One of the most effective applications of Medical Cannabis is to relieve the suffering from a set of core symptoms associated with HIV/AIDS. The primary HIV/AIDS symptoms that yield to Cannabis therapy are anxiety, appetite loss and nausea. Relief from appetite loss and nausea are especially critical because of the muscle, organ and tissue wasting caused by the disease and the accompanying loss of energy to fight the disease.
NORML points out that survey data indicates that “Cannabis is used by as many as one in three North American patients with HIV/AIDS to treat symptoms of the disease as well as the side-effects of various antiretroviral medications. One recent study reported that more than 60 percent of HIV/AIDS patients self-identify as “medical cannabis users,” and at least one study has reported that patients who use cannabis therapeutically are 3.3 times more likely to adhere to their antiretroviral therapy regimens than non-cannabis users.”
I would like to briefly review the unfortunately very long list of signs and symptoms of HIV/AIDS and the accompanying opportunistic infections and then take a look at what the scientific and medical literature from the 1800s can tell us about the role that Coca Leaf can play alongside Cannabis.
While there was no HIV/AIDS in the 1800s (that we know of) I have been studying the use of Coca Leaf to relieve and treat multiple symptoms of several diseases with symptoms that either are, or seem to be the same as major symptoms of HIV/AIDS – especially Consumption, as it was called in the 1800s, or Tuberculosis as we know it today, as well as that ages-old killer Pneumonia. And, of course, TB and Pneumonia are two of the opportunistic diseases that plague late-stage HIV/AIDS patients, so the connection here is strong.
We’ll get into our discussion of Coca Leaf, Consumption and Pneumonia shortly, but I would first like to list all of the major HIV/AIDS issues so that we can then look at which of them appear to be the most likely candidates to benefit from Coca Leaf therapy.
The Symptoms For Each Stage Of HIV/AIDS
The Mayo Clinic has a comprehensive website dedicated to HIV/AIDS. Here is what they say are the signs and symptoms of the disease at each of its stages.
The Primary/Acute Infection Stage
“The majority of people infected by HIV develop a flu-like illness within a month or two after the virus enters the body. This illness, known as primary or acute HIV infection, may last for a few weeks. Possible signs and symptoms include:
Mouth or genital ulcers
Swollen lymph glands, mainly on the neck
“Although the symptoms of primary HIV infection may be mild enough to go unnoticed, the amount of virus in the bloodstream (viral load) is particularly high at this time. As a result, HIV infection spreads more efficiently during primary infection than during the next stage of infection.
Clinical Latent Infection Stage
“In some people, persistent swelling of lymph nodes occurs during clinical latent HIV. Otherwise, there are no specific signs and symptoms. HIV remains in the body, however, and in infected white blood cells.”
“Clinical latent infection typically lasts eight to 10 years. A few people stay in this stage even longer, but others progress to more severe disease much sooner.”
The Early Symptomatic HIV Infection Stage
“As the virus continues to multiply and destroy immune cells, you may develop mild infections or chronic signs and symptoms such as:
Swollen lymph nodes — often one of the first signs of HIV infection
Shortness of breath
The Progression to AIDS Stage
“If you receive no treatment for your HIV infection, the disease typically progresses to AIDS in about 10 years. By the time AIDS develops, your immune system has been severely damaged, making you susceptible to opportunistic infections — diseases that are far less likely to trouble a person with a healthy immune system.”
The Principal Opportunistic Infections Accompanying HIV/AIDS
According to the Centers For Disease Control the principal opportunistic HIV/AIDS infections are:
Candidiasis of bronchi, trachea, esophagus, or lungs
Invasive cervical cancer
Cryptosporidiosis, chronic intestinal (greater than 1 month’s duration)
Cytomegalovirus disease (particularly CMV retinitis)
Herpes simplex: chronic ulcer(s) (greater than 1 month’s duration); or bronchitis, pneumonitis, or esophagitis
Isosporiasis, chronic intestinal (greater than 1 month’s duration)
Lymphoma, multiple forms
Mycobacterium avium complex
Pneumocystis carinii pneumonia
Progressive multifocal leukoencephalopathy
Salmonella septicemia, recurrent
Toxoplasmosis of brain
Wasting syndrome due to HIV/AIDS
Principal Signs & Symptoms Of Opportunistic Infections
Soaking night sweats
Shaking chills or fever higher than 100 F (38 C) for several weeks
Shortness of breath
Persistent white spots or unusual lesions on your tongue or in your mouth
Persistent, unexplained fatigue
Blurred and distorted vision
Skin rashes or bumps
Coca Leaf Therapy For Treating HIV/AIDS Symptoms/Conditions/Infections
Now, dear reader, if you’re still with me I’m getting to the good part. Going through all of the symptoms, conditions, infections and their consequences listed above, here is a list (the last one I promise you!) of those that in my opinion deserve A LOT of attention regarding the potential for successful treatment with Coca Leaf therapy.
