The History of Coca (1901)
By Dr. William Golden Mortimer , MD
(in) The Coca Leaf Papers (2014)
By Bill Drake
In previous posts I have presented various excerpts from Dr. Mortimer’s excellent book, which not only contains a wealth of highly relevant information but illustrates the often-acknowledged but poorly understood fact that human beings keep re-discovering the insights of those gone before them, treating such “discoveries” as new knowledge.
Dr. Mortimer’s book also vividly demonstrates how easily knowledge is lost, or deliberately set aside, in pursuit of the agenda of the times.
It is impossible to estimate how many millions of people are suffering and dying right this moment because the agenda of our times has demonized Coca Leaf as part of a worldwide set of political and economic agendas conceived in ignorance and maintained with malice regarding the place of natural medicines in treating and healing diseases that arise naturally and diseases that are caused by external agents, almost always in pursuit of profit.
In both cases, access to pure, natural Coca Leaf for self-treatment would undermine the political and economic agendas of powerful groups, and so we suffer and die, by the millions each year, in servitude to these cruel and heartless sub-humans.
In my continuing protest against this overwhelming flood of power and money that is drowning the planet, I offer this excerpt from a chapter in “The History of Coca” in which Dr. Mortimer explains the place of Coca in the natural world, and the processes by which its magical properties occur. Perhaps you, the reader, will be one more voice raised against the denial of this potent natural medicine to all those suffering, dying people whose lives could be mended and saved simply by having access to this miraculous leaf.
The Place Of The Coca Leaf In The Living World
In the Coca leaf, as indeed in all plants, the cell wall is made up of cellulose, a carbohydrate substance allied to starch, with the formula xC6H10O5. The material for the building of this substance, it is presumed, is secreted by the cell contents or by a conversion of protoplasm under the influence of nitrogen. This product is deposited particle by particle inside of the wall already formed. Accompanying this growth there may occur certain changes in the physical properties of the cell as the wall takes in new substances, such as silica and various salts, or as there is an elaboration and deposit of gum, pectose and lignin. Each living cell contains a viscid fluid, of extremely complex chemical composition – the protoplasm – a layer of which is in contact with the cell wall and connected by bridles with a central mass in which the nucleus containing the nucleolus is embedded. The protoplasm does not fill the whole cavity of the cell, but there is a large space filled with the watery sap.
The sap carries in solution certain sugars, together with glycogen and two varieties of glucose, and such organic acids and coloring matters as may already have been elaborated. Where metabolism is active, certain crystallizable nitrogenous bodies, as asparagin, leucin and tyrosin, with salts of potassium and sodium, are found, while in the vacuole there may be starch grains and some crystals of calcium oxalate. The protoplasm is chemically made up of proteids, of which two groups may be distinguished in plants. The first embracing the plastin, such as forms the frame work of the cell, and the second the peptones of the seeds, and the globulins found in the buds and in young shoots. These proteids all consist of carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen, and sulphur, while plastin also contains phosphorus. In active growing cells the proteids are present in a quantity, which gradually diminishes as the cell becomes older, leaving the plastin as the organized proteid wall of the cell, while the globulins and peptones remain unorganized. The whole constructive metabolism of the plant is toward the manufacture of this protoplasm, the chemical decomposition and conversion of which liberates the energy which continues cell life.
In certain cells of the plant associated with the protoplasm, and presumably of a similar chemical composition, are little corpuscles, which contain the chlorophyl constituting the green coloring matter of plants, a substance which from its chemical construction and physiological function may have some important influence on the alkaloid formation in the Coca leaf. In these bodies the chlorophyl is held in an oily medium, which exudes in viscid drops when the granules are treated with dilute acids or steam. Although no iron has been found in these bodies by analysis, it is known that chlorophyl cannot be developed without the presence of iron in the soil. Gautier, from an alcoholic extract, calculated the formula C19H22N2O3, and called attention to the similarity between this and that of bilirubin, C16H18N203 – the primary pigment forming the golden red color of the human bile, which possibly may be allied to the red corpuscles of the blood. Chlorophyl, while commonly only formed under appropriate conditions of light and heat, may in some cases be produced in complete darkness, in a suitable temperature. Thus if a seed be made to germinate in the dark, the seedling will be not green, but pale yellow, and the plant is anӕmic, or is termed etiolated, though corpuscles are present, which, under appropriate conditions, will give rise to chlorophyll.
It has been found that etiolated plants become green more readily in diffused light than in bright sunshine. The process of chlorophyll formation neither commences directly when an etiolated plant is exposed to light, nor ceases entirely when a green plant is placed in darkness, but the action continues through what has been termed photo-chemical induction. From experiments to determine the relative efficacy of different rays of the spectrum it has been found that in light of low intensity seedlings turn green more rapidly under yellow rays, next under green, then under red, and less rapidly under blue. In intense light the green formation is quicker under blue than under yellow, while under the latter condition decomposition is more rapid.
The function of chlorophyl is to break up carbonic acid, releasing oxygen, and converting the carbon into storage food for the tissues, the first visible stage of which constructive metabolism is the formation of starch. The activity of this property may be regarded as extremely powerful when it is considered that in order to reduce carbonic acid artificially it requires the extraordinary temperature of 1300° C. (2372° F.). In the leaf this action takes place under the influence of appropriate light and heat from the sun in the ordinary temperature of 10°-30° C. (50°-86° F.). Plants which do not contain chlorophyl – as fungi – obtain their supply of carbon through more complex compounds in union with hydrogen.
