Thoughts On Coca, Cannabis, Opium & Tobacco – Gifts Of The Great Spirit


Mama Coca Murdered In The Name Of Jesus

Editor’s Note: Many readers of this blog will already be familiar with the atrocities committed by the Spanish during their conquest of Mexico. The collusion of the Catholic Church in these atrocities is also well-documented, as is the barbaric behavior of both the Conquistadors and the Priests toward the conquered Mexicans. Anyone not fully familiar with this part of the story of how the cockroaches of Europe spread their diseased minds and greedy doctrines throughout the “New World” can do no better than to read “The Journals Of Bernal Diaz”, whose chronicles of the Cortez conquest of Mexico are among the few reasonably accurate descriptions we have from that awful period. Click here for Volume #1, and Click here for Volume #2

However, as grossly cruel and barbaric as the Spanish conquest of Mexico undoubtedly was, and as complicit as the Catholic Church and its corrupt priesthood was in the slaughter and exploitation, the suffering inflicted upon Mexico was nothing compared with that inflicted on Peru, and the diseased and evil soul of the Priesthood displayed in Mexico was multiplied many times over with the Inca in Peru. Whereas in Mexico the priests of the Church followed behind the Conquistadors and exploited the chaos that they created, in Peru the priesthood initiated and energetically led the bloodshed and exploitation. The Conquistadors themselves were the original “Gang Who Couldn’t Shoot Straight”, evil little clowns and drunkards pretending to be soldiers. In a long and shameful history, the satanic behavior and deliberately genocidal policies of the Church in Peru mark a disgusting low point in the annals of this criminal institution whose impact has persisted to this day.

The following relatively brief excerpts from Dr. Mortimer’s 1901 “History Of Coca” will, I hope, whet the appetite of readers of this blog to pursue the story by going to the dozens of original source materials that are hyperlinked in the bibliography that is offered inThe Coca leaf Papers”. Within these original source materials you’ll find historically accurate and detailed accounts of the generations-long exploitation of the indigenous people of the Andes, which continues to a large extent even today through a feudal land-ownership and class system that has given rise, in recent times, to revolutionary movements such as El Sendaro Luminoso – The Shining Path. The fact that this revolutionary movement, like all others in Latin America, has been compromised and undercut by the Great Satan to the North through the use of mercenaries and paid assassins should not and does not take away from its historical legitimacy as a protest against exploitation and cruelty.

What follows is a brief description of the origins of the centuries of the suffering that continues to this day, and that drives the bravest among the indigenous peoples of the Andes to continue to resist by all means possible the evil and corruption that was brought to their lands so many centuries ago.

This Post Excerpted from “The History of Coca”, Chapter Three, by Dr. William Mortimer, MD (1901)

Mama Coca And the First Inca Survey Her Domain

We Come In Peace

In November, 1532, hearing that Atahualpa, with his army, was in the neighboring mountains, Pizarro crossed the desert of Sechura, and a sort of triumphal march was continued toward the interior directly to the Inca’s camp. As his troops passed on, the natives were baptized into the church, and assumed solemn vows which they could not understand, but it was sufficient that they had accepted the faith. Atahualpa learning of Pizarro’s approach – presumably supposed that so small a body could only be coming upon friendly terms – so sent a messenger with greetings to inform him that the Inca would on the following day visit him in person. In the meantime the freedom of Caxamarca was extended to the invaders, and the use of the public buildings was offered for the  troops.

Pizarro concealed his forces while awaiting the sovereign, who was borne in great state upon the royal litter, was clothed in Incan splendor, a chuspa of Coca hung at his side, golden sandals were upon his feet, and his head bore the stately insignia of power – the llauta and borla of scarlet fringe, with the royal feathers of the sacred bird. He was accompanied by a numerous retinue of nobles of his court and thousands of followers.

Friar Vicente de Valverde, the ecclesiastical head of the Spaniards, acted as spokesman, and explained through his interpreters that their little band had visited this far-off land for the sake of establishing the true religion and converting the natives. He beseeched the Inca to at once acknowledge the faith and allegiance to the king, Charles the Fifth.  Authority for all this he attempted to show in a Bible which he offered to Atahualpa, but the latter, saying he recognized no other king than himself, indignantly threw the book to the ground, which the vengeful friar seemed to recognize as an  affront sufficient to provoke hostilities, for he shouted, “Fall on! I absolve you”, when at once the most terrible onslaught upon the unsuspecting Incas was commenced. The Spanish officers being mounted, were enabled to do some frightful work, while the troops, armed with death-dealing arquebuses, literally vomited fire upon the natives, who were massacred by thousands, while not one of the invading party was injured save Pizarro, who received a slight wound from his own men while shielding the Inca, who was taken prisoner. The monarch was at first treated with courtesy, and permitted to retain his people about him. Pizarro, ever awake to some politic move, hinted upon the advisability of adjusting the affairs of the brothers amicably, but the imprisoned chief, not realizing his own danger, became alarmed at such a suggestion, and secretly dispatched orders to assassinate Huascar, who was then a prisoner in Atahualpa’s army. Nor had his brother received very courteous treatment at the hands of the rival forces, for they put a rope around his neck and called him Coca hachu – Coca chewer – besides offering him many other  affronts, while they gave him Chillea – Bacchaus scandeus – leaves to eat instead of Coca. This so outraged Huascar that he raised his eyes to heaven and cried: “O Lord and Creator, how is it possible ? Why hast thou sent me these burdens and troubles?”


