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We know that probably contrary is truth; but all our efforts to draw any conclusion for or against adaptation of a race to a production of a climate, are rendered futile by teachings, not more of our religion, than of naturalists, who insist for a central point of origin for all races, and a constitution suited to all climates. The safest position to hold is that a bad habit may be formed in any latitude, and supported by any number of arguments, where wish still holds its mysterious power over conclusions of what we call reason.
As regards composition of tobacco, we have endless experiments in that nearly new science, Organic Chemistry, which seems to try patience of industry itself. There are some nine or ten different substances, which go to formation of a tobacco leaf, and these seem to change in their proportions according to condition of plant. Setting aside starch, various acids, and salts, we come to what may be termed essential element or principle called Nicotina. These proportions of carbon, hydrogen, and azotes, really tell to analyst nothing from which he could predicate any thing certain as to character of compound.
In this respect, all formula of organic substances is nearly under same mystery, a small difference in proportions producing greatest difference in combined results. But we can be under no mistake as to character of element which is called Nicotina—a colorless liquid alkaloid, with an acrid, burning taste. It is one of most intense of all poisons, approaching in ita activity strongest preparation of prussic acid.
The other important element procured from analysis of tobacco, is an oil called nicotianin, supposed to be "the juice of cursed hebanon" referred to in Hamlet. As this oily substance is also a very intense poison, differing essentially from alkaloid, and indeed it is supposed to be capable of acting on different vital organs. We have thus in tobacco two poisons—rather a remarkable fact in organic chemistry, where we find, generally, only one very active principle at base of any particular production in vegetable kingdom. It is indeed asserted by Landerer, that there is none of this deadly oil in fresh leaves of tobacco; and Mr. Pereira remarks, that substance must be developed in drying of leaves under influence of air and water. The discovery; if true; may free weed from charge of possessing a double poison; but consequence is all same to foreign consumer; who never sees leaf in its green state.
It has been said that smoke of tobacco, as analyzed by Zeise and others, contains nothing of deadly alkaloid; and tobacco smokers have pleaded for less detrimental effects from pipe or cigar than from quid, but I fear their conclusion is not very tenable; for detrimental oil, as we in fact see from pipe itself, is largely increased by continued roasting and burning. We know; too, that old pipe is a favorite with epicures; more oil by which it is blackened better becomes instrument; till it attains perfection as a mass of clay soaked with poison; and dried, and soaked and dried a hundred times; so that entire matter is imbued with absorption.
On man, physiological effects have been very minutely observed. I cannot do better than give words of Mr.Pereira: "In small doses, tobacco causes a sensation of heat in throat and sometimes a feeling of warmth at stomach. These effects are, however, less obvious when remedy is taken in a liquid form, and largely diluted. By repetition, it usually operates as a diuretic, and less frequently as a laxative.
Accompanying these effects are often nausea, and a peculiar feeling, usually described as giddiness, scarcely according with ordinary acceptation of this form. As dropsical swellings sometimes disappear under operation of these doses, it has been inferred that remedy promotes operation of absorbents. It occasionally acts as an anodyne, or more rarely promotes sleep.
General Characteristics of Tobacco