Perhaps we are too apt to regard plants as chiefly cellulose – carbohydrates, and water, without considering the importance of their nitrogenous elements, for though these latter substances may be present in relatively small proportion, they are as essential in the formation of plant tissue as in animal structures. The carbohydrates of plants include starch, sugars, gums, and inulin. The starch or an allied substance, as has been shown, being elaborated by the chlorophyl granules, or in those parts of the plant where these bodies do not exist, by special corpuscles in the protoplasm, termed amyloplasts, which closely resemble the chlorophyl bodies. In the first instance the change is more simple and under the influence of light, in the latter light is not directly essential and the process is more complex, the starch formation beginning with intermediate substances – as asparagin, or glucose, by conversion of the sugars in the cell sap.
Just as in the human organism, assimilation in plant tissue cannot take place except through solution, so the stored up starch is of no immediate service until it is rendered soluble. In other words, it must be prepared in a way analogous to the digestion of food in animal tissues. This is done by the action of certain ferments manufactured by the protoplasm. These do not directly enter into the upbuilding of tissue themselves, but induce the change in the substance upon which they act. Chiefly by a process of hydration, in which several molecules of water are added, the insoluble bodies are rendered soluble, and are so carried in solution to various portions of the plant. Here they are rearranged as insoluble starch, to serve as the common storage tissue for sustenance. Thus it will be seen how very similar are the processes of assimilation in plants and animals, a marked characteristic between both being that the same elementary chemical substances are necessary in the upbuilding of their tissues, and particularly that activity is absent where assimilable nitrogen is not present.
Several organic acids occur in plant cells, either free or combined, which are probably products of destructive metabolism, either from the oxidation of carbohydrates or from the decomposition of proteids. Liebig regarded the highly oxidized acids – especially oxalic, as being the first products of constructive metabolism, which, by gradual reduction, formed carbohydrates and fats, in support of which he referred to the fact that as fruits ripen they become less sour, which he interpreted to mean that the acid is converted into sugar. The probability, however, is that oxalic acid is the product of destructive metabolism, and is the final stage of excretion from which alkaloids are produced, while it is significant, when considering the Coca products, that acids may by decomposition be formed from proteid or may by oxidation be converted into other acids.
Oxalic acid is very commonly found in the leaf cells combined with potassium or calcium. It is present in the cells of the Coca leaf as little crystalline cubes or prisms. Malic acid, citric acid, and tartaric acid are familiar as the products of various fruits. Tannic acid is chiefly found as the astringent property of various barks. Often a variety of this acid is characteristic of the plant and associated with its alkaloid. This is the case with the tannic acid described by Niemann in his separation of cocaine, which is intimately related to the alkaloids of the Coca leaf, just as quinine is combined with quinic acid and morphine with meconic acid. It has been suggested that the yield of alkaloid from the Coca leaf is greater in the presence of a large proportion of tannic acid.
Tannin is formed in the destructive metabolism of the protoplasm, as a glucoside product intermediate between the carbohydrate and the purely aromatic bodies, such as benzoic and cinnamic acids, which are formed from the oxidative decomposition of the glucosides. In addition to these are found fatty oils, associated with the substances of the cell, and essential oils, to which the fragrance of the flower or plant is due, and which are secreted in special walled cells. The resins are found as crude resins, balsams – a mixture of resin and ethereal oil with an aromatic acid, and gum resins – a mixture of gum, resin and ethereal oil. The ethereal oils include a great number of substances with varying chemical composition, having no apparent constructive use to the tissues, but, like the alkaloids, regarded merely as waste. Some of these products serve by their unpleasant properties to repel animals and insects, while others serve to attract insects and thus contribute to the fertilization of the flower, so all these bodies may be of some relative use.
The proteids of the plant are supposed to be produced from some non-nitrogenous substance – possibly formic aldehyde – by a combination formed from the absorbed nitrates, sulphates and phosphates, in union with one of the organic acids, particularly oxalic. The change being from the less complex compound to a highly nitrogenous organic substance, termed an amide, which, with the non-nitrogenous substance and sulphur, unite to form the proteid. The amides are crystallizable nitrogenous substances, built up synthetically, or formed by the breaking down of certain compounds. They are similar to some of the final decomposition products found in the animal body. Belonging to this group of bodies is xanthin, which Kossel supposed to be directly derived from nuclein, from the nucleus of the plant cell. But in whatever manner the amides are formed, it is believed they are ultimately used in the construction of proteid, and although this substance is produced in all parts of the plant, it is found more abundant in the cells containing chlorophyl. Proteids are found to gradually increase from the roots toward the leaves, where they are most abundant. This would seem to indicate that the leaf is the especial organ in which proteid formation takes place, and it is in this portion of the Coca plant that the excreted alkaloids are found most abundantly.
According to Schützenberger, the proteid structures are composed of ureids, derivatives of carbamide, and Grimaux considers they are broken by hydrolysis into carbonic acid, ammoniac and amidic acids, thus placing them in near relation with uric acid, which also gives by hydrolysis, carbonic acid, ammoniac acid and glycocol. In animal tissues the last product of excrementition is carbamide – or uric acid, while the compounds from which proteids are formed in plants have been shown to be amides. It has been shown in the laboratory that the chemical products from the breaking down of proteids are also amides, with which carbonic acid and oxalic acid are nearly always formed. The presence of hippuric acid in the urine of herbivorous animals, the indol and the skatol found in the products of pancreatic digestion (Salkowski), together with the tyrosin nearly always present in the animal body, has led to the supposition that aromatic groups may also be constituents of the proteid molecule.