In The Name Of The “True Religion”, The Spanish Slaughter The Welcoming Inca Royalty

Now commenced the downfall of the Empire of the Incas. Atahualpa, chafing under restraint, suggested paying for his ransom with as much gold as the room in which he was imprisoned would hold; and as that space was seventeen feet broad by twenty-two feet long, and was to be filled to a height of nine feet, the Spaniards were only too ready to agree to his proposition. But even their most sordid expectations had not pictured the vast store of riches which, at the command of the Inca, was at once brought to them from all sections of the country. It literally poured in a golden stream of vases, vessels, utensils, ornaments, the golden Coca shrubs from the temples, immense plaques, and golden animals, and statues of life-size, and in nuggets and golden dust. All this did not seem enough to satisfy the greed of the conqueror. Instead of freeing Atahualpa, who had shown too keen a wit to be permitted at liberty, it was decided to make away with him. He was charged with the murder of his brother, and after a hasty trial was condemned to death. In August, 1533, after receiving the last rites of the Church, he was executed in the square of Caxamarca by the garrote, as a distinctive torture to being burned alive in consideration for his having at the last moment submitted to baptism. The following day, amidst the most impressive solemnity, the service for the dead being performed by Father Valverde, the body of the Incan sovereign was buried, Pizarro and his principal cavaliers assuming mourning as hypocritical emblems of their grief at the loss of this mighty lord. The greatest lawlessness now commenced, and booty was free among the Spaniards. Villages were destroyed, houses were ransacked, and the gorgeous temples and palaces were plundered.

Pizarro advanced rapidly to Cuzco, but little of its golden splendor was now left. The cupidity of the invaders had over-leaped itself, for as the Peruvians saw that the sole desire of the Spanish was for gold, they secreted the beautifully wrought golden emblems of Coca and other elaborate workings of the precious metal, together with the sacred vessels and the venerated bodies of the Incas which had been set up in the Temple of the Sun. From that day to this these treasures have never been fully recovered, although some years later Polo Ondegardo, while Corregidor of Cuzco, found five mummies in a tomb in the mountains, three of them men and two women. These were said to be the bodies of the Incas  Viracocha, Tupac Inca Yupanqui, and Huaynia Ccapac, together with Mama Runtu, the queen of the first named, and Ccoya Mama Ocllo, mother of the last. Each of the bodies was well preserved, even the hair with the eyebrows and lashes remaining, while the peculiar wrappings and the sacred llauta about the forehead, betokened their rank. These bodies were conveyed to Lima, where they were buried with appropriate rites in the courtyard of the hospital of San Andres.

Pearls Cast Among Swine

When the first vast treasure of capture was divided among the officers and followers of the conquerors, each of the invaders was allotted a fortune, and Hernando Pizarro was dispatched to Spain with the royal fifth. The amount taken to the Crown proved sufficient to establish this new country in the name of the king, who magnanimously divided it into New Castile in the north, which was assigned to Pizarro, and New Toledo south of that, which was given to the control of Almagro. So bloated were the Spaniards with their newly acquired riches that the most ordinary commodities were paid for in fabulous sums, and many anecdotes are related of this prodigality of wealth. The men fell into riotous living, spent their days in lawlessness and their nights in gambling, the stakes at these bouts often being for whole fortunes. In one  of these orgies the massive emblem of the Sun, taken from the Temple at Cuzco, was staked and lost at a single throw by the cavalier to whom it had fallen in the division of the spoils, from which an after allusion of arrant profligacy was referred to as: “He gambles away the sun in a night.”

It is recorded that when Atahualpa was imprisoned one of the priests wrote the name of God at his request upon the Inca’s finger nail. This he showed to several of the guards, who, upon their pronouncing the name correctly, it excited his admiration and astonishment that characters so unintelligible to him could be read by the Spaniards. On showing the name to Pizarro – who could neither read nor write – he remained silent, and by thus displaying his ignorance provoked a contempt which his prisoner could not well conceal. It has been asserted that it was through pique at this incident that determined an approval to the Inca’s death.

