Coca Leaf & Muscle Energy

Because I have received such interesting feedback on a recent blog post on the possibilities of Coca Leaf as a treatment ME/CFS, I thought that I would post Chapter 12 of “The History of Coca” by W. Golden Mortimer, MD (1901). Anyone interested in the role of fatigue, nutrition, metabolic waste in the blood, and the therapeutic role of Coca Leaf that was fully known in the 1800s and yet which has been completely ignored in the search for treatments and even cures for a range of muscular & neurological conditions will probably find this information – at a minimum – interesting.

 It will also be interesting to critics of one of today’s medical fads – the imposition of progressively strenuous exercise on people with CFS, ME/CFS, MS and other conditions – that Dr. Mortimer writing in 1901 is saying exactly the same thing – PET (Progressive Exercise Therapy) is potentially dangerous. I had a football coach in high school whose only response to an injury was to tell the player to “Jog it off.” I remember getting seriously crunched in practice and then, on Ole’ Coach’s orders, doing a couple of laps with what turned out to be a broken collarbone. Finally I fainted at which point ole’ coach finally decided to have an assistant toss me in a car and drive me to a hospital.

Somehow I think the spirit of “Ole Coach” lives on in a lot of doctors.

 The section of this Chapter that deals with the balancing, restorative impact of Coca on body proteins is equally fascinating. It is highly suggestive of potentially safe and effective pathways to addressing some severe diseases involving protein metabolism gone awry. Alzheimer’s perhaps?

 Finally, I hope you will find it as fascinating as I did to read Dr. Mortimer’s discussion of metabolic waste in the blood and Coca Leaf’s role in cleansing the blood of this toxicity

 This entire book, and several others that are equally well-written and revealing, are available along with a large hyperlinked bibliography that will take you to original 18th-19th Century source material in my ebook “The Coca Leaf Papers”.  

Figure 5


“Leaves of wond’rous nourishment.

Whose Juice Succ’d in, and to the Stomach tak’n

Long Hunger and long Labour can sustain;

From which our faint and weary Bodies find

More Succor, more they cheer the drooping Mind,

Than can your Bacchus and your Ceres joined.”   – Cowley.

There has been no period since the command was given Adam in the garden of Eden, when physical exertion was not essential to existence. The ancient philosophers instilled the doctrine that a sound mind is only possible in a sound body, and so Homer pictured Achilles as eating his own heart in distress because he might not fight. Idleness has been so recognized as a common precursor of discontent and melancholia, that when the children of Israel murmured against Pharaoh their tasks were wisely doubled to prevent retrospection. Occupation is not only essential to prosperity, but is morally and physically conducive to health and longevity and a rest is best attained not by total cessation, but by a change of employment. I believe it was Hammond who advised a wealthy neurasthenic to collect used corks, with the result that the patient became so interested in this unique occupation that his brooding was soon forgotten, while he became an expert in old stoppers.

With a popular regard for the benefits of appropriate exercise, the matter of athletics has been greatly overdone, and has often resulted in injury instead of the anticipated good. The early Greeks, who elaborated every form of gymnastics, only undertook the severe strain incidental to their games after a suitable preparatory period. They were encouraged to these performances – which were instituted in honor of the gods or deified heroes – through the idea that they were sacred, and in fulfillment of this the exercises always began with a sacrifice, and concluded in the same religious manner. In the period of Caesar, a victory in the Olympic games was considered such a triumph that honors were not only extended to the victor, but to his relatives and even to his place of birth. There was, however, no impromptu emulation permitted in these contests, but those who desired to compete were obliged to submit themselves for preparatory practice at least ten months before the exercises began.

Wherever there is an incentive for supremacy, there is a possibility of overstrain, and Hippocrates cautioned the athlete against the possible error of immoderate exercise. Galen foreshadowed the modem wear and tear theorists when he asserted: “much exercise and weariness consumes the spirits and substances.” Sustained and straining effort in any direction, whether it be mental or physical, cannot be continued without a following train of troubles. When any function of the body is put in action there is a chemical change within the tissues which gives rise to the energy set free, and before new power may be had the substance which affords this energy must be rebuilt. While this is true of all the tissues of the body, owing to the greater bulk of the muscular system the changes are apparently more active in this organism. Incessant activity often prevents an adequate opportunity for repair.

We have seen that the Incas, during the period when  their young men were preparing for knighthood, devoted the greatest attention to athletic training. It was only when the young nobles had proved themselves worthy, by appropriate exhibition of their powers of endurance, that they were presented with the chuspa in which to carry the Coca leaves, and the poporo to contain the lime to be employed in preparing the Coca for mastication. These decorations were thereafter worn through life as emblems of ennoblement, and buried with the mummied body, the Coca affording support on the journey to the unknown. The ancient philosophers were quite as ignorant of the exact changes which induced the transformation of energy displayed in muscular activity as were the Incas, or as are the modem Andeans regarding the true workings of Coca in its yield of force.

