Based on hundreds of communications I have received from readers of this blog, I reject the often-asserted “fact” that most people these days have the attention span of a gnat. Therefore, I am publishing the full text, rather than a few excerpts of this remarkable document from 1876 in which a prominent physician offers his first-hand observations on the medical benefits of Coca leaf.
While many of Dr. Christison’s observations are directed toward the role of Coca leaf in relieving fatigue brought on by exercise and poor physical conditioning, scattered throughout these pages are tidbits of information that suggest what many other Doctors later confirmed – that Coca leaf is both a preventative and a remedy for a wide range of conditions and diseases, and that it offers these benefits with absolutely no undesirable side-effects.
Readers of this blog may have read other posts in which I present evidence that Coca leaf could be of great benefit for people who suffer from congestive heart failure, migraines, ME/CFS, inflammatory bowel disease, Alzheimer’s, fibromyalgia, obesity, reaction to chemotherapy, arthritis, and many other terrible diseases that have a basis in whole body inflammation. Most relevant, in my opinion, is that in his observations Dr. Christison affirms that the use of Coca leaf in non-addictive and has none of the effects of ingesting Cocaine. Put in contemporary language, Dr. Christison is clear that nobody could possibly drink enough Coca leaf tea to get high.
So if you are not a gnat, and if you want to understand the medical applications of Coca leaf from the unbiased perspective of a celebrated physician in an article published in one of the leading medical journals of his time, please read on.
Observations On The Effects Of Cuca, Or Coca, The Leaves Of Erythroxylon Coca
By Sir Robert Christison, Bart., M.D., D.C L., Ll.D., F.R.S.Ed.,
President of the British Medical Association; Ordinary Physician to the Queen in Scotland; Professor of Materia Medica in the University of Edinburgh
(in) British Medical Journal, April 29, 1876
THE brief notice taken in my introductory address to this Society in November last, of the restorative and preservative virtues of the Peruvian Cuca or coca-leaf against bodily fatigue from severe exercise, has led to numberless references to me by friends and strangers in all parts of the kingdom for information as to its effects, its safety, its applicability to the treatment of some states of disease, and the quarters in which it may be obtained.
As I am not aware of any trials of it having been made in this country, either earlier than mine or so extensive, and as I shall probably best answer the many inquiries sent me by publishing an account of these experiments, I have been induced to present the following narrative to the Botanical Society. The inquiry, of which my recent trials form a part, is very far from being complete, because my supply was quite inadequate till the other day, when I received a sufficiency through the kind services of my colleague Professor Wyville Thomson, of the Challenger expedition.
But the facts already obtained will probably interest not a few at the present time, were it for no more than that they set at rest all doubts that the more important of the effects of Cuca, experienced in its own country by the natives of Peru and the neighbouring states, may be equally produced in Europeans at home; and that, contrary to what seems universally believed in Peru, the virtues of the leaf may be preserved, with due care, for many years.
Since my observations must bear reference to what is the doctrine and practice of the Peruvians as to the use of this vegetable, I must introduce the subject with a summary of what has been written about it by the historians of Peru and by travellers in that country. The accounts which have thus appeared—from time to time are apparently very contradictory; but I think they may be reconciled, and a consistent result obtained.
In the first place, however, let me remark that I have ventured to restore to the commercial article its original name, Cuca. This was Its Indian name, which the Spaniards corrupted into coca. But there is no reason why other nations should adopt a Spanish corruption; and there is a very good argument against transferring it to our own tongue, inasmuch as we have already two totally different vegetable products, cocoa and cacao, which, as indiscriminately pronounced in ordinary speech, coco and coca, are undistinguishable from the corrupt name of this new invention. I hope, therefore, that others will second me in attaching a characteristic name to an article which seems very likely to come ere long into general use among our countrymen at home.
The early historians of Peru have taken special notice of the culture, properties, and uses of Cuca. Among these, none is more full, clear, and fair, than the famous chronicler of the reign of the Incas and of the Spanish conquest, Garcilasso de la Vega. His narrative bears internal evidence of great historical care. Other reasons, to be alluded to presently, also add to the confidence which the statements themselves create in the reader; and hence it is scarcely necessary to refer to any other early authority. Garcilasso’s information was derived partly from what he personally knew, partly from a Spanish priest, Blas Valera, who was long in Peru, and whose manuscripts came into the historian’s possession.
De la Vega informs us that the use of Cuca in Peru dates from an early period of the dominion of the Incas; that at first it was scarce, and was monopolised by the monarchs themselves; that it was employed as an offering to the sun, their parent and deity; and that sometimes, however, a basket of it was presented to one of their curacas, or lords, to whom the ruler desired to show special favour. But, as the Incas extended their conquests northward along the Cordilleras of the Andes, the culture of the plant also became much more widely extended, through the acquisition of suitable lands for the purpose; the leaves came gradually into more general use; and at the time of the Spanish conquest of Peru, the natives almost universally indulged in Cuca-chewing.
The Spaniards, however, were too devoted Catholics to fall into a custom which was the offspring, and continued to have the savour, of profane heathen rites. The chewing of Cuca was detested by them, condemned by public opinion, and charged with being baneful to the health of those who gave themselves up to it. Strong prejudices thus prevailed against it. But Garcilasso de la Vega and Blas Valera protest against these prejudices, and declare that the Peruvian natives esteemed Cuca as above gold and silver in value; that it possessed great energy in preserving strength during fatiguing exercise and privation of food; that it was an useful medicine for improving the teeth, mending broken bones, curing maggoty sores, and warding off the effects of cold; and that another important purpose served by it was to enrich the Spanish traders in it, and to supply the chief tithes of the cathedral and canons of Cuzco.
The plant is described as a shrub about six feet high, much resembling in foliage the strawberry-tree of Spain (Arbutus Unedo), but producing much thinner leaves; and it is stated that the gatherers pick off the leaves individually with caution; dry them quickly in the sun, so as to retain their green colour, which is much prized; and preserve them carefully from damp, which seriously damages their quality. Garcilasso adds an anecdote which illustrates both the Spanish dislike and the real virtues of Cuca.
A Spanish friend of his met one of his countrymen, a poor soldier, plodding his solitary way among the Andes, chewing Cuca, and carrying his two-year-old child in his arms. On upbraiding the man for adopting a barbarian custom, abhorred by all true believers as the fruit and symbol of idolatrous worship, the soldier said that might be; he at one time shared in these prejudices, but had found he could not carry his child without the strength which the Cuca imparted, and was too poor to afford the cost of a bearer to relieve him of his burden. Nowhere does the author of the Royal Commentaries of the Incas say one word of any evil consequences actually resulting from the use of this vegetable becoming a habit.
In face of the opposition it received from subsequent authors, and from some modern travellers, this testimony of Garcilasso de la Vega may be received with favour. He was son of one of Pizarro’s conquering captains of the same name, by a niece of one of the last of the Incas. He would, therefore, escape the tendency of the pure Spanish race to vilify the manners and customs of the people they had subdued; and his native and royal extraction gave him access to full information on such a subject. It is true that he left the land of his birth at the age of twenty (in 1550), and passed the remainder of a long life in Spain. But a youth of his family extraction on both sides was old enough to take part in the stirring events of the period while he remained at Cuzco; and, after leaving it for Spain, he kept up correspondence with the friends he left behind him, collecting from them information for his history.
I was first led to pay attention to the Peruvian custom of chewing Cuca by reading, full forty years ago, the Travels in Chilé, Peru, and on the River Amazons, of the German naturalist Pöppig, who has taken a very different view of this national custom from Garcilasso de la Vega and Blas Valera.
Pöppig was no less than five years in these regions, from 1827 to 1832, and passed much of his time among the Cuca-chewers in the forest regions of the Peruvian Andes. Probably no European in the present century had such opportunities of intimately studying the habit. His statements of fact and his opinions are, therefore, entitled to much consideration.
The conclusion at which he arrived is that “The habit is as seductive and as injurious to health, mind, and morals as that of tippling in Europe, or opium-eating in the East. He says it is almost confined to natives of the aboriginal red race, has not been adopted by negroes, and is discountenanced among all of European descent; that even those who use it to no great excess must stop their work several times a-day to chew their quid contemplatively, and are much displeased if disturbed in their placid enjoyment; and that those who have got thus far are apt to become mere slaves to it, surrender every other occupation for it, and, quitting society, pass their time in the wild forests between hunting for their sustenance and lying under a tree chewing their beloved weed, calling up delightful visions and building castles in the air, and so insensible to outward occurrences as to remain thus all night indifferent to cold, torrents of rain, and even the howlings of the panther in their neighbourhood.”
“But, in the end, the stomach gives way; the countenance becomes haggard, and the limbs emaciated; they can no longer take sufficient food, and even lose all relish for the enjoyment which has been insidiously destroying them; constipation sets in, even obstruction of the bowels ensues, or jaundice, or dropsy; and thus at last life is cut short about the age of fifty by one or other of these maladies, or through simple extenuation and exhaustion. Sometimes, when a fit of excess is followed by dislike, and the habit is suddenly abandoned, the sufferer rallies, and seems about to be reclaimed. But, ere long, like the drink-craver in exactly the same circumstances, he is driven by an uncontrollable impulse to further and worse indulgence.”