The Empire of the Incas being now without a chief, fell into confusion, and the governors of the several provinces each set up an independence, which Pizarro was quick to appreciate would be more difficult to overthrow than to conquer the country under one revered ruler whom he might influence through  stratagem. He therefore determined to install Manco, the legitimate brother of Huascar, who had already placed himself under his protection, and he was established as the successor and sovereign Inca amidst all the ancient splendor and formality that such an occasion might demand. So much harmony had been occasioned by this shrewd course that it now seemed as though the whole country might proclaim allegiance to Pizarro’s guardianship, but the avarice of the invaders had not yet been appeased by the gold they had received. Their persistent search for treasure, which did not respect even the sacred buildings and palaces, proved to the Indians the new religion was not one of peace, but rather suggested they were to be reduced from their former freedom and happy state to become the mere slaves of a body of tyrants. A succession of internal wars now commenced, and the Incas, led by Manco,  took a final stand at Cuzco, which they battled so nobly to defend that for a time it seemed the Spaniards must be routed, but the ultimate result was the complete overthrow of the Incan Empire, and Manco, chagrined and humiliated by his defeat, escaped to the mountains near Vilcabamba, where he maintained a sort of regal independence with a few loyal followers, until his death in 1544. After the overthrow of Cuzco,  Pizarro, desiring a location near the coast in easier communication with Panama, established the seat of his government on the river Rimac, and the new capital was named Ciudad de  Los Reyes – City of the Kings – in honor of the sovereigns of  Spain, the modern name, Lima, being a corruption of Rimac.

And here the conqueror, enthroned in power, took to him Añas, the daughter of Atahualpa, by whom he had a son – Francisco, who became a schoolmate of the Incan historian, Garcilasso de la Vega, but died young in Spain. As though to unite his name more profoundly with the Incan race, Pizarro took also the sister of Huascar, who bore him two children, a son, who died young, and a daughter, Francisca, who  in after years married his brother, Hernando, in Spain. As if by marriage and intermarriage the invaders might atone for the destruction of a mighty race.

For a complete historical narrative of this disgraceful period in the European conquest of the “New World” please seeThe Coca Leaf Papers“. 


Early Spanish Encounters With The Divine Plant

This passage from Dr. William Mortimer’s classic “History of Coca” will give you some idea of the diversity of experiences that the early Spanish had with the divine plant that formed the basis of Inca Empire’s religious, economic and social life. As you can see, some were contemptuous, and some were ignorant, but many were also enlightened and some were overwhelmed with visions of the potential of this plant for both commerce and for the healing arts. 

The Incas regarded Coca as a symbol of divinity, and originally its use was confined exclusively to the royal family. The sovereign could show no higher mark of esteem than to gift of this precious leaf upon those he wished to endow with an especial mark of royal favor. So when neighboring tribes who had been conquered by the Incas, acknowledged their subjection and allegiance, their chiefs were welcomed with the rank of nobles to this new alliance and accorded such honors and hospitalities as gifts of rich stuffs, women and bales of Coca might impress.  

At the time of Mayta Ccapac – the fourth Inca, his queen was designated Mama Coca – “the mother of Coca,” as the most sacred title which could be bestowed upon her. From so exalted a consideration of the plant by royal favor, it was but a natural sequence that the mass of the people should regard Coca as an object for adoration worthy to be deemed “divine.”   

Cristoval Molina, a priest at the  hospital for the natives at Cuzco, from whose work we have drawn our account of the rites and festivals of the Incas, related the method of using Coca by high priests in conducting sacrifices, as Cieza with the material instinct of the soldier, saw only the physical or  superstitious element in the use of Coca  among the Indians, so this priest traced for us its spiritual association with the ceremonies of the people. Thus there was early interwoven the factors of prejudice and superstition, a popular adoration of the masses, and a blending of these with a religious regard for Coca, for the teachings of the Church were engrafted upon existing customs in order to hold the people.  

The first scientific knowledge of Coca published in Europe was embodied in the writings of Nicolas Monardes, a physician of Seville, in 1565, from material possibly gained from Cieza, though it would seem that he had intimately examined the Coca shrub. A translation of this work was made a few years later by Charles l’Ecluse – a botanist and director of the Emperor’s Garden at Vienna – which was published in Latin at Antwerp, and this is often quoted as the earliest botanical reference to Coca. The Kew Library possesses a translation of this book, “made into English” by John Frampton and printed in black letter with the curious title:  “Joyful News out of the Newe Founde Worlde, wherein is declared the Virtues of Hearbes, Treez, Oyales, Plantes and  Stones”.  

As showing the discernment in this botanical description of Coca made so many years ago, it may not be uninteresting to read a paragraph translated from the very language of Monardes :  

“This plant Coca has been celebrated for many years among the Indians, and they sow and cultivate it with much care and industry, because they all apply it daily to their use and pleasure. It is indeed of the height of two outstretched arms, its leaves somewhat like myrtle, but larger and more succulent and green (and they have, as it were, drawn in the middle of them another leaf of similar shape); its fruit collected together in a cluster, which, like myrtle fruit, becomes red when ripening and of the same size, and when quite ripe it is black in color. When the time of the harvest of the leaves arrives, they are collected in baskets with other things to make them dry, that they may be better preserved, and may be carried to other places.”

This description will hold equally good to-day. The peculiar leaf within a leaf arrangement formed by the curved lines on either side of the midrib, being a marked characteristic of Coca. When Hernando Pizarro returned to the court of his king, with the first fruits of the golden harvest from the New World, he probably took with him specimens of Coca. This plant could not have failed to have awakened at least the curiosity of the invaders, because of the numerous golden duplications of the Coca shrub and of its leaf that had been found in the gardens of the Temples of the Sun, at Cuzco and elsewhere among the royal domains of the Incas. So that whatever the prejudices may have been regarding the use to which  Coca was put by the Indians, these golden images at least would prove sufficient to excite admiration and comment.  

