This very interesting article from 1874 describes the experiments and observations by a British MD into the properties of alkaloid extracts of Coca, Coffee, Tea, Chocolate, Guarana, and other “common stimulants”.
At first I thought that the article was going to examine the therapeutic properties of Coca Leaves, but it soon became clear that the Doctor had little luck in finding fresh Coca leaf, and so he decided to experiment instead on the extract of Coca Leaf, Cocaine, along with the alkaloids of other popular drinks and snacks that had been arriving in Europe since the discovery of the “New World”.
What I find so interesting about this article is the author’s conclusion that cocaine, theine, caffeine, guaranine, and theobromine are “all powerful poisons” and are all “almost identical” in chemical composition.
Yet we happily sell and celebrate our coffee beans, tea leaves, and chocolate beans which have pleasant but not remarkably therapeutic effects, and whose primary alkaloids are “powerful poisons”, while we allow our government and scientific/medical establishment and their owners, Pig Pharma, to demonize and punish anyone who wants to have a cup of Coca Leaf tea a couple of times a day to save their health and perhaps their life. Go figure.
Here is the full article from 1874:
THE BRITISH MEDICAL JOURNAL, April 18, 1874.
THE PHYSIOLOGICAL ACTION OF COCA, By ALEXANDER BENNETT, M.D.
IN the recent numbers of the BRITISII MEDICAL JOURNAL, there have appeared several interesting notices on the therapeutical effects of “erythroxyloni coca”. This substance has been for some years pretty extensively employed at home, but particularly on the continent, as a stimulant and tonic in a variety of diseases, and, it is said, with considerable success. Still, comparatively little is yet known about the action of the plant. The following observations may not be uninteresting to those who are clinically investigating the properties of the drug, which, as our knowledge of it advances, will doubtless prove a valuable addition to the Pharmacopaia.
My attention was directed to the action of the coca leaves several years ago; and at different times, and from various sources, I have obtained quantities sufficient for experimental purposes. My object was first to ascertain the effects of the drug upon the healthy human subject, with special reference to its stated stimulant and anti-triptic properties; and, with this object, I administered to myself and to others the leaves in doses varying from one to eight drachms in the form of infusion and of extract, and also by chewing them along with different alkalis, after the manner described by travelers as adopted by the natives of Bolivia and Peru.
After a series of experiments carefully conducted, I was not able to convince myself that the drug thus administered had any special effects, with the exception of a sensation of slight local tingling of the tongue and mouth when the leaves were masticated for any length of time. Whether this inert action is due to the leaves having lost their active properties by exportation, to their being improperly selected or prepared, to an insufficient quantity having been administered, or to a defective method of application, I am not in a position to decide. After every precaution and variety of treatment with different samples of the leaves, and in as large quantities as could be conveniently administered, I have failed to satisfy myself that there was even any approach to the powerful and somewhat startling results graphically described by many authors as occurring when the leaves are chewed by the inhabitants of the countries where the plant abounds.
So I next directed my attention to the neutral principle of the coca leaves, and after great difficulty, with the aid of Messrs. Macfarlane and Co., chemists, Edinburgh, I succeeded in obtaining a small quantity of the crystalline substance cocaine (C17H21NO4).
With this I conducted a series of experiments and observations on the lower animals, as far as I am aware, for the first time in this country, and arrived at results which appeared to me of considerable importance, ascertaining that cocaine was a powerful poison with special actions on the nervous system. As coca is extensively employed in South America as a beverage, and as cocaine bears close chemical relations to the neutral principles of tea, coffee, guarana, chocolate, and other well-known stimulants, I proceeded to make a series of experiments also with theine, caffeine, guaranine, and theobromine, with the view of determining the actions of each, and the relations, if any, which existed among them.
In the Edinburgh Medical Journal for October I873 will be found a description in detail of these observations. The general results at which I arrived may be given shortly as follows.
The physiological actions of coca, tea, coffee, guarana, and cocoa, are mainly, if not entirely, due to their neutral principles. (ed. note: the author refers to the dominant alkaloids as “neutral principles.)
Cocaine, theine, caffeine, guaranine, and theobromine are powerful poisons, inducing a series of symptoms affecting the nervous, respiratory, circulatory, vaso-motor, and glandular systems, which terminate, if the dose be large enough, in death.
These five principles are, to all appearances, identical in physiological action.
In small doses not ending fatally, these five substances produce a Cerebral excitement not succeeded by coma, and b. Partial loss of sensibility.
In large doses they produce a. Cerebral excitement, b. Complete paralysis of sensibility, c. Tetanic spasms and convulsions, and d. Death.
They paralyze the entire posterior columns of the spinal cord also the entire system of peripheral sensory nerves; but the anterior columns of the cord and the peripheral motor nerves are not paralysed.