Coca Leaf Treatable In The Primary or Acute Infection Stage
Coca Leaf Treatable In The Early Symptomatic Infection Stage
Shortness of breath
Coca Leaf Treatable Signs & Symptoms Of Principal Opportunistic HIV/AIDS Infections including TB and Pneumonia
Soaking night sweats
Shaking chills or fever higher than 100 F (38 C) for several weeks
Shortness of breath
Persistent, unexplained fatigue
Blurred and distorted vision
Discussion Of The Possibilities
At this point if you’re like me you’re saying “Wow!” and probably “Really?” All those symptoms of HIV/AIDS at all stages of the disease, and the opportunistic infections that accompany the disease, might be treatable with simple infusions of Coca Leaf? That is hard to believe.
Skepticism is always the best approach to claims and assertions that appear to go way beyond what has already been established, so with my own skeptical hat on let’s take a look at these possibilities one-by-one.
Coca & Consumption
Let’s begin with arguably the most startling treatment concept – the potential of Coca Leaf in the treatment of Tuberculosis – known as Consumption in the 1800s. And remember, we’re looking at a “treatment” for the nasty symptoms of TB – not a cure for disease itself. Although, of course, with proper ‘treatment’ that restored the body’s ability to fight off the disease many people in the 1800s did manage to recover – in other words, they were cured. This is where I believe Coca Leaf therapy has much to offer – in assisting the body to re-gain its lost ability to fight off the debilitating symptoms of the disease, enabling the person to rally their inherent strength to fight more effectively.
It’s also worth remembering that in the 1800s doctors had no idea that TB was caused by a bacterium, and there were no antibiotics available to treat the disease. You may be aware of some of the approaches commonly used by doctors of that era – move the patient to a high, dry climate, or send them to a “sanitarium” for a wide range of therapies including steam baths, hot towel wraps, special diets, etc. And in some cases these treatments works – the person’s body was able to fight off TB and cure itself. Again, I believe that may be the highest role for Coca leaf – helping the person fight off some of these opportunistic infections while the antiretroviral medications do their work.
Consumption was almost universally treated as an inflammatory disease of the lungs, which made Coca Leaf an excellent choice as part of therapy due to its well-established anti-inflammatory properties as well as its property of enabling the lungs to function efficiently at high altitudes.
Today of course we do have a wide range of medicines including specialized antibiotics to fight the disease itself and a wide range of pharmaceuticals from the magic labs of Pig Pharma to treat the symptoms of TB. All of these ‘treatments” are, naturally, virtually unaffordable and are also of doubtful benefit, but at least they give the illusion that something is being done. And of course these ‘treatments’ also give the doctors and hospitals plenty of opportunities to zoom in and out, charging you hundreds of dollars for each drive-by they conduct.
So with that noted, the question arises in my mind – is there enough evidence from the 1800s regarding Coca Leaf and Consumption for patients and physicians today to be hopeful that Coca can be a useful part of the treatment of tuberculosis accompanying HIV/AIDS?
The simple answer is that the evidence is interesting, promising, but hardly overwhelming. In spite of the well-known anti-inflammatory properties of Coca Leaf, very few physicians in the 1800s whose focus was the treatment of consumption appear to have taken advantage of this property of Coca Leaf in treating consumption. One of the few doctors who recorded their use of Coca in treating Consumption was the American MD William Tibbles. I’ll leave it to the reader to decide whether or not these few references merit further consideration.
(Excerpt from) “ Erythroxylon Coca: A Treatise On Brain Exhaustion As The Cause Of Disease”, By William Tibbles, MD (1877)
Case 3. A young man, age 36, was brought to me evidently suffering from pulmonary consumption, in an advanced stage; he had been given up by several eminent physicians as incurable. The symptoms under which this gentleman was suffering, were – in short – the following: a very distressing cough, pains in breast and side, expectoration of large quantities of phlegm; bowels very much relaxed; excessive night sweats; falling off of hair; paleness of countenance, with occasional hectic flush; did not keep his bed because cough was worse when in a reclining position, but unable to walk a distance of 100 yards. Pulse 126 per minute. Ascribed his complaint as a consequence of long continued sexual excesses.
We commenced treatment of this case by giving a mixture according to the following formula
Rp. Syrup of Hypophosphite of Iron
Syrup of Hypophosphite of Soda
Syrup of Hypophosphite of Lime
Each 3 ounces.
Glycerine extract of Coca-leaf, 3 ounces, mix.
Dose : two teaspoonsful three times a day. And also ordered one of my chest pills to be taken three times a day.