Another voluminous writer upon the early Peruvians is Joseph de Acosta, a Jesuit missionary who made a passage across the Atlantic in 1570, which he assures us: “would have been more rapid if the mariners had made more sail.”  After his arrival at Lima he crossed the Andes by the lofty pass of Pariacaca to join the Viceroy Toledo, with whom he visited every province. In the higher altitudes of the mountains the party suffered severely from the effects of the rarefied atmosphere, with which he was afterwards prostrated upon three successive occasions, while he also was severely annoyed from snow blindness, for which he relates a homely remedy offered him by an Indian woman, who gave him a piece of the flesh of the vicuña, saying, “Father, lay this to thine eyes, and thou shalt be cured.” He says: “It was newly killed and  bloody, yet I used the medicine, and presently the pain ceased, and soon after went quite away.”

Of Necessity, Some Spaniards Begin To See The Light 

Father Acosta was a man of great learning, an intelligent observer, and had exceptional opportunities for collecting his information. His work on the Natural History of the Indies ranks among the higher authorities. He has given a very extensive description of Coca, and, referring to its employment, says: “They bring it commonly from the valleys of the Andes, where there is an extreme heat and where it rains continually the most part of the year, wherein the Indians endure much labor and pain to entertain it, and often many die. For that they go from the Sierra and colde places to till and gather them in the valleys; and therefore there has been great question and diversity of opinion among learned men whether it were more expedient to pull up these trees or let them grow, but in the end they remained. The Indians esteemed it much, and in the time of the Incas it was not lawful for any of the common people to use this Coca without license from the Governor. They say it gives them great courage, and is very pleasing unto them. Many grave men hold this as a superstition and a mere imagination. For my part, and to speak the truth, I persuade not myself that it is an imagination, but contrawise I think it works and gives force and  courage to the Indians, for we see the effects which cannot be attributed to imagination, so as to go some days without meat, but only a handful of Coca, and other like effects. The sauce wherewith they do eat this Coca is proper enough, whereof I have tasted, and it is like the taste of leather. The Indians mingle it with the ashes of bones, burnt and beat into powder, or with lime, as others affirme, which seemeth to them pleasing and of good taste, and they say it doeth them much good. They willingly imploy their money therein and use it as money; yet all these things were not inconvenient, were not the hazard of the trafficke thereof, wherein so many men are occupied. The Lords Yncas used Coca as a delicate and royall  thing, which they offered most in their sacrifice, burning it in honor of their idols.” Again, when speaking of the importance of the trade in Coca, he says: ”It seems almost fabulous, but in truth the trafficke of Coca in Potosi doth yearly amount to above half a million of dollars; for that they use four score and ten or four score and fifteen thousand baskets every year.”

This extensive mining centre in the southern part of Bolivia is some three hundred miles south of Sandia, which is today the very heart of the Coca region of Caravaya. These mines were at an altitude of seventeen thousand feet, and Garcilasso says the Indians applied the term Potosi, literally “a hill” to all hills. In the Aymara tongue Potosi means, “he who makes a noise” and the Indians have a legend which suggests the derivation of the name from such a source. When  Iluayna Ccapac caused his people to search this mountain for silver, a great noise came from the hills warning the Indians away, as the protecting genius destined these riches for other masters. Within a short time after the Incas had discovered silver here over seven thousand Indians were at work mining the precious ore.    

Once the Spanish were secure in their governance they forced the Indians to labor in veritable slavery through an enactment which drafted a certain number from each of the adjoining provinces. This law, known as the mitta, instituted under Toledo, required all Indians between the ages of eighteen and fifty to contribute a certain labor, which amounted to eighteen months during the thirty-two years in which they were liable. For this they were paid twenty reals a week, and a half real additional for every league distant from the village of Potosi. During the year 1573 the draft of Indians for this labor amounted to 11,199,  while a hundred years later – in 1673 – it drew only 1,674, showing that cruelty and hardship had depopulated the province nearly ninety per cent.

So extensive were the mining operations at Potosi that the place had the appearance of a great city. Every Saturday the silver was melted down and the royal fifth was set aside for the Spanish crown, and although this amounted during the  years 1548 to 1551 to three million ducats, it was considered the mines were not well worked. In those times the markets or fairs were important functions, and that of Potosi was looked upon as the greatest in the world. It was held in the plains near the town, and there the transactions in one day were said to amount to from twenty-five to thirty thousand golden pesos. Coca being a prominent commodity in the reckoning, owing to its absolute necessity in the arduous work exacted from the Indians.

Because of this need the highest price was obtained for Coca in this region, where every indication was presented for its use – the extreme altitude of the mines, the mental dejection of slavery, and the enforced muscular task of the Indian with insufficient food. This labor was found to be utterly impossible without the use of Coca, so that the Indians were supplied with the leaves by their masters, just as so much fuel might be fed to an engine in order to produce a given amount of work. Garcilasso tells us that in 1548 the workers in these mines consumed 100,000 cestas of Coca, which were valued at 500,000 piasters.  