Mind, Muscle, Energy & Nutrition

The muscular system comprises two varieties of muscles. One of these acts under mental influence, while the other acts independent of the will, while the heart – which is essentially a muscle – partakes of qualities in both of these varieties. The voluntary muscles are chiefly attached to the bony framework, and are concerned in bodily movements, while the involuntary muscles enter into the formation of the blood vessels, the lymphatics and the walls of various structures, as the air passages, the alimentary canal and other important organs, as well as forming parts of the skin and mucous membranes.

The framework muscles are supported by thin sheaths of tissue, which in their interior divide by numerous ramifications and separate the contained muscular substance into bundles. These are still further divided into little fibres, each ultimate fibre being enveloped with a close network of minute blood vessels. These vessels afford an ample means for bringing nutriment to the muscle substance, as well as for carrying away the waste products which are constantly being formed, even in the state commonly regarded as absolute rest. The importance of this hurrying stream of nutriment, and waste elimination to the muscular organism, may be inferred from the estimate that one-fourth of the entire blood of the body is  contained in the muscles.

When the little muscle fibres are examined under the microscope, they are seen to be made up of alternating lines which appear as light and dark striations. The darker of these lines, when viewed in transverse section, is found composed of little polygonal compartments. Within these divisions is contained a semi-fluid material which has been demonstrated to be the contractile element of the muscle substance.

The ancients presumed the muscles acted by some pulling influence exerted through the nerves. Harmonious nerve action is essential to every movement, yet muscle substance has been shown to have an inherent property of contractility quite independent of nerve influence. The chief nerves controlling the movements of the muscular system have their origin in the brain and spinal cord. These each consist of fibres conveying sensation and fibres which control motion. These latter end in expansions on the surface of the muscle in intimate contact with the contractile element, the function of which it regulates through the reflex influence of the sensory nerves. In other words a stimulation of the sensory nerves excites the motor nerves to cause muscular activity.

Each fibre is not continuous through the entire length of muscle structure, but the tapering end of one fibre is united to the body of its neighbor by a cement-like substance to form a bundle which constitutes the muscle proper. These bundles taper, or are expanded, as the case may be, to a dense fibrous tissue for attachment to different portions of the movable framework of the body. When a muscle acts, each of its  individual fibres shortens through some chemical influence of the contractile element. The combined action of the fibres exerts a pull toward either end of the muscle, which occasions movement of the less fixed portion of the framework to which the muscle is attached.

The involuntary muscles have not definite tendons like the voluntary muscles, and their microscopical structure is also different, their fibres being smaller and instead of being cross-striped they are marked longitudinally. In their arrangement the fibres are so interlaced that by their contraction they lessen the capacity of the vessels or organs in the walls of which they are located.

The property of contraction is inherent in the muscle itself, and continues even after its nerve supply has been cut off. For this experiment in the laboratory, curare is employed; this paralyzes the nerve filaments deep down in the muscle substance yet leaves the muscle intact. Under these conditions though contraction will not be produced when the nerve is stimulated, movement will follow when stimulus is  directly applied to the muscle substance. It is presumed that this inherent property is generated by some substance brought in the blood, which induces a chemical change in the contractile element and liberates the energy displayed as muscular movement. This change is influenced by temperature, and by the presence or absence of waste material in the muscle structure or in the circulation. Whatever this explosive substance may be, it is presumed to be built up in the muscle structure from some carbohydrate material – possibly glycogen – under the influence of a nitrogenous substance. For, as Foster has said: “The whole secret of life may almost be said to be wrapped up in the occult properties of certain nitrogen compounds.” Hermann named this hypothetical substance inogen. During a muscle contraction it is inferred this carbohydrate splits into carbonic acid, sarcolactic acid and some nitrogenous material which may be myosin or a substance akin to it, the acids being carried off in the blood stream, while the proteid substance remains in the muscle to be again elaborated into the inogen energy yielding material.  Helmholtz calculated that in the human body one-fifth the energy of the material consumed goes out as work, thus contrasting favorably with the steam engine, in which it hardly ever amounts to more than one-tenth.

The Key Role Of Nitrogen

According to the theory of Liebig the nitrogenous food is utilized in the building up of proteid tissues, and the non-nitrogenous food is exclusively devoted to heat producing  purposes, being directly oxidized in the blood, while its excess is stored as fat. In accordance with this theory, muscular exercise increases the waste of muscle substance, while the wear and tear is estimated by the amount of urea excreted.  Originally this idea was generally accepted, but was attacked from many sources when it was found that facts of subsequent research did not coincide. Troube suggested in opposition that muscle and nerve tissue is not destroyed by exercise, but that force is contributed to these tissues through the oxidation of non-nitrogenous substances of which the muscle and nerve were simply mediums of expression.

