The History of Coca (1901)
By Dr. William Golden Mortimer , MD
(in) The Coca Leaf Papers (2014)
By Bill Drake
In previous posts I have presented various excerpts from Dr. Mortimer’s excellent book, which not only contains a wealth of highly relevant information but illustrates the often-acknowledged but poorly understood fact that human beings keep re-discovering the insights of those gone before them, treating such “discoveries” as new knowledge.
Dr. Mortimer’s book also vividly demonstrates how easily knowledge is lost, or deliberately set aside, in pursuit of the agenda of the times.
It is impossible to estimate how many millions of people are suffering and dying right this moment because the agenda of our times has demonized Coca Leaf as part of a worldwide set of political and economic agendas conceived in ignorance and maintained with malice regarding the place of natural medicines in treating and healing diseases that arise naturally and diseases that are caused by external agents, almost always in pursuit of profit.
In both cases, access to pure, natural Coca Leaf for self-treatment would undermine the political and economic agendas of powerful groups, and so we suffer and die, by the millions each year, in servitude to these cruel and heartless sub-humans.
In my continuing protest against this overwhelming flood of power and money that is drowning the planet, I offer this excerpt from a chapter in “The History of Coca” in which Dr. Mortimer explains the place of Coca in the natural world, and the processes by which its magical properties occur. Perhaps you, the reader, will be one more voice raised against the denial of this potent natural medicine to all those suffering, dying people whose lives could be mended and saved simply by having access to this miraculous leaf.
The Place Of The Coca Leaf In The Living World
In the Coca leaf, as indeed in all plants, the cell wall is made up of cellulose, a carbohydrate substance allied to starch, with the formula xC6H10O5. The material for the building of this substance, it is presumed, is secreted by the cell contents or by a conversion of protoplasm under the influence of nitrogen. This product is deposited particle by particle inside of the wall already formed. Accompanying this growth there may occur certain changes in the physical properties of the cell as the wall takes in new substances, such as silica and various salts, or as there is an elaboration and deposit of gum, pectose and lignin. Each living cell contains a viscid fluid, of extremely complex chemical composition – the protoplasm – a layer of which is in contact with the cell wall and connected by bridles with a central mass in which the nucleus containing the nucleolus is embedded. The protoplasm does not fill the whole cavity of the cell, but there is a large space filled with the watery sap.
The sap carries in solution certain sugars, together with glycogen and two varieties of glucose, and such organic acids and coloring matters as may already have been elaborated. Where metabolism is active, certain crystallizable nitrogenous bodies, as asparagin, leucin and tyrosin, with salts of potassium and sodium, are found, while in the vacuole there may be starch grains and some crystals of calcium oxalate. The protoplasm is chemically made up of proteids, of which two groups may be distinguished in plants. The first embracing the plastin, such as forms the frame work of the cell, and the second the peptones of the seeds, and the globulins found in the buds and in young shoots. These proteids all consist of carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen, and sulphur, while plastin also contains phosphorus. In active growing cells the proteids are present in a quantity, which gradually diminishes as the cell becomes older, leaving the plastin as the organized proteid wall of the cell, while the globulins and peptones remain unorganized. The whole constructive metabolism of the plant is toward the manufacture of this protoplasm, the chemical decomposition and conversion of which liberates the energy which continues cell life.
In certain cells of the plant associated with the protoplasm, and presumably of a similar chemical composition, are little corpuscles, which contain the chlorophyl constituting the green coloring matter of plants, a substance which from its chemical construction and physiological function may have some important influence on the alkaloid formation in the Coca leaf. In these bodies the chlorophyl is held in an oily medium, which exudes in viscid drops when the granules are treated with dilute acids or steam. Although no iron has been found in these bodies by analysis, it is known that chlorophyl cannot be developed without the presence of iron in the soil. Gautier, from an alcoholic extract, calculated the formula C19H22N2O3, and called attention to the similarity between this and that of bilirubin, C16H18N203 – the primary pigment forming the golden red color of the human bile, which possibly may be allied to the red corpuscles of the blood. Chlorophyl, while commonly only formed under appropriate conditions of light and heat, may in some cases be produced in complete darkness, in a suitable temperature. Thus if a seed be made to germinate in the dark, the seedling will be not green, but pale yellow, and the plant is anӕmic, or is termed etiolated, though corpuscles are present, which, under appropriate conditions, will give rise to chlorophyll.
It has been found that etiolated plants become green more readily in diffused light than in bright sunshine. The process of chlorophyll formation neither commences directly when an etiolated plant is exposed to light, nor ceases entirely when a green plant is placed in darkness, but the action continues through what has been termed photo-chemical induction. From experiments to determine the relative efficacy of different rays of the spectrum it has been found that in light of low intensity seedlings turn green more rapidly under yellow rays, next under green, then under red, and less rapidly under blue. In intense light the green formation is quicker under blue than under yellow, while under the latter condition decomposition is more rapid.
The function of chlorophyl is to break up carbonic acid, releasing oxygen, and converting the carbon into storage food for the tissues, the first visible stage of which constructive metabolism is the formation of starch. The activity of this property may be regarded as extremely powerful when it is considered that in order to reduce carbonic acid artificially it requires the extraordinary temperature of 1300° C. (2372° F.). In the leaf this action takes place under the influence of appropriate light and heat from the sun in the ordinary temperature of 10°-30° C. (50°-86° F.). Plants which do not contain chlorophyl – as fungi – obtain their supply of carbon through more complex compounds in union with hydrogen.
Perhaps we are too apt to regard plants as chiefly cellulose – carbohydrates, and water, without considering the importance of their nitrogenous elements, for though these latter substances may be present in relatively small proportion, they are as essential in the formation of plant tissue as in animal structures. The carbohydrates of plants include starch, sugars, gums, and inulin. The starch or an allied substance, as has been shown, being elaborated by the chlorophyl granules, or in those parts of the plant where these bodies do not exist, by special corpuscles in the protoplasm, termed amyloplasts, which closely resemble the chlorophyl bodies. In the first instance the change is more simple and under the influence of light, in the latter light is not directly essential and the process is more complex, the starch formation beginning with intermediate substances – as asparagin, or glucose, by conversion of the sugars in the cell sap.
Just as in the human organism, assimilation in plant tissue cannot take place except through solution, so the stored up starch is of no immediate service until it is rendered soluble. In other words, it must be prepared in a way analogous to the digestion of food in animal tissues. This is done by the action of certain ferments manufactured by the protoplasm. These do not directly enter into the upbuilding of tissue themselves, but induce the change in the substance upon which they act. Chiefly by a process of hydration, in which several molecules of water are added, the insoluble bodies are rendered soluble, and are so carried in solution to various portions of the plant. Here they are rearranged as insoluble starch, to serve as the common storage tissue for sustenance. Thus it will be seen how very similar are the processes of assimilation in plants and animals, a marked characteristic between both being that the same elementary chemical substances are necessary in the upbuilding of their tissues, and particularly that activity is absent where assimilable nitrogen is not present.
Several organic acids occur in plant cells, either free or combined, which are probably products of destructive metabolism, either from the oxidation of carbohydrates or from the decomposition of proteids. Liebig regarded the highly oxidized acids – especially oxalic, as being the first products of constructive metabolism, which, by gradual reduction, formed carbohydrates and fats, in support of which he referred to the fact that as fruits ripen they become less sour, which he interpreted to mean that the acid is converted into sugar. The probability, however, is that oxalic acid is the product of destructive metabolism, and is the final stage of excretion from which alkaloids are produced, while it is significant, when considering the Coca products, that acids may by decomposition be formed from proteid or may by oxidation be converted into other acids.
Oxalic acid is very commonly found in the leaf cells combined with potassium or calcium. It is present in the cells of the Coca leaf as little crystalline cubes or prisms. Malic acid, citric acid, and tartaric acid are familiar as the products of various fruits. Tannic acid is chiefly found as the astringent property of various barks. Often a variety of this acid is characteristic of the plant and associated with its alkaloid. This is the case with the tannic acid described by Niemann in his separation of cocaine, which is intimately related to the alkaloids of the Coca leaf, just as quinine is combined with quinic acid and morphine with meconic acid. It has been suggested that the yield of alkaloid from the Coca leaf is greater in the presence of a large proportion of tannic acid.
Tannin is formed in the destructive metabolism of the protoplasm, as a glucoside product intermediate between the carbohydrate and the purely aromatic bodies, such as benzoic and cinnamic acids, which are formed from the oxidative decomposition of the glucosides. In addition to these are found fatty oils, associated with the substances of the cell, and essential oils, to which the fragrance of the flower or plant is due, and which are secreted in special walled cells. The resins are found as crude resins, balsams – a mixture of resin and ethereal oil with an aromatic acid, and gum resins – a mixture of gum, resin and ethereal oil. The ethereal oils include a great number of substances with varying chemical composition, having no apparent constructive use to the tissues, but, like the alkaloids, regarded merely as waste. Some of these products serve by their unpleasant properties to repel animals and insects, while others serve to attract insects and thus contribute to the fertilization of the flower, so all these bodies may be of some relative use.