This absolute necessity was the sole reason for the Spanish tolerance to the continuance of Coca; they saw that it was indirectly to them a source of wealth, through enabling the Indians to do more work in the mines. As the demands of labor increased the call for Coca, situations for new cocals, where a supply of the plant could be raised to meet this want, were pushed further to the east of the Andes, in the region of the Montaña. To make favorable clearings numerous tribes of savage Indians, who had not been previously subdued by the Incas were driven from the Peruvian tributaries of the Amazon further into the forests.  

Agustin de Zarate, who was contador real or royal comptroller, under the first Viceroy, Blasco Nuñez Vela, in his history of the discoveries of Peru, in writing of Coca, says: “In  certain valleys, among the mountains, the heat is marvellous, and there groweth a certain herb called Coca, which the Indians do esteem more than gold or silver; the leaves thereof are like unto Zamake (sumach); the virtue of this herb, found by experience, is that any man having these leaves in his mouth hath never hunger nor thirst.”  

Garcilasso Inca de la Vega – as he delighted in terming himself – has very rightly been classed as an eminent authority on Incan subjects. His father, who was of proud Spanish ancestry, illustrious both in arms and literature, came to Peru shortly after the Conquest, served under Pizarro, and after the overthrow of the empire, when the Incan maidens were assigned to various Spanish officers, his choice fell upon the  niece of Inca Huayna Ccapac, who in some manner had been preserved from the massacre which had followed upon the death of her cousin, Atahualpa. It seems fitting that a son of such parentage should embody in his writings facts which he had obtained from both branches of the family tree, and because of this his work is accepted as a reliable presentation.

That this Incan author was well qualified to speak upon Coca there can be no doubt, for he owned an extensive cocal on the River Tunu, one of the tributaries of the Beni – which drains the Montaña for Pancartambo – where there are still numerous cocals. This plantation was started in the twelfth century during the reign of Inca Rocca, when that king sent his son with fifteen thousand warriors to conquer the savage tribes of Anti-suyu.  

Lloque Yupanqui advanced to the River Paucartambo and thence to Pillcu-pata, where four villages were founded, and from Pillcu-pata he marched to Havisca, and here in the year 1197 was located the first Coca plantation of the Montaña on the eastern base of the Andes. This Incan plantation became an inheritance of Garcilasso from his father, but was forfeited by the historian because of his parent’s early defection to the cause of Gonzalo.

And Then The Light Begins To Take Effect

The work of Garcilasso is interesting as embracing with the relation of others that of Father Bias Valera, whose manuscripts have since been lost, and in this embodied record we have the only available account of one who was a close observer of Incan customs during a residence of many years in  Peru. To the peculiar wording of the work of this author we may trace an oft-repeated error regarding the Coca shrub, which he describes as “a bush of the height and thickness of the vine.” Whether this designation of vine refers to the grape, which in some vineyards is grown as a low clump resembling a bush, or whether the term vine simply alludes to the delicate nature of the Coca shrub, can only be inferred. It has introduced a source of inaccuracy among some who have since drawn their description of the plant from this record. One author has even amplified this early comparison by saying that the Coca bush “twines about other plants for support.  

Valera, in describing the leaves of Coca, says: “They are known by Indians and Spaniards alike as Cuca, delicate, though not soft, of the width of the thumb and as long as half a thumb’s length, and of a pleasant smell.” In his day the Indians were so fond of Coca that they preferred it to gold, silver and precious stones. He has given us a careful account of the diligence which is necessary in the several stages of its  cultivation and the importance of the final gathering of the leaves, which he says, “they pick one by one by hand and dry them in the sun.” He, however, wrongly viewed the method of use, and supposed that the leaves were merely chewed for their flavor and that the juice was not swallowed.  

Referring to the general employment of Coca for a variety of purposes, he says: “Coca preserves the body from many infirmities, and our doctors use it pounded for applications to sores and broken bones, to remove cold from the body or to prevent it from entering, as well as to cure sores that are full of maggots. It is so beneficial and has such singular virtue in the cure of outward sores, it will surely have even more virtue and efficacy in the entrails of those who eat it !” Nor did this observant author fail to recognize another important use in which this famous plant was practically serviceable. A tax of one-tenth of the Coca crop was set apart for the clergy, of which he says: “The greater part of the revenue of the bishops and canons of the cathedrals of Cuzco is derived from the tithes of the Coca leaves.”  