“When the habit has thus degenerated into a vice, the victim becomes, in the language of the country, a Coquero, and is irreclaimable. If a man of Spanish blood begin to use Cuca, he is at once looked on with suspicion; for usually, in the course of time, he abandons himself entirely to it, and becomes an outcast from the society in which he moved.”
Pöppig gives, among other instances, a melancholy tale of a young man of good station in Huanuco, who fell into this vice, lived for some time the life of a savage. in the woods, was found out by his relatives in a miserable condition in a remote native village, and was brought back to town by force, and for a short time apparently reclaimed. But at length, eluding his friends, he fled back again to the mountains, and resumed the habits of a confirmed Coquero.
It is unnecessary to follow Pöppig further through the arguments and illustrations, very interesting however, by which he was led to denounce Cuca as a deceitful and destructive stimulant of the narcotic kind. He allows, nevertheless, that it has really wonderful power in supporting the strength under prolonged fatigue without food. He mentions that, in his long rides through the Peruvian forests, he had seen his Indian followers accompany him on foot for fifty miles in one day, without food, or anything else except Cuca; and that, in the revolutionary wars which ended with the Spanish American States throwing off subjection to old Spain, the native Peruvian troops, poorly clothed and ill fed, were able to fall upon their enemies by surprise, by making long marches among the mountains without food or sleep, merely resting for intervals of a few minutes occasionally to refresh themselves by Cuca chewing.
He adds an important fact, which I am able to confirm, that, when his day’s journey came to an end, he did not find his Indian attendants had at all lost their appetites; for, when done with work for the day, although they did not care for food while travelling and chewing, they made an excellent meal in the evening, usually eating twice as much as satisfied his own hunger. These last rather inviting statements will prepare the way for the more favourable testimony of ulterior travellers on the same subject.
Three valuable observers, who have since spent some time as naturalists in Peru and became familiar with the fondness of the natives for the Cuca-leaf, have treated the question minutely; and they separately bear witness to the soundness of the views of Garcilasso de la Vega and Blas Valera, and to some mistake on the part of Pöppig, for which it is not easy to account. It is important to see to what their testimony exactly amounts. It is by no means sufficient, as some have thought, to set aside Pöppig ‘s statements, by referring to the wide dissemination of the Peruvian habit. It has been said, indeed, to be nearly universal among a population of eight million inhabiting the Andes; and the annual collection of the leaf has been estimated at no less than thirty millions of pounds. Witt the habit of intoxication with opium, or with alcoholic spirits, might be upheld on the very same plea.
In 1838, Von Tschudi visited Peru, and was for some time in the neighbourhood of Lima, as well as in various other districts, where the natives of Indian race almost universally use Cuca, and where he himself repeatedly made trial of it.
Dr. Veddell of Poitiers, who had previously investigated with singular success in Upper Peru the botany of the cinchonas, and was the first to discover there the true yellow bark tree, the most valuable of them all, revisited Bolivia in 1851, where, in the province of Yungas, the finest Cuca is said to be cultivated. He, too, made trial of it himself, and had very ample opportunities of witnessing its use and its effects among the Peruvians.
In 1860, Clements Markham, who had charge of the Government expeditions to Peru in quest of cinchona plants for cultivation in India, was much in the wildest forest districts of Lower Peru, immediately adjoining Bolivia, was always attended by Cuca-chewing natives, and not unfrequently followed their example.
All these authorities, undeniably of the first rank, agree that the repulsive accounts of Pöppig are much exaggerated. The general result of their experience is to raise a suspicion that, in a few instances, his deplorable history of the abandoned irreclaimable Coquero may be not far from the truth. But they do not seem to have themselves met with any such cases.
Von Tschudi, indeed, says, that a profligate Coquero may be known by his foul breath, stumpy teeth, pale quivering lips, black-cornered mouth, dim eyes, yellow skin, unsteady gait, and general apathy; but in his narrative, obviously in part compiled, he does not say he described such a man from actual observation; on the contrary, all three travellers represent in colours more or less strong the great utility of Cuca to the Indians in the hard labour they have to undergo.
Von Tschudi observes that, in his own trials, he found it to be a preventive of that difficulty in breathing which is felt in the rapid ascent of the Andes; that, when frequenting the Peruvian Puna, or great desert table-land, 14,000 feet above the level of the sea, a decoction of the leaves enabled him to climb heights, and pursue swift-footed game, with no greater difficulty than in similar rapid exercise on the coast ; and that he experienced a sense of satiety which did not leave him till the time of the next meal after that which he ought otherwise to have taken. He mentions the following instance, which he carefully watched, of the power of the Indians to bear long fatigue without any other sustenance.
A miner, sixty-two years old, worked for him at laborious digging five days and nights without food, or more than two hours of sleep nightly, his only support being half an ounce of Cuca leaves every three hours. The man then accompanied him on foot during a ride of sixty miles in two days; and, at parting, expressed himself ready to engage to undertake as much as he had performed. Nevertheless, von Tschudi was assured by the priest of the district that he had never known the man to be ill.
In general terms, this traveller declares he is clearly of opinion that the moderate use of Cuca not only is innocuous, but may even be conducive to health and, again he observes,”… after long and attentive observation, I am convinced that its use in moderation is nowise detrimental, and that without it the poorly fed Peruvian Indian would be incapable of going through his usual labour. The Cuca plant must be considered a great blessing to Peru”
Weddell, in less glowing terms, says, that careful inquiry where Cuca is most in use satisfied him that it might be injurious to Europeans not gradually accustomed to it; but that it has the power of sustaining the strength for a time without food, yet without interfering with the appetite soon afterwards; that, in his own trials, he experienced a slight excitement and a little subsequent sleeplessness, but nothing else; and that, in the countries he visited, he never saw things go the length described by Pöppig, who must have been misled by exceptional cases
The testimony of Clements Markham is very explicit. He says the properties of Cuca are to enable a greater amount of fatigue to be borne with less nourishment and to prevent difficult breathing in the ascent of steep mountain-sides; that, although when used to excess it is prejudicial to the health, yet ” … of all the narcotics used by man, it is the least injurious and most soothing and invigorating” ; that he chewed it frequently, and, besides an agreeable soothing feeling, found he could endure long abstinence from food with less inconvenience than he could otherwise have felt; and that it enabled him to ascend precipitous mountain-sides with a feeling of lightness and elasticity, and without losing breath. ” It enabled him to ascend the mighty passes of the Andes “… with ease and comfort.”
It is difficult to reconcile with these favourable opinions the very opposite conclusions of Pöppig, founded apparently on personal observation. Probably, he was too prepossessed with the abhorrence with which the practice of chewing Cuca was regarded by the white inhabitants of the towns; hence he might have mistaken for the effects of the habit what perhaps was no more than the physical expression of the natural indolence of the Indian race when indulged in to excess; or, in other cases, the result of over-indulgence in ardent spirits, which, he says, the Coquero sometimes adds to his other vices.
Mr. Bates met with this habit among the natives on the banks or the river Amazons, where he says it is regarded with abhorrence by respectable people, and therefore only practised secretly. He represents Cuca, there called ypaaå, as stimulating and not injurious when used in moderation, but producing weakness and nervous exhaustion when indulged in to excess. His observations, however, are too brief and general to throw much light on the subject.
The shrub which produces Cuca thrives best in the clearances in the elevated forests of the Andes, in a climate distinguished by frequent rain-showers, and exemption equally from frosts and from extreme heats. In due season it is covered with clusters (fascicles) of delicate white flowers, which give it the appearance of our blackthorn in spring; and the flowers are succeeded by red berries. The plants bear stripping of their leaves three times in the course of the year. Great care is usually taken to nip them off without hurting the axillary buds. They are dried at once quickly and thoroughly, and so as not to curl; at least, all good specimens I have seen present the leaves flattened and many of them entire, almost as if intended as a herbarium.
Great care is taken to keep them afterwards dry, when transported from place to place. When newly dried, they have a strong odour, which is said to be apt to cause headache in those frequent the drying-floors for the first time; but this odour passes off by the time the leaves are packed. The packages when opened have a powerful tea-like odour; which they retain on reaching Europe, if duly protected from damp. In Peru it is alleged that their properties soon deteriorate, that in a few months they lose much of their virtue, and that when taken to the coast they are worthless in twelve months. This statement, however, must be received with some limitation.
It is evident, from the pains taken in Peru to preserve them from damp and exposure, that the leaves are easily damaged without due precaution; so that neglect will account for the inferiority of many old samples. Besides, it is contrary to all analogy, that leaves destitute of volatile oil, at least not owing their virtue to volatile oil, should lose them under careful preservation from the ordinary causes of decay; and various medicinal leaves of European growth, formerly thought to become inert by keeping, are now, known to retain their properties very long, since we have been aware of the precautions for preserving them. Further, specimens brought to Europe have been found to yield a crystalline principle, which physiologically possesses no mean activity as a narcotic, which is probably the active ingredient, and which apparently bears transport and long keeping well. Lastly, well preserved Cuca will produce in Europe in no small degree, after being kept several years, the remarkable effects on man which are every day experienced in Peru.