The proteids of the plant are supposed to be produced from some non-nitrogenous substance – possibly formic aldehyde – by a combination formed from the absorbed nitrates, sulphates and phosphates, in union with one of the organic acids, particularly oxalic. The change being from the less complex compound to a highly nitrogenous organic substance, termed an amide, which, with the non-nitrogenous substance and sulphur, unite to form the proteid. The amides are crystallizable nitrogenous substances, built up synthetically, or formed by the breaking down of certain compounds. They are similar to some of the final decomposition products found in the animal body. Belonging to this group of bodies is xanthin, which Kossel supposed to be directly derived from nuclein, from the nucleus of the plant cell. But in whatever manner the amides are formed, it is believed they are ultimately used in the construction of proteid, and although this substance is produced in all parts of the plant, it is found more abundant in the cells containing chlorophyl. Proteids are found to gradually increase from the roots toward the leaves, where they are most abundant. This would seem to indicate that the leaf is the especial organ in which proteid formation takes place, and it is in this portion of the Coca plant that the excreted alkaloids are found most abundantly.
According to Schützenberger, the proteid structures are composed of ureids, derivatives of carbamide, and Grimaux considers they are broken by hydrolysis into carbonic acid, ammoniac and amidic acids, thus placing them in near relation with uric acid, which also gives by hydrolysis, carbonic acid, ammoniac acid and glycocol. In animal tissues the last product of excrementition is carbamide – or uric acid, while the compounds from which proteids are formed in plants have been shown to be amides. It has been shown in the laboratory that the chemical products from the breaking down of proteids are also amides, with which carbonic acid and oxalic acid are nearly always formed. The presence of hippuric acid in the urine of herbivorous animals, the indol and the skatol found in the products of pancreatic digestion (Salkowski), together with the tyrosin nearly always present in the animal body, has led to the supposition that aromatic groups may also be constituents of the proteid molecule.
All of this is of the greatest interest in the study of alkaloid production in connection with the fact, which has been proved, that when a plant does not receive nitrogen from outside it will not part with the amount of that element previously contained – in other words, the nitrogenous excreta will not be thrown off. Boussingault thought the higher plants flourished best when supplied with nitrogen in the form of nitrates, though Lehmann has found that many plants flourish better when supplied with ammonia salts than when supplied with nitrates, and this has been well marked in the case of the tobacco plant.
Nitric acid may be absorbed by a plant in the form of any of its salts which can diffuse into the tissues, the most common bases being soda, potash, lime, magnesia and ammonia. The formation of this acid, attendant upon the electric conditions of the atmosphere, may be one source of increase of vigor to the native soil of the Coca plant, where the entire region of the Montaña is so subject to frequent electrical storms. Then Coca flourishes best in soils rich in humus, and various observers have remarked that nitrogen is best fixed in such a soil. An interesting point in connection with which is that the ammonia supplied to the soil by decomposition of nitrogenous substances is converted into nitrous, and this into nitric acid, by a process termed nitrification, occasioned by the presence of certain bacteria in the soil to which this property is attributed. Proof of this was determined by chloroforming a section of nitrifying earth and finding that the process on that area ceased. The absorption of nitrogen by the Coca plant and the development of proteids is closely associated with the nitrogenous excreta from the plant, and the consequent production of alkaloids which we are attempting to trace.
The nitrogen of the soil, however induced, is transferred by oxidation into what has been termed the reduced nitrogen of amides which, in combination with carbohydrates, under appropriate conditions forms proteids, in which oxalic acid is an indirect product. Several observers consider the leaves as active in this process, because the nitrogenous compounds are found to accumulate in the leaf until their full development, when they decrease. This is illustrated by the fact that in autumn, when new proteids are not necessary to matured leaves, it accumulates in the protoplasm, from which it is transferred to the stem, to be stored up as a food for the following season’s growth.
It has been found that the nitrates, passing from the roots as calcium nitrate, are changed in the leaves by the chlorophyl in the presence of light with the production of calcium oxalate, while nitric acid is set free, and conversely, in darkness the nitrates are permitted to accumulate. This change is influenced by the presence of oxalic acid, which, even in small quantities, is capable of decomposing the most dilute solutions of calcium nitrate. The free nitric acid in combination with a carbohydrate forms the protein molecule, while setting free carbonic acid and water.
Cellulose, which we have seen is formed from protoplasm, is dependent upon the appropriate conversion of the nitrogenous proteid. When this formation is active, large amounts of carbohydrates are required to form anew the protein molecule of the protoplasm, and the nitrogenous element is utilized. When there is an insufficiency of carbohydrate material the relative amount of nitrogen increases because the conditions are not favorable for its utilization in the production of proteids, and this excess of nitrogen is converted into amides, which are stored up. When the carbohydrate supply to the plant is scanty in amount this reserve store of amides is consumed, just the same as the reserve fat would be consumed in the animal structure under similar conditions.
The relation between the normal use of nitrogen in plants is analogous to its influence in animal structure, while the final products in both cases are similar, the distinction being chiefly one in the method of chemical conversion and excretion due to the difference in organic function. Thus, although urea and uric acid are not formed in plants, the final products of both animals and plants are closely allied. We see this especially in the alkaloids caffeine and theobromine, which are almost identical with uric acid, so much so that Haig considers that a dose of caffeine is equivalent to introducing into the system an equal amount of uric acid.
There are numerous examples, not only in medicinal substances, but in the more familiar vegetables and fruits, which illustrate the possibilities of change due to cultivation. The Siberian rhododendron varies its properties from stimulant to a narcotic or cathartic, in accordance with its location of growth. Aconite, assafoetida, cinchona, digitalis, opium and rhubarb are all examples which show the influence of soil and cultivation. Indeed similar effects are to be seen everywhere about us, certain characteristics being prominently brought forth by stimulating different parts of the organism, so that ultimately distinct varieties are constituted. The poisonous Persian almond has thus become the luscious peach. The starchy qualities of the potato are concentrated in its increased tuber, and certain poisonous mushrooms have become edible. The quality of the flour from wheat is influenced by locality and cultivation. The tomato, cabbage, celery, asparagus, are all familiar examples which emphasize the possibility of shaping nature’s wild luxuriance to man’s cultured necessity.
The chemical elements which are taken up by a plant vary considerably with the conditions of environment, and the influence of light in freeing acid in the leaf has been indicated. These conditions necessarily modify the constituents of the plant. When metabolism is effected certain changes take place in the tissues, with the formation of substances which may be undesirable to the plant, yet may be medicinally serviceable. Such a change occurs in the sprouts of potatoes stored in the dark, when the poisonous base solania is formed, which under normal conditions of growth is not present in the plant. A familiar example of change due to environment is exhibited in the grape, which may contain a varying proportion of acid, sugar and salts in accordance with the soil, climate and conditions of its cultivation, nor are these variations merely slight, for they are sufficient to generate in the wine made from the fruit entirely different tastes and properties.
The Basic Nature Of Alkaloids
In view of these facts, it seems creditable to suppose that by suitable processes of cultivation the output of alkaloids may be influenced in plants, and such experiments have already been extensively carried out in connection with the production of quinine. When attention was directed to the scientific cultivation of cinchona in the East, it was remarked that when manured with highly nitrogenous compounds the yield of alkaloid was greatly increased. This is paralleled by the fact that when an animal consumes a large quantity of nitrogenous food the output of urea and uric acid is greater.
Alkaloids are regarded as waste products because they cannot enter into the constructive metabolism of the plant, though they are not directly excreted, but are stored away where they will not enter the circulation, and may be soon shed, as in the leaf or bark. Though, as indicating their possible utility, it has been shown experimentally that plants are capable of taking up nitrogenous compounds, such as urea, uric acid, leucin, tyrosin, or glycocol, when supplied to their roots. In some recent experiments carried out at the botanical laboratory of Columbia University, I found that plant metabolism was materially hastened under the stimulus of cocaine.
The influence of light in the formation of alkaloids has already been shown. Tropical plants which produce these substances in abundance in their native state often yield but small quantities when grown in hot houses, indicating that a too intense light is unfavorable, probably in stimulating a too rapid action of the chlorophyl, together with a decomposition of the organic acid. Some years ago the botanist. Dr. Louis Errera, of Brussels, found that the young leaves of certain plants yielded more abundant alkaloid than those that were mature. Following this suggestion, Dr. Greshoif is said to have found that young Coca leaves yield nearly double the amount of alkaloid over that contained in old leaves gathered at the same time. In tea plantations the youngest leaves are gathered, but it has always been customary to collect the mature leaves of the Coca plant, and these have usually been found to yield the greatest amount of alkaloid. The probability is that the amount of alkaloid present in the Coca leaf is not so much influenced by maturity as it is by the period of its gathering.
As regards the temperature at which growth progresses most favorably, Martins has compared each plant to a thermometer, the zero point of which is the minimum temperature at which its life is possible. Thus, the Coca shrub in its native state will support a range from 18° C. (64.4° F.) to 30° C. (86° F.), an influence of temperature which is governed by the proportion of water contained in the plant. It has been found, from experiments of cultivation, that Coca will flourish in a temperature considerably higher than that which was originally supposed bearable, though the alkaloidal yield is less than that grown more temperately. The life process of any plant, however, may be exalted as the temperature rises above its zero point, though only continuing to rise until a certain height is reached, at which it ceases entirely. In the cold, plants may undergo a similar hibernation as do certain animals when metabolism is lessened, though long-continued cold is fatal, and frost is always so absolutely to Coca. The influence of temperature on metabolism tends to alter the relations between the volume of carbonic acid given off and the amount of oxygen absorbed. Under a mean temperature these relations are equal, while in a lower temperature more oxygen is absorbed in proportion to the carbonic acid given off, and oxygen exhalation ceases entirely below a certain degree.
