This very interesting article from 1874 describes the experiments and observations by a British MD into the properties of alkaloid extracts of Coca, Coffee, Tea, Chocolate, Guarana, and other “common stimulants”.
At first I thought that the article was going to examine the therapeutic properties of Coca Leaves, but it soon became clear that the Doctor had little luck in finding fresh Coca leaf, and so he decided to experiment instead on the extract of Coca Leaf, Cocaine, along with the alkaloids of other popular drinks and snacks that had been arriving in Europe since the discovery of the “New World”.
What I find so interesting about this article is the author’s conclusion that cocaine, theine, caffeine, guaranine, and theobromine are “all powerful poisons” and are all “almost identical” in chemical composition.
Yet we happily sell and celebrate our coffee beans, tea leaves, and chocolate beans which have pleasant but not remarkably therapeutic effects, and whose primary alkaloids are “powerful poisons”, while we allow our government and scientific/medical establishment and their owners, Pig Pharma, to demonize and punish anyone who wants to have a cup of Coca Leaf tea a couple of times a day to save their health and perhaps their life. Go figure.
Here is the full article from 1874:
THE BRITISH MEDICAL JOURNAL, April 18, 1874.
THE PHYSIOLOGICAL ACTION OF COCA, By ALEXANDER BENNETT, M.D.
IN the recent numbers of the BRITISII MEDICAL JOURNAL, there have appeared several interesting notices on the therapeutical effects of “erythroxyloni coca”. This substance has been for some years pretty extensively employed at home, but particularly on the continent, as a stimulant and tonic in a variety of diseases, and, it is said, with considerable success. Still, comparatively little is yet known about the action of the plant. The following observations may not be uninteresting to those who are clinically investigating the properties of the drug, which, as our knowledge of it advances, will doubtless prove a valuable addition to the Pharmacopaia.
My attention was directed to the action of the coca leaves several years ago; and at different times, and from various sources, I have obtained quantities sufficient for experimental purposes. My object was first to ascertain the effects of the drug upon the healthy human subject, with special reference to its stated stimulant and anti-triptic properties; and, with this object, I administered to myself and to others the leaves in doses varying from one to eight drachms in the form of infusion and of extract, and also by chewing them along with different alkalis, after the manner described by travelers as adopted by the natives of Bolivia and Peru.
After a series of experiments carefully conducted, I was not able to convince myself that the drug thus administered had any special effects, with the exception of a sensation of slight local tingling of the tongue and mouth when the leaves were masticated for any length of time. Whether this inert action is due to the leaves having lost their active properties by exportation, to their being improperly selected or prepared, to an insufficient quantity having been administered, or to a defective method of application, I am not in a position to decide. After every precaution and variety of treatment with different samples of the leaves, and in as large quantities as could be conveniently administered, I have failed to satisfy myself that there was even any approach to the powerful and somewhat startling results graphically described by many authors as occurring when the leaves are chewed by the inhabitants of the countries where the plant abounds.
So I next directed my attention to the neutral principle of the coca leaves, and after great difficulty, with the aid of Messrs. Macfarlane and Co., chemists, Edinburgh, I succeeded in obtaining a small quantity of the crystalline substance cocaine (C17H21NO4).
With this I conducted a series of experiments and observations on the lower animals, as far as I am aware, for the first time in this country, and arrived at results which appeared to me of considerable importance, ascertaining that cocaine was a powerful poison with special actions on the nervous system. As coca is extensively employed in South America as a beverage, and as cocaine bears close chemical relations to the neutral principles of tea, coffee, guarana, chocolate, and other well-known stimulants, I proceeded to make a series of experiments also with theine, caffeine, guaranine, and theobromine, with the view of determining the actions of each, and the relations, if any, which existed among them.
In the Edinburgh Medical Journal for October I873 will be found a description in detail of these observations. The general results at which I arrived may be given shortly as follows.
