Opium As A Medicine – The View From 1700 AD

Editor’s Note:

I am in the process of digitizing a lengthy and fascinating book from 1700 by Dr. John Jones entitled “The Mysteries of Opium Revealed”. This is a rather tedious process because the only accessible copy of the book is a static, scanned .pdf file of the original, and printing in 1700 wasn’t exactly of the highest quality to begin with (as you can see if you click on the link above to the original book). So what I am doing is using voice recognition software followed by intensive editing because my 21st century software simply doesn’t recognize a lot of the words and spelling in the original text. When complete, as with the very old Coca books I am bringing back to life, the digitized edition of this book will feature a hyperlinked TOC and Bibliography as well as internal search capabilities and other useful features for researchers and casual readers alike.

Well, that’s probably more than you want to know about my process – so let’s get to the outcome. In this post I am offering Chapter 4 of Dr. Jones’ book in which he discusses, at length, the many pros and cons of the moderate use of Opium as a medicine. Keep in mind that this was written over 300 years ago, when Opium was still a relatively new phenomenon in Europe. These were the days when Coffee, Tobacco and Tea were also quite new in European societies and when each of these novel and highly psycho-active substances were beginning to cause major ripples in these societies. (Remember King James “Counterblaste To Tobacco”?) The moralizers were already out in force, declaring all mind-altering substances to be harbingers of doom for civilized society (as they liked to style themselves).

Of course these same morality police just loved sitting in hard wooden pews that functioned as sounding boards for the mighty organ at the front of the church, sending delicious vibrations up the spines of the assembled worshipers, who complemented these spinal vibrations by droning hymns that resonated with the vibrations rising from their ass. Now THAT was a great way to get high and besides, it was approved directly by God – speaking through his priestly hierarchy of course. (Sometime I’ll share with you the story of why we all say “Bless you!” when someone sneezes.)

This post is Chapter 4 of Dr. Jones lengthy and insightful treatise. I will post further chapters from time to time, and will let followers of this blog know when the entire book is available as a new hyperlinked, searchable PDF rather than as a muddy, scanned version of the original.

(from): The Mysteries Of Opium Revealed

By Dr. John Jones, 1700, Chancellor of Landass, a Member of the College of Physicians in London, and formerly Fellow of the Jesus College in Oxford


  1. Gives an account of the Name, Make, Choice Effects etc. Of Opium;
  2. Proves all former Opinions of its Operation to be Mere Chimera;
  3. Demonstrates what its TRUE Cause is by which he Easily and Mechanically explains all (even its most mysterious effects);
  4. Shews its Noxious Principle, and how to separate it, thereby rendering it a Safe and Noble Panacea; whereof:
  5. He shows the Palliative and Curative use.


Chapter IV – “The Mysteries Of Opium Revealed”

The Effects Of Opium Used Internally In A Moderate Dose

  1. The moderate dose in ordinary use, to produce the following effects, is one to three grains, (more or less) according to circumstances, Condition, Case, Constitution, Age etc. of the person who takes it.
  2. It operates generally in a short time after it is in the stomach, that is, about a half an hour (more or less) if taken in a liquid form; and in about an hour (more or less) if taken in a solid form, drinking a draught of water, or some liquor, after it; otherwise it may be sometimes near an hour and a half before it has its full effect. But the time of its operation has a considerable latitude, according to the disposition of the stomach, and other circumstances, as the vehicle it is taken in, etc.


Class One: The Constant Effects of Opium, Used Internally In A Moderate Dose

  1. It causes a most agreeable, pleasant and charming sensation about the region of the stomach, which, if one lies or sits still, diffuses itself in a kind of indefinite manner, seizing one not unlike the gentle sweet delirium that we find upon our entrance into a most agreeable slumber which, upon yielding to it, generally ends in sleep. But if the person keeps himself in action, discourse, or business it seems ( especially when given in a morning, after a moderate rest at night) like a most extraordinary and delicious refreshment of the spirits upon very good news, or any other great cause of joy, as the sight of a dearly beloved person thought to have been lost at sea, or the like, causing such a pleasant ovation of the spirits, serenity, etc. as we find after a competent measure of generous “Wine ad Hilaritatem” (as men used to say).

It is indeed so unexpectedly fine and sweet a pleasure that it is very difficult for me to describe, or any    to conceive it, but such as actually feel it; for ‘tis as if a good genius possessed or informed a man; therefore people do commonly call it a heavenly condition, as if no worldly pleasure was to be compared with it.