A relatively large proportion of water in a plant determines its susceptibility to climatic conditions. Thus freezing not only breaks the delicate parenchymatous tissues, but alters the chemical constitution of the cells, while too high a temperature may prove destructive through a coagulation of the albumen. The appearance of plants killed by high or low temperature being similar. Roots are stimulated to curve to their source of moisture, and their power for absorption is more active in a high than in a low temperature, but as absorption is influenced by the transpiration of the plant, it is less active in a moist atmosphere, unless the metabolic processes of the plant occasions a higher temperature than the surrounding air. Such activity would be increased by the heat of the soil about the roots, and is probably manifest in the Coca plant through the peculiar soil of the Montaña.
The elevation at which a plant grows has an influence upon the absorption by the leaf. Thus it has been observed that while a slight increase in the carbonic acid gas contained in the air is favorable to growth, a considerable increase is prejudicial, while an increase or diminution of atmospheric pressure materially influences plant life. In some tropical countries Coca will grow at the level of the sea, provided there is an equable temperature and requisite humidity. Although in Peru Coca flourishes side by side with the best coffee, it will not thrive at the elevations where the coffee plant is commonly grown in either the East or West Indies. In Java, where experiments have been made in cultivating Coca, it has been stated that there is no perceptible difference in the alkaloidal yield due to the influence of elevation, while in the best cocals of Peru it is considered that the higher the altitude at which Coca can be grown the greater will be the alkaloidal yield. This is possibly effected by similar influences to that governing the aromatic properties developed in the coffee bean, which have been found more abundant when coffee is grown at an elevation, yet without danger of frost. This may be attributed to slower growth and a consequent deposit of nitrogenous principles instead of their being all consumed through a rapid metabolism.
It is therefore evident that as these several physical conditions have a marked bearing upon the life history of all plants, the more limited the range for any of these processes in any particular plant, the more it will be influenced. Thus in an altitude too high, the leaf of the Coca plant is smaller and only one harvest is possible within the year, while in the lower regions where the temperature exceeds 20° C. (68° F.) vegetation may be exuberant, but the quality of leaf is impaired. The electrical conditions of the atmosphere, it has been shown, have an important bearing upon the development of Coca, through the influence of the gases set free in the atmosphere and the possible slight increase of nitric acid carried to the soil.
It was thought by Martins that the mosses and lichens which are found upon the Coca shrubs were detrimental to the plant through favoring too great humidity. In the light of our knowledge on the development of alkaloids, however, it has seemed to me that here is an opportunity for very extended experimentation, as may be inferred from a reference to the alkaloidal production of cinchona. At first efforts were made to free the cinchona trees from the lichens and mosses which naturally formed upon them; but it was discovered accidentally that those portions of the trees which nature had covered in this manner yielded an increased amount of alkaloid. When cinchona plantations were started in Java, experiments made upon the result of this discovery prompted a systematic covering of the trunks of the trees artificially with moss, which was bound about them to the height from which the bark would be stripped. At first very great pains was taken to collect just an appropriate kind of moss, which it was supposed from its association with the tree in its native home would be essential, but later experiments proved that any form of covering which protected the bark from light increased this alkaloidal yield. So that to-day this process, which is known as “mossing,” is one of the most important in the cultivation and development of cinchona.
A Source Of Profound Confusion
The chief interest of Coca to the commercial world has centered upon its possibilities in the production of the one alkaloid, cocaine, instead of a more general economic use of the leaf. Because of this, much confusion of terms has resulted, for chemists have designated the amount of alkaloids obtained from the leaf as cocaine, although they have qualified their statement by saying that a portion of this is un- crystallizable. Numerous experiments have been conducted to determine the relative yield of cocaine from the different varieties of Coca, and when uncrystallizable alkaloids have been found the leaf has been condemned for chemical uses. It will thus be appreciated how a great amount of error has been generated and continued. The Bolivian or Huanuco variety has been found to yield the largest percentage of crystallizable alkaloid, while the Peruvian or Truxillo variety, though yielding nearly as much total alkaloid, affords a less percentage that is crystallizable, the Bolivian Coca being set apart for the use of the chemists to the exclusion of the Peruvian variety, which is richest in aromatic principles and best suited for medicinal purposes. As a matter of fact, the Peruvian Coca is the plant sought for by the native users.
There is not only a difference in the yield of alkaloid from different varieties of Coca, but also a difference in the yield from plants of one variety from the same cocal, and it would seem possible by selection and propagation of the better plants to obtain a high percentage of alkaloid. At present there is no effort in the native home of Coca toward the production of alkaloid in the leaf through any artificial means. Regarding the quality of alkaloid that has been found in the different plants, the Peruvian variety has been found to contain equal proportions of crystallizable and uncrystallizable alkaloid, while the Bolivian variety contains alkaloids the greater amount of which are crystallizable cocaine. Plants which are grown in conservatory, even with the greatest care, yield but a small percentage of alkaloid, of which, however, the uncrystallizable alkaloid seems more constant while the relative amount of cocaine is diminished. In leaves grown at Kew .44 percent, of alkaloid was obtained, of which .1 percent, was crystallizable. From experiments of Mr. G. Peppe, of Renchi, Bengal, upon leaves obtained from plants imported from Paris, it was found that leaves dried in the sun yielded .53 per cent, of alkaloid, of which .23 per cent was uncrystallizable. The same leaves dried in the shade on cloth for twenty hours, then rolled by hand, after the manner in which Chinese tea is treated, then cured for two and a half hours and dried over a charcoal fire and packed in close tins, yielded .58 per cent, of alkaloid, of which .17 per cent, was uncrystallizable.
It is probable that each variety of Coca has a particular range of altitude at which it may be best cultivated. The Bolivian variety is grown at a higher altitude than Peruvian Coca, while the Novo Granatense variety has even been found to thrive at the level of the sea. Among Coca, as among the cinchona certain varieties yield a large proportion of total alkaloids, of which only a small amount is crystallizable. The Cinchona succirubra yields a large amount of mixed alkaloids, but a small amount of quinine, while Cinchona Calisaya yields a smaller amount of mixed alkaloids and a large amount of crystallizable quinine. A few authors who have referred to the alkaloidal yield of Coca leaves have casually remarked that the plants grown in the shade produce an increased amount above those grown in the sun, which would appear to be paralleled by the formation of chlorophyl and the production of proteids, both of which have so important a bearing upon the metabolism of the plant and the final nitrogenous excretion.
This subject is one full of interest, yet so intricate that it has not been possible for me to elaborate the suggestions here set forth in time to embody my investigation in the present writing, though I hope to present the result of my research at no very distant date. It would seem that sufficient has been shown, however, to indicate the possibility of modifying plant metabolism under appropriate conditions of culture so as to influence the development of the alkaloidal excreta. The comparisons between plant and animal life may have proved of sufficient interest to enlist attention to the higher physiology in which will be traced the action of Coca.
Based on hundreds of communications I have received from readers of this blog, I reject the often-asserted “fact” that most people these days have the attention span of a gnat. Therefore, I am publishing the full text, rather than a few excerpts of this remarkable document from 1876 in which a prominent physician offers his first-hand observations on the medical benefits of Coca leaf.
While many of Dr. Christison’s observations are directed toward the role of Coca leaf in relieving fatigue brought on by exercise and poor physical conditioning, scattered throughout these pages are tidbits of information that suggest what many other Doctors later confirmed – that Coca leaf is both a preventative and a remedy for a wide range of conditions and diseases, and that it offers these benefits with absolutely no undesirable side-effects.
Readers of this blog may have read other posts in which I present evidence that Coca leaf could be of great benefit for people who suffer from congestive heart failure, migraines, ME/CFS, inflammatory bowel disease, Alzheimer’s, fibromyalgia, obesity, reaction to chemotherapy, arthritis, and many other terrible diseases that have a basis in whole body inflammation. Most relevant, in my opinion, is that in his observations Dr. Christison affirms that the use of Coca leaf in non-addictive and has none of the effects of ingesting Cocaine. Put in contemporary language, Dr. Christison is clear that nobody could possibly drink enough Coca leaf tea to get high.
So if you are not a gnat, and if you want to understand the medical applications of Coca leaf from the unbiased perspective of a celebrated physician in an article published in one of the leading medical journals of his time, please read on.
Observations On The Effects Of Cuca, Or Coca, The Leaves Of Erythroxylon Coca
By Sir Robert Christison, Bart., M.D., D.C L., Ll.D., F.R.S.Ed.,
President of the British Medical Association; Ordinary Physician to the Queen in Scotland; Professor of Materia Medica in the University of Edinburgh
(in) British Medical Journal, April 29, 1876
THE brief notice taken in my introductory address to this Society in November last, of the restorative and preservative virtues of the Peruvian Cuca or coca-leaf against bodily fatigue from severe exercise, has led to numberless references to me by friends and strangers in all parts of the kingdom for information as to its effects, its safety, its applicability to the treatment of some states of disease, and the quarters in which it may be obtained.
