Healing With Coca Leaf – Part One

The next few posts will consist of a sampling of the Coca Leaf-based remedies for a wide range of diseases and conditions explained by Dr. William Tibbles, MD in his remarkable book Coca Erythroxylon: A Treatise On Brain Exhaustion” in 1776.

 The remedies in this and other upcoming posts are taken from Part Two of Dr. Tibbles book; Part One, his actual treatise on Brain Exhaustion, is included in the original source materials for my eBookThe Coca Leaf Papers”.  

Dr. Tibbles’ observations, diagnoses, and prescriptions for treatment are noteworthy for several reasons. First, he was writing before the role of bacteria and viruses in causing disease and death was even suspected, and well before the discovery of antibiotics. This alone makes his emphasis on such things as sickroom sanitation and hygienic wound care a perspective centuries before its time. In the time period when Dr. Tibbles wrote, for example, surgeons routinely re-used their saws and scalpels on one patient after another without cleaning them, much less sterilizing them, and hand-washing was for sissies.

 And of course even today CDC estimates that 781,000 hospital-acquired infections are caused largely by failure to follow such simple hygienic procedures. ( CDC. National and State Healthcare-associated Infections Progress Report. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; Mar 2014)  

 Another thing that makes Dr. Tibbles’ observations quite remarkable is his almost universal inclusion of some form of Coca leaf in all of his remedies – whether a simple hot water extract of Coca Leaf, or a more complex “Compound Of Essence Of Coca Leaf”. You will see as you browse the next few posts that Dr. Tibbles employed wide-ranging combinations of traditional herbal medicines in specific ways for each kind of disease or condition that he was treating. Many modern herbalists will recognize these medicinal herbs as being still among the most powerful in our natural apothecary.

 In many of his remedies Dr. Tibbles also includes compounds like “Aperient Pills” and “Composition Powder” that he gives the recipes for in an appendix to his book. 

My intent in posting these Coca Leaf-based herbal remedies and – as Dr. Tibbles sometimes asserts – cures for everything from the common cold to cancerous lesions, is to demonstrate that as long ago as the time of the American Revolution doctors understood the role of Coca Leaf in effectively treating and curing disease. Some may snicker at some of Dr. Tibbles’ observations as being quaint, but that would be simple intellectual snobbery. When one considers that this Doctor was writing in an age when nobody on earth had a clue regarding, for example, the causes of infection, and one sees that even though he knew nothing of these causes he nevertheless emphasized care and treatment practices that address these unknown causes directly and effectively, one must treat what he writes with the greatest respect.

 Finally, the reader will note that in many of his remedies Dr. Tibbles includes as part of the treatment one or more of his proprietary “treatments” such as his often-mentioned “Brain Feeder”. He doesn’t reveal what these potions are, and in the back of his book he includes descriptions of their benefits in sometimes rather lurid prose – clearly wanting the reader to rush out and buy his products. I hope that we can all forgive the good Doctor for this bit of entrepreneurial spirit, because the fact is that Doctors in his time were rarely paid for their services, and of course there was no such thing as insurance, so Doctors had to figure out how to make a living. The fact that so many quacks and charlatans touted completely useless “snake oil” medicines during these times should not detract from the sincere efforts of a talented physician to offer sick people proprietary remedies that he clearly believed, through his own experience, were safe and effective working in combination with his published Coca Leaf-based remedies.


Inflammation is a process into which many morbid changes enter; changes in nervous force and influence; changes in condition of the blood vessels; changes in the condition of the blood; and changes in the nutrition of the part. The symptoms generally characteristic of inflammation are: varying degrees of pain, swelling, heat, and redness, a tendency to the effusion of serum, from the blood vessels, which speedily assumes the form of coagulated lymph or pus.

Theory of Inflammation; In inflammation there is a series of progressive changes of organic structure; two conditions are necessary for the production of this, as all other diseases viz., a predisposition to the disease in an organ, and, second, an exciting cause.

The predisposed organ is attacked by some exciting cause, and the first thing which takes place is to telegraph, as it were, to the brain for more force with which to combat the foe, a reply is immediately sent with more force, and a quickened movement of the blood in the minute capillaries takes place, owing to the greater influence of the brain and nervous system whereby the capillaries become contracted; this continues until either the nervous force has overcome the exciting cause and an equilibrium regained, or until the power of the nerve is overcome or suspended.

Then a second process commences, the contraction of the muscles being superseded by a state of relaxation – and an opposite or dilated condition of the capillaries is observed — the blood is retarded, and in some it stops entirely, owing to the removal of the nervous influence whereby the contractibility of the coats of the capillaries is entirely destroyed for the time, whereas all round the part the blood is quickly circulating in tortuous and distended vessels, and still further off it moves quickly, but through less distended vessels. And as a consequence of this diminished nervous influence and stagnant state of the blood in the affected part, decomposition of the blood takes place and, as a further consequence, the nutrition of the part is retarded, and, if a reaction does not take place, decomposition of the tissues of the organ commences, purulent matter is formed, or, in other cases, actual mortification or death of the part may result.