All of this is of the greatest interest in the study of alkaloid production in connection with the fact, which has been proved, that when a plant does not receive nitrogen from outside it will not part with the amount of that element previously contained – in other words, the nitrogenous excreta will not be thrown off. Boussingault thought the higher plants flourished best when supplied with nitrogen in the form of nitrates, though Lehmann has found that many plants flourish better when supplied with ammonia salts than when supplied with nitrates, and this has been well marked in the case of the tobacco plant.
Nitric acid may be absorbed by a plant in the form of any of its salts which can diffuse into the tissues, the most common bases being soda, potash, lime, magnesia and ammonia. The formation of this acid, attendant upon the electric conditions of the atmosphere, may be one source of increase of vigor to the native soil of the Coca plant, where the entire region of the Montaña is so subject to frequent electrical storms. Then Coca flourishes best in soils rich in humus, and various observers have remarked that nitrogen is best fixed in such a soil. An interesting point in connection with which is that the ammonia supplied to the soil by decomposition of nitrogenous substances is converted into nitrous, and this into nitric acid, by a process termed nitrification, occasioned by the presence of certain bacteria in the soil to which this property is attributed. Proof of this was determined by chloroforming a section of nitrifying earth and finding that the process on that area ceased. The absorption of nitrogen by the Coca plant and the development of proteids is closely associated with the nitrogenous excreta from the plant, and the consequent production of alkaloids which we are attempting to trace.
The nitrogen of the soil, however induced, is transferred by oxidation into what has been termed the reduced nitrogen of amides which, in combination with carbohydrates, under appropriate conditions forms proteids, in which oxalic acid is an indirect product. Several observers consider the leaves as active in this process, because the nitrogenous compounds are found to accumulate in the leaf until their full development, when they decrease. This is illustrated by the fact that in autumn, when new proteids are not necessary to matured leaves, it accumulates in the protoplasm, from which it is transferred to the stem, to be stored up as a food for the following season’s growth.
It has been found that the nitrates, passing from the roots as calcium nitrate, are changed in the leaves by the chlorophyl in the presence of light with the production of calcium oxalate, while nitric acid is set free, and conversely, in darkness the nitrates are permitted to accumulate. This change is influenced by the presence of oxalic acid, which, even in small quantities, is capable of decomposing the most dilute solutions of calcium nitrate. The free nitric acid in combination with a carbohydrate forms the protein molecule, while setting free carbonic acid and water.
Cellulose, which we have seen is formed from protoplasm, is dependent upon the appropriate conversion of the nitrogenous proteid. When this formation is active, large amounts of carbohydrates are required to form anew the protein molecule of the protoplasm, and the nitrogenous element is utilized. When there is an insufficiency of carbohydrate material the relative amount of nitrogen increases because the conditions are not favorable for its utilization in the production of proteids, and this excess of nitrogen is converted into amides, which are stored up. When the carbohydrate supply to the plant is scanty in amount this reserve store of amides is consumed, just the same as the reserve fat would be consumed in the animal structure under similar conditions.
The relation between the normal use of nitrogen in plants is analogous to its influence in animal structure, while the final products in both cases are similar, the distinction being chiefly one in the method of chemical conversion and excretion due to the difference in organic function. Thus, although urea and uric acid are not formed in plants, the final products of both animals and plants are closely allied. We see this especially in the alkaloids caffeine and theobromine, which are almost identical with uric acid, so much so that Haig considers that a dose of caffeine is equivalent to introducing into the system an equal amount of uric acid.
There are numerous examples, not only in medicinal substances, but in the more familiar vegetables and fruits, which illustrate the possibilities of change due to cultivation. The Siberian rhododendron varies its properties from stimulant to a narcotic or cathartic, in accordance with its location of growth. Aconite, assafoetida, cinchona, digitalis, opium and rhubarb are all examples which show the influence of soil and cultivation. Indeed similar effects are to be seen everywhere about us, certain characteristics being prominently brought forth by stimulating different parts of the organism, so that ultimately distinct varieties are constituted. The poisonous Persian almond has thus become the luscious peach. The starchy qualities of the potato are concentrated in its increased tuber, and certain poisonous mushrooms have become edible. The quality of the flour from wheat is influenced by locality and cultivation. The tomato, cabbage, celery, asparagus, are all familiar examples which emphasize the possibility of shaping nature’s wild luxuriance to man’s cultured necessity.
The chemical elements which are taken up by a plant vary considerably with the conditions of environment, and the influence of light in freeing acid in the leaf has been indicated. These conditions necessarily modify the constituents of the plant. When metabolism is effected certain changes take place in the tissues, with the formation of substances which may be undesirable to the plant, yet may be medicinally serviceable. Such a change occurs in the sprouts of potatoes stored in the dark, when the poisonous base solania is formed, which under normal conditions of growth is not present in the plant. A familiar example of change due to environment is exhibited in the grape, which may contain a varying proportion of acid, sugar and salts in accordance with the soil, climate and conditions of its cultivation, nor are these variations merely slight, for they are sufficient to generate in the wine made from the fruit entirely different tastes and properties.
The Basic Nature Of Alkaloids
In view of these facts, it seems creditable to suppose that by suitable processes of cultivation the output of alkaloids may be influenced in plants, and such experiments have already been extensively carried out in connection with the production of quinine. When attention was directed to the scientific cultivation of cinchona in the East, it was remarked that when manured with highly nitrogenous compounds the yield of alkaloid was greatly increased. This is paralleled by the fact that when an animal consumes a large quantity of nitrogenous food the output of urea and uric acid is greater.