As I am not aware of any trials of it having been made in this country, either earlier than mine or so extensive, and as I shall probably best answer the many inquiries sent me by publishing an account of these experiments, I have been induced to present the following narrative to the Botanical Society. The inquiry, of which my recent trials form a part, is very far from being complete, because my supply was quite inadequate till the other day, when I received a sufficiency through the kind services of my colleague Professor Wyville Thomson, of the Challenger expedition.
But the facts already obtained will probably interest not a few at the present time, were it for no more than that they set at rest all doubts that the more important of the effects of Cuca, experienced in its own country by the natives of Peru and the neighbouring states, may be equally produced in Europeans at home; and that, contrary to what seems universally believed in Peru, the virtues of the leaf may be preserved, with due care, for many years.
Since my observations must bear reference to what is the doctrine and practice of the Peruvians as to the use of this vegetable, I must introduce the subject with a summary of what has been written about it by the historians of Peru and by travellers in that country. The accounts which have thus appeared—from time to time are apparently very contradictory; but I think they may be reconciled, and a consistent result obtained.
In the first place, however, let me remark that I have ventured to restore to the commercial article its original name, Cuca. This was Its Indian name, which the Spaniards corrupted into coca. But there is no reason why other nations should adopt a Spanish corruption; and there is a very good argument against transferring it to our own tongue, inasmuch as we have already two totally different vegetable products, cocoa and cacao, which, as indiscriminately pronounced in ordinary speech, coco and coca, are undistinguishable from the corrupt name of this new invention. I hope, therefore, that others will second me in attaching a characteristic name to an article which seems very likely to come ere long into general use among our countrymen at home.
The early historians of Peru have taken special notice of the culture, properties, and uses of Cuca. Among these, none is more full, clear, and fair, than the famous chronicler of the reign of the Incas and of the Spanish conquest, Garcilasso de la Vega. His narrative bears internal evidence of great historical care. Other reasons, to be alluded to presently, also add to the confidence which the statements themselves create in the reader; and hence it is scarcely necessary to refer to any other early authority. Garcilasso’s information was derived partly from what he personally knew, partly from a Spanish priest, Blas Valera, who was long in Peru, and whose manuscripts came into the historian’s possession.
De la Vega informs us that the use of Cuca in Peru dates from an early period of the dominion of the Incas; that at first it was scarce, and was monopolised by the monarchs themselves; that it was employed as an offering to the sun, their parent and deity; and that sometimes, however, a basket of it was presented to one of their curacas, or lords, to whom the ruler desired to show special favour. But, as the Incas extended their conquests northward along the Cordilleras of the Andes, the culture of the plant also became much more widely extended, through the acquisition of suitable lands for the purpose; the leaves came gradually into more general use; and at the time of the Spanish conquest of Peru, the natives almost universally indulged in Cuca-chewing.
The Spaniards, however, were too devoted Catholics to fall into a custom which was the offspring, and continued to have the savour, of profane heathen rites. The chewing of Cuca was detested by them, condemned by public opinion, and charged with being baneful to the health of those who gave themselves up to it. Strong prejudices thus prevailed against it. But Garcilasso de la Vega and Blas Valera protest against these prejudices, and declare that the Peruvian natives esteemed Cuca as above gold and silver in value; that it possessed great energy in preserving strength during fatiguing exercise and privation of food; that it was an useful medicine for improving the teeth, mending broken bones, curing maggoty sores, and warding off the effects of cold; and that another important purpose served by it was to enrich the Spanish traders in it, and to supply the chief tithes of the cathedral and canons of Cuzco.
The plant is described as a shrub about six feet high, much resembling in foliage the strawberry-tree of Spain (Arbutus Unedo), but producing much thinner leaves; and it is stated that the gatherers pick off the leaves individually with caution; dry them quickly in the sun, so as to retain their green colour, which is much prized; and preserve them carefully from damp, which seriously damages their quality. Garcilasso adds an anecdote which illustrates both the Spanish dislike and the real virtues of Cuca.
A Spanish friend of his met one of his countrymen, a poor soldier, plodding his solitary way among the Andes, chewing Cuca, and carrying his two-year-old child in his arms. On upbraiding the man for adopting a barbarian custom, abhorred by all true believers as the fruit and symbol of idolatrous worship, the soldier said that might be; he at one time shared in these prejudices, but had found he could not carry his child without the strength which the Cuca imparted, and was too poor to afford the cost of a bearer to relieve him of his burden. Nowhere does the author of the Royal Commentaries of the Incas say one word of any evil consequences actually resulting from the use of this vegetable becoming a habit.
In face of the opposition it received from subsequent authors, and from some modern travellers, this testimony of Garcilasso de la Vega may be received with favour. He was son of one of Pizarro’s conquering captains of the same name, by a niece of one of the last of the Incas. He would, therefore, escape the tendency of the pure Spanish race to vilify the manners and customs of the people they had subdued; and his native and royal extraction gave him access to full information on such a subject. It is true that he left the land of his birth at the age of twenty (in 1550), and passed the remainder of a long life in Spain. But a youth of his family extraction on both sides was old enough to take part in the stirring events of the period while he remained at Cuzco; and, after leaving it for Spain, he kept up correspondence with the friends he left behind him, collecting from them information for his history.
I was first led to pay attention to the Peruvian custom of chewing Cuca by reading, full forty years ago, the Travels in Chilé, Peru, and on the River Amazons, of the German naturalist Pöppig, who has taken a very different view of this national custom from Garcilasso de la Vega and Blas Valera.
Pöppig was no less than five years in these regions, from 1827 to 1832, and passed much of his time among the Cuca-chewers in the forest regions of the Peruvian Andes. Probably no European in the present century had such opportunities of intimately studying the habit. His statements of fact and his opinions are, therefore, entitled to much consideration.
The conclusion at which he arrived is that “The habit is as seductive and as injurious to health, mind, and morals as that of tippling in Europe, or opium-eating in the East. He says it is almost confined to natives of the aboriginal red race, has not been adopted by negroes, and is discountenanced among all of European descent; that even those who use it to no great excess must stop their work several times a-day to chew their quid contemplatively, and are much displeased if disturbed in their placid enjoyment; and that those who have got thus far are apt to become mere slaves to it, surrender every other occupation for it, and, quitting society, pass their time in the wild forests between hunting for their sustenance and lying under a tree chewing their beloved weed, calling up delightful visions and building castles in the air, and so insensible to outward occurrences as to remain thus all night indifferent to cold, torrents of rain, and even the howlings of the panther in their neighbourhood.”
“But, in the end, the stomach gives way; the countenance becomes haggard, and the limbs emaciated; they can no longer take sufficient food, and even lose all relish for the enjoyment which has been insidiously destroying them; constipation sets in, even obstruction of the bowels ensues, or jaundice, or dropsy; and thus at last life is cut short about the age of fifty by one or other of these maladies, or through simple extenuation and exhaustion. Sometimes, when a fit of excess is followed by dislike, and the habit is suddenly abandoned, the sufferer rallies, and seems about to be reclaimed. But, ere long, like the drink-craver in exactly the same circumstances, he is driven by an uncontrollable impulse to further and worse indulgence.”
“When the habit has thus degenerated into a vice, the victim becomes, in the language of the country, a Coquero, and is irreclaimable. If a man of Spanish blood begin to use Cuca, he is at once looked on with suspicion; for usually, in the course of time, he abandons himself entirely to it, and becomes an outcast from the society in which he moved.”
Pöppig gives, among other instances, a melancholy tale of a young man of good station in Huanuco, who fell into this vice, lived for some time the life of a savage. in the woods, was found out by his relatives in a miserable condition in a remote native village, and was brought back to town by force, and for a short time apparently reclaimed. But at length, eluding his friends, he fled back again to the mountains, and resumed the habits of a confirmed Coquero.
It is unnecessary to follow Pöppig further through the arguments and illustrations, very interesting however, by which he was led to denounce Cuca as a deceitful and destructive stimulant of the narcotic kind. He allows, nevertheless, that it has really wonderful power in supporting the strength under prolonged fatigue without food. He mentions that, in his long rides through the Peruvian forests, he had seen his Indian followers accompany him on foot for fifty miles in one day, without food, or anything else except Cuca; and that, in the revolutionary wars which ended with the Spanish American States throwing off subjection to old Spain, the native Peruvian troops, poorly clothed and ill fed, were able to fall upon their enemies by surprise, by making long marches among the mountains without food or sleep, merely resting for intervals of a few minutes occasionally to refresh themselves by Cuca chewing.
He adds an important fact, which I am able to confirm, that, when his day’s journey came to an end, he did not find his Indian attendants had at all lost their appetites; for, when done with work for the day, although they did not care for food while travelling and chewing, they made an excellent meal in the evening, usually eating twice as much as satisfied his own hunger. These last rather inviting statements will prepare the way for the more favourable testimony of ulterior travellers on the same subject.
Three valuable observers, who have since spent some time as naturalists in Peru and became familiar with the fondness of the natives for the Cuca-leaf, have treated the question minutely; and they separately bear witness to the soundness of the views of Garcilasso de la Vega and Blas Valera, and to some mistake on the part of Pöppig, for which it is not easy to account. It is important to see to what their testimony exactly amounts. It is by no means sufficient, as some have thought, to set aside Pöppig ‘s statements, by referring to the wide dissemination of the Peruvian habit. It has been said, indeed, to be nearly universal among a population of eight million inhabiting the Andes; and the annual collection of the leaf has been estimated at no less than thirty millions of pounds. Witt the habit of intoxication with opium, or with alcoholic spirits, might be upheld on the very same plea.