Cuca is not yet a regular commercial article in this country. In the prospect of its soon becoming so, the characters of a good sample should be well understood. I have had two fine specimens of it, and have seen several evidently much inferior. The fine qualities consist of leaves in a great measure unbroken, often folded, but many of thein too spread out, never curled, but always flattened, never brown, always deep green on their upper and gray-green on their under source, and uniform in that respect, seldom mottled in colour. They are thin and crisp, beautifully reticulated, and traversed longitudinally by a single fine vein on each side of the strong midrib. In mass they have a strong odour resembling that of tea, and when chewed they have a peculiar well-marked herbaceous taste, not disagreeable, followed, after a continuous chewing for some minutes by a gentle, pleasant sense of warmth in the mouth. Inferior specimens, besides differing in appearance from these, have a fainter odour, and do not occasion warmth in the mouth when chewed.
Cuca has been subjected to chemical analysis, and found to contain a crystalline principle, to which naturally has been given the name of cocaine. But it is not my intention to enter here into the chemistry of the subject.
Nor is the Botanical Society the fit place for discussing fully the experimental investigations which have been made into the physiological actions of cocaine, or of coca itself, further than as they bear on what has been said above upon that point, or on what is to follow as the account of my own observations. In that respect, the most important inquiry is that of Dr. Mantegazza of Milan, published in a prize essay, which has been noticed in the Őesterreichischce Zeitschrift fűr Praktische Heilkunde for November 1859.
He found, by personal trials, that in small doses it promotes digestion, increases the frequency of the pulse, raises the animal heat, and accelerates respiration; that in a dose somewhat larger, there is added a facility of motion and desire for it, succeeded by a soothing effect; and that in a large dose, such as three drachms or upwards, it doubles the rate of the pulse, causes flashes of light, headache, strong tendency to muscular action, and great vigour of mind, succeeded by a state of pleasing, imaginative calm, described by him in brilliant colours, which resemble the poetical ravings of De Quincey, in representing the visionary musings of the opium-eater.
A specimen of the plant is now in flower in the Edinburgh Botanic Garden (April 18th). It is well represented in an uncoloured engraving in Hooker’s Companion to the Botanical Magazine, ii, 25, 1836.
Were these effects the general rule, there would be more justice in the unfavourable representations of Pöppig than has been hitherto admitted. It must be allowed as some confirmation of Mantegazza’s statement, that Weddell thought he occasionally observed hallucinations in the Coqueros of Peru, when under the influence of their dose; and that Von Tschudi saw effects which disposed him to compare Cuca with stramonium, an unequivocal narcotic poison. I scarcely think the recently ascertained deadly effects of the principle cocaine upon animals can be fairly added to the evidence in the same direction. It is true that experimental inquiries, and, among these, the most recent by Dr. Alexander Bennett, published in his thesis, and also as part of an experimental research carried on by a committee of the British Medical Association, prove that in small animals cocaine produces in an adequate dose paralysis of sensation, tetanic convulsions, and death. But he found the same effects to be caused by theine, caffeine, theobromine, and guaranine, the nearly identical crystalline principles of tea, coffee, chocolate, and the Brazilian guaranå; yet no one will imagine on that account, that the habitual use of these restoratives has any injurious influence on the health.
At all events, however, the following experiments, with doses little short of those which are stated to have acted so extraordinarily in the case of Dr, Mantegazza, show results materially different from his, and prove that the leaves may be easily used by most, if not all, persons, so as to produce no unpleasant, unsafe, or even suspicious effects whatsoever. It must be acknowledged, nevertheless, from consideration of the whole facts recorded by good observers, and the opinions formed by competent judges, that, if Cuca is to be added to the restoratives of Europe—which seems not unlikely —it ought to be used at first with caution, and under close observation of its relative effect in several varieties of condition, such as age, sex, and constitution, rest and exercise, bodily and mental, dose and form, etc.
My first trials were made in 1870, when I was not aware that anyone else in Europe had experimented with it. My specimen was sent to me by a London mercantile gentleman, Mr. Batchelor, six years before, and must therefore have been kept for seven years at least. The leaves had been excellently dried, flat, unbroken, and green; and they had been equally well preserved by sprinkling a little quick-lime among them before being shipped. Even in 1870 they were green, brittle, and strongly-scented. Two of my students, out of the habit of material exercise for five months, tired themselves thoroughly with a walk of sixteen miles in the month of April. They returned home at their dinner hour, having taken no food since a nine o’clock breakfast. They were very hungry, but refrained from food, and took each an infusion of two drachms of Cuca, made with the addition of five grains of carbonate of soda, which was added to imitate the Peruvian method of chewing the leaves along with a very small quantity of lime or plant ashes. I am satisfied, however, that any such addition is superfluous.
Presently hunger left them entirely, all sense of fatigue soon vanished, and they proceeded to promenade Prince’s Street for an hour; which they did with ease and pleasure. On returning home their hunger revived with great intensity; they made an excellent dinner ; they felt alert all the subsequent evening, slept soundly all night, and next morning awoke quite refreshed and active. One of them, in setting out for the evening promenade, felt very slightly giddy, as if he had taken just a little too much wine. But the other experienced no other sensation than the removal of fatigue, and ability for active exertion.
Having subsequently received from Dr. Alexander Bennett a larger supply, obtained by him in Paris, I made farther trials in the spring of last year, 1875. This sample was more broken, less green, less scented than the other, less strong in taste, and scarcely producing any sense of warmth in the mouth when chewed. Obviously it was of lower quality. Ten of our students made trial of it under conditions precisely similar to those observed in the prior experiment; and they reported the results to me severally in writing. Their walks varied between twenty and thirty miles, and three cleared the latter distance on a rather hilly road at nearly mile pace over all. Two were unable to remark any distinct effect from the Cuca. Several felt decided, but only moderate relief from fatigue. Four experienced complete relief, like their predecessors in 1870; and one of these had walked thirty miles without any food. All found their hunger cease for a time; but shortly afterwards neither appetite nor digestion was at all impaired. No disagreeable effect was produced at the time or subsequently, except that a few felt a brief nausea after their dose, owing probably to the form of infusion in which it was taken.
I then determined to make some careful personal trials with the scanty remains of my best specimen. For this purpose I thought it best to adopt the Peruvian method of chewing, but I discarded their lime and ashes. For not only was I unable to discover, in the nature, composition, or effects of the leaf, any chemical or physiological reason for such addition; but likewise I found that the Llipta, as the addition is called, which was presented to me with one of my specimens from Peru, has no alkaline or calcareous taste, and therefore cannot effect decomposition of the leaf while it is masticated. The result confirms the view I had thus taken.
I had first to ascertain what amount of exercise was required to cause very thorough and permanent fatigue. At the same time, I made such observations on certain of the functions as seemed desirable and easily practicable. In the beginning of May, under a day temperature of 58 degrees , I walked fifteen miles in four stages, with intervals of half-an hour, at four-mile pace, without food or drink, after breakfast at half-past eight, and ending with a stage of six miles at half-past five in the afternoon. I had great difficulty in maintaining my pace through weariness towards the close, and was as effectually tired out as I remember ever to have been in my life, even after thirty miles at a stretch forty or fifty years before. Perspiration was profuse during every stage, particularly the last of all. I took the urine-solids every two hours, and found a decided increase of the hourly solids during the forenoon’s exercise, and a decrease during the evening’s rest after dinner. The pulse, naturally 62 at rest, was 110 on my arrival at home; and two hours later it was still 90. I was unfit for mental work in the evening, but slept soundly all night, and awoke next morning somewhat wearied and disinclined for active exercise, although otherwise quite well. Two days afterwards, I repeated this experiment, and obtained precisely the same results, except that the urine-solids were not so abundant during exercise as before, although my food had been precisely the same.
Four days later, with precisely the same dietary, I walked sixteen miles in three stages of four, six, and six miles, with one interval of half-an-hour, and a second of an hour and a-half. During the last forty-five minutes of the second rest I chewed thoroughly eighty grains of my best specimen of Cuca, reserving forty grains more for use during the last stage. To make assurance double sure, I swallowed the exhausted fibre, which was my only difficulty. On completing the previous ten miles, I was fagged enough to look forward to the remaining six miles with considerable reluctance. I did not observe any sensible effect from the Cuca till I got out of doors, and put on my usual pace; when 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, 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 upstairs; in short, had no sense of fatigue or other uneasiness whatsoever. During the last stage, I perspired as profusely as during the two previous walks.
On arrival at home, the pulse was 90, and in two hours had fallen to 72 ; the excitement of the circulation being thus much less, and its subsidence more rapid, than after the same amount of exercise without Cuca. The urine-solids hourly were much the same while the exercise lasted as during exercise on the day of fifteen miles’ walking without Cuca, although the breakfast dietary was precisely the same. During the evenings rest, the urine-solids were almost the same as during the preceding period of exercise—a fact which is capable of more interpretations than one.