Alkaloids are regarded as waste products because they cannot enter into the constructive metabolism of the plant, though they are not directly excreted, but are stored away where they will not enter the circulation, and may be soon shed, as in the leaf or bark. Though, as indicating their possible utility, it has been shown experimentally that plants are capable of taking up nitrogenous compounds, such as urea, uric acid, leucin, tyrosin, or glycocol, when supplied to their roots. In some recent experiments carried out at the botanical laboratory of Columbia University, I found that plant metabolism was materially hastened under the stimulus of cocaine.
The influence of light in the formation of alkaloids has already been shown. Tropical plants which produce these substances in abundance in their native state often yield but small quantities when grown in hot houses, indicating that a too intense light is unfavorable, probably in stimulating a too rapid action of the chlorophyl, together with a decomposition of the organic acid. Some years ago the botanist. Dr. Louis Errera, of Brussels, found that the young leaves of certain plants yielded more abundant alkaloid than those that were mature. Following this suggestion, Dr. Greshoif is said to have found that young Coca leaves yield nearly double the amount of alkaloid over that contained in old leaves gathered at the same time. In tea plantations the youngest leaves are gathered, but it has always been customary to collect the mature leaves of the Coca plant, and these have usually been found to yield the greatest amount of alkaloid. The probability is that the amount of alkaloid present in the Coca leaf is not so much influenced by maturity as it is by the period of its gathering.
As regards the temperature at which growth progresses most favorably, Martins has compared each plant to a thermometer, the zero point of which is the minimum temperature at which its life is possible. Thus, the Coca shrub in its native state will support a range from 18° C. (64.4° F.) to 30° C. (86° F.), an influence of temperature which is governed by the proportion of water contained in the plant. It has been found, from experiments of cultivation, that Coca will flourish in a temperature considerably higher than that which was originally supposed bearable, though the alkaloidal yield is less than that grown more temperately. The life process of any plant, however, may be exalted as the temperature rises above its zero point, though only continuing to rise until a certain height is reached, at which it ceases entirely. In the cold, plants may undergo a similar hibernation as do certain animals when metabolism is lessened, though long-continued cold is fatal, and frost is always so absolutely to Coca. The influence of temperature on metabolism tends to alter the relations between the volume of carbonic acid given off and the amount of oxygen absorbed. Under a mean temperature these relations are equal, while in a lower temperature more oxygen is absorbed in proportion to the carbonic acid given off, and oxygen exhalation ceases entirely below a certain degree.
A relatively large proportion of water in a plant determines its susceptibility to climatic conditions. Thus freezing not only breaks the delicate parenchymatous tissues, but alters the chemical constitution of the cells, while too high a temperature may prove destructive through a coagulation of the albumen. The appearance of plants killed by high or low temperature being similar. Roots are stimulated to curve to their source of moisture, and their power for absorption is more active in a high than in a low temperature, but as absorption is influenced by the transpiration of the plant, it is less active in a moist atmosphere, unless the metabolic processes of the plant occasions a higher temperature than the surrounding air. Such activity would be increased by the heat of the soil about the roots, and is probably manifest in the Coca plant through the peculiar soil of the Montaña.
The elevation at which a plant grows has an influence upon the absorption by the leaf. Thus it has been observed that while a slight increase in the carbonic acid gas contained in the air is favorable to growth, a considerable increase is prejudicial, while an increase or diminution of atmospheric pressure materially influences plant life. In some tropical countries Coca will grow at the level of the sea, provided there is an equable temperature and requisite humidity. Although in Peru Coca flourishes side by side with the best coffee, it will not thrive at the elevations where the coffee plant is commonly grown in either the East or West Indies. In Java, where experiments have been made in cultivating Coca, it has been stated that there is no perceptible difference in the alkaloidal yield due to the influence of elevation, while in the best cocals of Peru it is considered that the higher the altitude at which Coca can be grown the greater will be the alkaloidal yield. This is possibly effected by similar influences to that governing the aromatic properties developed in the coffee bean, which have been found more abundant when coffee is grown at an elevation, yet without danger of frost. This may be attributed to slower growth and a consequent deposit of nitrogenous principles instead of their being all consumed through a rapid metabolism.
It is therefore evident that as these several physical conditions have a marked bearing upon the life history of all plants, the more limited the range for any of these processes in any particular plant, the more it will be influenced. Thus in an altitude too high, the leaf of the Coca plant is smaller and only one harvest is possible within the year, while in the lower regions where the temperature exceeds 20° C. (68° F.) vegetation may be exuberant, but the quality of leaf is impaired. The electrical conditions of the atmosphere, it has been shown, have an important bearing upon the development of Coca, through the influence of the gases set free in the atmosphere and the possible slight increase of nitric acid carried to the soil.
It was thought by Martins that the mosses and lichens which are found upon the Coca shrubs were detrimental to the plant through favoring too great humidity. In the light of our knowledge on the development of alkaloids, however, it has seemed to me that here is an opportunity for very extended experimentation, as may be inferred from a reference to the alkaloidal production of cinchona. At first efforts were made to free the cinchona trees from the lichens and mosses which naturally formed upon them; but it was discovered accidentally that those portions of the trees which nature had covered in this manner yielded an increased amount of alkaloid. When cinchona plantations were started in Java, experiments made upon the result of this discovery prompted a systematic covering of the trunks of the trees artificially with moss, which was bound about them to the height from which the bark would be stripped. At first very great pains was taken to collect just an appropriate kind of moss, which it was supposed from its association with the tree in its native home would be essential, but later experiments proved that any form of covering which protected the bark from light increased this alkaloidal yield. So that to-day this process, which is known as “mossing,” is one of the most important in the cultivation and development of cinchona.