In 1838, Von Tschudi visited Peru, and was for some time in the neighbourhood of Lima, as well as in various other districts, where the natives of Indian race almost universally use Cuca, and where he himself repeatedly made trial of it.
Dr. Veddell of Poitiers, who had previously investigated with singular success in Upper Peru the botany of the cinchonas, and was the first to discover there the true yellow bark tree, the most valuable of them all, revisited Bolivia in 1851, where, in the province of Yungas, the finest Cuca is said to be cultivated. He, too, made trial of it himself, and had very ample opportunities of witnessing its use and its effects among the Peruvians.
In 1860, Clements Markham, who had charge of the Government expeditions to Peru in quest of cinchona plants for cultivation in India, was much in the wildest forest districts of Lower Peru, immediately adjoining Bolivia, was always attended by Cuca-chewing natives, and not unfrequently followed their example.
All these authorities, undeniably of the first rank, agree that the repulsive accounts of Pöppig are much exaggerated. The general result of their experience is to raise a suspicion that, in a few instances, his deplorable history of the abandoned irreclaimable Coquero may be not far from the truth. But they do not seem to have themselves met with any such cases.
Von Tschudi, indeed, says, that a profligate Coquero may be known by his foul breath, stumpy teeth, pale quivering lips, black-cornered mouth, dim eyes, yellow skin, unsteady gait, and general apathy; but in his narrative, obviously in part compiled, he does not say he described such a man from actual observation; on the contrary, all three travellers represent in colours more or less strong the great utility of Cuca to the Indians in the hard labour they have to undergo.
Von Tschudi observes that, in his own trials, he found it to be a preventive of that difficulty in breathing which is felt in the rapid ascent of the Andes; that, when frequenting the Peruvian Puna, or great desert table-land, 14,000 feet above the level of the sea, a decoction of the leaves enabled him to climb heights, and pursue swift-footed game, with no greater difficulty than in similar rapid exercise on the coast ; and that he experienced a sense of satiety which did not leave him till the time of the next meal after that which he ought otherwise to have taken. He mentions the following instance, which he carefully watched, of the power of the Indians to bear long fatigue without any other sustenance.
A miner, sixty-two years old, worked for him at laborious digging five days and nights without food, or more than two hours of sleep nightly, his only support being half an ounce of Cuca leaves every three hours. The man then accompanied him on foot during a ride of sixty miles in two days; and, at parting, expressed himself ready to engage to undertake as much as he had performed. Nevertheless, von Tschudi was assured by the priest of the district that he had never known the man to be ill.
In general terms, this traveller declares he is clearly of opinion that the moderate use of Cuca not only is innocuous, but may even be conducive to health and, again he observes,”… after long and attentive observation, I am convinced that its use in moderation is nowise detrimental, and that without it the poorly fed Peruvian Indian would be incapable of going through his usual labour. The Cuca plant must be considered a great blessing to Peru”
Weddell, in less glowing terms, says, that careful inquiry where Cuca is most in use satisfied him that it might be injurious to Europeans not gradually accustomed to it; but that it has the power of sustaining the strength for a time without food, yet without interfering with the appetite soon afterwards; that, in his own trials, he experienced a slight excitement and a little subsequent sleeplessness, but nothing else; and that, in the countries he visited, he never saw things go the length described by Pöppig, who must have been misled by exceptional cases
The testimony of Clements Markham is very explicit. He says the properties of Cuca are to enable a greater amount of fatigue to be borne with less nourishment and to prevent difficult breathing in the ascent of steep mountain-sides; that, although when used to excess it is prejudicial to the health, yet ” … of all the narcotics used by man, it is the least injurious and most soothing and invigorating” ; that he chewed it frequently, and, besides an agreeable soothing feeling, found he could endure long abstinence from food with less inconvenience than he could otherwise have felt; and that it enabled him to ascend precipitous mountain-sides with a feeling of lightness and elasticity, and without losing breath. ” It enabled him to ascend the mighty passes of the Andes “… with ease and comfort.”
It is difficult to reconcile with these favourable opinions the very opposite conclusions of Pöppig, founded apparently on personal observation. Probably, he was too prepossessed with the abhorrence with which the practice of chewing Cuca was regarded by the white inhabitants of the towns; hence he might have mistaken for the effects of the habit what perhaps was no more than the physical expression of the natural indolence of the Indian race when indulged in to excess; or, in other cases, the result of over-indulgence in ardent spirits, which, he says, the Coquero sometimes adds to his other vices.
Mr. Bates met with this habit among the natives on the banks or the river Amazons, where he says it is regarded with abhorrence by respectable people, and therefore only practised secretly. He represents Cuca, there called ypaaå, as stimulating and not injurious when used in moderation, but producing weakness and nervous exhaustion when indulged in to excess. His observations, however, are too brief and general to throw much light on the subject.
The shrub which produces Cuca thrives best in the clearances in the elevated forests of the Andes, in a climate distinguished by frequent rain-showers, and exemption equally from frosts and from extreme heats. In due season it is covered with clusters (fascicles) of delicate white flowers, which give it the appearance of our blackthorn in spring; and the flowers are succeeded by red berries. The plants bear stripping of their leaves three times in the course of the year. Great care is usually taken to nip them off without hurting the axillary buds. They are dried at once quickly and thoroughly, and so as not to curl; at least, all good specimens I have seen present the leaves flattened and many of them entire, almost as if intended as a herbarium.
Great care is taken to keep them afterwards dry, when transported from place to place. When newly dried, they have a strong odour, which is said to be apt to cause headache in those frequent the drying-floors for the first time; but this odour passes off by the time the leaves are packed. The packages when opened have a powerful tea-like odour; which they retain on reaching Europe, if duly protected from damp. In Peru it is alleged that their properties soon deteriorate, that in a few months they lose much of their virtue, and that when taken to the coast they are worthless in twelve months. This statement, however, must be received with some limitation.
It is evident, from the pains taken in Peru to preserve them from damp and exposure, that the leaves are easily damaged without due precaution; so that neglect will account for the inferiority of many old samples. Besides, it is contrary to all analogy, that leaves destitute of volatile oil, at least not owing their virtue to volatile oil, should lose them under careful preservation from the ordinary causes of decay; and various medicinal leaves of European growth, formerly thought to become inert by keeping, are now, known to retain their properties very long, since we have been aware of the precautions for preserving them. Further, specimens brought to Europe have been found to yield a crystalline principle, which physiologically possesses no mean activity as a narcotic, which is probably the active ingredient, and which apparently bears transport and long keeping well. Lastly, well preserved Cuca will produce in Europe in no small degree, after being kept several years, the remarkable effects on man which are every day experienced in Peru.
Cuca is not yet a regular commercial article in this country. In the prospect of its soon becoming so, the characters of a good sample should be well understood. I have had two fine specimens of it, and have seen several evidently much inferior. The fine qualities consist of leaves in a great measure unbroken, often folded, but many of thein too spread out, never curled, but always flattened, never brown, always deep green on their upper and gray-green on their under source, and uniform in that respect, seldom mottled in colour. They are thin and crisp, beautifully reticulated, and traversed longitudinally by a single fine vein on each side of the strong midrib. In mass they have a strong odour resembling that of tea, and when chewed they have a peculiar well-marked herbaceous taste, not disagreeable, followed, after a continuous chewing for some minutes by a gentle, pleasant sense of warmth in the mouth. Inferior specimens, besides differing in appearance from these, have a fainter odour, and do not occasion warmth in the mouth when chewed.
Cuca has been subjected to chemical analysis, and found to contain a crystalline principle, to which naturally has been given the name of cocaine. But it is not my intention to enter here into the chemistry of the subject.
Nor is the Botanical Society the fit place for discussing fully the experimental investigations which have been made into the physiological actions of cocaine, or of coca itself, further than as they bear on what has been said above upon that point, or on what is to follow as the account of my own observations. In that respect, the most important inquiry is that of Dr. Mantegazza of Milan, published in a prize essay, which has been noticed in the Őesterreichischce Zeitschrift fűr Praktische Heilkunde for November 1859.
He found, by personal trials, that in small doses it promotes digestion, increases the frequency of the pulse, raises the animal heat, and accelerates respiration; that in a dose somewhat larger, there is added a facility of motion and desire for it, succeeded by a soothing effect; and that in a large dose, such as three drachms or upwards, it doubles the rate of the pulse, causes flashes of light, headache, strong tendency to muscular action, and great vigour of mind, succeeded by a state of pleasing, imaginative calm, described by him in brilliant colours, which resemble the poetical ravings of De Quincey, in representing the visionary musings of the opium-eater.
A specimen of the plant is now in flower in the Edinburgh Botanic Garden (April 18th). It is well represented in an uncoloured engraving in Hooker’s Companion to the Botanical Magazine, ii, 25, 1836.
