Captain James Cook and Preventive Health Care
What have we learned in the past 250 years?
While much of it was centered around diet, he also focused on hygiene and a consideration of the environment and the contentment of his men. These all were vital components of what I think represents a holistic viewpoint in healthcare. Did Capt. Cook have a holistic viewpoint and apply preventive health measures during these scientific expeditions? I also wish to explore the question, what have we learned that is still applicable today from these explorations which occurred 250 years ago between 1768 - 1779?
Scurvy was a historical killer of seafarers for centuries. "A modern historian of the disease has written that, excluding 'straightforward famine', 'scurvy is probably the nutritional deficiency disease that has caused the most suffering in recorded history'. In the specific context of the British Navy, the disease is said to have caused more losses than enemy action during the eighteenth century, a period when Britain was frequently at war. Under those circumstances, the search for a cure for scurvy attained greater urgency." (3)
“Scurvy is probably the nutritional deficiency disease that has caused
What do know about scurvy and its symptoms today? The Institute of Tropical Medicine in Antwerp, Belgium states, "Vitamin C is also known as ascorbic acid. This name refers to ‘antiscorbutic’ (from the Low German term for scurvy: schorbock). Vitamin C is essential for the production of collagen. The symptoms of scurvy can be traced back to defective collagen. Collagen is the commonest protein in the animal kingdom. Large amounts of unusual amino acids are found in collagen: hydroxylysine and hydroxyproline. These are essential for the chemical stability of collagen. In scurvy, defective pro-alpha chains are formed (the formation of hydroxy-amino acids is disrupted). They do not form a triple helix and are quickly degraded. The consequences are first noticed first in the tissues where collagen turnover is fastest, such as blood vessels. Owing to the gradual loss of the existing collagen, the blood vessels become progressively fragile." (3) For the sailors of the day stricken with scurvy, they noticed bleeding gums, teeth falling out, open sores and internal bleeding. It was a terribly devastating condition.
In the recent theories of energy medicine, James Oschman, PhD, states in his theory of the Living Matrix that collagen is a crystalline structure and is capable of transmitting energetic signals and information throughout the body. With the breakdown in the collagen production system, we can understand how debilitating the disease of scurvy can be. With the breakdown of the collagen production system, we lose both the circulatory system and with Oschman's theory, a vital means of energetic communications. (4)
In preparing for his first long voyage to Tahiti, Lt. Cook (before his promotion to captain) only had to look at a previous expedition for the devastating effects of the disease. Dr. R. Carmichael Tilghman (1904-1999), distinguished internist at John Hopkins University stated, "Undoubtedly he (Cook) had learned from the Admiralty of the disaster that befell Admiral George Anso, who in 1740 set out to circumnavigate the globe with six ships and returned four years later with only one ship and having suffered the loss of 1,051 members of his crew, from an initial complement of 1,955; that is 50% deaths, mostly attributable to scurvy." (5)
After Admiral Anso's tremendous losses with an expedition with six ships and almost 2,000 men, Lt. James Cook's mission included one ship and approximately 100 men. Rather than a fast and large ship like a schooner, Cook chose a sturdy, but slow collier (freighter) named the Earl of Pembroke and renamed it His Majesty's Bark, Endeavour. With this sturdy ship, Capt. Cook set off for the South Pacific and the eight month voyage to Tahiti on his scientific expedition to view and record the Transit of Venus in an attempt to measure the planet's distance from Earth.
In those days, "a sailor's diet consisted of salted fish and meat, dried vegetables, weeviled biscuits and rancid oils, cheese, and butter. Such distilled beverages as beer, wine, and rum were abundant. While the alcohol temporarily eased the sailors' burdens, the resulting dehydration and addiction resulted in numerous accidents and poor health. The caloric content - estimated at 2,500-3,000 calories - was adequate, but the diet was sorely deficient in vitamins. In the absence of vitamin C, rampant scurvy became responsible for thousands of sailors' deaths and disabilities. On long voyages, nearly three-quarters of a ship's crew was likely to be unable to sail because of this deficiency." (6)
On long voyages, nearly three-quarters of a ship's crew was likely to be unable
Tlighman states, "His three voyages around the world were the first carefully planned and executed scientific expeditions. Though he excelled as a navigator, as an explorer, as a cartographer, as an astronomer, Cook with due modesty considered his major achievement to be the preservation of health, the defeat of sea diseases, for this conquest had allowed pursuit of his primary objectives. One would be bold indeed to deny that Cook was a practical physician, without benefit of a degree or medical training, a real clinical investigator and an outstanding climatologist." (5)
Among the several objectives of the Cook missions was an evaluation of agents in treating scurvy. Emphasis on that time was on cure; no one had conceived of the prevention of scurvy. (5)
Emphasis on that time was on cure; no one had conceived of the prevention of scurvy.