A Source Of Profound Confusion
The chief interest of Coca to the commercial world has centered upon its possibilities in the production of the one alkaloid, cocaine, instead of a more general economic use of the leaf. Because of this, much confusion of terms has resulted, for chemists have designated the amount of alkaloids obtained from the leaf as cocaine, although they have qualified their statement by saying that a portion of this is un- crystallizable. Numerous experiments have been conducted to determine the relative yield of cocaine from the different varieties of Coca, and when uncrystallizable alkaloids have been found the leaf has been condemned for chemical uses. It will thus be appreciated how a great amount of error has been generated and continued. The Bolivian or Huanuco variety has been found to yield the largest percentage of crystallizable alkaloid, while the Peruvian or Truxillo variety, though yielding nearly as much total alkaloid, affords a less percentage that is crystallizable, the Bolivian Coca being set apart for the use of the chemists to the exclusion of the Peruvian variety, which is richest in aromatic principles and best suited for medicinal purposes. As a matter of fact, the Peruvian Coca is the plant sought for by the native users.
There is not only a difference in the yield of alkaloid from different varieties of Coca, but also a difference in the yield from plants of one variety from the same cocal, and it would seem possible by selection and propagation of the better plants to obtain a high percentage of alkaloid. At present there is no effort in the native home of Coca toward the production of alkaloid in the leaf through any artificial means. Regarding the quality of alkaloid that has been found in the different plants, the Peruvian variety has been found to contain equal proportions of crystallizable and uncrystallizable alkaloid, while the Bolivian variety contains alkaloids the greater amount of which are crystallizable cocaine. Plants which are grown in conservatory, even with the greatest care, yield but a small percentage of alkaloid, of which, however, the uncrystallizable alkaloid seems more constant while the relative amount of cocaine is diminished. In leaves grown at Kew .44 percent, of alkaloid was obtained, of which .1 percent, was crystallizable. From experiments of Mr. G. Peppe, of Renchi, Bengal, upon leaves obtained from plants imported from Paris, it was found that leaves dried in the sun yielded .53 per cent, of alkaloid, of which .23 per cent was uncrystallizable. The same leaves dried in the shade on cloth for twenty hours, then rolled by hand, after the manner in which Chinese tea is treated, then cured for two and a half hours and dried over a charcoal fire and packed in close tins, yielded .58 per cent, of alkaloid, of which .17 per cent, was uncrystallizable.
It is probable that each variety of Coca has a particular range of altitude at which it may be best cultivated. The Bolivian variety is grown at a higher altitude than Peruvian Coca, while the Novo Granatense variety has even been found to thrive at the level of the sea. Among Coca, as among the cinchona certain varieties yield a large proportion of total alkaloids, of which only a small amount is crystallizable. The Cinchona succirubra yields a large amount of mixed alkaloids, but a small amount of quinine, while Cinchona Calisaya yields a smaller amount of mixed alkaloids and a large amount of crystallizable quinine. A few authors who have referred to the alkaloidal yield of Coca leaves have casually remarked that the plants grown in the shade produce an increased amount above those grown in the sun, which would appear to be paralleled by the formation of chlorophyl and the production of proteids, both of which have so important a bearing upon the metabolism of the plant and the final nitrogenous excretion.
This subject is one full of interest, yet so intricate that it has not been possible for me to elaborate the suggestions here set forth in time to embody my investigation in the present writing, though I hope to present the result of my research at no very distant date. It would seem that sufficient has been shown, however, to indicate the possibility of modifying plant metabolism under appropriate conditions of culture so as to influence the development of the alkaloidal excreta. The comparisons between plant and animal life may have proved of sufficient interest to enlist attention to the higher physiology in which will be traced the action of Coca.
Eat, enjoy, pump.
Well, at a minimum I suppose its better than fingers down the throat because at least you don’t damage your esophagus barfing up all that stomach acid.
This remarkable invention is evidently clean and santiary too. Your chewed and swallowed food is pumped right out before it can be digested. Of course you better be standing by the toilet or have a bucket handy.
Just think – no more nasty bowel movements. Chew, swallow, pump, flush. The savings on TP alone might be worth the implant!
And if you have pets there could even be some big savings there too. The phrase “doggie bag” unfortunately comes to mind.
On the other hand, wouldn’t a nice cup of Coca Leaf tea a few times a day be a little less, um, complicated? After all, there’s plenty of evidence that Coca Leaf tea can be a safe, natural way to treat obesity.
The internet is so deep and wide that no matter how often and how well one searches there is always more to find. I would like to share something I just found with readers of panaceachronicles, in case some of you have not yet read the absolutely stunning article entitled “The Wonders of the Coca Leaf” by Alan Forsberg (2011).
If you have never heard of this remarkable work I am not surprised – neither had I. It seems to have circulated widely in Latin America journals and on Latin American websites but not very much elsewhere in the world. So when I did run across multiple references to it while doing a deep search of some Latin American scientific & medical journals over the weekend and came across at least a dozen links to the article I started trying to download and read it. However when I began following those links – surprise! – most of them were broken and the few that were not 404 somehow froze when I tried to download and read the article. Coincidence, or censorship?
But as almost always happens the censors missed one link, and I was finally able to download the document. I have saved it (offline) just in case you try to access it through this link and find that the link is now mysteriously broken. If that happens let me know and I’ll be happy to send the document to you – with apologies to the author who I am not able to locate to request permission to do so. I will keep looking for Alan, not just to request his permission but also to offer him my profound gratitude for his seminal work.