Following the idea of Liebig, that work results in wear and tear of the tissues, there should be an increased output of nitrogen during exertion, but many observers in trying to harmonize results with this view have found little increase of  urea – which practically represents all the nitrogen passed out of the body – while a decided increase of urea is found from the consumption of nitrogenous foods. Among the more noted experiments which controverted the theory that the nitrogenous waste represented the relative expenditure  of energy is that of Dr. Fick, Professor of Physiology, and Dr. Wislicenus, Professor of Chemistry, both of the University of Zurich. They ascended the Faulhom, two thousand metres high (6,561 feet) for the purpose of determining the resultant wear and tear upon the nitrogenous tissues from a known amount of exercise. To accurately determine this, they limited their diet to non-nitrogenous materials, taking starch, fat and a little sugar, with beer, wine and tea as beverages. For seventeen hours before the ascent they limited themselves to non-nitrogenous food, and their first examinations were made eleven hours before their start. The ascent was completed in eight hours, and after a rest of six hours they ate an ordinary meal, which included meat. The urine secreted was examined to estimate the nitrogen excreted for each  hour’s work, which showed the following results :   Nitrogen excreted per hour.  [Estimated in grammes.]  Before work: Fick – 0.63, Wislicenus – 0.61;  During Work: Fick – 0.41, Wislicenus – 0.39;  After work: Fick – 0.40, Wislicenus – 0.40; During The Night: Fick – 0.45, Wislicenus – 0.51.

This indicates that the amount of nitrogen excreted was in relation to the food eaten and not to the work done, less relative nitrogen being passed in the “work” and “after work” periods when on a non-nitrogenous diet than during the period when nitrogenous food was eaten. The calculations were based on the amount of work which the oxidation of muscular substance containing fifteen percent, of nitrogen would produce as determined from the excreted urea. The result showed this inadequate to have enabled the experimenters to perform the task which they did, Fick’s work exceeding the theoretical amount by one-half, while that done by Wislicenus was in excess by more than three-fourths the theoretical amount, without in either case considering the necessary work of the various vital processes. These facts led many experimenters to further investigation, and resulted in a decided reaction from Liebig’s rigid theory, which had been accepted more literally than that physiologist intended. Instead of regarding the decomposition of proteids as the sole source of  muscular energy, the carbohydrates were now looked upon as  a formative element for generating force, because during muscular activity the glycogen stored in muscle disappears, to accumulate again during rest.

Pflüger, one of the most eminent of modem physiologists, in attempting to harmonize the theory of Liebig, experimented with a dog, which he kept upon an exclusive meat diet free from fat, and made him perform hard labor several times a day for weeks, during which the animal showed: “Very extraordinary strength and elasticity in all his movements.” In this experiment he wished to show that all the energy produced during hard work was from the transformation of proteid. To further show whether proteid simply was compensatory, he gave a mixed diet, and this led him to the conclusion that in a diet composed of proteid, carbohydrates and fats the quantity of the two latter substances destroyed in metabolism depends wholly upon the fact whether much or little proteid be fed. His conclusions are that: “In general the quantity of carbohydrates and fat that undergoes destruction is smaller the greater the income of proteid.” This may be regarded as the accepted view of modem physiologists with this qualification, that proteids must be built up from carbohydrates under a nitrogenous stimulus, just as we have seen is the process in plant structure.

The Impact Of Coca On Body Proteins

It has already been pointed out that the nitrogenous Coca has a direct bearing upon the structure of tissue through a possible quality of elaborating the carbohydrates of the protoplasm into proteids. Since the muscles form the largest bulk of tissues in the body in which chemical changes are constantly going on, it may be inferred how important is this upbuilding of the complex substance by which muscle activity  is produced. The action of Coca on yeast as well as penicillium and other low organisms indicates its peculiar activity upon protoplasm. The experiments of Huxley and Martin long since showed that penicillium can build itself up out of ammonium tartrate and inorganic salts, and can by a decomposition of itself give rise to fats and other bodies, and we have every reason, says Foster, to suppose this constructive power belongs naturally to all native protoplasm wherever found. At the same time we see, even in the case of penicillium, it is of advantage to offer to the protoplasm as food, substances which are on their way to become protoplasm, which thus saves the organism much constructive labor. “It is not unreasonable, even if opposed to established ideas, to suppose that the animal protoplasm is as constructive as the vegetable protoplasm, the difference between the two being that the former, unlike the latter, is as destructive as it is constructive, and therefore requires to be continually fed with ready constructed material.”