James Lind, Scottish Naval surgeon, conducted one of the world's earliest controlled clinical investigations in 1747. In this study, 12 sailors all suffering from scurvy were given same diet with additions:
He was fighting against that ancient terror of the sea, so much worse than winds and waves, the disease of scurvy; and he had a fighting faith in fresh food.
What I find important in the words of Capt. Cook and others is that he did not put his faith into only one type of food or one technique but he wisely used a comprehensive holistic approach considering diet, environment and the psychological health of his men. And, as has been pointed out, his efforts were for PREVENTING disease rather than focusing on a cure. I see great parallels between his efforts and his successes and what we do with Touch for Health, where we take a holistic viewpoint and work to maintain balance in multiple areas of our lives as we practice self-care and preventive measures to preserve our wellness and balance. (9) While Capt. Cook's superiors had charged him with cosmological and discovery goals, Cook himself was additionally focused on the health and survival of his crew while achieving his assigned missions.
After his first voyage around the world in 1768 - 1771, Capt. James Cook became a Fellow of the Royal Society on 29 February, 1776. Almost immediately after his election to the Fellowship, Cook presented his paper, "The Method taken for preserving the Health of the Crew of His Majesty's Ship the Resolution during her late Voyage round the World." This paper was published in the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London, Volume 66, 1776. (5)
In his letter, Cook attributed his success to a combination of methods, including:
Tilghman states, "Antiscorbic measures was of top priority and it is certain that this was the first ever occurrence to prevent a disease." (5)
Antiscorbic measures was of top priority and it is certain that this was the
It is interesting reading about how his men adapted to this focus on diet with its fresh foods and additives. Beaglehole states, "And he knew his men; he knew the stubbornly conservative British sailor. He was a practical psychologist as well as a practical dietitian, and their stubbornness was no match for his. Well, most of the time. It was only early in his first voyage that he flogged men for refusing their ration of fresh meat. Thereafter he trusted to the force of example, The amount of green vegetablewild celery and so onhe got into his men by cooking it with their breakfast wheat or pease in remote parts was enormous. And the honest fellows were trained in the habit of looking for it as they wandered on shore. They did so: they learned soon enough that there was a sure way into the Captain's favour. Every innovation whatever though ever so much to their advantage is sure to meet with the highest disapprobation from Seamen, Portable Soup and Sour Krout were at first both condemned by them as stuff not fit for human beings to eat. Of course, remarkable as Cook's achievement was in the preservation of health at sea, and important as this was for his work as an explorer, the Admiralty did not send him out primarily to conduct experiments on diet." (8)
Capt. Cook was also focused on the living and working conditions of his men as part of his 'holistic' approach in improving the overall health of his crew. Here, he was applying much of the philosophy of James Lind. The Journal of Maritime Research states, "...much of Lind’s Treatise is given over to considerations not of diet, but of the general management of the seaman’s living and working conditions. Lind’s model seaman would be cheerful and unmelancholic, for he would be at sea by choice, rather than as a consequence of the operations of the press gang. (Melancholia, Lind says, is an additional contributory factor in the onset of scurvy, although he prudently steers clear of explaining how the mind acts on the body.) Even for land dwellers, and especially those who live in damp places, the best way to keep free from scurvy, is 'to remove into dry, chearful, and better-aired habitations’, Diet has its part to play: it should include 'plenty of recent vegetables, if they can be procured’, But the psychological and environmental conditions must be attended to." (7)
In Touch for Health, John Thie and many others have emphasized how stress and emotional trauma can negatively affect overall health and wellness. Dr. Thie often stated that up to 80% of all illness has its roots in stress and emotional trauma. Some researchers say that the total may be even higher. (9) Modern research is beginning to focus on this fact and my recent article, Touch for Health, Mindfulness and Brain Plasticity, presents the results of research by leading psychologists and brain researchers. (10)
Emphasizing his holistic approach, Capt. Cook states, "But the introduction of the most falutary articles, either as provision or medicines will generally prove unsuccessful, unless supported by certain rules of living." (11) and "The observance of these [dietary and housing] directions, together with moderate exercise, cleanliness of body, ease and contentment of mind, procured by agreeable and entertaining amusements, will prove sufficient to prevent this disease from rising to any great height, where it is not altogether constitutional." (7)
But the introduction of the most falutary articles, either as provision or medicines will
