This post is the first of many excerpts from Dr. William Golden Mortimer’s classic “History of Coca” (1901) that I will offer readers of this blog. Dr. Mortimer’s book is so rich in detail and so charged with meaning for today’s overwhelming health issues that it was hard to know where to begin. But I have chosen this small segment because (1) it discusses how the power of Coca as a natural cure was hidden for many centuries before it was finally discovered by pioneering scientists and researchers in the 1800s, and (2) it also offers us an initial glimpse of the well-documented power of pure, natural Coca to heal the stressed and diseased human heart – surely one of the medical conundrums of our era. Once fully reviewed, the evidence from the 1800s is clear – a few cups a day of a simple natural Coca Tea or Tonic will do what all the pharmaceutical poisons and marvelous technologies of our times cannot do for most people – it will reverse and cure many major heart diseases. (The complete text of “History of Coca” and many other classic original source materials on the healing powers of natural Coca Leaf can be found in my Kindle ebook “The Coca Leaf Papers“.) Many, many more examples of Dr. Mortimer’s ground-breaking work are to follow in the coming weeks and months on this blog.
Invisible In Plain Sight – The Power Of Coca
For more than three centuries the information that had come to the world in regard to Coca had been chiefly of a theoretical nature. The writings of travelers and of missionaries who were located in the sections of South America where Coca was used, had prepared the way for a scientific investigation of its properties as soon as there was a possibility of such work being done with exactitude. After the botanists had classified the plant, and chemists had begun to search for the hidden properties of its traditional action, the researches of the physiologists soon followed.
In Europe the attention of the medical profession was directed to the action of Coca through a widely circulated paper by Dr. Mantegazza, who experimented upon himself, using the leaves both by chewing and in infusion. His description, while somewhat fanciful and full of imagination, fairly illustrates the physiological action of Coca, provided it is appreciated that observations made by an experimenter upon his own person are necessarily influenced by the temperament of the individual. He found from masticating a drachm of the dried leaves: “An aromatic taste in the mouth, an increased flow of saliva, and a feeling of comfort in the stomach, as though a frugal meal had been eaten with a good appetite.”
Following a second and a third dose there was a slight burning sensation in the mouth and pharynx with an increased pulse beat, while digestion seemed to be more active. Through the influence of Coca the entire muscular system is increased in strength with a feeling of agility and an impulse to exertion quite different from the exaltation following alcohol. While from the latter there may be increased activity, it will be of an irregular character, but Coca promotes a gradual augmenting of vigor with a desire to put this newly acquired strength in action.
Mantegazza found that the intellectual sphere participates in the general exaltation produced by Coca, ideas flow with ease and regularity, the influence being quite different from that induced by alcohol and resembling in some degree that from small doses of opium. After drinking an infusion of four drachms of leaves he experienced a peculiar feeling as though isolated from the external world, with an irresistible inclination to exertion, which was performed with phenomenal ease, so that though in his normal condition he naturally avoided unnecessary exercise, he was now so agile as to jump upon the writing table, which he did without breaking the lamp or other objects upon it.
Following this period of activity came a state of quietness accompanied by a feeling of intense comfort, consciousness being all the time perfectly clear. The experimenter took as much as eighteen drachms of leaves in one day, which is about the amount ordinarily consumed by the Serrano of the Andes. Under this increased dose the pulse was raised to one hundred and thirty-four, and when mental exhilaration was most intense he exclaimed to his colleagues who were watching the result of his investigation: “God is unjust because he has created man incapable to live forever happy.” And again : “I prefer a life of ten years with Coca to a life of a million centuries without Coca.” Following these experiments, during which he had abstained from any food but Coca for forty hours, he took a short sleep of three hours, from which he woke without any feeling of indisposition.
Dr. Mantegazza announced as a result of the studies made upon himself and verified upon other subjects that Coca, chewed or taken in a weak infusion, has a stimulating effect on the nerves of the stomach and facilitates digestion. That it increases the animal heat, and the frequency of the pulse and respiration. That it excites the nervous system in such a manner that the movements of the muscles are made with greater ease, after which it has a calming effect, while in large doses it may cause cerebral congestion and hallucinations. He asserted that: “The principal property of Coca, which is not to be found in any other remedy, consists in its exalting effect, calling out the power of the organism without leaving any sign of debility, in which respect Coca is one of the most powerful nervines and analeptics.” From these conclusions he advocated the use of Coca in disorders of the alimentary tract, in debility following fevers, in anӕmic conditions, in hysteria and hypochondriasis, even when the latter has increased to suicidal intent. He considered that Coca might be used with benefit in certain mental diseases where opium is commonly prescribed, and was convinced of its sedative effect in spinal irritation, idiopathic convulsions and nervous erethism, and suggested its use in the largest doses in cases of hydrophobia and tetanus.
Some of the assertions of Mantegazza are directly opposed by our present knowledge of the action of Coca, particularly the observations as to its action on the heart and respiration. This is to be accounted for by the pronounced central action he observed, evidently prompted by a belief that the influence of Coca was primarily through the nervous system. It has been developed by more recent research that Coca has a direct action upon the muscular system. The action of Coca upon the heart is precisely as a regulator of that organ. If the heart’s action is weak it is strengthened – if it is excessive the over-activity is toned down – if irregular the beat is made uniform. This indicates that Coca is a direct cardiac tonic. Let the heart be running riot in a palpitation from over-exertion and a teaspoonful of Mariani Thé – taken in a small cup of hot water – will speedily bring the heart’s action to normal. This unique preparation of Coca is in the form of an agreeable fluid extract, said to represent in one part, two parts of the leaves, and presenting in concentrated form all the qualities of true Coca. It may be administered plain, or drunk as a tea with cream and sugar; in this latter form it has a taste resembling a rich English breakfast tea.
The Healing Power Of Coca & The Human Heart
The especial influence of Coca upon the heart is alone sufficient to establish it as a remedy of phenomenal worth. Lieutenant Gibbs, U.S.N., from a personal experience with Coca in crossing the high passes of the Andes, considered the sustaining action of Coca in high altitudes due wholly to its enabling the heart muscle to perform the extra work when called forth. Similar observations have been made by many travelers who have remarked the influence of Coca upon themselves. Recently Captain Zalinski, U.S.A. – who rendered the dynamite gun an effectual instrument of war – has been experimenting upon a concentrated ration suitable for the army. In pursuing his studies under a severe test he submitted himself to the hardships of Andean travel, and through the high altitudes used Coca Thé and Coca Pâte prepared by Mariani, the timely use of which, he assured me, had supported his life through a serious ordeal.
Dr. Beverley Robinson, referring to the efficiency of heart tonics has written: “Among well known cardiac tonics and stimulants for obtaining temporary good effects, at least, I know of no drug quite equal to Coca. Given in the form of wine or fluid extract, it does much, at times, to restore the heart muscle to its former tone.” In this connection, Dr. Ephraim Cutter says: “Coca should be more used in heart failure from direct weakness, and in many cases might well replace the conventional digitalis which advances the treatment of heart disease no more than it was forty years ago.”
Many physicians who have corresponded with me on the application of Coca have emphasized this influence from experiences in their practice. Coca is advocated to replace digitalis or to tone up the muscular structure of the heart after use of the latter, either employed alone or alternately with digitalis when that is considered essential.
The effect of Coca upon respiration is analogous to its action on the heart. It acts as a regulator, not increasing respiration, but giving force to the cycle – making inspiration deeper and expiration more complete.