On arriving at home before dinner, I felt neither hunger nor thirst after complete abstinence from food and drink of every kind for nine hours; but on dinner appearing in half an hour, ample justice was done to it. Throughout the evening I was alert, and free from all drowsiness. Two hours of restlessness on going to bed I ascribed to the dose of two drachms being rather large; and after that I slept soundly, and awoke in the morning quite refreshed, and free from all sense of fatigue, and from all other uneasiness. Another effect, not unworthy of notice, was that a tenderness of the eyes, which for some years has rendered continuous reading a somewhat painful effort, was very much mitigated during all the evening.
I reserved what remained of my good specimen of Cuca for further trial during my autumn holidays in the country. On September 15th, while residing at St. Fillans on Loch Earn, I ascended Ben Vorlich. The mountain is 3, 224 feet above the sea, and 2,900 feet above the highway on the loch-side. The ascent is for the most part easy, over first a rugged footpath, and then through short heather and short deep grass; but the final dome of 700 feet is very steep, and half of it among blocks and slabs of mica-slate, the abode of a few ptarmigan, of which a small covey was sprung in crossing the stony part. On the whole, no Highland mountain of the same height is more easily ascended. The temperature at the side of the lake was 62 degrees ; on the summit, 52 degrees. In consequence of misdirection, I had to descend an intervening slope on the way, so that the whole ascent was 3,000 feet perpendicular. I took two hours and a half to reach the summit, anl was so fatigued near the close, that it required considerable determination to persevere during the last 300 feet. I was richly rewarded, however, by an extremely clear atmosphere, and a magnificent mountainous panorama, of which the grandest object was Ben-Nevis, forty miles off, shown quite apart from other mountains, and presenting the whole of its great precipice edgeways to the eye. My companions, who, as well as I, were provided with an excellent luncheon, soon disposed of it satisfactorily; but I contented myself with chewing two-thirds of one drachm of Cuca leaves.
We spent three-quarters of an hour at the top, during which I looked forward to the descent with no little distrust. On rising to commence it, however, although I had not previously experienced any sensible change, I at once felt that all fatigue was gone, and I went down the long descent with an ease like that which I used to enjoy in my mountainous rambles in my youth. At the bottom, I was neither weary, nor hungry, nor thirsty, and felt as if I could easily walk home four miles; but that was unnecessary. On arriving home at five o’clock, I still felt no fatigue, hunger, or thirst. At six, however, I made a very good dinner. During the subsequent evening, I was disposed to be busy, and not drowsy; and sound sleep during the night left me in the morning refreshed and ready for another day’s exercise. I had taken neither food nor drink of any kind after breakfasting at half-past eight in the morning; but I continued to chew my Cuca till I finished the sixty grains when halfway down the mountain. I had not with me in the country any apparatus for observations on the renal secretion.
Eight days afterwards, I repeated the experiment, but used ninety grains of Cuca. Being better acquainted with the way, no ground was lost by any intervening descent, so that the perpendicular height to be reached from the highway was 2,900 feet. I took two hours and a quarter to ascend, and on reaching the summit was extremely fatigued. The weather had changed, so that the temperature, 51 degrees at the loch-side, was 41 degrees at the top. A moderate breeze consequently caused so much chilliness that my party were glad to re-descend in half an hour, by which time I had consumed two-thirds of the Cuca, taking, as formerly, neither food nor drink. The effects were precisely the same, perhaps even more complete, for I easily made the descent without a halt in an hour and a quarter, covering at least four miles of rugged ground; and I walked homewards two miles of a smooth level road to meet my carriage. I then felt tired, because nearly three hours had elapsed since I consumed the Cuca, and in that time the Peruvians find it necessary to renew their restorative. But there was no more Cuca left, and I was tempted to substitute a draught of excellent porter. I suppose this indulgence led on to the unusual allowance of four glasses of wine during dinner, instead of one or none; and the two errors together, with possibly some discordance between Cuca and alcohol, were the probable cause of a restless feverish slumber during the early part of the night; but quiet sleep succeeded and I awoke quite refreshed and active next morning.
One of my sons, who accompanied me on both occasions, used Cuca the first time, but also took luncheon on the summit. Though not in good condition for such work, he made it out without fatigue; and on the second occasion, when there was no more Cuca to give him, he felt decidedly the want of it when he reached the highway at the foot of the mountain.
These trials have been described particularly, because I feel that„ without details, the general results, which may be now summarized, would scarcely carry conviction with them. These are the following. The chewing of Cuca removes extreme fatigue, and 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; but I can say nothing of what may or may not happen if it be used habitually. From sixty to ninety grains are sufficient for one trial; but some persons either require more, or are constitutionally proof against its restorative action. It has no effect on the mental faculties, so far as my own trials and other observations go, except liberating them from the dullness and drowsiness. which follow great bodily fatigue. I do not yet know its effect on mental fatigue purely. As to the several functions, it reduces the effect of severe protracted exercise in accelerating the pulse. It increases the saliva, which, however, may be no more than the effect of mastication. It does not diminish the perspiration, so far as I can judge. It probably lessens the hourly secretion of urine-solids. On this point I cannot yet speak with any confidence, because it appears to me that the investigation of the action of Paratriptics, or those substances which seem to lessen the wear and tear of the textures of the body in the exercise of their several functions, involves considerations and precautions which have escaped the attention of experimentalists on this interesting question, and which my own experiments hitherto have not taken completely into account.
I have made no trials of the influence of Cuca on disease, or the consequences of disease. Some notices in the journals on this subject show that it is attracting attention ; but, so far as I see, it is a difficult one, and may prove extensive, and therefore it ought to fall into the hands of some able inquirer, who will be in no hurry to rush into print. I have been asked by correspondents in the south of England if Cuca will do good to a weak heart, to an old paralysis, to the feebleness of advancing age, etc. My reply has been, that I know nothing of all this, and that no one should use it medicinally, but under the advice and observation of his medical attendant.
A more convenient form for use than that of a quid is very desirable. M. Laumaillé, who rode, or on very bad roads led, his bicycle 760 miles from Paris to Vienna in little more than twelve days, in the month of October, carried with him, as part of his scanty baggage, a small supply of the liqueur de coca, an Indian tonic, by which he was always able to assuage the sudden and painful hunger which sometimes accompanies continued exertion”
Unfortunately, he gives us too little of his experience with it ; but he observes that, when about sixty miles from Vienna, ” continuing his way along a road of fluid mire, fatigue and sleep at length told upon him, but the marvelous liqueur de coca again supported him and gave him strength”. I have made by rule of thumb a very palatable liqueur, with only a fourth of rectified spirit, and containing in half-an-ounce the soluble part of sixty grains of leaves, but I have not yet tested its virtue. Pharmaceutical chemists, however, will soon solve this problem, and, it may be hoped, without looking for a patent.
My wife and I have cared for both our Mothers at the end of their lives. We were “on the job” for almost 20 years. One of the constant challenges of caring for an older person is making sure that they get enough of the right kind of food. While this may seem to be a matter of strategy – feed them what they like; prepare it attractively and make it tasty; be sure that it is cut up into bite-sized portions; and, in our case, make sure that there isn’t a pack of friendly dogs standing by to volunteer to help Mom clean her plate or be right there when she “accidentally” drops food she doesn’t want on the floor.
But it turns out, as anyone who has tried it knows, that making sure that an elderly person is well-nourished isn’t easy at all, and there are many, many issues that might not occur to any caregiver naturally just because they are a thoughtful and caring person. That was certainly the case with us, and it probably is for a lot of people. Maybe you.
I’ve just been researching the very serious issue of proper nutrition among the elderly, because as readers of this blog know I am very interested in the role that Coca Leaf tea might play in maintaining and even restoring health to the elderly.
I’ve just found a resource that is full of well-written, practical advice that won’t take anyone more than 30 minutes or so to absorb, and is well worth your time if you are caring for an elderly person.
The article, as you’ll see, was written for nurses, but it is equally valuable to anyone who is trying to give an elderly person nourishment along with love and care. The concluding paragraph sums it up:
“Many people assume that anyone can assist another to eat. However, feeding a patient is not a simple procedure that can be assigned to a junior member of staff without experience. Nurses need to be taught how to do it, what the problems are and how they might be overcome. Most importantly, they need to know the danger signs and when help is needed.”
If you are caring for another person, and if helping them eat is part of what you do, please read this article and share it with others. It is not just about technique – it is about how to turn knowledge into loving care that actually works.
Readers of this blog know that I have been writing about the potential of pure, natural Coca leaf for the treatment of Alzheimers/Dementia for some time. (See here and here.) Some of you are also probably familiar with my efforts to initiate a program of “Centros de Coca Curación” in Bolivia and Peru where patients from the North could stay for extended periods of Coca leaf and indigenous medicine treatments.
There is no question in my mind that if American seniors, and seniors in all other “Western” countries, had access to a few cups of Coca Leaf tea every day that many of those souls far gone into the depths of Alzheimers/Dementia could benefit and perhaps even recover, and those who have not yet begun their descent into that hellish place could go on to live out their lives free of this scourge.