The physiological actions of coca, tea, coffee, guarana, and cocoa, are mainly, if not entirely, due to their neutral principles. (ed. note: the author refers to the dominant alkaloids as “neutral principles.)
Cocaine, theine, caffeine, guaranine, and theobromine are powerful poisons, inducing a series of symptoms affecting the nervous, respiratory, circulatory, vaso-motor, and glandular systems, which terminate, if the dose be large enough, in death.
These five principles are, to all appearances, identical in physiological action.
In small doses not ending fatally, these five substances produce a Cerebral excitement not succeeded by coma, and b. Partial loss of sensibility.
In large doses they produce a. Cerebral excitement, b. Complete paralysis of sensibility, c. Tetanic spasms and convulsions, and d. Death.
They paralyze the entire posterior columns of the spinal cord also the entire system of peripheral sensory nerves; but the anterior columns of the cord and the peripheral motor nerves are not paralysed.
They frequently produce convulsions of a clonic character, but occasionally they cause tetanic spasms, which latter are sometimes so severe as to induce opisthodomos.
They do not produce muscular paralysis.
They at first increase, then impede, and lastly stop, the respirations.
They at first increase, and finally diminish, both the force and frequency of the heart’s contractions.
They produce at first contraction, and afterwards dilatation, of the capillaries and small blood-vessels, with stasis of the blood, indicating first irritation, and subsequent paralysis, of the vaso-motor nerves.
They affect the temperature by first slightly lowering, and secondly increasing, it.
They usually produce contraction of the pupil.
They produce an increase of the salivary secretion.
They induce a peculiar form of tenesmus, accompanied by a copious discharge of clear mucus from the bowels.
These conclusions have been arrived at after a careful series of experiments conducted on more than one hundred animals of different kinds; and it is extremely interesting to learn that those agents, which the different nations of the world have found by experience to produce refreshing and stimulating beverages, although unlike one another and procured from totally different sources, possess in common proximate principles, which not only are almost identical in chemical composition, but also appear similar in physiological action.
According to the above observations, cocaine has the same actions as theine, etc.; so, for clinical purposes, the latter is at present preferable on account of the enormous expense of the former. That the effects of the beverages themselves are mainly, if not entirely, due to the neutral principles they contain, is highly probable; but of their beneficial action in medical practice I am not yet in a position to give an opinion.
However, from their stimulant action and effect on the nervous, system generally, there is every reason to hope that the concentrated forms of these drugs, or the neutral principles themselves, will prove powerful and useful agents in the hands of the physician for the treatment of disease. Before the medical man can practice his profession scientifically, he should be acquainted, not only with the natural course of the malady he proposes to alleviate, but also with the physiological effects of the drug by which he hopes to reach this end.
By observations upon the lower animals, he may also obtain suggestions and information which will materially assist him in relieving and benefiting the human being. With this object, the above investigation was undertaken; and, although the research is yet in its infancy, I venture to hope that my conclusions will not be found deficient in interest and importance to those who desire to establish a sound system of therapeutics upon careful physiological experiment.
(End of BMJ article)
Although the early research into Coca Leaf has been largely ignored by modern scientists and physicians, writing just about 100 years after Alexander Bennett, the brilliant MD Andy Weil wrote in the Journal of Ethnopharmacology. 1981 Mar-May;3(2-3):367-76.
“The therapeutic value of coca in contemporary medicine.”
“Coca appears to be a useful treatment for various gastrointestinal ailments, motion sickness, and laryngeal fatigue. It can be an adjunct in programs of weight reduction and physical fitness and may be a fast-acting antidepressant. It is of value in treating dependence on stronger stimulants. Coca regulates carbohydrate metabolism in a unique way and may provide a new therapeutic approach to hypoglycemia and diabetes mellitus. With low-dose, chronic administration it appears to normalize body functions. In leaf form coca does not produce toxicity or dependence. Coca can be administered as a chewing gum or lozenge containing a whole extract of the leaf, including alkaloids, natural flavors, and nutrients.”