The article itself is incredibly well-written, thorough, and fully documented, and the hyperlinked bibliography will allow you to browse a wealth of information resources that our society’s keepers would prefer to keep invisible. However, as those of us in the US and the rest of the world awaken and begin to join the fight that the Bolivian people have begun to unshackle this potent natural medicine, this article will provide us with a sharp blade to cut through the evil bullshit that has been piled on the heads of generations of suffering people by the corrupt and manipulative governments, corporations and institutions of the world.
I hope – I know – that you will enjoy reading this work of genius, and will come away from the experience determined to do for Coca Leaf what you have already done for Cannabis.
Here is a glimpse of the table of contents, and a link that I hope works for you.
The Wonders of the Coca Leaf By Alan Forsberg (2011)
> The Historical Use Value of Coca as a Food and Medicine
> The Traditional Meanings of Coca and its Development as a Symbol of Ethnic Identity
> Coca as a Tool for Social Interaction and Spiritual Protection
> Coca and the Western World: A History of Substance Abuse and Political Pressure
> Development of an International System of Control: Coca Taken Prisoner
> The Social Force of Rebellion behind Coca Deprivation
> A Different Approach to Coca Production – Turning Over a New Leaf
> Suppression of Scientific Research on the Benefits and Uses of the Coca Leaf
> Contemporary Non-traditional Uses of the Leaf: Sharing its benefits with Modern Society
> INCB and the Frontal Assault on Coca
> Coca as an intangible heritage of humanity: Freeing coca from the shackles of international law
Finally, here is the author’s statement at the conclusion of his essay.
“The overwhelming scientific evidence accumulated in the past 50 years should be enough to allow the international community to correct the historical mistake33 that was made when coca was included on the list of drugs banned by the 1961 Single Convention and coca chewing was slated to be abolished. But there is the danger in the tendency of a reductionist scientific viewpoint to diminish the significance of this complex wonder to merely a chemical compound, a highly nutritious food supplement, or versatile medicine. Equally troubling is the profit-making tendency to want to “add value” by treating this sacred leaf as a raw material to be refined in order to extract a flavoring agent or isolate its notorious alkaloid without recognizing the natural coca leaf’s holistic goodness as well as its sacred and social qualities as an intangible heritage of humanity offered by Andean-Amazonian cultures. The prophetic “Legend of the Coca Leaf” presages us of the difference between the way the leaf is used traditionally in the Andes, and the corrupted form used by Western conquerors. As the Sun God said to the Andean wise man Kjana Chuyma: “[coca] for you shall be strength and life, for your masters it shall be a loathsome and degenerating vice; while for you, natives, it will be an almost spiritual food, for them it shall cause idiocy and madness” (Villamil 1929, Hurtado 2004a).”
“People everywhere need to learn to respect the beneficial and mystical qualities of coca leaf in its natural state and recognize the idiocy and madness behind its prohibition in international law. To do so will require a serious re-evaluation and education campaign to overcome cultural barriers and long held stereotypes. The Bolivian and other Andean governments should discard the INCB directive to “formulate and implement education programs aimed at eliminating coca leaf chewing, as well as other non-medicinal uses of coca leaf” and rather take the time to “educate others about the coca leaf and the need to correct this historical mistake” because, as Virginia Aillón, first secretary to the Bolivian Embassy in Washington states: “Coca is not cocaine. Coca is medicine, food, coca is fundamentally cultural” (Armental 2008, Ledebur 2008 pp.2 & 5).”
I am continually re-reading my collection of old books on Coca because no matter how carefully one pays attention to the rich treasure of history and thought they represent, one’s mind is always drawn to whatever aspect of the current quest is most important, thus passing over information and insight that, in retrospect, was as vital and interesting as the object of the initial quest.
So it is with this little passage from “The History of Coca” by Dr. Mortimer. Buried deep in Chapter Seven, this passage not only describes the diverse ways in which the indigenous people of the Andes use Coca to sustain themselves while journeying through the high mountains, it also offers the careful reader some fascinating insights into the world that these people inhabited in the past – the same world where they live their lives to a large extent today, in spite of centuries of outside interference and exploitation.
For example, the brief note that while in the process of mining silver the women charged with evaluating each piece of ore brought to the surface could, at a glance, tell how much silver the piece contained and if it was less than 20% silver, down the mountainside it went and onto the trash pile. 20% silver! Of course this isn’t news to modern-day miners who have worked these “trash piles” for many years, but it does give you an idea of how rich the original mother lodes were, and how expert and intuitive the women were whose job was to sort the keepers from the rejects. I don’t know about you, dear reader, but I find this absolutely fascinating. And then Dr. Mortimer goes on to note that men could do exactly the same sort of quick sort as they walked through a Coca patch. With just a glance, and using who knows what other senses, the man could tell immediately which plants would yield the highest quality Coca Leaf and which were destined to be not worth further effort. One wonders if that ability persists today, or if it has been lost and replaced by technology.
Finally, because this post contains multiple references to the use of “Lime” in the chewing of Coca Leaf, it seems a good place to reiterate that we are talking about calcium carbonate as in limestone or seashells, not as in Margaritas and Key Lime Pie. Just a small point to keep in mind should you be fortunate enough to find yourself in possession of some fine quality Coca leaf.