Capt. Cook stated about his techniques... "On this principle, many years experience, together with hints I had from Sir Hugh Pallister, the Captains Campbell, Wallis, and other intelligent officers, enabled me to lay down a plan whereby all was to be conducted:
Pickling and fermentation are good ways of preserving food and were used extensively
Yulia Berry states about fermentation, "Over 200 species of bacteria live in our gut. These microbes help break down food in our intestines, aid in the digestion process, help fight off disease, and boost our immune system. A good balance of intestinal flora is very important to our overall health. If we eat nothing but overly processed and hard to digest foods, then the fermentation process that occurs within will kick into overdrive resulting gas, bloating, diarrhea, constipation and might possibly lead to other diseases like cancer. Providing our bodies with predigested foods such as fermented good will help the existing microbes within to do the job they need to do. Fermentation is not only a way to preserve certain foods, it some cases it actually adds to the nutrient value of it. Fermented vegetables contain more vitamin C (sailors would eat sauerkraut to prevent scurvy) and fermented milk products have ample amounts of B vitamins." (12)
Marion Owen in his article, "Capt. Cook's Love Affair with Cabbage" states, "The Dutch had observed the curative value of pickled cabbage. Cabbage has been the backbone and sustenance of many cultures for thousands of years, though we often think of cabbage as a plain, end-of-the-line vegetable for folks that live in cold climates. Yet cabbage and its many cousins like kale and broccoli are grown around the world. And it's because of this adaptability, the National Gardening Association chose cabbage as one of their Plants of the Year for 2007. From a cook's and health-conscious perspective, these showy plants are also loaded with iron, folate, beta-carotene, potassium, and phyto-chemicals, such as glucosinolates--proven to reduce cancer, especially lung cancer." (13)
Another often overlooked discovery and practice of Capt. Cook was the
Another often overlooked discovery and practice of Capt. Cook was the discovery of 'Tea Tree Oil' in Australia. He had his men crush the leaves from the melaleuca tree and while he does not mention it being used as an antiseptic, it is very possible that it was also used in this manner. A website devoted to tea tree oil describes this discovery, "In Australia, he discovered many plant and animal species that were previously unknown in the European continent, and it was his first trip on the Endeavor that brought the world it’s first exposure to tea tree oil. The aborigines of Australia were the first to discover the healing properties of tea tree oil thousands of years ago. They treated cuts, burns, and skin infections by crushing the leaves of the tree and applying them to cuts and injuries. In the 1770s, the British explorer Captain Cook observed the native Australians brewing tea from the leaves. He then brewed tea of his own to give to his crew to prevent scurvy. He coined the name tea tree". (14)
This website continues, "After the discovery of penicillin and other antibiotics in the late 1940s, tea tree oil went out of favor as an antiseptic until the 1980s, when it was discovered that some bacteria were resistant to certain antibiotics, such as methicillin and vancomycin. Today, there is renewed interest in tea tree oil as an alternative to these antibiotics for skin infections. What is the evidence? Recent laboratory experiments suggest that tea tree oil holds promise as an antiseptic when used on the skin to kill germs, including those that are resistant to methicillin, vancomycin, and other antibiotics. Other laboratory studies suggest that tea tree oil might be helpful against scabies (skin mites) and some types of fungus. A laboratory study published in 2006 showed that tea tree oil can kill yeasts that cause mouth infections of cancer patients with weakened immune systems. However, the safety and effectiveness of tea tree oil has not been tested in clinical studies of cancer patients with mouth infections, and the fact that tea tree oil is toxic when swallowed seems likely to limit its use in mouth infections. The essential oil has also been studied for its effect against MRSA (Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus), the 'superbug' causing infections in immuno-comprimised hospital patients. This antibiotic resistant staph has been effectively treated with Tea Tree oil in some cases." (14)
Supporting my belief that Capt. Cook's methods were 'holistic' in nature is this statement by The Amanda Apothecary, "The oil is now well known in natural medicine for its antimicrobial, anti-viral, and anti-fungal effects. Some of its immune supportive properties may be a result of its anti-depressant effects, as one's emotional well-being has a significant impact on the body's ability to resist infection." (15)
I find this statement especially interesting as we explore the holistic approach Capt. Cook was taking to preserve the health of his men and to prevent scurvy. As we now know, the mind-body connection is very powerful and that depression can negatively affect and suppress the immune system. Now we see Capt. Cook using tea tree as a remedy for preventing scurvy and that also has other benefits that help fight off depression.