In further support of the influence of Coca upon the formation of proteid it may be again emphasized that the nitrogen found in the urea is not a measure of the proteid transformation of the body. This conclusion would be justified if it were known that all nitrogenous cleavage products of the proteid molecule without exception leave the body. But  there is no ground for such belief. On the contrary, there is no fact known to contradict the idea that nitrogenous cleavage products of the proteid molecule can rebuild themselves synthetically again into proteid with the aid of new non-nitrogenous groups of atoms. This latter possibility has been overlooked, and in consequence views have arisen, especially in relation to muscle metabolism, which though bearing the stamp of improbability have been accepted and handed down, but which recently have been criticized by Pflüger.

Urea – The Toxic Waste Of Nitrogenous Protein Metabolism 

Just where urea is manufactured in the organism is not definitely known. It is presumed that kreatin, xanthin and other nitrogenous extractives which are found in the circulation resulting from tissue activity may be converted either by the blood or by the epithelium of the kidneys, and discharged as urea. In certain kidney diseases it is known that these waste products are retained in the circulation, “with consequent symptoms of poisoning. In addition to this it has been found that an increase of nitrogenous food rapidly augments this excretion, the products of intestinal digestion, the leucin and lyrosin, being carried to the liver and converted by the liver cells to urea, and this organ is considered at least the chief  organ of urea formation.

It has been found that in functional derangements of the liver, when the normal urea formation is interfered with, there is imperfect oxidation of the products which should be eliminated as urea, and a deposit of lithates occurs in the urine as a signal of imperfect oxidation. This also may follow excessive exercise. In serious organic diseases the urea excretion may cease entirely, being replaced by the less oxidized leucin and tyrosin, M. Genevdix, from observations of his own and those of Charcot, Bouchardat and others, concludes that disorders of the liver which do not seriously implicate the secreting structure of that tissue increase the amount of urea excreted, while graver disorders diminish it very considerably.” A Belgian physician, Doctor Rommelaere, maintains that diagnosis of cancer of the stomach may be made when the urea excretion falls and continues below ten grammes a day for several consecutive days.

The average excretion of urea is sixteen grains an hour, the excretion fluctuating between thirteen and twenty-five grains, being greater soon after eating, and much less during the early morning hours. Uric acid, which is probably a less advanced form of oxidation, being present in the relation to urea as one to thirty-five, its relation to body weight being three and a half grains per pound; thus when urea excretion  equals thirty-five grains for each ten pounds of body weight, there is commonly present one grain of uric acid. The effect of these waste products in the tissues is to so impede the functions of the cells as to occasion symptoms of depression and fatigue, whether this be manifested by irritability, drowsiness or profound muscular tiredness. There is a loading up – not necessarily within the cells of the tissues, but in the blood stream which supplies these – of excreta which vitiates the proper pabulum of the protoplasm, and a period of rest is absolutely necessary to enable the tissues to get rid of this matter before a healthful condition may be resumed.

Origins & Mechanisms Of Physical Fatigue

All the symptoms of fatigue are due to the effort of the tissues at repair. There is an increase of respiration to bring the necessary increase of oxygen demanded, and accompanying this respiratory effort there is a frequency of the heart beat, while the body becomes cool because its heat is lessened through the evaporation of perspiration. In protracted fatigue there may be a rise of temperature due to irritation by  the increased force of the blood stream, occasioning sleeplessness, while the digestive functions are interfered with because of the excessive demands of other organs on the blood stimulus.

In over-exertion, where there is actual loss of proteid tissue, the effects of prostration and tiredness may not be experienced immediately, but only after several days. Similar symptoms to these accompany the infectious diseases when the blood is loaded with the products formed by invading bacteria. Again they are manifest when the organism is poisoned through toxic products of indigestion. These may be simply the products of proteid decomposition – leucomaines as they are termed, or they may be ptomaines produced by the activity of  certain micro-organisms which affect the body through the toxic principles which they elaborate. Some of these are excessively poisonous in minute doses, and are chiefly developed  in such articles of food as milk, ice cream, cheese, sausage and canned fish. It has been inferred that the muscles may also produce toxins which by their presence give rise to poisonous symptoms.

From whatever source they may have been derived, waste products in the blood impede the action of all the tissues of the body. This influence is well shown in the laboratory upon a prepared muscle, the contractions being recorded by a series of curves upon a suitable machine. Following stimulation there is a short interval known as the latent period, and then contraction is indicated by a rising curve commencing rapidly and proceeding more slowly to a maximum height, and as the muscle returns to its normal condition there is a descending curve, at first sudden and then more gradual. After repeated shocks of stimulation these curves become less marked, until the contractions record almost a continuous line – a condition which is termed muscular tetanus.