(Excerpt from Chapter VII in “The History of Coca”)
The Indians chew Coca just as they do everything else, very deliberately and systematically. The mouthful of leaves taken at each time is termed acullico, or chique, which is as carefully predetermined as would the skilled housewife apportion the leaves of some choice bohea intended for an individual drawing. In preparing the chew the leaf is held base in between the two thumbs, parallel to the midrib, the soft part of the leaf being stripped off and put in the mouth. From the constant presence of this quid through many years the cheek on the side in which it is usually held presents a swollen appearance known as piccho. It is an error to suppose that the Indian journeys along and plucks the Coca from bushes by the wayside to chew, for the leaf must be carefully picked, dried and cured, and, just as tobacco or tea or coffee has to undergo certain processes before ready for consumption, so the full property of the Coca leaf is only developed after a proper preparation. Usually carried in the chuspa, or huallqui with the leaves, or fastened to it outside, is a little flask or bottle made from a gourd and called iscupuru, The word is not Quichua, but belongs to the dialect of the Chinchay-suyus along the banks of the Marañon. The Spanish authors termed it poporo. In this gourd is carried a lime-like substance made from the ashes left after burning certain plants or by burning shells or limestone. This, which they term llipta, or llucta is intermixed with the leaves when chewing by applying it to those in the mouth with a short stick dipped into the gourd from time to time. After this application the lime left on the stick is wiped about the head of the gourd in an abstracted way, leaving a deposit of lime which increases with time, for the Indian never parts with his poporo. M. Gaugnet presented M. Mariani with a poporo, brought from Colombia, a cast of which in my possession well represents this formation.
The operation of chewing is termed in Bolivia and Southern Peru acullicar while in the North it is called chacchar. The llipta is made in different localities from various substances; in the South from the ashes of the algarroba, the fruit of which has an immense reputation as an aphrodisiac, the mass being held together with boiled potatoes, while in the North quicklime is used, and in some of the Montaña regions ashes of the musa root or that of the common cereus are employed. The ashes of the burnt stalk of the quinoa plant, chenopodium quinua, mixed with a little lime, is the ordinary preparation. In Caravaya the llipta is made in little cone-like lumps; in other places it is found in flat dried cakes, which are scratched into a powder with a stick as it is required for use. Tschudi mentions the use of sugar with the leaves, but this must have been a European innovation which was supposedly an improvement, but not warranted by local customs. In Brazil, Coca – or ypadú as there termed – is powdered and mixed with the ash of Cecropia palmata leaves.
Ernst has traced the derivation of a number of the terms which are applied to the use of Coca among the Colombian Indians. These have been built up from the name of the gourd used to carry the lime or from the little sack in which the leaves are carried, which is always worn by the Indian. Thus the Chibchas term the alkali anna, which signifies a bluish lime.
Dr. Monardes speaks of the use of tobacco combined with Coca and says of the Indians: “When they will make themselves to be out of judgment they mingle with the Coca the leaves of the tobacco, at which they totter and go as though they were out of their witts, or if they were drunk, which is a thing that doth give them great contentment to be in that sorte.” Tobacco is still mixed with Coca by some of the Colombian Indians, but it is doubtful if such a mixture alone would produce the effect described. The hallucinations and narcotic action attributed by early writers to Coca are largely confusional from imperfect facts. Some of the Indians gather the leaves of a plant they term huaca or huacacachu. It is a running vine with a large obvate leaf, pale green above and purple beneath, growing in the Montaña only upon ground where there has previously been a habitation; for what is now an apparent virgin forest it is thought may three or four hundred years ago have been thickly inhabited. No scientific facts are known regarding this leaf as far as I could learn after submitting specimens of it to several of our leading botanists. The Indians term so many things huaca – which is a name they apply to anything they consider sacred – that it is very difficult to determine simply from the name. Von Tschudi probably refers to this leaf in what he describes as bovachero, or datura sanguinea. Several writers refer to the use of this leaf as a remedy for snake bite and against inflammations. A liquor is prepared from the leaves which the Indians term tonga, the drinking of which, they believe, will put them in communication with their ancestors, and from its strong narcotic action perhaps it may. Tschudi describes the symptoms observed in the case of an Indian who had taken some of this narcotic. “He fell into a heavy stupor, his eyes vacantly fixed on the ground, his mouth convulsively closed and his nostrils dilated. In the course of a quarter of an hour his eyes began to roll, foam issued from his mouth, and his body was agitated with frightful convulsions. After these violent symptoms had passed off a profound sleep followed of several hours’ duration, and when the subject recovered he related the particulars of his visit with his forefathers.” Because of this superstitious property the natives termed huaca “the grave plant.”
The Indians have fixed places along the road where they rest and replace their chews of Coca. Usually it is in some spot sheltered from the wind; and if near one of these retreats, they will hurry until reaching there, where they may drop exhausted, and after resting for a few moments will begin to prepare the leaves for mastication. In about ten minutes they are armado – as it is termed, or fully prepared to continue their journey. The distance an Indian will carry his ccepi – or load, of about a hundred pounds, under stimulus of one chew of Coca is spoken of as a cocada, just as we might say a certain number of miles. It is really a matter of time rather than distance, the first influence being felt within ten minutes, and the effect lasting for about three-quarters of an hour, during which time three kilometres on level ground, or two kilometres going up hill, will usually be covered. Although the roads are marked out with league stones, the exact number of miles these represent is a varying quantity, and travelers soon fall into the local habit of computing distance by the cocada as more exact.
These ccepiris – or burden bearers, which is the Quichua term or cargaderos – as they are termed on the coast, commonly travel six to eight cocadas a day without any other food excepting the Coca leaf used in the manner as indicated. It is not at all unusual – as related by numerous travelers – for a messenger to cover a hundred leagues afoot with no other sustenance than Coca. The old traditional chasqui, or courier, who has been continued since the time of the Incas, is still given messages to carry on foot rather than by horse or mule. He always carries a pack, which is fastened on his back and to his head also, leaving both arms free; and where the road is so steep that he cannot walk he will scramble along on all fours very rapidly. When the Indians come to their resting place they throw off their burdens and squat down, and the traveler might just as well decide to rest here as to attempt to go on. All persuasion would be just as useless to induce a resting Indian to proceed as it would be in the case of their favorite beast of burden, the llama, which is as unalterable of purpose as is his master.