The mind-body aspects of Capt. Cook's techniques have not received much
The mind-body aspects of Capt. Cook's techniques have not received much attention by researchers but deserves more research, in my opinion. We know in Touch for Health that emotional and mental states are one of the crucial aspects of a holistic approach. I think Capt. Cook had more than a strong hunch that the emotional state of his men needed to be addressed as part of the total solution. This belief coupled with the belief in fermentation might have led him to put more emphasis on one element of his antiscorbutic solution than it deserved.
In his letter to the Royal Society of London, Capt. Cook states, "We had on board a large quantity of Malt, of which was sweet wort, and given (not only to those men who had manifest symptoms of the scurvy, but to such also as were, from circumstances, judged to be most liable to that disorder) from one to two to three pints in the day to each man, or in such proportions as the surgeon thought necessary; which sometimes amounted to three quarts in the twenty-four hours. This is without doubt one of the best antiscorbutic sea-medicines yet found out; and if given in time will, with proper attention to other things, I am persuaded, prevent the scurvy from making any great progress for a considerable time: but I am not altogether of opinion, that it will cure it in an advanced state at sea."
Brett Stubbs, PhD, from Southern Cross University states, "These all reflected the Admiralty’s concern that to be suitable for use at sea, potential antiscorbutics should be stable, for at least a year and preferably two, and not be unduly bulky. Fermented liquor is an old one. Ale was a standard article of the sea ration as early as the fourteenth century, during the reign of Edward III. Henry VII established a naval brewery at Portsmouth in 1492 to supply his ships with beer. By Cook’s time, one gallon of beer per man had become the standard daily allocation. The use of beer at sea by this time had developed three main aspects. First, it was used as a foodit was a staple beverage and an essential part of the sea diet. It was also a luxury, helping to ameliorate the hardship and irregularity of sea life. And thirdly, beer was considered as a medicine, conducive to health at sea. Beer was administered as a cure for numerous medical conditions, including scurvy. Many eighteenth century physicians expressed their belief in the restorative and curative powers of beer. James Lind (1716-1794) in 1753 recommended ‘fermented liquors of all sorts’ as ‘beneficial’ in the fight to prevent scurvy."(3)
So, we have a history of using ale and beer in naval operations plus the recommendations of James Lind, the discoverer of the fact that scurvy could be prevented by citrus exclaiming the virtues of the fermented alcoholic tonics. It is my opinion that while these liquids did not have a medicinal curative property, they did affect the men's overall mental and emotional state positively thereby positively affecting their immune system and was one element of Capt. Cook's success on these very long voyages. Home-sickness, melancholy and what was then termed 'nostalgia' were very potent obstacles facing Cook as he worked to preserve the Overall Health of his men both physically and psychologically.
We know that abuse of alcohol has detrimental affects also; dehydration and injury being two of these. We also know that Capt. Cook emphasized having an abundance of clean and fresh water for consumption as part of his solution and I doubt he would of allowed the abuse of alcohol by his crew. He is known to have withheld a crewman's ration of daily 'grog' for disciplinary purposes so had control over the supply.