I cannot begin to describe my feelings about the policies of the US government, and the other governments of the “West” that prevent people from having access to this harmless, non-addictive, natural remedy for what is surely as bad as any form of torture ever dreamed up by our own, or any other government in the world.
In my Alzheimers posts I have noted that the United States is far and away the world leader in the sheer numbers of people who die every year of Alzheimers/Dementia, as well as in the ranking of these diseases as a leading cause of death.
Alzheimers/ementia ranks second only to Coronary Heart Disease as a cause of death in the US, and ranks above Stroke (#4), Diabetes (#6), Breast Cancer (#11), Lung Cancer (#3), Stomach Cancer (#31), Colon-Rectum Cancer (#7), HIV/AIDS (#34), Prostate Cancer (#16) – in fact Alzheimers/Dementia is such a pervasive, and quite possibly preventable cause of death in the US that I found myself wondering where it ranks in other countries around the world.
You may be as surprised as I was. I went to a website that gives comprehensive WHO data on the leading (top 50) causes of death for each country, and here is a sample of what I found. I didn’t include data for every country in the world – you can go to the website if you’re curious about a country not listed here.
Before presenting the data I would like to point to a few things that stand out to me – you may very well see other interesting things in these numbers.
First, the hugely disproportionate numbers of people dying of Alzheimers/Dementia in the US don’t appear to be a function of life expectancy. Many of the countries in every part of the world have the same or longer life expectancy as the US, and nowhere near the numbers of people dying of A/D.
Second, although most of the countries listed have fewer people than the US, the “Rank In Country” number levels that playing field. The “Rank” indicates the number of Alzheimers/Dementia deaths per 100,000 population, which corrects for differences in the absolute numbers of people between countries. When we see that Alzheimers/Dementia ranks #2 in the US and #60 in Peru, for example, it is irrelevant that Peru has far fewer people than the US.
Another aspect of the data that smacks me in the face is that with the exception of Australia and Germany, almost all of the “Western” countries rank pretty high in deaths attributable to Alzheimers/Dementia – although only Switzerland also ranks A/D deaths as #2. But then when you look at Asian, Latin American and African rankings only Uruguay and Chile ( #5 and #4 respectively) come anywhere near the rankings of the industrialized countries of the Western Northern hemisphere. In fact in most of the rest of the world deaths from Alzheimers/Dementia rank WAY down the scale.
So what is going on? What is it that the countries of the “West”, primarily in the Northern hemisphere, have in common with each other but not with the rest of the world?
A highly industrialized food chain comes to mind. A medical industry dominated by corporate pharmaceutical companies is another distinguishing factor. Recently we have learned of the impact of RoundUp in the food chain – could this whole atrocity be something as simple as Monsanto being a mass murderer for profit?
It certainly can’t be environmental pollution – many of the countries with very low rankings for deaths from Alzheimers/Dementia have far more polluted air, water and soil than the “West”.
It also probably cannot be genetics, because many of the countries in the West now have highly diverse demographics, and unless data can be found that shows that people of Anglo-Saxon origin are the reason for the high rankings of the Western countries, we can probably dismiss race as a factor.
I don’t have any solutions to propose regarding the “Why”, but I am adamant that we should find out whether or not Coca leaf therapy could be effective in reversing and/or preventing Alzheimers/Dementia. If the US won’t do it, why not one of the more enlightened countries in the “West” bloc – say The Netherlands, or France? I know that this blog has readers from all of the countries in the “West”, so please take a look at the numbers for your country and try to break open the inexplicable resistance to Coca leaf therapy at the highest levels of your own governments.
It doesn’t matter, as far as Alzheimers/Dementia goes, that Coca Leaf is readily accessible in Peru and Bolivia – Alzheimers/Dementia is not a significant problem in those countries. But in every one of the countries in the “West” these diseases are the cause of the suffering and deaths of so many individuals and the horrible suffering of those who love and try to care for them – why must this continue?
And what is the cause – because there clearly is a cause, and it has to do with something that the countries of the “West” have in common with each other and not with the rest of the world.
I thought that it might be useful to present the arguments for the healing powers of pure, natural Coca Leaf by looking at the top ten causes of death in the US, and the impact that Coca Leaf might have on this cruel slaughter.
As readers of this blog know, I have written on the healing potential of Coca Leaf for many of these leading causes of death in previous posts, including Congestive Heart Failure, Stroke and Hypertension, Alzheimer’s/Dementia, and HIV/AIDS. But somehow when you take a look at the human toll caused by these treatable, and possibly preventable causes of death in one place the impact is greater.
So here is the graphic that, combined with the evidence that I have been presenting for about a year now here on PanaceaChronicles, leaves me asking why this simple, pure, non-addictive, safe and efficacious natural medicine isn’t available to everyone on the planet. Does it impact you in the same way? Then let’s do something about it together, the same way that we have worked together to make Medical Marijuana a reality. (Note that I don’t include Recreational Marijuana here – that’s because Coca Leaf has virtually zero psychoactive effects. All it does is heal the human heart and mind, or help keep them healthy in the first place.)
For my readers in other countries, know that I am as concerned that your governments are keeping this healing herb from you as I am regarding the situation here in the US. In fact, if you feel that I ought to create some additional “Top Ten” graphics for your country please say so in a comment and I will do just that.
I’m adding to this post in response to a number of inquiries from readers. The chart you see below lists the top 50 causes of death in Peru.
A number of things leap right out, don’t they. Influenza/Pneumonia is a leading cause of death. On the surface that would appear to undercut my argument that there is plenty of historical evidence that Coca Leaf is an effective treatment for inflamed, congested lungs. But when you dig a little into these figures you find that almost all of the influenza/pneumonia deaths are among Indians in the Amazonian part of Peru who have no natural immunity to some of the most recent virulent strains of flu like H1N1, and the rest appear to be largely among infants exposed to harsh environmental conditions and poverty. So IMO the thesis is still valid that Coca Leaf could be a specific treatment not for the flu virus but for the inflammation and congestion that are the real killers.
And yes, cardiovascular disease and stroke are also leading causes of death, but again when you look closely these deaths are almost exclusively among the sedentary people of the cities who eat a “Western” diet and who are as stressed as anyone in New York or LA. And who, by the way, rarely chew Coca Leaf. So my suspicion that Coca Leaf can be very helpful in treating disease like Congestive Heart Failure still stands, at least in my mind. And by the way, these very people would be among the first populations who should be targeted by Peruvian researchers to see if Coca Leaf treatment can help treat the symptoms of CHF and reduce the deaths from heart disease and stroke.
But what really caught my eye, and the main reason I am revising this blog post, is that when you look at the US Top 10 just notice that Alzheimer’s/Dementia come raging in at #2. Now check out all 50 of the leading causes of death in Peru. See any hint of Alzheimer’s/Dementia anywhere in the top 50. And I do mean any hint – perhaps Alzheimer’s/Dementia are called something else in Peru. Checking. Checking. …. Nope, not a hint.
So OK, maybe it isn’t because so many people in Peru chew Coca Leaf and drink Coca Leaf tea. After all, there are all those CHF and stroke deaths to account for. But Alzheimer’s/Dementia are nowhere in the top 50 leading causes of death. Hmmmmm. I wonder what that means. Don’t you?
Dear Bill & Melinda:
I’ve just finished browsing your “Grand Challenges” website where you announce funding for ideas that will change the world for the better. You certainly use all the right words to sound like you are committed to innovation.
You say: “One bold idea. That’s all it takes.”
You also say: “Unorthodox thinking is essential to overcoming the most persistent challenges in global health. Vaccines were first developed over 200 years ago because revolutionary thinkers took an entirely new approach to preventing disease.”
And also: “Grand Challenges Explorations fosters innovation in global health research. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has committed $100 million to encourage scientists worldwide to expand the pipeline of ideas to fight our greatest health challenges.”
So far, so good. So when I saw one of the topics in your latest “Grand Challenge”, I was pretty excited. I mean, “New Ways to Reduce Pneumonia Fatalities Through Timely, Effective Treatment of Children” is a pretty cool cause to support. After all, as you point out “Over 1.2 million children died from pneumonia in 2011. Ninety percent of child deaths from pneumonia occur in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia where the proportion of deaths among children with pneumonia can reach as high as 30%.”
That’s a lot of children dying needlessly. Good for you for caring about them.
So, like you say, you’re looking for “One Bold Idea”, right?
Well, let’s just pause and catch our breath here before becoming too excited, because in the next paragraph on your “Grand Challenges” website it becomes starkly clear that you aren’t really looking for “One Bold Idea” – you’re really only interested in rather incremental ideas that fall into three narrow little boxes of pre-defined “solutions”.
I say – Merde!
You say: “We are looking for innovative ideas in the following specific areas of interest under this exploration:
1. Child friendly formulations of amoxicillin
2. Optimizing Oxygen concentrators
3. Devices for measuring oxygen saturation (or optimizing pulse oximetry)”
In other words, you will only fund unorthodox, innovative, bold ideas that fall within a conventional, and somewhat limited approach to treatment of bacterial (not viral) pneumonia. And that’s a real shame, Bill and Melinda, because I can offer you an idea that is truly innovative, bold and outrageous, that can be tested and proven with a simple, inexpensive series of trials, and that can then be implemented anywhere in the world at very low cost. Furthermore, this solution to pneumonia deaths isn’t limited to children. That’s important because while a horrible number of children die each year of Pneumonia, they aren’t the only age groups at risk. As many elderly people die from Pneumonia every year as children, but neither your charity nor your vision seems to extend that far. What you are asking for, essentially, is bold, innovative solutions that demonstrate that the world is flat, and you will not consider funding any proposal that seeks to establish that the earth is any other shape.