Were these effects the general rule, there would be more justice in the unfavourable representations of Pöppig than has been hitherto admitted. It must be allowed as some confirmation of Mantegazza’s statement, that Weddell thought he occasionally observed hallucinations in the Coqueros of Peru, when under the influence of their dose; and that Von Tschudi saw effects which disposed him to compare Cuca with stramonium, an unequivocal narcotic poison. I scarcely think the recently ascertained deadly effects of the principle cocaine upon animals can be fairly added to the evidence in the same direction. It is true that experimental inquiries, and, among these, the most recent by Dr. Alexander Bennett, published in his thesis, and also as part of an experimental research carried on by a committee of the British Medical Association, prove that in small animals cocaine produces in an adequate dose paralysis of sensation, tetanic convulsions, and death. But he found the same effects to be caused by theine, caffeine, theobromine, and guaranine, the nearly identical crystalline principles of tea, coffee, chocolate, and the Brazilian guaranå; yet no one will imagine on that account, that the habitual use of these restoratives has any injurious influence on the health.
At all events, however, the following experiments, with doses little short of those which are stated to have acted so extraordinarily in the case of Dr, Mantegazza, show results materially different from his, and prove that the leaves may be easily used by most, if not all, persons, so as to produce no unpleasant, unsafe, or even suspicious effects whatsoever. It must be acknowledged, nevertheless, from consideration of the whole facts recorded by good observers, and the opinions formed by competent judges, that, if Cuca is to be added to the restoratives of Europe—which seems not unlikely —it ought to be used at first with caution, and under close observation of its relative effect in several varieties of condition, such as age, sex, and constitution, rest and exercise, bodily and mental, dose and form, etc.
My first trials were made in 1870, when I was not aware that anyone else in Europe had experimented with it. My specimen was sent to me by a London mercantile gentleman, Mr. Batchelor, six years before, and must therefore have been kept for seven years at least. The leaves had been excellently dried, flat, unbroken, and green; and they had been equally well preserved by sprinkling a little quick-lime among them before being shipped. Even in 1870 they were green, brittle, and strongly-scented. Two of my students, out of the habit of material exercise for five months, tired themselves thoroughly with a walk of sixteen miles in the month of April. They returned home at their dinner hour, having taken no food since a nine o’clock breakfast. They were very hungry, but refrained from food, and took each an infusion of two drachms of Cuca, made with the addition of five grains of carbonate of soda, which was added to imitate the Peruvian method of chewing the leaves along with a very small quantity of lime or plant ashes. I am satisfied, however, that any such addition is superfluous.
Presently hunger left them entirely, all sense of fatigue soon vanished, and they proceeded to promenade Prince’s Street for an hour; which they did with ease and pleasure. On returning home their hunger revived with great intensity; they made an excellent dinner ; they felt alert all the subsequent evening, slept soundly all night, and next morning awoke quite refreshed and active. One of them, in setting out for the evening promenade, felt very slightly giddy, as if he had taken just a little too much wine. But the other experienced no other sensation than the removal of fatigue, and ability for active exertion.
Having subsequently received from Dr. Alexander Bennett a larger supply, obtained by him in Paris, I made farther trials in the spring of last year, 1875. This sample was more broken, less green, less scented than the other, less strong in taste, and scarcely producing any sense of warmth in the mouth when chewed. Obviously it was of lower quality. Ten of our students made trial of it under conditions precisely similar to those observed in the prior experiment; and they reported the results to me severally in writing. Their walks varied between twenty and thirty miles, and three cleared the latter distance on a rather hilly road at nearly mile pace over all. Two were unable to remark any distinct effect from the Cuca. Several felt decided, but only moderate relief from fatigue. Four experienced complete relief, like their predecessors in 1870; and one of these had walked thirty miles without any food. All found their hunger cease for a time; but shortly afterwards neither appetite nor digestion was at all impaired. No disagreeable effect was produced at the time or subsequently, except that a few felt a brief nausea after their dose, owing probably to the form of infusion in which it was taken.
I then determined to make some careful personal trials with the scanty remains of my best specimen. For this purpose I thought it best to adopt the Peruvian method of chewing, but I discarded their lime and ashes. For not only was I unable to discover, in the nature, composition, or effects of the leaf, any chemical or physiological reason for such addition; but likewise I found that the Llipta, as the addition is called, which was presented to me with one of my specimens from Peru, has no alkaline or calcareous taste, and therefore cannot effect decomposition of the leaf while it is masticated. The result confirms the view I had thus taken.
I had first to ascertain what amount of exercise was required to cause very thorough and permanent fatigue. At the same time, I made such observations on certain of the functions as seemed desirable and easily practicable. In the beginning of May, under a day temperature of 58 degrees , I walked fifteen miles in four stages, with intervals of half-an hour, at four-mile pace, without food or drink, after breakfast at half-past eight, and ending with a stage of six miles at half-past five in the afternoon. I had great difficulty in maintaining my pace through weariness towards the close, and was as effectually tired out as I remember ever to have been in my life, even after thirty miles at a stretch forty or fifty years before. Perspiration was profuse during every stage, particularly the last of all. I took the urine-solids every two hours, and found a decided increase of the hourly solids during the forenoon’s exercise, and a decrease during the evening’s rest after dinner. The pulse, naturally 62 at rest, was 110 on my arrival at home; and two hours later it was still 90. I was unfit for mental work in the evening, but slept soundly all night, and awoke next morning somewhat wearied and disinclined for active exercise, although otherwise quite well. Two days afterwards, I repeated this experiment, and obtained precisely the same results, except that the urine-solids were not so abundant during exercise as before, although my food had been precisely the same.
Four days later, with precisely the same dietary, I walked sixteen miles in three stages of four, six, and six miles, with one interval of half-an-hour, and a second of an hour and a-half. During the last forty-five minutes of the second rest I chewed thoroughly eighty grains of my best specimen of Cuca, reserving forty grains more for use during the last stage. To make assurance double sure, I swallowed the exhausted fibre, which was my only difficulty. On completing the previous ten miles, I was fagged enough to look forward to the remaining six miles with considerable reluctance. I did not observe any sensible effect from the Cuca till I got out of doors, and put on my usual pace; when at once I was surprised to find that all sense of weariness had entirely fled, and that I could proceed not only with ease, but even with elasticity. I got over the six miles in an hour and a-half without difficulty, found it easy when done to get up a four-and-a-half mile pace, and to ascend quickly two steps at a time to my dressing-room, two floors upstairs; in short, had no sense of fatigue or other uneasiness whatsoever. During the last stage, I perspired as profusely as during the two previous walks.
On arrival at home, the pulse was 90, and in two hours had fallen to 72 ; the excitement of the circulation being thus much less, and its subsidence more rapid, than after the same amount of exercise without Cuca. The urine-solids hourly were much the same while the exercise lasted as during exercise on the day of fifteen miles’ walking without Cuca, although the breakfast dietary was precisely the same. During the evenings rest, the urine-solids were almost the same as during the preceding period of exercise—a fact which is capable of more interpretations than one.
On arriving at home before dinner, I felt neither hunger nor thirst after complete abstinence from food and drink of every kind for nine hours; but on dinner appearing in half an hour, ample justice was done to it. Throughout the evening I was alert, and free from all drowsiness. Two hours of restlessness on going to bed I ascribed to the dose of two drachms being rather large; and after that I slept soundly, and awoke in the morning quite refreshed, and free from all sense of fatigue, and from all other uneasiness. Another effect, not unworthy of notice, was that a tenderness of the eyes, which for some years has rendered continuous reading a somewhat painful effort, was very much mitigated during all the evening.
I reserved what remained of my good specimen of Cuca for further trial during my autumn holidays in the country. On September 15th, while residing at St. Fillans on Loch Earn, I ascended Ben Vorlich. The mountain is 3, 224 feet above the sea, and 2,900 feet above the highway on the loch-side. The ascent is for the most part easy, over first a rugged footpath, and then through short heather and short deep grass; but the final dome of 700 feet is very steep, and half of it among blocks and slabs of mica-slate, the abode of a few ptarmigan, of which a small covey was sprung in crossing the stony part. On the whole, no Highland mountain of the same height is more easily ascended. The temperature at the side of the lake was 62 degrees ; on the summit, 52 degrees. In consequence of misdirection, I had to descend an intervening slope on the way, so that the whole ascent was 3,000 feet perpendicular. I took two hours and a half to reach the summit, anl was so fatigued near the close, that it required considerable determination to persevere during the last 300 feet. I was richly rewarded, however, by an extremely clear atmosphere, and a magnificent mountainous panorama, of which the grandest object was Ben-Nevis, forty miles off, shown quite apart from other mountains, and presenting the whole of its great precipice edgeways to the eye. My companions, who, as well as I, were provided with an excellent luncheon, soon disposed of it satisfactorily; but I contented myself with chewing two-thirds of one drachm of Cuca leaves.
We spent three-quarters of an hour at the top, during which I looked forward to the descent with no little distrust. On rising to commence it, however, although I had not previously experienced any sensible change, I at once felt that all fatigue was gone, and I went down the long descent with an ease like that which I used to enjoy in my mountainous rambles in my youth. At the bottom, I was neither weary, nor hungry, nor thirsty, and felt as if I could easily walk home four miles; but that was unnecessary. On arriving home at five o’clock, I still felt no fatigue, hunger, or thirst. At six, however, I made a very good dinner. During the subsequent evening, I was disposed to be busy, and not drowsy; and sound sleep during the night left me in the morning refreshed and ready for another day’s exercise. I had taken neither food nor drink of any kind after breakfasting at half-past eight in the morning; but I continued to chew my Cuca till I finished the sixty grains when halfway down the mountain. I had not with me in the country any apparatus for observations on the renal secretion.