This treatment was continued for a period of six weeks; at the end of that time the improvement in the condition of the patient was remarkable. The night sweats had entirely disappeared; cough and expectoration greatly diminished; appetite improved; and had increased about twelve pounds in weight, and was able to walk with comparative ease a distance of two or three miles. In order to test whether this decided improvement was really due to the presence of the preparation of coca-leaf in the mixture. I determined to give him two teaspoonful doses of the mixed syrups alone, this was continued for four weeks, when I found that the patient had sunk very low again, the cough was again becoming distressing, expectoration increased, with night sweats; and he had lost nearly six pounds in weight.
This deciding the point which was raised in my mind as to whether the improvement was due to the syrups or the coca-leaf. I again gave the syrups with the coca-leaf extract, when improvement in the course of a few weeks again became decidedly apparent and proceeded.
Now to the question as to how and in what manner coca-leaf accomplishes the results which are consequent upon its use. It has been shown that all the various processes are under the influence and governance of the force conveyed through the medium of the brain, spinal cord, and their continuations – the nerves. Such being the case we may justly infer that Erythroxylon Coca influences the various functions by its action upon the great centres of the body; for it is only through these that a restorative action can be induced.
What I here want to show is that Coca-Leaf produces these results by imparting nerve food which is converted into nervous energy and thus increasing the total amount of nervous energy and consequent governing force. The functions of the nerves are only restored, when they have become exhausted by physical or mental toil or disease, till after rest etc., proportioned to the amount of exhaustion. And if it can be shown, as we have done, that coca-leaf is capable of either retarding or preventing the condition of exhaustion, and likewise of restoring an actually exhausted body; and if this can only be done by restoring the natural or normal condition of the brain and nervous system, then, we may fairly conclude that the results proved to be consequent upon the use of Erythroxylon coca are brought about simply and only by its imparting to that centre and diverging branches an amount of force which otherwise might only be obtained after partaking of rest and other things proportioned to the exhaustion.
The Coca Leaf: To The Editor Of The Standard.
Sir, – It was with great pleasure that I read an article in the Standard of March 10th upon the remarkable properties of Erythroxylon coca. I am pleased to know that scientific investigators are examining these properties. There is no doubt the public will be grateful for any information that can be given respecting the efficacy of coca in prolonged exertion and in the curing of disease. I have used coca in my practice (in this country) for nearly five years. I think it is an admitted fact that the South American Indians are the most active race of people in the world. This activity is attributed to the natives making frequent use of the leaves of the coca shrub, which grows to the height of about eight feet. Its leaves are from one inch to one inch and a half long, and are of a dark green colour; flowers white; berries red. It is carefully cultivated, and arrives at perfection in about two years, when the native Indians gather the leaves and very care- fully dry them and wrap them in palm leaves and flannel. The physiological effects of the coca leaves upon the system are evidenced by its producing a high grade of vitality (physical and mental); eyes and countenance very brisk and animated; strong pulse; a great desire for activity; the body is extremely vigorous.
I have seen no authenticated account of the coca eater dying in a wretched state; but, on the contrary, evidence goes to show that the coca eater lives to an advanced age. Two or three cases of cure from my note-book may be of interest to your readers.
Case 1. In 1873 I was called to see a gentleman, well built, aged 40 years, who, when in health weighed nearly 15 stones; but at the time I was consulted he weighed eleven stones. He was suffering from all the characteristic symptoms of consumption. His former medical attendant used the ordinary remedies without avail. Debility was so great that it was with difficulty he could walk across his room. We commenced treatment by giving him coca, which speedily relieved him, and wrought a cure in about nine weeks.
Case 2. In the same year a gentleman, aged 46 years, who had suffered for twelve years from amaurosis and paralysis of the lower extremities. In this case a mixture was given with coca, as the active ingredient, with the result that within fifteen weeks his vision was perfectly restored and he was able to walk a distance of several miles without difficulty or fatigue.
Case 3. In 1875, a lady aged 78 years was suffering from extreme debility with sickness, faintness, loss of memory, and fretfulness; her friends expected every hour her decease, but, to the surprise and wonder of her friends, after a month’s treatment with coca she was restored to her usual health and activity.
I have, with success, treated hundreds of cases of debility and consumption, of which the above are examples. In some cases I have used “cocaine”, the active principle of Erythroxylon coca. I can fully endorse the statements of the scientific gentle- men quoted in your article in respect to the efficacy of coca in prolonged exertion.
I am yours, &c, “WILLIAM TIBBLES, M.D. (U.S.)