There is a marked contrast between the open, conscientious manner of Valera’s writings with that of other Spanish authors, who displayed an abhorrence for all the customs of the Indians. Thus Cieza, reflecting this superstitious prejudice, tells us that the old men of every tribe actually conversed with the arch-enemy of mankind. Referring to the Incan rite of burying bags of Coca with their dead, as a symbol of support for the departed in a journey to the eternal home, he mockingly says, “as if hell was so very far off.” The good padre, in his appeal for the continuance of Coca, has shown a liberality for such a period of bigotry which might be well for the consideration of others in even this more enlightened age. Thus he writes:

“They have said and written many things against the little plant, with no other reason than that the Gentiles in ancient times, and now some wizards and diviners, offer Cuca to the idols, on which ground these people say that its use ought to be entirely prohibited. Certainly this would be good counsel if the Indians offered up this and nothing else to the devil, but seeing that the ancient idolaters and modem wizards also sacrifice maize, vegetables and fruits, whether growing above or under ground, as well as their beverage, cold water, wool, clothes, sheep and many other things, and as they cannot all be prohibited, neither should the Cuca. They ought to be taught to abhor superstitions and to serve truly one God, using all these things after a Christian fashion. Surely, an impartial judgment, which is worthy of present acceptation.” 

Garcilasso has added to this account some further particulars made familiar to him through his intimate acquaintance with the cultivation and care of Coca. In his quaint verbiage, which has possibly suffered through translation, he says of the shrubs: “They are about the height of a man, and in planting them they put the seeds into nurseries, in the same way as in garden stuffs, but drilling a hole as for vines. They layer the plants as with a vine. They take the greatest care that no roots, not even the smallest, be doubled, for this is sufficient to make the plant dry up. When they gather the leaves they take each branch within the fingers of the hand, and pick the leaves until they come to the final sprout, which they do not touch, lest it should cause the branch to wither. The leaf, both on the upper and under side, in shape and greenness, is neither more nor less than that of the arbutus, except that three or four leaves of the Cuca, being very delicate, would make one of arbutus in thickness. I rejoice to be able to find things in Spain which are appropriate for comparison with those of that country – that both here and there people may  know one by another. After the leaves are gathered they put them in the sun to dry. For they lose their green color, which is much prized, and break up into powder, being so very delicate, if they are exposed to damp, in the cestas or baskets in which they are carried from one place to another. The baskets are made of split canes, of which there are many of all sizes in these provinces of the Antis. They cover the outside of the baskets with the leaves of the large cane, which are more than a tercia wide and about half a vara ( 1 vara = 33 inches) long, in order to preserve the Cuca from wet, for the leaves are much injured by damp. The basket is then enveloped by an outer net made of a certain fibre.” Referring to the extreme care essential for its preservation,  this Incan author concludes: “In considering the number of things that are required for the production of Cuca, it would be more profitable to return thanks to God for providing all things in the places where they are necessary than to write concerning them, for the account must seem incredible.”

Father Thomas Ortiz, who accompanied Alonzo Niño and  Luis Guerra in their expedition in 1499, described the use of  Coca by the natives along the coast of Venezuela under the term “hayo”.  

Antonio de Herrera, who was royal historian under Philip II, drew his facts from correspondence with the conquistadors, and his history, which is divided into eight decades, covers the period of the Spanish discoveries. In speaking of the customs of the northern provinces, he refers to “the herb which on the coast of the sea is called hayo”. The word hayo has been shown to belong to the vocabulary of the Chibchas and is generally applied to Coca by several tribes bordering upon the northern coast of South America.

Among some of the earlier Spanish writings of this section Coca is alluded to as “hay,” and doubt has been expressed as to whether this is identical with hayo, presumably derived from agu, to chew; but the absence of the final vowel, according to a writer who is familiar with this region, does not signify, while it is absolutely certain that all the species of Erythroxylon which are today used in Venezuela and along the  Caribbean Sea are termed hayo. Even the Erythroxylon cumanense, HBK, is called by this name and not that of ceveso as mentioned in the description published by Kunth.  

The account which Ortiz gives of the plant used by the Indians of Chiribiche does not exactly correspond with the Coca shrub, though what he says of the leaves and their use among the Indians is correct. Gomara, in speaking of the customs of the Cumana, confirms the account given by Ortiz. At present Coca is not very extensively grown through Venezuela. The ancient cocals on the peninsula of Guajira are becoming extinct on account of excessive drought, while the cultivation of tobacco has proved a more profitable industry and is better adapted to the climate.

We know that prior to the Conquest the province of the  Incas extended north to Quito, having been conquered by Huayna Ccapac some years before for his father, Tupac Inca Yupanqui, by which conquest the powerful State of Quito, which rivaled Peru in wealth and civilization, was united to the Incan Empire. When Huayna Ccapac succeeded his father, this newly acquired kingdom became his seat of government, and here with his favorite concubine, the mother of Atahualpa, he spent the last days of his life. Because of this removal of imperial influence far from the original home of the empire at Cuzco may be attributed one source of the final weakness of the Incas, for it may be recalled that at the time of Huayna Ccapac’s death the kingdom, which now extended over such immense territory, was for the first time divided under two rulers, one-half being given to his son, Huasca, and the other half to his son Atahualpa. It therefore seems quite probable that as the interests of the government extended northward the customs of the  people of the lower Andes should follow, and be propagated among a people where similar conditions called for whatever  beneficial influence might be derived from the use of Coca.  From Quito travel northward, aided by the canoe navigation of the Cauca and Magdalena rivers, would rapidly carry the  customs of the people of the south to the northern coast,  where, as shown by early historical facts, commerce was so extensive as to favor the adoption of the habits of the interior.  