Such tired muscle has a longer latent period than a fresh one, and a stronger stimulation is necessary to produce contractions equal to those at the beginning of experimentation.  Bernard experimented with blue bottle flies – rausca vomitoria, and found that the muscle of fatigued flies compared with that of flies at rest showed microscopical distinction, the contractile disks of the tired muscle being almost obliterated,  while the capacity of such a muscle for taking a stain for microscopic examination evidenced an important difference over that of normal muscle, the whole contents of the segments staining uniformly, indicating that extraordinary exertion had used up the muscular substance more rapidly than it was repaired.

Ranke found that by washing out a fatigued muscle with common salt solution, though it added no new factor of energy, it freed the tissue from poisonous excreta and enabled it to again perform work. To confirm this a watery extract of fatigued muscle, when injected into fresh muscle, occasioned it to lose its working capacity. Mosso has also shown by experiments on the dog the presence of these fatigue substances. When the blood of a tired dog was injected into a dog which had been at rest all the phenomena of fatigue were manifest, but when the blood injected was from a normally resting dog no such symptoms were induced. This physiologist has shown that in man small doses of cocaine remove  the fatigue sense and raise muscular ability above normal.

Dr. Alexander Haig, of London, attributes all the symptoms of depression and fatigue as due to the presence of uric acid in the blood, which he regards as the particular poison of the excreta. Uric acid, he claims, obstructs the capillaries throughout the entire body, the consequent deficient circulation preventing a proper metabolism by retarding the removal of waste products.

The relative excretion of waste is influenced not only by the routine of living, but by changes in the weather, tiredness being more easily produced in warm than in cold weather because of the increased elimination of acids by perspiration raising the alkalinity of the blood and permitting the passage of an excess of uric acid from the tissues into the blood. With this excess there is a diminished excretion of urea accompanied by the symptoms of fatigue. Exercise when excessive increases the formation of urea, which may at first be carried off in a free blood stream, but when the flow in the capillaries is diminished through the presence of uric acid in excess, the urea excretion is retarded and fatigue is manifest.

Cocaine, it is found, will free the blood of uric acid and abolish all the symptoms of fatigue both of mind and body, doing this by raising the acidity of the blood and so directly counteracting the effect of exercise by preventing the blood becoming a solvent for uric acid. The effect of he pure blood is to produce a free circulation with increased metabolism in the muscles and nerve centres. When the blood is loaded with excreta the circulation is retarded and there is high blood pressure, which may ultimately result in dilatation  of the heart.

The long train of troubles which may follow retention of waste have been found to be worse during the morning hours when the acid tide of the urine is lowest. These conditions are all relieved under the influence of Coca, a knowledge of which has been gleaned from its empirical use. As an instance of this, a lady suffering from a severe influenza accompanied with rheumatism, was induced to try a grog of Vin  Mariani – as advocated by Dr. Cyrus Edson in the treatment of La Grippe, and much to her surprise found that she was not only cured of her cold, but entirely relieved from the symptoms of her rheumatism as well, despite a preformed prejudice against Coca in any form. Acting upon this suggestive hint, I have found that alternate doses of Coca and the salicylates constitute an admirable treatment for rheumatism.

Coca Leaf & The Elimination Of Physical Fatigue

The influence of Coca in banishing the effects of extreme fatigue is well illustrated in an account of its use communicated to me by Dr. Frank L. James, Editor of the National Druggist, St. Louis. While a student at Munich he experimented with the use of Coca upon himself at the request of Professor Liebig, whose pupil he was. On one occasion, when exceedingly tired both physically and mentally, he was  induced to try chewing Coca after the proper Peruvian fashion with a little llipta. Before commencing this experiment he was hungry, but too tired to eat and too hungry to sleep. In a few moments after beginning to chew hunger gave place to a sense of warmth in the stomach, while all physical weariness disappeared, though mentally he was still somewhat tired and disinclined to read or study, though this condition soon passed away, giving rise to an absolute eagerness to be at some sort of exercise. These sensations lasted altogether for probably three hours, gradually passing off after the first hour, leaving the subject none the worse for his experience and able to eat a hearty dinner the same evening.

Some years afterward, while practicing in the South, this gentleman returned from a thirty-six hours’ ride so tired as to necessitate being helped off the horse and up-stairs to his  room. While preparing for bed his eyes fell upon a package of Coca leaves which he had recently received by way of San Francisco, and the idea immediately occurred to him to repeat the experiment of his student days. In the course of a quarter of an hour – following the chewing of probably a drachm of Coca leaves – he felt so refreshed and recuperated that he was able to go out and visit patients about the town to whom he had previously sent word that he was too tired to call on them that night. In describing the result, Dr. James said: “I was not very hungry at the time before taking the Coca, but all sense of the necessity or of a desire for food  vanished with the weariness.”