Eight days afterwards, I repeated the experiment, but used ninety grains of Cuca. Being better acquainted with the way, no ground was lost by any intervening descent, so that the perpendicular height to be reached from the highway was 2,900 feet. I took two hours and a quarter to ascend, and on reaching the summit was extremely fatigued. The weather had changed, so that the temperature, 51 degrees at the loch-side, was 41 degrees at the top. A moderate breeze consequently caused so much chilliness that my party were glad to re-descend in half an hour, by which time I had consumed two-thirds of the Cuca, taking, as formerly, neither food nor drink. The effects were precisely the same, perhaps even more complete, for I easily made the descent without a halt in an hour and a quarter, covering at least four miles of rugged ground; and I walked homewards two miles of a smooth level road to meet my carriage. I then felt tired, because nearly three hours had elapsed since I consumed the Cuca, and in that time the Peruvians find it necessary to renew their restorative. But there was no more Cuca left, and I was tempted to substitute a draught of excellent porter. I suppose this indulgence led on to the unusual allowance of four glasses of wine during dinner, instead of one or none; and the two errors together, with possibly some discordance between Cuca and alcohol, were the probable cause of a restless feverish slumber during the early part of the night; but quiet sleep succeeded and I awoke quite refreshed and active next morning.
One of my sons, who accompanied me on both occasions, used Cuca the first time, but also took luncheon on the summit. Though not in good condition for such work, he made it out without fatigue; and on the second occasion, when there was no more Cuca to give him, he felt decidedly the want of it when he reached the highway at the foot of the mountain.
These trials have been described particularly, because I feel that„ without details, the general results, which may be now summarized, would scarcely carry conviction with them. These are the following. The chewing of Cuca removes extreme fatigue, and prevents it. Hunger and thirst are suspended; but eventually appetite and digestion are unaffected. No injury whatever is sustained at the time, or subsequently in occasional trials; but I can say nothing of what may or may not happen if it be used habitually. From sixty to ninety grains are sufficient for one trial; but some persons either require more, or are constitutionally proof against its restorative action. It has no effect on the mental faculties, so far as my own trials and other observations go, except liberating them from the dullness and drowsiness. which follow great bodily fatigue. I do not yet know its effect on mental fatigue purely. As to the several functions, it reduces the effect of severe protracted exercise in accelerating the pulse. It increases the saliva, which, however, may be no more than the effect of mastication. It does not diminish the perspiration, so far as I can judge. It probably lessens the hourly secretion of urine-solids. On this point I cannot yet speak with any confidence, because it appears to me that the investigation of the action of Paratriptics, or those substances which seem to lessen the wear and tear of the textures of the body in the exercise of their several functions, involves considerations and precautions which have escaped the attention of experimentalists on this interesting question, and which my own experiments hitherto have not taken completely into account.
I have made no trials of the influence of Cuca on disease, or the consequences of disease. Some notices in the journals on this subject show that it is attracting attention ; but, so far as I see, it is a difficult one, and may prove extensive, and therefore it ought to fall into the hands of some able inquirer, who will be in no hurry to rush into print. I have been asked by correspondents in the south of England if Cuca will do good to a weak heart, to an old paralysis, to the feebleness of advancing age, etc. My reply has been, that I know nothing of all this, and that no one should use it medicinally, but under the advice and observation of his medical attendant.
A more convenient form for use than that of a quid is very desirable. M. Laumaillé, who rode, or on very bad roads led, his bicycle 760 miles from Paris to Vienna in little more than twelve days, in the month of October, carried with him, as part of his scanty baggage, a small supply of the liqueur de coca, an Indian tonic, by which he was always able to assuage the sudden and painful hunger which sometimes accompanies continued exertion”
Unfortunately, he gives us too little of his experience with it ; but he observes that, when about sixty miles from Vienna, ” continuing his way along a road of fluid mire, fatigue and sleep at length told upon him, but the marvelous liqueur de coca again supported him and gave him strength”. I have made by rule of thumb a very palatable liqueur, with only a fourth of rectified spirit, and containing in half-an-ounce the soluble part of sixty grains of leaves, but I have not yet tested its virtue. Pharmaceutical chemists, however, will soon solve this problem, and, it may be hoped, without looking for a patent.
Subject: Old Folks & Your Bottom Line
Whatever Cannabis products your company makes, if you are not including the Seniors market in your strategic planning, and if you are not developing the specific messages, products and support mechanisms needed to reach and penetrate the Seniors market, you are not only missing a great opportunity – you are ceding an enormous part of the market to your competition.
It is natural for Cannabis entrepreneurs to concentrate on the markets they know best – which in many cases means mainly other young people, because a lot of Cannabis entrepreneurs are themselves on the healthy side of 65.
But just because their bodies are old, and their capabilities not what they once were, doesn’t mean that old people cannot become excited, loyal customers for any company that makes the effort to identify and address their special needs and desires.
Because Cannabis and Cannabis products are so relevant to the needs and desires of older people, and because older people are too-often simply being ignored as the Cannabis market is being developed, largely by younger people, those businesses who create quality Cannabis products tailored specifically to the needs and desires of Seniors will not only rake in a large share of the profits to be made in their sector, they will give themselves staying power that will last for decades.
There is a simple reason for this. A person in their 30’s today is going to be a person in their 60’s in the blink of an eye. (Believe me – it happens precisely that fast.) Just as young people create new opportunities for businesses, people growing old creates an equally powerful set of opportunities.
Seniors Need Cannabis & Cannabis Companies Need Seniors
Humanitarian arguments concerning the positive moral value of providing Seniors with loving, caring treatment with Cannabis may not seem relevant to people in their 20’s, 30’s and 40’s who are busy building a Cannabis business. They are rightfully focused on their bottom line and so they are, for the most part, consumed with going after what they see as low-hanging fruit – the tens of millions of young existing Cannabis consumers lusting for new experiences, new products, and new ways to get high.
But that good old bottom line is exactly why smart young businesspeople need to pay attention to the sheer size of the potential Cannabis market for Seniors. Because numbers matter on the bottom line, and even if compassion isn’t part of the formal calculations, its influence is either there or it is not. And it does make a difference – in the case of the Cannabis market for Seniors, it can make a huge difference. Here are some things to consider.
Why Caregiver Demographics Matter
In Fall, 2015 the National Alliance for Caregiving (NAC) and AARP published extensive data that among other things showed that 34 million Americans had provided unpaid care to an adult age 50 or older in the prior 12 months. Using a 1:1 ratio that means a cohort of 68 Million people.
Research also consistently shows that more than 50% of people over 50 have a favorable view of medical Cannabis. However, since there are only @ 4 – 5 Million current Cannabis users over age 55, there are a lot more people who could benefit from medical use of Cannabis than are currently using it.
Given the numbers, it is reasonable to project that @ 50% of Senior Caregivers and 50% of the Seniors they are caring for probably have a favorable view of Cannabis as a natural medicine, EVEN THOUGH only a relatively small percentage of those with favorable views are currently using Cannabis.
Don’t you wonder why this is the case? If you have anything to do with the Cannabis industry, you should be thinking about this.
The data tells anyone who cares to look that 30-40 million people who have excellent reasons to be interested in Cannabis as a natural medicine have not yet tried it. Why not? Could it be as simple as this – they might simply need to have more information presented to them in relevant terms, or they may have serious fears that nobody has addressed effectively.
The NAC/AARP 2015 study also shows that: “The majority of caregivers are female (60%), but 40 percent are male. Eight in 10 are taking care of one person (82%). They are 49 years of age, on average. A large majority of caregivers provide care for a relative (85%), with 49 percent caring for a parent or parent-in-law. One in 10 provides care for a spouse. Higher-hour caregivers are almost four times as likely to be caring for a spouse/partner.”
So, a typical caregiver is a woman in their middle age caring full-time for a parent or elderly relative at home, unpaid and largely unappreciated, and subject to their own challenges of boredom, stress, fatigue and declining health. Many of these people are seeking, or would be open to, any solution that will make their job easier and the lives of those they love and care for better.
So, bottom line (there it is again), Cannabis companies, no matter what their products or markets, have an opportunity to expand their vision to address a whole new market of 30—40 million potential customers.
It’s simple to ignore that little fact – because you’re already making tons of money. But then the smart people who are your competitors will eat your lunch. That is the challenge to any business that wants to be a part of the Cannabis community.
There Are Seniors Markets Beyond Caregiver/Patient
There are over 75 Million independent seniors in the US, many with medical issues identical to those of seniors living under care, that can potentially be addressed effectively by Cannabis.
Let’s look at Sleep as an example – a health issue for which the right Cannabis strains are a well-established treatment.
Between 50-70 million Americans, over half of them over 65, have chronic moderate to severe sleep problems, and over 80% of them say they are extremely dissatisfied with the sleeping “medicines” they use. Over 70% of the Google searches for the “sleep aid” category in 2016 were for “natural sleep aid”. Clearly there are a lot of people who need help sleeping, a huge number of them over 65, and they are out there searching for help sleeping, which means they haven’t found anything that works yet, and their searches say clearly that they want natural medicines, not pharmacological poisons.
Properly used, the right Cannabis strains can reduce or eliminate sleep issues for many if not most of those 50-70 million people with moderate to severe sleep problems, both those seniors being cared for and those who are independent.