Further, when demonstrated to everyone’s satisfaction this idea will not just offer a new, inexpensive, safe and effective treatment for Pneumonia, it will also offer treatment solutions and cures to a wide range of diseases and conditions including Asthma, Obesity, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, Myalgic Encephalomyelitis, Congestive Heart Failure, Depression, and possibly Alzheimer’s.
Is that Bold enough for you? I’m guessing not. But I would like to lay it on the table anyway. Please feel free to ignore it.
However, before we get to my proposal, let’s get a bit more clarity on Pneumonia itself. This from “The Lancet”, Vol. 377, Issue 9773, pages 1264-1275, 9 April 2011:
“About 200 million cases of viral community-acquired Pneumonia occur every year—100 million in children and 100 million in adults. Molecular diagnostic tests have greatly increased our understanding of the role of viruses in pneumonia, and findings indicate that the incidence of viral pneumonia has been underestimated.”
“In children, respiratory syncytial virus, rhinovirus, human metapneumovirus, human bocavirus, and parainfluenza viruses are the agents identified most frequently in both developed and developing countries. Dual viral infections are common, and a third of children have evidence of viral-bacterial co-infection.”
“In adults, viruses are the putative causative agents in a third of cases of community-acquired pneumonia, in particular influenza viruses, rhinoviruses, and coronaviruses. Bacteria continue to have a predominant role in adults with pneumonia.”
“Presence of viral epidemics in the community, patient’s age, speed of onset of illness, symptoms, biomarkers, radiographic changes, and response to treatment can help differentiate viral from bacterial pneumonia. However, no clinical algorithm exists that will distinguish clearly the cause of pneumonia.”
“No clear consensus has been reached about whether patients with obvious viral community-acquired pneumonia need to be treated with antibiotics. Apart from neuraminidase inhibitors for pneumonia caused by influenza viruses, there is no clear role for use of specific anti-virals to treat viral community-acquired pneumonia. Influenza vaccines are the only available specific preventive measures. Further studies are needed to better understand the cause and pathogenesis of community-acquired pneumonia.”
“Furthermore, regional differences in cause of pneumonia should be investigated, in particular to obtain more data from developing countries.”
So it seems that Pneumonia can be caused either by viruses, or by bacteria, or by both. Hmmmmm. And it also seems that the “incidence of viral pneumonia has been underestimated.” Double Hmmmm. And “a third of children have evidence of viral-bacterial co-infection.” Triple Hmmmm.
Well, I suppose I could go on and belabor more of the problems of treating Pneumonia in children as simply a bacterial problem, but I’m sure you catch the drift. I would rather turn now to the three categories where you are willing to fund “Bold” and “Innovative” ideas.
Area #1 – Child friendly formulations of amoxicillin
You say “Amoxicillin is an effective beta lactam antibiotic with activity against the pneumococcus. The World Health Organization recommends amoxicillin dispersible tablets as the first line antibiotic for outpatient treatment of children with pneumonia. However, the availability and use of this formulation as treatment for pneumonia in high burden countries remains limited. Many countries only have the capsule and powder for suspension formulations on their licensed medicines register, while others continue to recommend cotrimoxazole as front-line treatment.”
“The capsule is difficult to administer to children, while the suspension is bulky, requires clean water to reconstitute, is costly, and may require refrigeration in locations with extremely high temperatures. Also, liquid dosage forms, such as syrups and suspension are usually not amenable to long-term storage or transport under high temperature conditions common in many low and middle income countries and must be consumed once opened or reconstituted. Dispersible tablets have improved shelf life and cost but continue to have associated challenges including time to dispersal and requirement for clean liquid.”
“The ideal oral pediatric dosage form is tasteless/taste-masked and orally dissolvable or easy to swallow. We are looking for innovative ideas on dosage formulation of amoxicillin for children between birth and 5 years of age (the most affected age group). Ideas such as orally disintegrating tablets (not requiring dispersal in liquid prior to consumption), or transdermal patches will be accepted. While established techniques exist for disintegrating tablets including freeze drying, molding, spray drying, sublimation, direct compression, cotton candy process, mass extrusion, and melt granulation, we are looking for formulations that are user friendly, simpler than dispersible tablets, and of equivalent or lower cost to current amoxicillin formulation.”
OK Bill & Melinda –You’re ignoring the fact that a very significant % of Pneumonia isn’t caused by bacteria at all, but by viral infections, and you’re looking for a better formulation for a standard antibiotic. That’s all you’re interested in funding. Wow, that’s bold! (a little snarky, I know – sorry)
So how about area #2 – Optimizing Oxygen Concentrators
Here you say “Oxygen is a life-saving intervention, yet many hospitals and health centers do not have access to reliable oxygen supply. Cylinders are costly to refill and logistically challenging to transport especially to rural areas with poor road access. Therefore, many low resource settings rely on oxygen concentrators, where facilities have access to grid power or reliable backup power. In settings where electricity is not reliable however, current oxygen concentrators are less suitable.”
“We are looking for innovations that would improve the adaptability of oxygen concentrators to low resource settings including improving power or maintenance requirements of the equipment. Power supply is a major known challenge, and we are therefore looking for systems that have low power needs, increased storing capacity or are able to operate continuously from grey power or alternative energy sources. Other improvements to reduce maintenance needs are also encouraged as are improvements to system efficiency.”
Well Bill & Melinda – I have to give you a tiny thumbs-up on this one. You’re close. Getting oxygen to the lungs is indeed critical to saving the lives of pneumonia victims. Their lungs are so inflamed and filled with mucous that they are literally drowning in their own body fluids. So – limited kudos here. You see the problem, but your vision for the solution is to improve on existing technology. I suppose some might call that bold, but I’m afraid that I can’t agree. It’s just a search for a slightly better mousetrap – not for a solution to the underlying problem. But good for you – you’re trying. I suppose. After all, that approach has worked for MicroSoft – kinda.
OK – onwards – Number Three area where you’ll fund Bold and Innovative solutions: Devices for measuring oxygen saturation (or optimizing pulse oximetry)
I can understand why you are big believers in Technology Bill and Melinda – technology has been very, very good to you. So let’s see why you think this is an area for bold innovation.
“Hypoxemia (low oxygen level in the blood) is associated with mortality. Identifying children with hypoxemia is a key step to provision of life saving oxygen supplementation. Hypoxemia is difficult to detect using clinical signs alone because they lack sensitivity. The primary method for measuring oxygen saturation at the point of care is pulse oximetry, however its availability is highly limited in the developing world due to cost. The initial investment is considerable, and the maintenance costs have been reported to be as high as 50% of the initial capital costs on an annual basis2. The low longevity and high costs of parts particularly the finger sensors constrain their use in low resource settings.”
“The last few years has seen innovations around mobile devices that can potentially measure oxygen saturation. Examples of such devices are limited, and remain costly. We are looking for innovations that will deliver reliable devices or tools for measuring and monitoring of oxygen saturation in children with pneumonia in low resource settings. These innovations should be of lower cost than existing devices, require less frequent and affordable maintenance, and be usable with limited or no training by non-professional health providers. The ideal device would have a long sensor life without disposable parts and be able to communicate with or integrate into a mobile technology (cell phone) platform.”
OK – so you’re looking for technology that offers a better way to monitor children who are dying of pneumonia – presumably so that they can be treated more effectively. And how are they going to be treated more effectively? Please see Bold Solutions #1 and #2 above.
What a nice, neat little package. You’re looking for a better antibiotic, a better machine to pump oxygen into little lungs, and a better machine to see how well the antibiotics and oxygen pumps are doing. And you’re focused like a laser on young children in Sub-Saharan Africa and parts of Asia. I guess old people dying of Pneumonia in nursing homes in the US just aren’t as photogenic as little brown and black babies cuddling in Melinda’s loving arms while hubby Bill looks on admiringly. Too bad Grandma – no Big, Bold solutions for you.
Then of course on your Grand Challenges website there’s a long list of proposed solutions that you won’t fund – too long to list here. Suffice it to say that if a solution doesn’t fall directly under 1, 2 or 3 you aren’t interested. Even if it is a real, safe, effective, simple, and inexpensive solution – one for which there are reams of historical evidence that it will work, because it used to work pretty well, before it was lost and forgotten for the past hundred years or so.
And it won’t take millions of dollars to prove this solution to every clinician’s satisfaction and then get it into the field and start saving lots of those little lives. And my guess is that it will address a huge part of the risk to life of both bacterial and viral Pneumonia – the inflammation in the lungs and the clogging of those lungs with cement-like mucous, which of course cuts off the oxygen supply.