The old saying that “Colds are the foundation of all other diseases” is true to a large extent. Dr. G. Gregory, says “Cold is the most important of all the existing causes of internal inflammation. There is scarcely any form of it which does not occasionally owe its origin to cold; and many inflammatory affections …. have no other cause of the smallest practical importance.”

A cold is a form of disease which is generally treated lightly, indeed with much too little gravity. It is frequently allowed to proceed unchecked until it takes such firm hold of the attacked individual as to become a serious affection and the precursor of other and more grave diseases, and this it does simply because it is an effect, which, if its progress is not prevented soon resolves itself into actual inflammation – either general or local.


A cold commences with aching of the limbs, then we have, as an accompaniment, weight and pain in the head, oppression of the chest and slight difficulty of breathing ; a sense of fullness and stopping, or continual running of the nose ; watery and inflamed eyes ; soreness of the throat; cough; cold shiverings succeeded by flushes of heat. When the symptoms are very severe with greatly increased flow of secretion from the nose and lungs, hoarseness and soreness of the throat and lungs, we then term the complaint Influenza.


The chief causes are obstructed perspiration caused by the application of cold to the body, such as that occasioned by sudden departure from an over heated room into a cold atmosphere; sitting on the ground, damp, etc. In either case the exposure to the exciting cause gives an individual a cold by the action on the nervous system. The impression made on the extremities of the sentient nerves of the skin is conveyed to the nerve centres, and these so influence the nerves which govern the walls of the blood-vessels that the would-be intruder is warded off so long as the local force is able to withstand the external force. If the external force is the greater, then, the blood-vessels of the skin are partially paralyzed and we have set up a condition of congestion — the blood circulates only very imperfectly in the skin, and hence the deeper seated blood vessels are over- loaded and distended – which condition, if active remedial means are not used, soon progresses to actual inflammation.


When there is reason to suspect an attack of cold, the first thing that should be done is to take one teaspoonful of the Compound Essence of Cocaine in half a tumbler-glass of hot sweetened water, and two or three Chionanthus Virginica Liver Pills. Then have a vapour bath, or, if this is inconvenient, put the feet into water, as hot as can comfortably be borne, in which is mixed one tablespoonful of ground ginger and one tablespoonful of mustard; this will tend to equalize the circulation of the blood.

Now go to bed and drink of the following mixture:


Pennyroyal Herb … 1 oz.

Boiling water 1 pint. Let it stand 20 minutes; strain, then add

Essence of Cocaine 1 tablespoon full.

Brain Feeder 1 tablespoonful.

Sweeten with treacle.


Two tablespoonsful every half hour.

Continue the administration until free perspiration is induced, which keep up for several hours. As a general medicine let the patient take doses of the Brain Feeder, repeated three or four times a day; the Compound Essence of Cocaine in milk as a diet drink.

Sponge the body well each morning, after which rub the body with a rough towel. Regulate the bowels with the Chionanthus Liver Pills. If there is much cough take occasional doses of the Cherry Bark Cough Balsam.

Let me here say, that, to ministers and others who are compelled to speak in over-heated rooms, and then enter into an atmosphere which is cold and damp, the Compound Essence of Cocaine is an invaluable preventative against colds, sore throats, &c, when taken on lump sugar. The lump of sugar is soaked with the Essence and put into the mouth just before leaving the room. Many have proved it.

If the patient is under seven years of age, then the treatment should consist of alternate doses of the Child’s Restorer and Cherry Bark Cough Balsam in the infusion of Pennyroyal. The occasional use of hot water baths to promote perspiration. The bowels to be regulated by occasional doses of the Aperient mixture.

Those who prefer to make up their own medicines may, with great advantage, pursue the general course laid down as above. The medicine should consist of repeated doses of the following mixture:


Yarrow 3/4 ounce.

Pleurisy Root, bruised ¾ Ounce

Boil in one and a half pint of water for ten minutes; remove from the fire and pour the boiling liquid on to the following:

Coca Leaf 1/2 ounce.

Composition Powder ¾ ounce

Let them stand for half an hour, strain, and sweeten with 4 ounces of treacle. Dose: Two tablespoonsful every half an hour until perspiration is thoroughly induced. The dose may then be given every three hours.

Regulate the bowels with occasional doses of the aperient mixture.


These three diseases are so nearly allied that we shall treat of them collectively. In inflammation of the lungs, or pneumonia, the cellular tissue or substance of one or both of the lungs is inflamed; in bronchitis the inflammation is seated in the bronchial tubes or air passages; and in pleurisy the lining membrane which covers the lungs, called the pleura, is the seat of inflammation.