I hope that you see through the discourse in this article that Capt. Cook took a holistic approach and made history by working to prevent a disease through a diet consisting of as much fresh food as possible and including fermented and pickled foods high in vitamin-C; fresh water; exercise; protection from the elements; controlled work schedules; providing amusement and liquid refreshment for enjoyment; maintaining a clean and dry environment; providing clean and dry clothing; and gaining the respect of his men through example rather than threat. This holistic approach to healthcare in the late 1700's had very dramatic effects on man's ability to travel long distances in a healthy manner without succumbing to the dreaded scurvy through the attention to diet and environment. Even today, those facts are not fully understood and applied by modern healthcare professionals even though their merits were proven centuries ago.
Carmichael Tilghman of the American Clinical and Climatological Association (ACCA) in his Presidential Address entitled, Captain James Cook (1728-1779), Explorations and the Conquest of Scurvy stated, "I have elected to present to you an account of a non-medical explorer, a layman in our eyes, who exerted a profound influence on the eradication of a disease known from ancient times. He accomplished this without much, if any, understanding of the nature of its etiodology, but in so doing he significantly altered world history."(5)
I have elected to present to you an account of a non-medical explorer, a layman in our eyes, who exerted a profound influence on the eradication of a disease known from ancient times. He accomplished this without much, if any, understanding of the nature of its etiodology, but in so doing he significantly altered world history.
So, how did Capt. Cook fare with his own health over these nine years of round-the-world explorations? It appears that he was spared the ravages of scurvy by eating the diet he prescribed to his men but there are modern theories about his later health that came about because of his willingness to explore new foods. In a way, he made himself a test subject for research by eating many things, especially meat, in its 'fresh' state which meant foregoing proper cooking that would kill parasites and other bacteria. Capt. Cook was killed in Hawaii by the natives so his death was not directly caused by the state of his health. But, some historians and researchers have raised the question about his health on the later voyages and how these affected his temperament and decision-making abilities which could of indirectly caused his death. These will be discussed more thoroughly in a companion website that will examine Capt. Cook the man, in more detail. Following are some of the theories about Capt. Cook's later health.
The Captain Cook Society states in the article, Factors Governing Cook, "Sir James Watt has established a perception of two Cooks - a healthy Cook of the first voyage and of the first part of the second - and an unwell Cook of the latter part of the second voyage and of all of the third. Cook’s first reported major illness was in December 1773, during the second ice-edge search of the Antarctic Ocean (Pacific sector), during the second voyage. This was after his second visit of 1773 to Queen Charlotte Sound - 3 to 25 November 1773 - but before his third visit there - 19 October - 10 November 1774. By 27 February 1774 Cook had: developed serious gastrointestinal symptoms which he first concealed, treating himself by starvation until intestinal colic intervened. Purgatives merely increased the vomiting, and constipation became absolute and was associated with such violent hiccoughs that he almost died - a classic picture of acute intestinal obstruction. W.R. Thrower’s diagnosis was, "acute infection of the gallbladder with secondary paralytic ileus", but Sir James Watt’s opinion is that: since Cook was anything but fastidious about eating native foods, he had a heavy ascaris (roundworm) infestation of the intestine, a condition that can cause acute obstruction.
Sir James goes on to point out that: parasites would cause inflammation of the wall of the intestine, allowing colonization by coliform bacteria which could interfere with the absorption of the B complex of vitamins and probably other nutrients. Gross effects are relatively easy to diagnose, but early symptoms arising from moderate malabsorption of niacine and thiamine are notoriously difficult. They include prolonged ill-health, fatigue, loss of appetite, stubborn constipation, loss of weight, digestive disturbances, loss of interest and initiative, irritability, depression, loss of concentration and memory, and change of personality - all symptoms exhibited by Cook during the third voyage and faithfully recorded by eyewitnesses." (1)
In summary, we see that Capt. Cook achieved many successes and left lasting legacies in many areas. His biographer, JC Beaglehole stated, "In three epic voyages (1768-1771, 1772-1775, 1776-1780) he discovered more of this planet's surface than any other man. He also charted the coasts he visited with an accuracy never seen before - his charts are still the foundation of modern charts. He proved his theories regarding hygiene, in a time when ship's crews were often decimated by illness, revolutionizing shipboard health for the future. Because of this reputation he was awarded the first modern scientific exploratory missions for his next two voyages. He was the genius of the matter of fact. He was profoundly competent in his calling as seaman. He was completely professional in his trade as explorer." (8)
Earl Cook - co-developer of the eTouch for Health, TFH eCharts, John Thie Memorial Online Research Database and the eInstructor software systems. Earl and his wife, Gail, have worked with Touch for Health since 1976 when a seven-year old injury of Earl's was fixed in only seconds using TFH and acupressure. They worked closely with TFH founder John Thie and Matthew Thie is developing the eTouch software. Earl is a Professional Touch for Health Instructor and Chair of the Research Committee for the Touch for Health Kinesiology Association in the U.S.. He is a microcomputer pioneer and has worked in the computer industry since 1980. As a consultant and software application developer, Earl has solved complex problems for some of the world's largest organizations.