Readers of this blog have already guessed precisely where I’m going with this, haven’t you? I’m betting that a simple tonic made from pure, natural, high quality Coca Leaf will do the trick. Certainly not the entire trick – you will still want to be able to treat the underlying bacterial and/or viral infection, but throughout the 1800s doctors in Europe and America who of course had no recourse to antibiotics or high technology routinely treated cases of Pneumonia and other lower respiratory tract diseases with Coca Leaf tonic. Of course they weren’t always successful – plenty of people were carried away into death in spite of having their pulmonary inflammation reduced and their lungs cleared of mucous by Coca Leaf treatment. I am sure that today’s doctors could do better, given the anti-bacterial and anti-viral medicines and the technologies available.
You can check out the arguments regarding efficacy in Pneumonia, and the references, at one of my recent posts: Coca Leaf, Cannabis, Consumption, Pneumonia & HIV/Aids
But wait – Bill & Melinda are focused on sick children in poor countries where there often is no technology, and where the antibiotics are primitive and limited, and anti-viral treatments (which Bill & Melinda don’t seem to have as a priority) are likely to be unavailable. So why not give at least some thought to the contribution that a simple, natural medicinal plant could make in many of those 1.2 Million children who are dying every year in God-forsaken places of the earth.
The answer is easy. Because that particular idea doesn’t fit into one of Bill & Melinda’s three little boxes. Well, hell, even with their zillions of dollars Bill & Melinda can’t be expected to fund every Bold and Innovative idea that comes along, even really, really simple and inexpensive ideas that could easily make a difference in the life or death of millions of people every year – not just children, but the elderly, who are the group most at risk next to young children, and many, many others.
Now, I may sound like I disrespect Bill & Melinda, but I don’t. They at least give the appearance of trying to make a positive difference in the world, and they actually do some good work. I guess what I do disrespect, and resent, is self-anointed big shots and their sycophants who toss around words like “Bold” and “Innovative” and then turn out to be interested only in the sound of their own voices, praising themselves for qualities of mind and imagination that, upon close inspection, they so clearly do not have.
So what would I do if I had even a tiny fraction of your resources, Bill & Melinda?
If I had $100,000 available to me to address the terrible issue of Pneumonia (and not just in children), here is what I would do.
I would go to Peru, and probably also Bolivia, and network with doctors and indigenous healers who already know how to treat respiratory disease (not just Pneumonia) with Coca Leaf. I would find out from them how they use Coca Leaf – as a tea, or as a tonic, or a syrup, or a lozenge, or perhaps in other ways like a solution in a vaporizer or nebulizer. I would interview these people and document the interviews on video, and I would post these videos where the world could have access to them. My good friends at Wiracocha have offered to introduce me to their extensive Peruvian network of indigenous healers, shamans, and natural medicine practitioners, so I wouldn’t simply be wandering around the mountains looking for people to interview.
Then I would use some of the money to fund one or more small but first-class and methodologically sound studies in Peru – and, again, probably Bolivia – comparing the efficacy and safety of Coca Leaf treatments of comparable respiratory disease in every age group. With credentialed scientific and medical people, as well as respected indigenous healers, as authors of the findings these results would find a peer-reviewed journal where they could be published.
Finally I would work with Peruvian and Bolivian food chemists to investigate how to make tonics and syrups and other medicinal Coca Leaf products that would be highly palatable, especially to children, and would be shelf-stable for long periods without refrigeration, and that could be manufactured inexpensively using all-natural ingredients.
And finally I would work with the Governments of Peru and Bolivia and with the leadership of the indigenous Coca-producing communities in both countries to ensure that these Coca leaf medicines would be readily available to Pneumonia patients in any country that would allow them – and I would work to ensure that any country that denied access to these Coca Leaf treatments for its people with Pneumonia and other respiratory diseases – was prominently and endlessly shamed in public for their callous disregard for human life.
Oh, and let’s not forget, as I mentioned earlier, that this simple treatment might very well also benefit people with Asthma, Obesity, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, Myalgic Encephalomyelitis, Congestive Heart Failure, Depression, and possibly Alzheimer’s – among other scourges of humankind.
All for $100,000 to prove ( actually re-introduce the concept to this generation’s medical community) the concept and then perhaps $1 Million to see it rolled out to clinics and treatment centers in whatever countries would accept them.
Is that Bold and Innovative enough for you, Bill & Melinda?
I didn’t think so. I think I’ll just put this project up on a CrowdFunding website and see if there are some people out there who are actually willing to support real, simple, bold, innovative and almost certainly effective solutions that don’t necessarily have to fit into some tiny, pre-designed little box.
In the meanwhile, dear reader, you can use the “donate” button on this blog to let me know that you support this idea. You can also contact me at email@example.com if you know of any sources of potential support for this project.
And good luck with those Grand Challenges, Bill & Melinda, which in truth seem more like Grand Standing to me. But hey, you’re rich and famous, and surrounded by high-priced experts, so what the hell do I know?
The Scope Of The Problem
While the negative effects of aging on mental performance have been part of the human experience seemingly forever, as with many other diseases and conditions both Alzheimer’s and Dementia seem to be getting more widespread. Whether this is because people are living longer, or because they are being systematically poisoned by our industrial foods, polluted environment, and artificial lifestyles, the outcome is the same – millions of people worldwide spend the last years of their lives in a drooling, hopeless fog.
Please don’t think I am cruel or heartless when I describe the last years of life this way. My wife and I have cared for three of our four parents in our home during their last years and we have first-hand experience with the terrible downsides of the deterioration of mind, body and spirit that aging people (and their families) must endure.
Update! Lisa Gonzalez has just sent me an excellent set of resources that she has complied for caregivers, which I include here with my thanks:
According to the Alzheimer’s Association, over 5 Million Americans have Alzheimer’s, and 500,000 die each year from causes linked directly to the disease, while 1 out of 3 people die of either Alzheimer’s or one of the other forms of Dementia. Alzheimer’s alone is the 6th leading cause of death in the US. In some ways an even more important stat is that 15.5 million Americans provide 17.7 Billions hours of unpaid care to their elderly family members with these Dementias. This statistic alone means that at a wage level of $10/hour, Alzheimer’s and related Dementias cost the United States $180 Billion in lost productivity – what these 15.5 million care-givers could theoretically make at a minimum wage job rather than caring for their elderly family member without compensation.
A few additional pieces of information before we get into the purpose of this blog post:
1. Almost 65% of Americans with Alzheimer’s are women
2. More than 60% of caregivers for Alzheimer’s and related Dementia victims are women
3. Women are 2.5 times more likely to be providing 24/7 unpaid care for an Alzheimer’s/Dementia victim than men
4. For a women in her 60s, her estimated lifetime risk for Alzheimer’s is 1 in 6, compared with 1 in 11 for breast cancer.
5. It is estimated that by 2050 the number of victims of Alzheimer’s/Dementia in the US alone will triple to nearly 50 million people.
Could There Really Be A Simple Solution?
The conservative answer is – probably not, but maybe.
The optimistic answer, based on what I have learned about the effects of Coca Leaf tea and tonics on mental function – almost certainly yes, at least to some degree.
I believe that Coca Leaf can provide at least a partial solution, and at least some relief from the steady, inexorable deterioration that is the hallmark of these horrendous plagues. Equally important, Coca Leaf can offer at least some relief for those who love those who suffer this terrible, and possibly avoidable fate, and are willing to dedicate their lives to caring for them.
Parenthetically, if you are a caretaker for a parent who is in the early stages of Alzheimer’s, and if your family has the financial means to do so, why not consider taking your parent on a 30 day trip to a nice spa in either Peru or Bolivia, where Coca Leaf Tea is readily available and simply see if 6 cups a day might make a difference? If you do, please document the results and let me know so that I can share them on this blog. In a few months I plan to set up a CrowdSourcing campaign on either Indiegogo or KickStarter to raise funds to allow me to go to Peru and Bolivia and set up a network of participating spas, therapists, healers and physicians for families who could benefit from 30 days of CLT treatment, but in the meanwhile if you are caring for a loved one with the beginnings of this terrible condition and can afford the trip, please consider trying this approach.
OK – big claims here. What’s the evidence? For that we have to look at the research and writings of physicians and scientists from the 1800s who were working and healing people using Coca Leaf tea and tonics long before Alzheimer’s was a known diagnosis, but who were intimately familiar with the process of mental deterioration with age.
The following brief citations are just a small selection of the observations of many talented physicians and scientists writing primarily in the 1800s about their experiences in treating people for a wide range of diseases and conditions with Coca Leaf. If you would like to browse an extensive collection of these writings, along with an equally extensive bibliography that I’ve hyperlinked to original source materials from the 1700s and 1800s, you’ll probably find my ebook “The Coca leaf Papers” worth reading.
You can order this ebook for $3.99 from Amazon by clicking here or, if you would rather not have to buy the book I will send you the complete ebook for free. You can request your free copy by clicking here. PLEASE NOTE – You must fill in the contact form so that I can have the right email address to send you your free book. Thanks!
“Erythroxylon Coca: A Treatise On Brain Exhaustion As The Cause Of Disease”, By William Tibbles, MD (1877)
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, 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 gentlemen quoted in your article in respect to the efficacy of coca in prolonged exertion.