They frequently produce convulsions of a clonic character, but occasionally they cause tetanic spasms, which latter are sometimes so severe as to induce opisthodomos.
They do not produce muscular paralysis.
They at first increase, then impede, and lastly stop, the respirations.
They at first increase, and finally diminish, both the force and frequency of the heart’s contractions.
They produce at first contraction, and afterwards dilatation, of the capillaries and small blood-vessels, with stasis of the blood, indicating first irritation, and subsequent paralysis, of the vaso-motor nerves.
They affect the temperature by first slightly lowering, and secondly increasing, it.
They usually produce contraction of the pupil.
They produce an increase of the salivary secretion.
They induce a peculiar form of tenesmus, accompanied by a copious discharge of clear mucus from the bowels.
These conclusions have been arrived at after a careful series of experiments conducted on more than one hundred animals of different kinds; and it is extremely interesting to learn that those agents, which the different nations of the world have found by experience to produce refreshing and stimulating beverages, although unlike one another and procured from totally different sources, possess in common proximate principles, which not only are almost identical in chemical composition, but also appear similar in physiological action.
According to the above observations, cocaine has the same actions as theine, etc.; so, for clinical purposes, the latter is at present preferable on account of the enormous expense of the former. That the effects of the beverages themselves are mainly, if not entirely, due to the neutral principles they contain, is highly probable; but of their beneficial action in medical practice I am not yet in a position to give an opinion.
However, from their stimulant action and effect on the nervous, system generally, there is every reason to hope that the concentrated forms of these drugs, or the neutral principles themselves, will prove powerful and useful agents in the hands of the physician for the treatment of disease. Before the medical man can practice his profession scientifically, he should be acquainted, not only with the natural course of the malady he proposes to alleviate, but also with the physiological effects of the drug by which he hopes to reach this end.
By observations upon the lower animals, he may also obtain suggestions and information which will materially assist him in relieving and benefiting the human being. With this object, the above investigation was undertaken; and, although the research is yet in its infancy, I venture to hope that my conclusions will not be found deficient in interest and importance to those who desire to establish a sound system of therapeutics upon careful physiological experiment.
(End of BMJ article)
Although the early research into Coca Leaf has been largely ignored by modern scientists and physicians, writing just about 100 years after Alexander Bennett, the brilliant MD Andy Weil wrote in the Journal of Ethnopharmacology. 1981 Mar-May;3(2-3):367-76.
“The therapeutic value of coca in contemporary medicine.”
“Coca appears to be a useful treatment for various gastrointestinal ailments, motion sickness, and laryngeal fatigue. It can be an adjunct in programs of weight reduction and physical fitness and may be a fast-acting antidepressant. It is of value in treating dependence on stronger stimulants. Coca regulates carbohydrate metabolism in a unique way and may provide a new therapeutic approach to hypoglycemia and diabetes mellitus. With low-dose, chronic administration it appears to normalize body functions. In leaf form coca does not produce toxicity or dependence. Coca can be administered as a chewing gum or lozenge containing a whole extract of the leaf, including alkaloids, natural flavors, and nutrients.”
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.
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.
I have no doubt that it is true that Coca Leaf can treat and perhaps cure this fiery scourge of millions of lives.
Based on my extensive research into the writings of 19th Century physicians and scientists I believe that there is virtually no doubt that Coca Leaf Tea could effectively treat and heal most if not all symptoms of Fibromyalgia. Also, if it is possible to talk about a cure for this terrible disease, then I believe that Coca leaf could be the basis for a true natural cure. If this thesis could be tested, which it cannot because such testing is forbidden by the US government, I am confident that the safety and efficacy of pure, natural Coca Leaf would be confirmed, and then over 4 million people in the US could experience immediate relief of symptoms and perhaps remission of this devastating disease.
Extensive research and clinical experience from the 19th century, long lost because of the arrogant blindness of Allopathic medicine to the lessons of the past, shows clearly that Coca Leaf can treat the following symptoms/conditions safely and effectively: whole body pain; immobilizing muscle and joint stiffness; deep, chronic fatigue; debilitating depression; unremitting anxiety; chronic insomnia; cognitive deterioration; severe headaches and migraines; peripheral numbness; and agonizing “Pins & Needles”.
This also happens to be a list of all the major symptoms of Fibromyalgia.
Of course, under current US law we’ll never know whether or not pure, natural, whole Coca Leaf can offer treatment for Fibromyalgia, because Coca Cola and Pig Pharma are the only ones authorized to import while, natural Coca leaf from Bolivia, Peru and Colombia, so medical researchers couldn’t get their hands on Coca Leaf even if they wanted to design and run what would amount to simple, swift testing of the hypothesis.
This means that the 4 million people in the US alone who suffer from this excruciatingly painful and debilitating disease will just have to suck it up, according to the US government.