There are still many tribes along the Sierra Nevada of Santa Marta who have preserved their ancient customs and habits from prehistoric times, for it is known that the Spanish were never able to completely attain possession of this region. It has been suggested that these Indians had never been subject to a king as were the Incas, while their country was so extremely fertile that when pursued by the Spanish they merely destroyed their homes and took up habitations elsewhere, depending upon a bountiful tropical vegetation for their support. In marked contrast to the Indians of New Grenada, the Peruvians were accustomed to subjection under their Lord Inca, and at the time of the Conquest they were obliged to  submit themselves to their new masters, for if they abandoned their homes and the lands which they had cultivated to flee to the barren mountains or snowy plains they must also give up their means for subsistence. Piedrahita speaks of the use of Coca along the northern coast, and says that the leaves were  chewed by the Indians without lime, an addition which he suggests was earned from the Incan domains to the northern  Indians by the Spaniards after the Conquest.

The expedition of the French mathematician La Condamine, which went to Quito in 1735 to measure an arc of the meridian in the neighborhood of the equator, and thus verify the shape of the earth, was made memorable through a host of important scientific discoveries, primary among which was the introduction  of many new plants into Europe; among these was caoutchouc or India rubber.  Accompanying this expedition was Antonio d’Ulloa,  a Spanish naval officer; Godin, Bouguer and the botanist, Joseph de Jussieu, whose name is associated with the classification of Coca. Condamine was the first man of science who examined and described the quinquina tree of Loxa, of which Linnӕus in 1742 established the genus Cinchona.

Jussieu travelled on foot as far as the forests of Santa Cruz de la Sierra, collecting botanical specimens from the richness of the Peruvian flora. Many of his exploratory trips were hazardous in the extreme, and in 1749, while crossing the Andes to reach the Coca region of the Yungas of Coroico, he  nearly lost his life. Added to the dangers of the route the glistening brilliancy of the sun reflected from the snow seemed  to threaten him with blindness. In the Arctic region travelers are subject to a similar discomfort, and commonly wear a visor-like protector to shield their eyes. The sun shade illustrated is carved from wood with slots cut beneath the peak to permit vision.

Jussieu sent specimens of the Coca shrub to Paris, and these, examined and described by the explorer’s brother Antoine, were afterward preserved in the herbarium of the Museum of Natural History there, and have served as classic examples of many subsequent studies of the plant. But the glory of meritorious labor pursued through great trial and privation was not to be enjoyed by this explorer. Just as many another collector before and since his time has suffered the loss of treasures when work was about completed, so this intrepid botanist lost the choice gatherings of fifteen years through robbery, under the belief that his boxes contained a more merchantable wealth than plants. In 1771, after an absence of thirty-four years, Jussieu was taken home, bereft of reason, as a result not alone of hardships, but from that unfulfilled desire which makes the soul sick, and he died in France, leaving many manuscripts, which are still unpublished.

The Jussieus were a family of botanists for several generations; contemporary with them were several noted naturalists who followed their classification. Among these, Augustin  Pyrame Candolle, of the College of France, and Antonio Jose  Cavanilles, a Spanish ecclesiastic, each described Coca from the examples which had been sent by Joseph.

Many interesting accounts have been written of the expedition of La Condamine, and as a result of these early researches several of the powers have been prompted to send botanical expeditions to the South American forests. Among these there is given in the writings of Captain Don Antonio d’Ulloa a brief account of the country of Popayan, in the jurisdiction of Timana. While following Father Valera’s  description of Coca, he adds: “It grows on a weak stem, which for support twists itself around another stronger vegetable  like a vine. The use the Indians make of it is for chewing, mixing it with chalk or whitish earth called mambi. They put into their mouths a few Coca leaves and a suitable portion of mambi, and chewing these together, at first spit out the saliva which that mastication causes, but afterwards swallow it, and thus move it from one side of the mouth to the other till its substance be quite derived, then it is thrown away, but immediately replaced by fresh leaves.”

He confounds Coca with betel, saying: ”It is exactly the same as the betel of the East Indies. The plant, the leaf, the manner of using it, its qualities, are all the same, and the Eastern nations are no less fond of this betel than the Indians of Peru and Popayan are of their Coca; but in other parts of  the province of Quito, as it is not produced, so neither is it used.” But he was conscious of the physiological effects of Coca from its employment, and wrote: “This herb is so nutritious and invigorating that the Indians labor whole days  without anything else, and on the want of it they find a decay in their strength. They also add that it preserves the teeth sound and fortifies the stomach.”  

The early writings upon Coca were not, however, all of foreign authorship. Peru numbered among her men of letters a noted physician and statesman who drew his facts from a keen observation of the people of whom he wrote. I refer to  Dr. Don Hipolito Unanue, of Tacna, whose name is intimately linked with the political and educational history of Peru. He published the Mercurio Peruano, the first number of which appeared in January, 1791, a paper which gave an impetus to the writings of his countrymen, in which there are many interesting details of Peruvian customs.