These diseases generally set in with a chill or shivering fit, followed by an intense feeling of heat ; there is afterwards, tightness of the chest; lassitude; pain in the limbs; thirst; hot and dry skin; tongue furred, white; little or no appetite; bowels usually confined; urine, thick and scanty.

The following are the distinctive symptoms of these diseases:

 Inflammation of the Lungs

The patient generally lies on his back, has a frequent, harsh, and grating cough; rapid and difficult breathing. During the height of the disease the respirations may reach 40 per minute; the cough is attended with a scanty, tenacious, rusty-coloured, or bloody expectoration, which is got up with difficulty; pulse, quick and soft; occasionally there is delirium at night, and a dull pain is felt on inspiration.


The patient complains more or less of fever, a dull oppressive pain, or soreness of the chest. The cough is loose, deep, and diffused; expectoration copious, at first glairy, or frothy, and almost transparent, but afterwards it is opaque.


An attack of this disease manifests itself by the appearance of sharp pains in the side, increased by breathing or coughing; the patient generally lies on the unaffected side; cough, hard, dry, and short, but no rusty-coloured expectoration; pulse, quick and often hard.


The exciting causes of these inflammatory affections may be stated as being generally one or more of the following: Sudden transition from heat to cold, or anything that obstructs the free circulation of the blood in the skin, such as sleeping in damp places, wet clothes, undue heat, violent exercise, local congestion, blows, an altered condition of the blood, &c.

The development of one of the forms more than another – of inflammation of the lung substance, of the bronchial tubes, or of the Pleura – depends solely upon the predisposition of the individual attacked.


When the disease occurs in a mild form in adults, then bathe the feet well in hot mustard and water for fifteen or twenty minutes, dry them well; and afterwards keep them well warmed by a fire, or, if necessary, let the patient go to bed, put to the feet a bottle of hot water, around which is wrapped a wet vinegar cloth; during the foot-bath, give the patient a strong dose of the Compound Essence of Cocaine.

When in bed give the patient doses of the following


Pleurisy Root, bruised 1 ounce

Boil in one and a half pint of soft water for 15 minutes.

Strain, sweeten slightly, and then add two tablespoonsful of Brain Feeder and one tablespoonful of Compound Essence of Cocaine.


Two tablespoonsful every hour until the patient is somewhat easier; then give the closes at intervals of two or three hours. Each close should be given warm. If the cough is troublesome, give, every three hours, a dose of the Cherry Bark Cough Balsam, in a little of the above mixture, warm. Regulate the bowels with the Chionanthus Liver Pills.

If the patient is an infant – that is under 7 years of age – then the treatment may be as follows:

Let the feet be occasionally bathed in warm water in which has been thrown a little soda. Keep the bowels regular by the administration, now and then, of doses of the aperient mixture.

Give the following medicine:

Take of Pleurisy Root, bruised, half an ounce; boil in three-quarters of a pint of water for ten minutes; pour the boiling liquid on to half an ounce of Pennyroyal Herb, let it stand for ten or fifteen minutes, strain, and add a small quantity of sugar.


One to two teaspoonsful every hour or two, according to age and the severity of the complaint. Give a dose (size according to age) of the Cherry Bark Cough Balsam in a little of the above infusion, warm, every three or four hours. Apply warmth to the body. If the above treatment is carried out there is no doubt the little sufferer will be speedily brought round.

If the case is severe an emetic powder may be given, the patient drinking freely of the Compound Essence of Cocaine before and during its action. The inhalation of the vapour of vinegar; or of the steam from a hot infusion of herbs. The application of a poultice to the chest, is also valuable. Be sure that the bowels are not allowed to become costive.

2. Or, following the above general course, the medicinal treatment may consist of the administration of repeated doses of the following mixture :


Liquorice Root, bruised 1 ounce

Pleurisy Root, bruised 1 ounce

Boil in one and a half pint of water for ten minutes; while still hot pour on to the following :

Coca Leaf 1 ounce

Boneset 1 ounce

Composition Powder a teaspoonful

Let them stand 15 or 20 minutes; strain.


One teaspoonful to two tablespoonsful every one or two hours, according to the age of the patient and severity of the disease.

Regulate the bowels by the use of the Aperient mixture. In the first instance use all reasonable means to induce perspiration.

If the patient is an infant, omit the Composition Powder in the above recipe. Under all circumstances the diet should be of a light and nourishing character, consisting chiefly of mucilaginous drinks, as barley-water, &c, &c.

Milk and a little of the Compound Essence of Cocaine is very valuable as a diet drink in inflammatory diseases.

Editor’s Note: In the next post, which will follow in a few days, we’ll look at how Dr. Tibbles suggests treating a number of very serious diseases including Asthma and Consumption (Tuberculosis).

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