It has been compared (not without good cause) to a permanent gentle degree of that pleasure which modesty forbids the naming of; and ‘tis well worth a remark, that both are pleasures of the same sense, viz., that of “feeling”, for it cannot be a pleasure of any other sense, since it is internal.

  1. It causes a brisk, gay and good humor: nor do I doubt but it has this effect upon the sleeping person, as far as their condition is capable of observing it; for you shall have them often tell of pleasant dreams after it, when they remember them, and speak of any experiences they have enjoyed.
  2. It causes promptitude, serenity, alacrity, and expeditiousness in dispatching and managing of business. To which end, and that of a good and gay humor (which are near of kind) is commonly taken in the morning in the Eastern countries, with most certain effect.

(The truth of which Wedelius is forced to confess, though quite contrary to his hypothesis of Opium’s fixing and coagulating the spirits, giving an instance of “a certain serene person who when she had any affair of any great moment to dispatch did (beforehand) take Opium with great advantage, for she found herself in every way better disposed for business, and more enabled to bear the fatigue thereof.”

Many other authors confirm the truth of these effects but (above all) the constant experience of the Eastern nations, puts it all out of doubt.

  1. It causes assurance, ovation of the spirits, courage, contempt of danger, and magnanimity, much after the manner that generous wine does, instead of which the Turks etc. use Opium before engagements, desperate attacks, etc. (as it is most notorious) to make them courageous, which it certainly does. Historians also add that when the Great Turk makes a considerable war, the soldiers buy up all or most of the Opium, which may be worth a merchant’s observation, for it thereupon grows dear, and is much cheaper in times of peace.
  2. It prevents and takes away grief, fear, anxiety, peevishness, fretfulness, etc. These are necessary consequences of the former effects.
  3. It causes euphoria, or easy undergoing of all labors, journeys etc., and that far beyond wines and hot cordials or spirits; therefore it is very much used in Turkey and the Eastern countries in laborious undertakings, great journeys, etc. which men perform by the help of Opium, after a prodigious and almost incredible manner. But the matter of fact is so common and usual that there is no place of doubt; besides, that some who tried it among us, have found it so.
  4. It lulls, soothes and (as it were) charms the mind with satisfaction, acquiescence, contentment, equanimity, etc. How could it fail to cause these effects, since it causes all of the former gay, pleasant and brave humours?

Dr. Willis, and others, having no true experience or knowledge of Opium imagined that it causes courage, bravery, equanimity, etc. by stupefying the senses, brain etc. and making people inadvertent, dull, and inapprehensive; which is a GREAT MISTAKE, and a groundless conceit, for it is a most certain truth (which millions can affirm) that it produces those effects by an ovation and pleasure of the sensitive soul and spirits, as generous wine does before men become fuddled or are overcome with it. How else could they at the same time be more serene, and apt for the management of any business, and neat dispatch of affairs, as it is most certain they are? These fundamental mistakes about Opium have been (as you will find hereafter) one great cause why its operations have puzzled and baffled all enquirers.

  1. It quiets, allays, and composes all perturbations and commotions of the spirits ( or sensitive soul), blood, humours etc. as in hysterical cases, fevers that proceed from passions, as anger, grief, terrors etc; from violent motion, labor, heat, journeys, convulsions etc. or from pain; and stops bleedings that proceed from such commotions.
  2. It causes a relaxation of all the sensible parts of the body, as the membranous and nervous: this is notorious by its effects, as causing perspiration, sweat, relaxation of sphincters, dilation of the pupil of the eye, relaxation of the cornea, and all other effects of relaxation, as you’ll find more particularly hereafter.
  3. It causes indolence, or exemption from pain ( as all know and allow) and that when sleep does not intervene.
  4. It stops, moderates, cures or palliates all fluzes, excepting those by the pores, or such as depend (as that does) upon relaxation, as when sphincters are weak or paralytical; but these last are unnatural accidents.
  5. It mightily promotes insensible perspiration.
  6. It prevents shivering in Ague fits and such-like cases, if given time and quantity, which shall be shown in the curative section of this book.
  7. It prevents and cures colds.
  8. It causes a larger and slower pulse, supposing no accidental cause to the contrary.
  9. It causes dryness of the mouth.
  10. It has most effect in warm and moist weather.
  11. It has most effect upon lax and fine-textured persons as women, children, etc, therefore women use it in Turkey and the other Eastern countries where it is also commonly used by men.
  12. It causes an efflorescence of the skin, barring accidents of cold, etc.
  13. It is observed by all that it mainly effects the Genus Nervosum, and animal spirits, and not the blood and humours.
  14. It increases seed in some measure.
  15. It causes a great promptitude to venery, erections etc. especially if the dose be larger than ordinary; which I would not have men believe without experimenting it; not that I fear to be confuted but less any should injure themselves by too great a dose.