Professor Novy, of the University of Michigan, is referred to by one of his former classmates as having formed one of a group of experimenters upon the use of Coca leaves. The influence being tested during a walk of twenty-four miles, taken one afternoon without any other nourishment but water and Coca. Over four miles an hour was averaged, and although unaccustomed to such long walks or vigorous exercise, no special muscular fatigue was experienced by four of the party who chewed the leaves almost constantly during the journey. No change was noted in the urine and no depression was experienced the next day. One who did not chew Coca, but was addicted to alcohol and chewed tobacco constantly, was somewhat more fatigued than the others, and suffered considerably from soreness of the muscles on the following day.

The experience of Sir Robert Christison, of Edinburgh, with the use of Coca upon himself and several of his students, is full of interest because of his extended experiments and the high rank of the investigator. Two of his students, unaccustomed to exercise during five months, walked some sixteen miles without having eaten any food since breakfast. On their return they each took two drachms of Coca made into an infusion, to which was added five grains of carbonate of soda, in imitation of the Peruvian method of adding an alkali. All sense of hunger and fatigue soon left, and after an hours walk they returned to enjoy an excellent dinner, after which they felt alert during the evening, and their night’s sleep was sound and refreshing. One of these students felt a slight sensation of giddiness after drinking the infusion, but the  other experienced no unpleasant symptoms. Ten students, under similar conditions, walked varying distances, from twenty to thirty miles, over a hilly road. Two of these were unable to remark any effects from the use of Coca, several felt decided relief from fatigue, while four experienced complete relief, and one of these had walked thirty miles without any food. Professor Christison, though seventy-eight years  of age and unaccustomed to vigorous exercise, subsequently experimented on himself by chewing Coca leaves with and without llipta, some of which had been forwarded to him from Peru. He first determined the effect of profound fatigue by walking fifteen miles on two occasions without taking food or drink. On his return his pulse, which was normally sixty-two at rest, was one hundred and ten on his arrival home, and two hours later was ninety. He was unfit for mental work in the evening, though he slept soundly all night, but the next morning was not inclined for active exercise. Then, under similar conditions, he walked sixteen miles, in three stages of four, six, and six miles, with one interval of half an hour, and two intervals of an hour and a half. During the last forty-five minutes of his second rest he chewed eighty grains of Coca, reserving forty grains for use during the last stage, even swallowing some of the fibre. He felt sufficiently tired to look forward to the end of his journey with reluctance, and did not observe any particular effect from the Coca until he got out of doors and put on his usual pace, of which he said: “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, and  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 up-stairs; in short, I had no sense of fatigue or any other uneasiness whatsoever.”

During this walk he perspired profusely. On reaching home his pulse was ninety, and in two hours it had fallen to seventy-two, showing that the heart and circulation had been strengthened under the influence of Coca. The urine solids were the same as during the walk without Coca. In describing this walk, he said: “On arrival home before dinner, I felt neither hunger nor thirst, after complete abstinence from food and drink of every kind for nine hours, but upon dinner appearing in half an hour, ample justice was done to it.”  After a sound sleep through the night he woke refreshed and free from all sense of fatigue. An influence of Coca not anticipated was the relief of a tenderness of his eyes, which during some years had rendered continuous reading a painful effort. In another trial at mountain climbing, he ascended Ben Vorlich, on Loch Earn, 3,224 feet above the sea. The climb was along a rugged foot path, then through a short heather and deep grass, and the final dome of seven hundred feet rise was among blocks and slabs of mica-slate. The ascent was made in two and a half hours, the last three hundred feet requiring considerable determination.

His companions enjoyed a luncheon, but Sir Robert contented himself chewing two-thirds of a drachm of Coca, and after a rest of three-quarters of an hour was ready for the descent. Although this was looked forward to with no little distrust, he found upon rising that all fatigue was gone, and he journeyed with the same ease with which he had enjoyed mountain rambles in his youth. The experimenter was neither weary, hungry nor thirsty, and felt as though he could easily have walked four miles to his home. After a hearty dinner, followed by a busy evening, he slept soundly during the night and woke refreshed in the morning, ready for another days exercise. During the trip he took neither food nor drink of any kind except chewing sixty grains of Coca leaves. Eight days after this experiment was repeated, using ninety grains of Coca. The weather had changed and the temperature was forty-four degrees at the top of the mountain and a chilly breeze provoked the desire to descend. While resting sixty grains of Coca was chewed. The descent was made without halt in an hour and a quarter, and followed by a walk of two miles over a level road to meet his carriage. He then felt slightly tired, because three hours had elapsed since he had chewed Coca.

