“Tea; Its Effects, Medicinal and Moral” by George Gabriel Sigmond

Tea: Its Effects, Medicinal and Moral (1839) by Sigmond, George Gabriel
Tea: Its Effects, Medicinal and Moral (1839) by Sigmond, George Gabriel

I wasn’t able to turn up much background information on George Gabriel Sigmond, author of Tea; Its Effects, Medicinal and Moral. There are a few other books of his floating around in the great digital cloud, one about drama and another about medicine. In this book he’s identified as “Professor of Materia Medica to the Royal Medico-Botanical Society [of Londteon].” The book, which first saw the light of publication in 1839, was apparently based on a lecture Sigmond gave to that society to recognize the discovery of “the Tea Plant” in British-controlled India.

Commentators of yesteryear tended to be of mixed opinions about tea, with some reviling it as something close to a lethal poison and others praising it as perhaps the greatest thing to happen to humankind since the wheel, the lever and agriculture. Sigmond kicks things off in fine form, with ringing praise for tea that includes such unambiguous statements as “our national importance has been intimately connected with it, and that much of our present greatness, and even the happiness of our social system, springs from this unsuspected source.” And so the author goes, in a somewhat verbose style that rarely settles for one word when fifty would do.

The author praises tea, among other things, for being a viable substitute for alcoholic beverages, though his opinions on this sort of thing are perhaps a bit more moderate than many of the temperance advocates of yesteryear. Also offered, a great deal of background on the history of the plant, focusing mainly on China, and a thorough discussion about the botany and cultivation of tea, as well the methods for processing it to make a drinkable beverage. From here it’s on to the topics promised in the title and Sigmond takes a quite extensive look at the so-called medicinal and moral effects of tea on human beings.

While it appears to contain a good bit of information about tea as it was known in Sigmond’s day, there are a few significant drawbacks to his book. The author’s wordy style is not unusual for writers of his day, but a much more problematic issue is the fact that the book is presented as one large block of text, devoid of breaks, chapters, table of contents or index. Which makes for tough going for anyone not wanting to work their way through the entire text to find out what the author thinks about a specific topic, but there’s plenty of interesting information here even so.

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