Unfortunately, the Coca Leaf Tea available on places like Amazon won’t help because, by US law, it has to be chemically de-natured before it can be brought in for sale. Supposedly the “de-cocainization” process only removes the dreaded alkaloid Cocaine, one of 21 known Coca Leaf alkaloids, but in reality the “de-cocainization” process destroys far more than the single alkaloid Cocaine, and these denatured leaves are useless for treating much less healing any of the diseases for which pure, whole leaf Coca was proven effective over 100 years ago.
The chemical poisons pushed by Pig Pharma and the FDA for fibromyalgia, besides being only partially effective, if at all, can also destroy you. Take a look at what these “medicines” can do to you while they are (ineffectively) “treating” your fibromyalgia.
Currently, only three medications — duloxetine, milnacipran, and pregabalin — are approved by the FDA to treat fibromyalgia. Let’s take a quick look at the side effects of these drugs.
While reviewing the potential adverse consequences of these three drugs, please keep in mind that the negative side effects of Coca Leaf Tea are precisely ZERO.
Terrible Choice #1: Duloxetine is dangerous if you have a personal or family history of psychiatric disorders (such as bipolar/manic-depressive disorder), a personal or family history of suicide attempts, bleeding problems, a personal or family history of glaucoma (angle-closure type), high blood pressure, kidney disease, liver disease, or seizure disorder.
Terrible Choice #2: Milnacipran is a terrible drug in so many ways. Milnacipran can cause minor (!) symptoms like nausea, vomiting, upset stomach, bloating, dry mouth, constipation, loss of appetite, dizziness, drowsiness, swelling in your hands or feet, insomnia, weight change, decreased sex drive, impotence, or difficulty having an orgasm. Among the “major” problems Milnacipran can cause are: increase in suicidal thinking and behavior in children, adolescents, and young adults, painful or difficult urination, seizures, yellowing eyes or skin, dark urine, severe stomach or abdominal pain, black or bloody stools, and vomit that looks like coffee grounds, and easy bruising or bleeding.
Finally we come to Terrible Choice #3: Pregabalin. It’s hard to believe any doctor would prescribe this poison.
First, you can’t use this drug if you are already have severely decreased platelets, are having thoughts of suicide, have depression, have decreased in sharpness of vision, have atrioventricular heart block, have chronic heart failure, suddenly experience serious symptoms of heart failure, have rhabdomyolysis, feel drowsy or dizzy a lot, have fluid retention in the legs, feet, arms or hands, experience weight gain, have giant hives, have moderate to severe kidney impairment, or have muscle pain or tenderness (like you have with, oh, I don’t know, maybe … fibromyalgia).
Then there are the “side effects” of Pregabalin.
The “minor” ones are: Dizziness, somnolence, xerostomia, peripheral edema, blurred vision, weight gain, abnormal thinking, constipation, impaired coordination, pain, and/or decreased blood platelets.
The scary ones are: hypersensitivity reaction, anaphylactoid reaction, angioedema, exfoliative dermatitis, Stevens-Johnson syndrome, thrombocytopenia, rhabdomyolysis, suicidal thinking.
THE BOTTOM LINE
Certain strains of Cannabis have been shown to be effective at treating some of the symptoms of fibromyalgia, which is great news for those who suffer 24/7/365 from this painful disease. I would not suggest that fibromyalgia sufferers abandon Cannabis even if Coca Leaf Tea were available.
However, I do suggest that all 4 million fibromyalgia sufferers get on social media with their legislators and demand that either their state, or the federal government, remove the ban on importation of Coca Leaf immediately, plus allowing anyone who needs this medicine to grow their own medical Coca plants just as they are allowed, in some of our more enlightened states, to grow their own Cannabis medical plants. Growing Coca is, if anything, even easier than growing Cannabis, and both can actually be grown side-by-side in many environments.
Cannabis and Coca Leaf TOGETHER will be totally synergistic natural medicines, and will be highly effective in treating and in many cases healing a wide range of diseases and conditions, not just fibromyalgia. There is simply no excuse for these great natural medicines not to be freely available, even if that would mean the destruction of billions of dollars of bloody profits now raked in by Pig Pharma and used to bribe politicians to keep natural medicines like Coca and Cannabis out of the hands of millions of Americans who live painful, restricted, deteriorating and hopeless lives.
People of conscience rightfully condemn the Nazi looting of art and cultural artifacts from Jewish victims of the Holocaust, and from homes and museums around Europe. People also rightfully condemn the berserk destruction of cultural and historical treasures in Iraq and Afghanistan by ISIS and the Taliban.
There is a growing body of international law that condemns and demands reparations on the part of former colonial powers like Britain, France, Belgium and The Netherlands whose military and “explorers” looted cultural and historical treasures of Greece, Egypt, Iraq, India, Indonesia, Africa and elsewhere in their Empires. The Spanish are certainly near the top of any list of looters of cultural and historical artifacts with their centuries-long conquest and domination of the Indian civilizations of Latin America.