Post Script: Earl is also the author of a research site examining whether his family was related to Capt. Cook. Earl's father, James Cook, stated that there was a "first-cousin relationship" to Capt. Cook.
5. R. Carmichael Tilghman, American Clinical and Climatological Association (ACCA) Presidential Address: "Captain James Cook (1728-1779), Explorations and the Conquest of Scurvy." http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2279487/
6. Scurvy's Conquest and Sailors Health, Research and Read Books, Journals, Articles at Questia Online Library, http://tinyurl.com/28o9l99
9. John Thie, DC, author, founder of Touch for Health. http://www.etouchforhealth.com/john_thie.html
10. Touch for Health, Mindfulness and Brain Plasticityby Earl Cook http://www.etouchforhealth.com/news/tfh_mindfulness_plasticity.html
11. The Method Taken for Preserving the Health of the Crew of His Majesty's Ship the Resolution during her Late Voyage Around the World by Captain James Cook, Philosophical Transactions, submitted 1776, 66, 402-406. http://rstl.royalsocietypublishing.org/content/66/402
12. Health Benefits of Fermentation, http://www.articlesbase.com/nutrition-articles/health-benefits-of-fermentation-1433490.html
13. Captain Cook's Love Affair with Cabbage, Why Captain Cook Owes his Career to Cabbage by Marion Owen, http://www.plantea.com/cabbage-cook.htm
15. Tea Tree Oil, A potent Antimicrobial Oil, The Amanda Apothecary,
Other Captain Cook Sources
1. Captain Cook and the Discovery of Australia by Russell Shortt
2. Capt. Cook Intro by Mark Winthrop, http://www.winthrop.dk/cookinto.html
3. Biography: Captain James Cook, Royal Naval Museum, http://www.royalnavalmuseum.org/info_sheets_james_cook.htm
4. The Royal Society; Dillattantes to DNA via cuckoos and kites,
5. Polynesian Myth & Religion: How the Natives Interpreted Captain Cook
6. Captain James Cook Discovers Ancient Hawaii, Mythic Hawaii.com, http://www.mythichawaii.com/cook-hawaii-discovery.htm
7. Captain James Cook by The Northern Echo, http://www.thenorthernecho.co.uk/history/figures/list/3845163.Captain_James_Cook/
8. Captain James Cook of the Endeavour, Tea Tree Wonders, the mysteries of the natural healing tea tree, http://www.teatreewonders.com/captain-james-cook.html
9. Tea Tree Oil, Melaleuca Oil, Melaleuca alternfolia, American Cancer Society, WWW.Cancer.org, http://www.cancer.org/Treatment/TreatmentsandSideEffects/ComplementaryandAlternativeMedicine/HerbsVitaminsandMinerals/tea-tree-oil
10. The Endeavour Replica (Site no longer active.)
11. Endeavour Replica FaceBook Group Page, http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=6074801079
12. Capt. James Cook, Wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/James_Cook, V. Collingridge (2003) page 413 Obsession and Betrayal
13. From Polynesia with Love, The History of Hawaiian Surfing from Captain James Cook to Present, by Ben Marcus, http://www.surfingforlife.com/history.html
14. History of Vitamins, About.com: Inventors, http://inventors.about.com/library/inventors/bl_vitamins.htm
15. Louis Pasteur, Learning Site, UK, http://www.historylearningsite.co.uk/louis_pasteur.htm
16. Capt. James Cook - the world's explorer, http://www.cptcook.com/cooknews.html
17. Health Benefits of Green Tea, WebMD, http://www.webmd.com/food-recipes/features/health-benefits-of-green-tea
© 2010 Earl Cook