The amount of Coca that is used by an Indian in a day varies from one to two handfuls, which is equivalent to one or two ounces. The leaves are not weighed out, but are apportioned to each man in accordance with the amount of work that is to be done. As an extensive operator in Peru expressed it to me, “the more work the more Coca,” while conversely, the more Coca the more work they are capable of doing. If the placid calm of an Indian is ever ruffled, it is only manifest through his taking an extra chew.
Away up in the cold and barren regions of the mountains wood and brush are too scarce to supply fuel, so the dried droppings of the llama are used instead; and as no one ever thinks of having a fire in this region merely for the purpose of keeping warm, this fuel is only used for cooking and necessity soon corrects any over-fastidiousness in the epicure. One of the remarkable peculiarities of the llama is that the beast deposits this mountain fuel always in the same places; a whole herd will go to one fixed spot, and so greatly lessen the labor of gathering the dung. In some of the particularly dangerous passes in the mountains there are rude crosses erected, which have been set up by the missionaries to mark the piles of sacred stones of the early Incan period. These stone piles are often far removed from loose stones, which must be carried for a long distance in anticipation of adding to the heap.
As the Indian makes his offering he also expects all travelers as they pass to make a like obeisance to the god of the mountain, expressive of gratitude for a journey that has been safe thus far, and imploring a favorable continuance. Often these places are decorated with little trinkets, which are hung upon the arms of the cross or thrown upon the pile of stones. Any object that has been closely attached to the person is offered; sometimes this may be even so simple as a hair from the eyebrow, but commonly the cud of Coca is thrown against the rocks, the Indian bowing three times and exclaiming ‘Apachicta’ which is an abbreviation of the term Apachicta-muchhani “I worship at this heap,” or “I give thanks to him who has given me strength to endure thus far.” The offering is made to Apachic, or Pachacamac, of whom the stone pile is an emblem. It is a curious fact that diametrically opposite on the globe, in that portion of Chinese Tartary where the priests are called Lamas, offerings are made by the natives to similar stone piles which are there termed obos.
Arduous as may be the task of the cargo bearer, the severest trial the Indian is subject to is mining. They commence this labor as boys of eight and spend the greater part of their lives in the mines. These places are wet and cold, and the work is very hard. In getting out the ore the workers must use a thirty-pound hammer with one hand, while the carriers are obliged to bear burdens of about one hundred and fifty pounds up the steep ascent of the shaft to the surface. This mining is continuous, being carried on by two gangs of men, one of which goes on duty at seven at night, working until five in the morning, when, after a rest of two hours they continue until seven at night, and are then relieved by the other party. Some of the silver mines employ thousands of operatives, both men and women, the men working in the mine and the women breaking and sorting the ore which is brought to the surface. Unless there is at least twenty per cent, of silver in the ore it is cast aside; and these women are so expert that as they break the stones into small pieces they determine instantly how it shall be sorted.
A similar cleverness is shown on the part of the Indians who select the Coca or cinchona plants. They will walk rapidly through a nursery and determine at a glance the value of individual plants or of the whole field without apparent hesitation. The Indians do not always select mining through choice, but are almost driven to it through the influence of the authorities. They have a dreadful fear of temporal powers and dare not disobey, even though their inclinations might suggest that they were born agriculturists. But these people have no inclinations; they have always been taught to do as commanded. It is suggestive of an instance I once met with when a physician, in reprimanding his colored servant, asked him why he did a certain thing, to which the poor fellow started to explain by “I thought.” “Thought!” said the doctor – “there you go thinking again; you have no right to think!” And so it is with these poor Indians; they can have no opinion, they have no right to think.
The Incas did a prodigious amount of work in their mining efforts, which, even if primitive, were forcible and effective. A system of waterways, similar to the extensive aqueducts of the coast, was made use of to conduct these operations, and several of these canals still exist, some many miles long. They are from three to five feet wide, and five to eight feet deep; in places cut through the solid rock, and in others, when over a porous soil, they are lined with sandstone. Numerous smaller ones were extended from the main canal, generally ending in reservoirs, from which sluice gates might be opened to permit the pent-up volume of waters to suddenly rush down a hill, carrying with it hundreds of tons of golden gravel. At the same time other streams were run along the base of the cliffs, undermining them, and by this ancient method of hydraulic mining, continued through centuries, whole mountains have been washed away. At Alpacata, in the upper part of Aporoma, at an elevation of seven thousand five hundred and fifty feet, is still to be found one of these old canals, together with the huge tanks for storing water, in a fair state of preservation.
An engineer, extensively interested in mining interests, who spends several months of each year in Peru, has described to me the peculiar methods followed by the Indians, who sometimes conduct their gold washings in the streams to their own profit. Selecting a part of some river bed that is left without water during the dry season, the Indian paves it with large sloping stones, forming a series of riffles. When the freshets of the rainy season cause the stream to rise and overflow these paved spots, any gold carried down is caught between the stones and is gathered during the following dry season. The annual returns from such farms are almost exactly the same each year, so that the Indian may count with as great accuracy on the yield of gold from his several mining chacras as he would upon the products of his corn or Coca fields. This primitive form of mining is still carried on to a limited extent, and these gold farms are handed down from father to son as regular property. The Indians appear to have an intuitive and very accurate knowledge of the relative richness of the various streams, but their natural reticence makes it extremely difficult to gain this information from them.