Coca & Pneumonia
In the 1800s Coca Leaf was used to fight all kinds of respiratory disease, from persistent coughing to severe lung congestion and the accompanying inflammation – in other words, Pneumonia. If Coca Leaf proves to be as effective in fighting Pneumonia as the doctors of the 1800s said it is, then not only HIV/AIDS patients can benefit but so can hospitalized elderly people who succumb to Pneumonia as often as they do from the condition of disease that puts them in the hospital in the first place.
Here is a sampling of what doctors in the 1800s knew about Coca and Pneumonia.
(Excerpt from) “Coca Erythroxylon – It’s Uses In The Treatment Of Disease” by Angelo Mariani (1885)
“Dr. Schwalk relates a very characteristic case of pneumonia, cured by infusion of Coca, and adds: “From the experience I myself made later, in many cases of primitive acute pneumonia, as well as in cases of consecutive pneumonia, it is my opinion that Coca merits the praises which historians of Peru have given it for centuries. This wonderful plant appeases hunger and thirst, and diminishes the necessity of sleep. It is, in a word, the most powerful restorer of the vital forces. It is destined to occupy a high position in the cure of diseases of the digestive and respiratory tracts.”
“Dr. Ch. Gazeau (“Thése pour le Doctorat” Paris, 1870. Parent, édit, page 61 et seq.) thus sums up the physiological action of Coca: “On the stomach, slight excitation, anaesthesia, and probably an increase of the secretion of gastric juice; on the intestines, an increase of intestinal secretion, etc. These manifold physiological effects upon the digestive tube unite to produce a specific action, so to say, against the numerous functional troubles, so varied and so little known, of the organ; which compose it.”
“This author cites a great number of clinical observations, in which Coca has “never failed to produce an admirable action, sometimes even marvellous.” He concludes (page 65): “It seems to me useless to present other facts; these suffice to legitimize this very generalized conclusion : Coca is THE medicament PAR EXCELLENCE FOR MALADIES OF THE DIGESTIVE TRACT.”
“Prof. O. Reviel terminates his article on Coca by saying: “Much still remains to complete the physiological and clinical study of Coca. It is known that it acts upon the sensory and motor nerves. This substance will some day have an important position in therapeutics.”
Beyond Consumption & Pneumonia – Other Potential Uses Of Coca Leaf To Treat and Relieve HIV/AIDS Symptoms
You’ll notice in the lists from the Mayo Clinic that I showed earlier in this post that there is a little cluster of signs and symptoms that have to do with loss of body mass and energy. These include weight loss, wasting syndrome, and muscle and joint aches. Since I’ve covered the evidence on the role of Coca Leaf in dealing with symptoms like these I won’t repeat myself here. Just check out:
Next we come to a biggie – persistent, chronic, overwhelming fatigue. This condition is present at every stage of HIV/AIDS and relief and prevention of fatigue is also one of the most well-established properties of Coca Leaf therapy. Again, this has already been covered here on panaceachronicles in the following posts.
Another symptom that is common at all levels of HIV/AIDS is headache, and treatment of headaches, including migraines all the way up to the phenomenon called “Exploding Brain” is one of the well-established medical applications of Coca Leaf. Treatment of the blurred and distorted vision that accompanies headaches is also well documented. Check out:
Another cluster of symptoms lies around respiratory issues – shortness of breath and a persistent cough. Check the evidence for the effectiveness of Coca Leaf therapy in these posts –
A final group of symptoms can be classified under the heading of “inflammatory conditions” including heart failure, joint pain and muscle aches. Check the following post and see if you think that Coca Leaf therapy might be appropriate for these symptoms of HIV/AIDS
The entire premise of this panaceachronicles blog is that now that so many courageous people have successfully fought the forces of ignorance, greed and oppression to liberate Cannabis to play its rightful role as both a powerful natural medicine as well as a superior element in experiencing a higher quality of life, it is time to do the same for Erythroxylon Coca (and for Papaver Somniferum).
I have a vision of every Citizen of the World having the right to grow their own Cannabis, Coca and Poppy plants whether in a small home garden or even indoors in pots. If I am an elderly person with aching joints, a little ball of freshly harvested opium scraped from a few of my poppies would be just the thing. If I am really tired in the morning and need to get my brain up to speed, it would be great to pick a couple of Coca leaves and make myself a cup of tea. And if I was feeling a bit low and needed some creative inspiration, why shouldn’t I be able to put a pinch of my homegrown bud in a pipe or vaporizer and get that creative boost?
This vision has nothing to do with making big bucks, wielding political and bureaucratic power, public health issues, keeping kids safe, stopping junkie crime, enforcing religious and moral codes, or any of the other tools of repression that have been used for so long to prevent regular people from growing a few simple plants that can help them in ways that no government, no political system, no institution, no organized religion, and no legal system can accomplish.
I believe that the name of this unusual concept is freedom.