In summing up his experience Professor Christison says: “I feel that without details the general results which may now be summarized would scarcely carry conviction with them. They are the following: The chewing of Coca not only removes extreme fatigue, but 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.” From sixty to ninety grains are sufficient for one trial, but some persons either require more or are constitutionally proof against the restorative action of Coca. From his observations there was no effect on the mental faculties except to prevent the dullness and drowsiness which follow great bodily fatigue.

Coca Leaf & Muscle Foods

It is a matter of much interest to determine just what food is appropriate to generate muscle or to stimulate the tissues for work. As the capacity of an organ is in proportion to its bulk  – under proper conditions – it seems essential that proteids should be eaten in order to create the muscle substances of which they form so great a part; but as has been repeatedly indicated, no one variety of food makes that same variety of  tissue. All conversion in the body is due to a chemical change within the cell of the tissue; the food taken in is broken down by the digestive processes, and after assimilation is doled out according to the particular requirements of the individual parts of a normal organism.

The muscles are not set at work from the immediate intake of food, but are rendered capable for action by a chemical conversion of the material already stored up in the tissues, which is elaborated into energy as it may be required. It would seem as though this fact had not been carefully considered when calculating the effect of any diet upon muscular exertion during a brief period. The capacity of the body for work is due to the integrity of its tissue and the ability to draw suitable supplies from these stored substances. It is the appropriate conversion of this stored-up material which constitutes energy in a capable being rather than a mere automatism. Without this power of conversion the human organism would simply be clogged up by an accumulation of fuel which would impede rather than create activity. The body should not be regarded as a machine constituted with certain working parts which are gradually worn out through the so often expressed “wear and tear.” The facts long since have proved that life is a succession of deaths. The  highest type of physical life is that which is capable of  the greatest activity, creating useful energy and properly eliminating the waste matters resulting from the chemical changes from this conversion. Indeed, one of the gravest problems in the maintenance of a healthful activity is the one of excretion. To the retention of waste products in the blood or tissues a whole train of ills, both physical and mental, is unquestionably due, whether this poison be uric acid or not.

Preoccupied humanity seems constantly seeking some medicinal measure toward buoyancy and vigor rather than regarding the rational effects of appropriate eating and proper exercise. The success of many patent nostrums is chiefly based upon the fact of the necessity for elimination, and a good diuretic or laxative disguised as a panacea for all ills often produces the required result. As to the proper food  essential to promote the greatest energy there have been many conflicting conclusions drawn from the known physiological facts. On the one side it has been asserted that all energy is induced from nitrogenous substances, while on the other side equally competent observers have asserted that the non-nitrogenous substances are alone used; yet all the evidence points to the fact that the constructive metabolism in animals is paralleled by similar processes in plant life, in which it has been shown that carbohydrates are built up into proteids, while these latter are also broken down into carbohydrates, and each of these may be converted again and again under the appropriate stimulus of  the other substance. We know that starch, which is the representative of the carbohydrate class, is converted into glucose and carried to the liver to be stored up as the animal starch –  glycogen – and as the various tissues of the body are called into activity this stored-up material is hurried to them in a soluble form to be utilized by the cell in the production of energy. When meat is eaten – which is the representative type of the nitrogenous class – its proteid material is changed into a soluble peptone, and this, carried to the liver, is converted into glycogen, which indicates, as has been proven by experiment, that either class of food substance is capable of maintaining the functions of the body so long as the chemical elements comprising the food taken be appropriate. While the meat eater and the vegetarian are each right, they are equally both wrong when advocating an exclusiveness in either dietary. The fact is, as will be shown in the chapter upon dietetics, it is purely an individual matter as to what particular food may be best. It all depends upon the body, or the machine – as you will – as to what substance each particular organism shall have the privilege of converting into energy.

While the body may be supported on either class of foodstuffs for a time, a man would surely starve as quick on a purely nitrogenous dietary as he would upon one purely non-nitrogenous. It will be recalled that the experiment of Fick and Wislicenus was conducted upon a food, the solid portion of which was carbohydrate, but with this tea was drunk as a beverage. Tea loaded with Xanthin would afford sufficient  of the nitrogenous element to convert the stored-up carbohydrates to action, but as Haig and Morton have both shown, tea contains so much of an equivalent to uric acid that it could not long be relied upon as an energy exciter, for while the tissue might be stimulated for a time, waste matter would soon be augmented in the blood. Coca, as we have seen, has the quality of freeing the blood from waste material, and yet  possesses sufficient nitrogenous quality to convert the stored- up carbohydrates into tissue and energy. The Andeans are a race small of stature and of low muscular development. The average American or European could easily tire a native Indian in a day’s travel, but while the former continuing on an ordinary diet would soon become stiff, the Indian sustained by Coca remains fit and active, and is apparently fresh and ready after a hard day’s jaunt. It seems probable that this condition is occasioned through the converting influence of  the nitrogenous Coca acting upon the stored-up carbohydrates of the Andean’s accustomed dietary. Thus while promoting metabolism and increasing energy the blood current is at the same time kept free.

