannot think it equal to cocoa or thin chocolate for common use; and it is probable that some of our indigenous plants would yield a more wholesome and equally as palatable an infusion as the tea-leaf of China.
With some tea does not agree; an infusion of Agrimony or some other native plant, should be used instead. I may state on very respectable au- thority, that the first leaves of Wortleberry, dried in the shade, cannot 'be distinguished from real tea. Sage, (the Tomentosa, or Balsamic Sage) and Balm, are valuable substitutes for tea, particularly in the case of debility in the stomach and nervous system. John Hussey, of Sydenham, in Kent, who lived to 116, took nothing for his breakfast for fifty years, but Balm tea sweetened with honey." Tea is occasionally of service in ardent and bilious fever, cramp of the stomach, flatulency, and to relieve the sensations of oppressions accompanying indigestion and bilious complaints.
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