“An Essay On Erythrolylon Coca” (in) “A New Form Of Nervous Disease” By W.S. Searle, M.D. (1881)
Coca regulates and greatly assists in maintaining that equilibrium of action of the heart and capillary circulation, which is so necessary to the maintenance of an un-exhausted state of the body. The muscles brought into action during the performance of manual labour are frequently eager for a greatly increased supply of arterial blood. To supply this increased want of blood necessarily entails an increase of vaso-motor action; thus in persons who have to make a little extra muscular exertion, the capillary vessels will necessarily dilate excessively, and if the action of the heart does not correspondingly increase in frequency and force, the tension of the vessels will fall, and if, in such a case, the pulse be felt, the artery conveys the sensation of a double or rebounding pulse. If, on the other hand, the heart be working excitedly, as when an individual receives some exciting impressions during the time he is performing simple labour which does not require a great increase in the supply of blood to the muscles; or, in other words, while the muscles do not require a supply of blood much greater than on ordinary occasions, the tension of the arteries, or the force of the blood contained in them, may be greatly raised, and the amount of heart-work further increased in order to force the circulation of the blood at the increased speed.
Mental labour is frequently productive of such arterial tension – an exhausted Brain, whereby its influence over the heart’s action is diminished, will give rise to it; the diminution of nervous influence over the excretory organs whereby an increased amount of urea is produced and collected in the blood will give rise to it; as will also abnormal nutrition during exertion. These variations are abnormal and give rise to ill effects. In extremely low tension of the arterial and capillary vessels, the increased supply of blood to the muscles causes anemia of (being a deficiency of supply of blood to) the brain, and there is produced a feeling of fatigue, giddiness, or fainting. In this condition there is abnormal rise in the internal temperature. On the other hand, if the arterial tension be increased, then the strain will fall upon the heart, which will become overtaxed, dilated, and in some cases entire failure will be produced, either by over-distention and paralysis, or, by gradually increasing signs of dilatation, producing breathlessness, a sensation of lightness in the head, coldness of the extremities, pallor of face, anxious expression, and the temperature is abnormally decreased. These are the results of discordant action of the circulatory system, produced by exertion or excitement.
It may be asked, what has all this to do with the action of coca-leaf? Well, it is found by experiment that coca-leaf regulates the action of the heart and circulatory system and thereby nearly altogether preventing such results as above recorded as the consequence of muscular exertion or mental excitement.”
“An Essay On Erythrolylon Coca” (in) “A New Form Of Nervous Disease” By W.S. Searle, M.D. (1881)
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.
It is evident, therefore, that the prevention of that vacillating action of the internal organs generally consequent upon exertion, and likewise that the restorative action in cases of physical or mental exhaustion and in disease, is due to this increase in the governing force of the nervous system.
Editor’s Note: Perhaps it isn’t so far-fetched to think that Coca Leaf tea could play an important role in treating Alzheimer’s when you consider the following two research studies on other natural medicinal plants. Neither of these studies deal with Coca, of course, but the fact that there appear to be multiple promising natural medicines from various parts of the world argues in a powerful way for testing of the potential of Coca for this purpose.
Journal of Ethnopharmacology 2014 Jun 24. pii: S0378-8741(14)00494-2. doi: 10.1016/j.jep.2014.06.046. [Epub ahead of print]
Screening and identification of neuroprotective compounds relevant to Alzheimer׳s disease from medicinal plants of S. Tomé e Príncipe.
Currais A1, Chiruta C2, Goujon-Svrzic M2, Costa G3, Santos T3, Batista MT3, Paiva J4, Céu Madureira MD4, Maher P2.
• 1The Salk Institute for Biological Studies, 10010 N. Torrey Pines Road, La Jolla, CA 92037, USA. Electronic address: firstname.lastname@example.org.
• 2The Salk Institute for Biological Studies, 10010 N. Torrey Pines Road, La Jolla, CA 92037, USA.
• 3Center for Pharmaceutical Studies, Faculty of Pharmacy, University of Coimbra, 3000-548 Coimbra, Portugal; Center for Neurosciences and Cell Biology, University of Coimbra, Largo Marquês de Pombal, 3004-517 Coimbra, Portugal.
• 4Centre for Functional Ecology, Department of Life Sciences, University of Coimbra, 3004-516 Coimbra, Portugal.
Alzheimer׳s disease (AD) neuropathology is strongly associated with the activation of inflammatory pathways, and long-term use of anti-inflammatory drugs reduces the risk of developing the disease. In S. Tomé e Príncipe (STP), several medicinal plants are used both for their positive effects in the nervous system (treatment of mental disorders, analgesics) and their anti-inflammatory properties. The goal of this study was to determine whether a phenotypic, cell-based screening approach can be applied to selected plants from STP (Voacanga africana, Tarenna nitiduloides, Sacosperma paniculatum, Psychotria principensis, Psychotria subobliqua) in order to identify natural compounds with multiple biological activities of interest for AD therapeutics.
MATERIALS AND METHODS:
Plant hydroethanolic extracts were prepared and tested in a panel of phenotypic screening assays that reflect multiple neurotoxicity pathways relevant to AD-oxytosis in hippocampal nerve cells, in vitro ischemia, intracellular amyloid toxicity, inhibition of microglial inflammation and nerve cell differentiation. HPLC fractions from the extract that performed the best in all of the assays were tested in the oxytosis assay, our primary screen, and the most protective fraction was analyzed by mass spectrometry. The predominant compound was purified, its identity confirmed by ESI mass spectrometry and NMR, and then tested in all of the screening assays to determine its efficacy.
An extract from the bark of Voacanga africana was more protective than any other plant extract in all of the assays (EC50s≤2.4µg/mL). The HPLC fraction from the extract that was most protective against oxytosis contained the alkaloid voacamine (MW=704.90) as the predominant compound. Purified voacamine was very protective at low doses in all of the assays (EC50s≤3.4µM).
These findings validate the use of our phenotypic screening, cell-based assays to identify potential compounds to treat AD from plant extracts with ethnopharmacological relevance. Our study identifies the alkaloid voacamine as a major compound in Voacanga africana with potent neuroprotective activities in these assays.
Copyright © 2014 Elsevier Ireland Ltd. All rights reserved.
Journal of Ethnopharmacology 2014 Mar 28;152(3):403-23. doi: 10.1016/j.jep.2013.12.053. Epub 2014 Jan 9.
The treatment of Alzheimer’s disease using Chinese medicinal plants: from disease models to potential clinical applications.
Su Y1, Wang Q2, Wang C1, Chan K3, Sun Y1, Kuang H4.
• 1Key Laboratory of Ministry of Education, Department of Pharmacology, Heilongjiang University of Chinese Medicine, Harbin 150040, China.
• 2Key Laboratory of Ministry of Education, Department of Pharmacology, Heilongjiang University of Chinese Medicine, Harbin 150040, China. Electronic address: email@example.com.
• 3Centre for Complementary Medicine Research, University of Western Sydney, NSW 2560, Australia; Faculty of Pharmacy, The University of Sydney, NSW 2006, Australia.
• 4Key Laboratory of Ministry of Education, Department of Pharmacology, Heilongjiang University of Chinese Medicine, Harbin 150040, China. Electronic address: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is characterized by the sustained higher nervous disorders of the activities and functions of the brain. Due to its heavy burden on society and the patients’ families, it is urgent to review the treatments for AD to provide basic data for further research and new drug development. Among these treatments, Chinese Material Medica (CMM) has been traditionally clinical used in China to treat AD for a long time with obvious efficacy. With the further research reports of CMM, new therapeutic materials may be recovered from troves of CMM. However, So far, little or no review work has been reported to conclude anti-AD drugs from CMM in literature. Therefore, a systematic introduction of CMM anti-AD research progress is of great importance and necessity. This paper strives to systematically describe the progress of CMM in the treatment of AD, and lays a basis data for anti-AD drug development from CMM, and provides the essential theoretical support for the further development and utilization of CMM resources through a more comprehensive research of the variety of databases regarding CMM anti-AD effects reports.
MATERIAL AND METHODS:
Literature survey was performed via electronic search (SciFinder®, Pubmed®, Google Scholar and Web of Science) on papers and patents and by systematic research in ethnopharmacological literature at various university libraries.
This review mainly introduces the current research on the Chinese Material Medica (CMM) theoretical research on Alzheimer’s disease (AD), anti-AD active constituent of CMM, anti-AD effects on AD models, anti-AD mechanism of CMM, and anti-AD effect of CMM formula.
Scholars around the world have made studies on the anti-AD molecular mechanism of CMM from different pathways, and have made substantial progress. The progress not only enriched the anti-AD theory of CMM, but also provided clinical practical significance and development prospects in using CMM to treat AD. Western pure drugs cannot replace the advantages of CMM in the anti-AD aspect. Therefore, in the near future, the development of CMM anti-AD drugs with a more clearly role and practical data will be a major trend in the field of AD drug development, and it will promote the use of CMM.
Copyright © 2014 Elsevier Ireland Ltd. All rights reserved.