This is one great cause (if not the chief) why the infidels of Turkey and the eastern nations (especially where Polygamy is allowed, as among the Turks, etc.) use Opium so much, it never failing to produce this effect in hale and healthy people, if the dose be sufficient; as it is too notorious in all (or most) countries from Greece to Japan inclusively, who use Opium for that end.

It does ( I confess) look like a riddle, that a most relaxing and stupefying medicament, which takes away the sense of feeling (and consequently irritations to venery, as one would think) should notwithstanding irritate thereunto causing erections etc. however it is most certain, tho’ a seeming contradiction, of which sort you have many more among the effects of Opium.

Class Two: Useful and Frequent (tho’ not constant) Effects of Opium, Used Internally In Moderate Dose

  1. Sleep, which is so far from being a constant effect of Opium that it will, in me, and many other persons, prevent sleeping, even when otherwise inclined to do so
  2. Pleasant dreams
  3. Stopping of Vomiting
  4. Stifling the hiccups
  5. Taking off convulsions and contractions
  6. Causing meat to stay long in the stomach
  7. Moderation and prevention of hunger
  8. Sweating
  9. The flowing of the Menses, tho’ not observed by vulgar physicians
  10. The flowing of the Lochia, which is as little observed
  11. Voiding of the stone
  12. Delivery of women
  13. Deadness of the eyes, as you see in drunkenness
  14. Growth of the breasts, penis, and increase of milk
  15. Dilatation of the pupil
  16. Venereal dreams
  17. Nocturnal pollutions
  18. Itchings in the skin
  19. Much urine
  20. Nausea
  21. Swimming in the head
  22. Watching
  23. A kind of dubious state, between sleeping and waking
  24. It stops hemorrhages in many cases

Many more instances of this kind might be given of its frequent and usual effects in diseases, but it would be endless and needless, since we have mentioned the prime, general and fundamental effects upon which all such do depend, and that the particular enumeration of its effects in diseases belongs to its curative and palliative virtue, which will be handled hereafter.

Class Three: The Rare Effects of Opium, Taken in a Moderate Dose

1. Temporary palsies, as of the bladder, and sometimes of other parts, tho’ very rarely

  1. Faltering of the tongue
  2. Looseness of the lower jaw, as in the drowsie, drunkards, etc.
  3. Prevention of sweat, in such as sweat too much for want of perspiration
  4. Abortion
  5. Prevention of abortion in some cases
  6. Tumescence of the lips
  7. Curing of the Dropsie, of which Dr. Willis gives an instance
  8. Curing of stupors of some sorts, as those from colds etc.
  9. Anxieties and Distresses
  10. Vomiting and hiccups
  11. Convulsions
  12. Syncopes, leipothimies, and faintings
  13. Death, tho’ very rarely, and that in very weak people
  14. Purging
  15. Raising and reviving some persons that are just expiring
  16. A long stay thereof at Stomach sometimes
  17. Stoppage of Urine
  18. It sometimes proves dangerous after hemorrhages and large evacuations

Notes On The Classes Of Effects

  1. Note: that the first class of effects being the most constant, are the most proper, genuine and principal effects, upon which other effects depend, unless they are accidental. It must therefore be that these should guide us in the disquisition of the cause of operation of Opium.
  2. Note: that the second class, though not so constant, are natural effects of Opium, and will also be a good guide for the same purpose.
  3. Note: that there is but little notice to be taken of the rare effects for that purpose, because most are accidental.

The Effects Of Going Off (or Declination) of the Operation of Opium, taken internally in a Moderate Dose

  1. A general return of all the diseases and disasters that Opium palliated during its operation, unless it happens that some are cured thererby; which ( if they be) is generally by the benefit of sweat, or insensible perspiration; as colds, pain from wind, or humours, that should have been passed by the pores; as in coughs, toothache, etc. from construction of the pores, or by composing the fury of the spirit, or blood, which it very often ( yea, generally) cures with one single dose.
  2. Sweat, tho’ not constantly
  3. Frequent making of water, sometimes
  4. A looseness (sometimes) even when there was none before the giving of the Opium
  5. Diseases seeming worse than before the taking of it
  6. A melancholy and sad depression of the spirits
  7. A narrow pulse
  8. Itching of the skin.

End Of Chapter 4


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