The custom of the Andean to measure distances by the cocada has already been referred to; it is the length of time that the influence of a chew of Coca will carry him – equal to a period of some forty minutes – and during which he will  cover nearly two miles on a level ground or a mile and a quarter up hill. Taking the suggestion from this a preparation of Coca made in Paris known as ‘Velo-Coca,” is purposely intended for the use of bicyclists, a given dose of which is calculated to sustain the rider through forty kilometres –  twenty-five miles. The advantage of Coca in long distance contests has long been known to certain professionals, who have endeavored to keep their use of this force sustainer a  secret.

Some years ago the members of the Toronto La Crosse Club experimented with Coca, and during the season when that club held the championship of the world Coca was used in all its important matches. The Toronto Club was composed of men accustomed to sedentary work, while some of the opposing players were sturdy men accustomed to out of door exercise. The games were all very severely contested, and some were played in the hottest weather of one summer; on one occasion the thermometer registered 110oF. in the sun. The more stalwart appearing men, however, were so far used up before the match was completed that they could hardly be encouraged to finish the concluding game, While the Coca chewers were as elastic and apparently as free from fatigue as at the commencement of the play. At the beginning of the game each player was given from one drachm to a drachm and a half of leaves, and this amount, without lime or any other addition, was chewed in small portions during the game. The first influence experienced was a dryness of the throat, which, when relieved by gargling with water, was not again noticed, while a sense of invigoration and an increase of muscular force was soon experienced, and this continued through the game, so that fatigue was resisted. The pulse was increased in frequency and perspiration was excited, but no mental symptoms were induced excepting an exhilaration of spirits, which was  not followed by any after effects.

Coca Leaf & Healthy Blood Circulation

As has been shown, fatigue and its ills is occasioned by a diminution of the elements necessary to activity as well as to an excess of waste materials in the blood. This latter cause alone explains many problems dependent upon this condition which are commonly assigned to other causes. Under this hypothesis it is easy to appreciate not only the cause of muscle fatigue, but the irritability from nerve tiredness as well as  the restlessness in wasting disease. When the tissues are not supplied with a blood stream that is pure and uncontaminated they cannot respond healthfully. A blood current already overburdened with waste can neither stimulate to activity nor carry off the burden of excreta.

The power of Coca to relieve the circulation, and so bring about a condition indicating a free blood stream, has been emphasized by a host of observers. Speaking of the action of but one of its alkaloids, Dr. Haig says: “Some have asserted that it is oblivion men seek for when they take opium, cocaine, etc., I believe this to be a great error. Give me an eternity of oblivion and I would exchange it for one hour with  my cerebral circulation quite free from uric acid, and opium or cocaine will free it for me. When the blood stream is free the pulse tension is reduced, the rate is quickened, and the increased flow alters the mental condition as if by magic; ideas flash through the brain; everything is remembered.”

Hitherto the usual explanation that has been advanced as to the influence of Coca – when any influence has been accorded – has been its stimulant action upon the nerves. In view of the facts set forth in this research such a theory seems inadequate. I have endeavored to show by a succession of facts and many examples, that the sustaining influence of Coca in fatigue, as well as its curative power in so many diseased conditions, as to render it a seeming panacea, is largely due to a direct action upon the cells of the tissues, as well as through the property which Coca has of freeing the blood from waste. This influence may chiefly be upon the brain or upon the muscular structure, in accordance with the relative  proportion of the associate principles present in the Coca leaf employed. Under this hypothesis, based upon physiological research as well as upon the theory of the formation of proteid in plants and in animals. Coca not only stimulates the cells to activity and so sets free energy, but may build up new  tissue through exciting the protoplasm to appropriate conversion. Such an hypothesis is certainly plausible when we consider the action of amides and other nitrogenous elements in plant structure. This is again emphasized by its harmony with recent theories of Pflüger regarding the building up of proteid tissue in the animal organism. So much testimony points to this conclusion that in the entire absence of other  scientific explanation this is certainly worthy of serious consideration. The facts of which will be more specifically elaborated in the chapter on physiology.

420 thoughts on “Coca Leaf & Muscle Energy

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