It may be unnecessary to say this, but that is a whole hell of a lot of people looking for a single type of product – an effective natural sleep aid. Hello?
I Know This Subject Intimately
I have been a caregiver for long periods in my life, first as a single father for 5 years with an infant son, and then later, along with my wife, we cared first for my mother and then for her mother for another 20 years.
Let’s just say that I am quite familiar with every kind of diaper, infant and adult, and I have lost more than my share of arguments over who was going to finish their dinner before getting dessert.
I have also been a Cannabis grower, writer and researcher for over 50 years. I wrote the first book on Marijuana growing in 1969 as well as the first book on making and cooking with healing Cannabis extracts in 1982.
So as I write this blog post I have the benefit of many years of experience both as a caregiver and also with the use of Cannabis Flowers as a natural medicine, a source of pleasure and healing, and a tool for insight and creativity.
What Many If Not Most Seniors Need
Seniors who need supportive care because of poor health or just plain age, as well as many completely independent seniors, share important quality of life issues including poor sleep, poor appetite, chronic pain, diminished memory, and loss of interest.
All of these conditions of old age, especially when combined with poor health, can be treated and in some instances healed with informed use of the right Cannabis strains.
Whether Cannabis Flowers are smoked using a traditional pipe, a fancy bong or as a classic joint, or whether they are used as a strawberry-flavored vapor oil extract or as a nice herbal tonic or tea, there are a lot of choices ofs pleasant and beneficial way for any senior to use Cannabis and there are many good reasons for them to consider the already well-established benefits and proven safety of this natural medicine.
If you are in the Cannabis business, you need to be asking yourself how your products can help make life better for all these people.
Good, relevant information is critically important for caregivers, and seniors who are being cared for, as well as for independent seniors, and for families to come to terms with any issues that seniors in the family have that are preventing them from benefitting from this powerful, safe and effective natural medicine.
Caregivers should seek out “voices of experience” either among their personal networks or on the internet who can offer insights and practical tips for reluctant family members who should be, but are not contemplating the use of Cannabis as a natural medicine.
Among the important questions that Cannabis companies need to be ready to answer are:
Which Cannabis strains are best for helping with sleep, appetite, pain and discomfort, physical relaxation and mental alertness?
How can alternative Cannabis preparations be used to meet special physical needs and personal preferences?
What are some small but important ways that Cannabis can help recapture fading or lost pleasures – enjoying memories, socializing with others, listening to music, eating and drinking, watching movies and reading.
Caregivers deal every day with all the details that it takes to help keep the Cared-For person’s life running as smoothly as possible. It is truly remarkably most of them somehow marshal the energy needed to give the person they are caring for far more than just maintenance – they somehow manage to provide close human contact, trust, warmth and caring.
Intelligent and sensitive use of Cannabis Flowers as a natural medicine can enable even more of that positive energy and spirit to flow between Caregiver and the person they are caring for, just as those same Cannabis Flowers also help treat pressing physical and emotional issues including sleep, appetite, pain and memory.
Studies show that 90% of Saudis over age 60 have osteoporosis due to Vitamin D deficiency, in spite of living in one of the world’s sunniest regions. This means that virtually all Saudi women over 60, and most of the men, have this crippling bone disease simply because their body doesn’t get enough sun to make the Vitamin D they need for maintaining natural good health. The reason is simple – women are covered head to toe to protect men from “lustful thoughts”, which of course, also blocks the sun and prevents natural Vitamin D formation. It’s ironic that the same thing happens to many Saudi men – though not, of course, to the elite who only “cover up” when its time for a photo opportunity and otherwise wear Western clothes.
Severe Vitamin D deficiency is not a minor issue, and its effects are not limited to osteoporosis. It is a widespread, very dangerous condition that gives rise to all kinds of crippling, often lethal diseases and conditions. It causes, at any age, impaired immune system function, insulin resistance & diabetes, cancer, multiple sclerosis, hypertension, stroke, heart disease, infant mortality, chronic pain, anxiety and depression, and infertility. The fact that the full-body covering for women demanded by conservative Islam is responsible for the worldwide Vitamin D deficiency in Muslim women is indisputable. See here, and here – just two of many examples.
So, the role of mandatory Islamic dress for women in causing Vitamin D deficiency is well-established. But that is not the topic of this post.
I want you to know that there is another equally insidious, perhaps even more severe health issue caused by the medieval Islamic dress codes for women that has never been discussed in any research that I can find.
Without making any comment on the cultural, religious or moral issues raised by those who oppose women being forced to wear the Burqa by Islamic law, there is another severe health threat created just by those little black full-face masks they are forced to wear.
Quite plainly, being forced to wear a Burqa exposes Muslim women throughout their lives to highly toxic, potentially crippling and even lethal poison gas.
The mechanism by which this happens should be obvious, even though as I said it has never been studied. Wearing the Burqa traps CO2-laden exhaled breath so that it is continually re-inhaled. The Burqa-wearing woman is never breathing fresh air – she is always re-breathing her own exhaled gasses. This increases the level of CO2 and lowers the O2 levels in a woman’s blood all day, every day, to the point that it endangers her health, quality of life, and longevity, and almost certainly to the point of adversely affecting health of her children.
While the mechanism by which Burqas poison their wearers is obvious, as just pointed out there is not a single piece of medical and scientific research that examines the impact of wearing the Burqa on blood CO2 and O2 levels. Do you find that as odd as I do? Has this research topic simply been overlooked? Or has it been suppressed?
Fortunately, there actually is research on the impact of wearing surgical masks on the blood CO2 and O2 levels of surgeons, and the conclusions are quite straightforward – although, oddly enough, this is also not a well-researched area.
What the available research shows is that wearing surgical masks for an extended period day after day, as surgeons do, significantly increases their blood CO2 and decreases their blood O2 levels.
Here is a brief quote from one of the few papers I was able to find on the topic.
Ergonomics. 2013;56(5):781-90. doi: 10.1080/00140139.2013.777128. Epub 2013 Mar 21.
“Carbon dioxide rebreathing in respiratory protective devices: influence of speech and work rate in full-face masks.”
Smith CL, Whitelaw JL, Davies B.
“Carbon dioxide (CO2) rebreathing has been recognized as a concern regarding respirator use and is related to symptoms of discomfort, fatigue, dizziness, headache, muscular weakness and drowsiness.”
Well, that doesn’t sound too bad, does it – unless you are being operated on by a dizzy, weak, fatigued and drowsy surgeon.
But let’s dig a little deeper into the health consequences of prolonged exposure to CO2 at levels above what we would encounter breathing normally, with nothing covering our mouth and nose.
This US Department of Energy study is a bit more informative.
The following table summarizes the results of chronic CO2 exposure at low levels, but in excess of what would be inhaled under normal conditions. It is a reasonable assumption that these consequences are also incurred by women wearing Burqas, particularly since, as you will notice, the length of exposure in the various studies were only a matter of days or weeks of exposure, whereas women wear Burqas for large portions of the day throughout their lifetimes.
After giving us this table, that summarizes over a dozen research studies, the DOE goes on to explain the health consequences of CO2 exposure noted in the studies.
“Lung dead space volume is a volume of air where gas exchange does not occur. The larger the dead space, the less gas exchange, which can be important for those with pulmonary or cardiac problems. Patients with severe CO2 retention (PaCO2 >95 mmHg) are invariably acidotic and will be at greater risk for profound acidosis with elevated ambient CO2 concentrations because they cannot further compensate for elevations in PaCO2, except with limited increases in ventilation. In addition, although the CO2–induced increase in the dead space volume was reported to be reversible in healthy subjects, it is not known if this reversal also occurs in patients with pulmonary disease.”
“Elevated systemic and pulmonary blood pressure is well tolerated by healthy individuals but can exacerbate preexisting systemic or pulmonary hypertension. Increased cerebral blood flow and increased intracranial pressure can put preterm infants at increased risk for intraventricular hemorrhage. Adults with brain injuries, tumors, bleeding, or increased intracranial pressure are also at risk with further increases in intracranial pressure.”
“Slightly decreased bone formation and increased bone resorption in healthy young individuals may have no long-term consequences but may be detrimental to persons with bone disease, such as osteoporosis. Another potential problem is increased blood calcium, which is related to changes in the bone. In guinea pigs and rats, focal renal calcification has been observed with prolonged exposure to concentrations of CO2 ranging from 0.3 to 15% [42-48]. The authors characterized the kidney calcification as an adaptive disease. Studies of humans have not examined calcification in the kidney or other organs.”
Bottom line – neither science nor medicine has paid much attention to the health consequences of daily exposure of health care workers to even slightly increased level of CO2, much less to the life-threatening health issues experienced by millions of Muslim women forced to wear Burqas or be publicly flogged.
If Muslim women are being deprived of Vitamin D and are being chronically poisoned by CO2 as a direct result of how they are forced to dress by the male-dominated religious societies into which they are unfortunate enough to have been born, isn’t this as horrific a crime against humanity as female genital mutilation, another travesty imposed on women by these same male “religious” criminals?
Of course it is. The question is – when is the non-Muslim world going to recognize that an enormous criminal conspiracy, inspired by hatred and fear of women, exists in many if not all Muslim countries, and when are the Muslim leaders of these misogynistic gangs masquerading as religious organizations going to be indicted by the World Court for the genocide they are surely committing?
Ban the Burqa. Indeed!