And of course it can hardly be disputed that the Americans top the list of looters with their genocide against Native Americans and blatant theft of their ancient homelands, along with widespread looting of their cultural and historical artifacts, desecration of their graves, and theft of their cultural heritage. When this history is combined with the destruction and enslavement of entire African civilizations, and the forced obliteration of not only whole families and tribes but whole histories, Americans are definitely at the top of any list of historical and cultural criminals.
All of the victims of these various exercises of colonial avarice, hatred and slaughter are at some stage in seeking reparations. The Greeks want their temples back from the British. The Egyptians want the bones and treasures of their ancient Kings returned. Native Americans are demanding the return of their sacred objects and the bones of their ancestors from the Smithsonian. The Iraqis who have seen their Mesopotamian heritage scattered to the winds for centuries are currently being victimized by a blow-dried reincarnation of Jim & Tammy Faye in the person of the “Christian” owners of the tacky little “Hobby Lobby” chain in the US that is charged with large-scale looting on ancient artifacts in the Middle East. These elaborately coiffed smiley-face Oklahomans of course deny everything, pleading that they had no idea that these little ole’ tiles were invaluable cultural artifacts.
Cultures worldwide are demanding the same of museums in France, Belgium and The Netherlands. The Chinese are demanding the return of cultural and historical treasures looted by the American-backed Chiang Kai Shek. American Black people are demanding reparations for the theft and brutalization of their families, cultures and history. Latin American cultures are demanding that Spain , Portugal and the Catholic Church return the wealth in gold, silver, culture and history stolen from them over the centuries of Colonial domination.
However, in the midst of all this worldwide outcry against theft of cultural and historical heritage by force and stealth, at least one enormous crime against Native People has been completely overlooked, and I am proposing that the people of Bolivia and Peru, who are the victims of this particular crime, organize and pursue legal remedy under the same body of international law that has begun to recognize the rights of other Native People worldwide.
The crime I am referring to is the theft of the Coca Plant by the European pharmaceutical industry that, since the 1840’s, has made hundreds of billions of dollars from the theft of this Sacred Plant of the Incas and has not paid one penny in reparation or shared any of the huge profits that this industry has enjoyed for over 150 years. Specifically, I am suggesting that Bolivia and Peru jointly sue the German Pharmaceutical company Merck, which was responsible for first looting Coca Plants from Bolivia and Peru and then extracting the alkaloid Cocaine from those plants, and then making Cocaine the core of the company’s fortunes as it grew into the globally dominant pharmaceutical giant of today.
The Coca Plant is indigenous to only one place in the world – the southern Andes – so Merck cannot claim that they took a plant that was readily available worldwide and simply exercised their scientific genius in producing Cocaine. The plants that Merck used to create mountains of gold from a few green leaves came from only one place, and were the cultural and historical heritage of only one People – the Native peoples who today live in poverty in Andes, remote from even a handful of the wealth so jealously guarded by the German pharmaceutical industry and others worldwide who profit from the cultural heritage of the Incas – companies like Coca Cola, who should also be named in any lawsuit for reparations brought by representatives of the Native People of Bolivia and Peru.
The art looted by the Nazis is being returned to the rightful owners under the law, and the families and descendants of those owners are rightfully being compensated. The stolen art, artifacts and bones of ancient civilizations in Greece, Egypt and elsewhere are gradually being pried loose from the talons of the museums erected by Colonial powers to display their loot. Even the American Smithsonian is finally, reluctantly recognizing that it has no right to make the corpses of Native Americans part of their “display”, and are, while doing a lot of foot-dragging, gradually returning the bones and cultural and historical loot stolen from the Native American people. And although there is enormous opposition among the elite and their toadies toward paying reparations to American Black people, at least there is some movement among American Black people themselves to reclaim parts of their stolen cultural and historical heritage.
So why shouldn’t Merck, Coca Cola and others that have profited from the theft of the heritage of the Incas be taken before the bar of international justice and stripped of at least a major portion of the profits that they have made from the theft of the cultural/historical heritage of the descendants of the Incas? The court of jurisdiction would also be responsible for assuring that the money recovered in the name of the descendants of the Incas was not re-looted by politicians in those countries, and instead went into a closely supervised non-profit international organization that was severely limited in the salaries it could pay and the administrative overhead it could charge.
I think that this is the right thing to do, and I think it should be done beginning now. Are you listening, President Morales? You have an historic opportunity to force the greedy capitalists of Merck, Coca Cola and other evil corporations to crawl on their knees dragging wagonloads of stolen wealth back to the people who are its rightful owners.
Just do it. Por favor.
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).”