From his political interests in a land where insurrection was a common occurrence, Dr. Unanue could appreciate the advantage possible from the use of Coca in the army. He tells of an incident of the siege of La Paz, in 1771, when the inhabitants, after a blockade of several months, during a severe winter, ran short of provisions and were compelled to depend wholly upon Coca, of which happily there was a stock in the city. This apparently scanty sustenance was sufficient to banish hunger and to support fatigue, while enabling the soldiers to bear the intense cold. During the same war a body of patriot infantry, obliged to travel one of the coldest plateaus of Bolivia, found itself deprived of provisions while advancing in forced marches to regain the division. On their arrival only those soldiers were in condition to fight who had from childhood been accustomed to always carry with them a pouch of Coca.


Invisible In Plain Sight – The Power Of Coca

This post is the first of many excerpts from Dr. William Golden Mortimer’s classic “History of Coca” (1901) that I will offer readers of this blog. Dr. Mortimer’s book is so rich in detail and so charged with meaning for today’s overwhelming health issues that it was hard to know where to begin.

I have chosen this small segment because (1) it discusses how the power of Coca as a natural cure was hidden for many centuries before it was finally discovered by pioneering scientists and researchers in the 1800s, and (2) it also offers us an initial glimpse of the well-documented power of pure, natural Coca to heal the stressed and diseased human heart – surely one of the medical conundrums of our era.

Once fully reviewed, the evidence from the 1800s is clear – a few cups a day of a simple natural Coca Tea or Tonic will do what all the pharmaceutical poisons and marvelous technologies of our times cannot do for most people – it may well prevent, or reverse and cure heart disease. 

The complete text of “History of Coca” and many other classic original source materials on the healing powers of natural Coca Leaf can be found in my Kindle ebook “The Coca Leaf Papers

Invisible In Plain Sight – The Power Of Coca

For more than three centuries the information that had come to the world in regard to Coca had been chiefly of a theoretical nature. The writings of travelers and of missionaries who were located in the sections of South America where Coca was used, had prepared the way for a scientific investigation of its properties as soon as there was a possibility of such work being done with exactitude. After the botanists had classified the plant, and chemists had begun to search for the hidden properties of its traditional action, the researches of the physiologists soon followed.

In Europe the attention of the medical profession was directed to the action of Coca through a widely circulated paper by Dr. Mantegazza, who experimented upon himself, using the leaves both by chewing and in infusion. His description, while somewhat fanciful and full of imagination, fairly illustrates the physiological action of Coca, provided it is appreciated that observations made by an experimenter upon his own person are necessarily influenced by the temperament of the individual. He found from masticating a drachm of the dried leaves: “An aromatic taste in the mouth, an increased flow of saliva, and a feeling of comfort in the stomach, as though a frugal meal had been eaten with a good appetite.”

Following a second and a third dose there was a slight burning sensation in the mouth and pharynx with an increased pulse beat, while digestion seemed to be more active. Through the influence of Coca the entire muscular system is increased in strength with a feeling of agility and an impulse to exertion quite different from the exaltation following alcohol. While from the latter there may be increased activity, it will be of an irregular character, but Coca promotes a gradual augmenting of vigor with a desire to put this newly acquired strength in action.

Mantegazza found that the intellectual sphere participates in the general exaltation produced by Coca, ideas flow with ease and regularity, the influence being quite different from that induced by alcohol and resembling in some degree that from small doses of opium. After drinking an infusion of four drachms of leaves he experienced a peculiar feeling as though isolated from the external world, with an irresistible inclination to exertion, which was performed with phenomenal ease, so that though in his normal condition he naturally avoided unnecessary exercise, he was now so agile as to jump upon the writing table, which he did without breaking the lamp or other objects upon it.

Following this period of activity came a state of quietness accompanied by a feeling of intense comfort, consciousness being all the time perfectly clear. The experimenter took as much as eighteen drachms of leaves in one day, which is about the amount ordinarily consumed by the Serrano of the Andes. Under this increased dose the pulse was raised to one hundred and thirty-four, and when mental exhilaration was most intense he exclaimed to his colleagues who were watching the result of his investigation: “God is unjust because he has created man incapable to live forever happy.” And again : “I prefer a life of ten years with Coca to a life of a million centuries without Coca.” Following these experiments, during which he had abstained from any food but Coca for forty hours, he took a short sleep of three hours, from which he woke without any feeling of indisposition.

Dr. Mantegazza announced as a result of the studies made upon himself and verified upon other subjects that Coca, chewed or taken in a weak infusion, has a stimulating effect on the nerves of the stomach and facilitates digestion. That it increases the animal heat, and the frequency of the pulse and respiration. That it excites the nervous system in such a manner that the movements of the muscles are made with greater ease, after which it has a calming effect, while in large doses it may cause cerebral congestion and hallucinations. He asserted that: “The principal property of Coca, which is not to be found in any other remedy, consists in its exalting effect, calling out the power of the organism without leaving any sign of debility, in which respect Coca is one of the most powerful nervines and analeptics.” From these conclusions he advocated the use of Coca in disorders of the alimentary tract, in debility following fevers, in anӕmic conditions, in hysteria and hypochondriasis, even when the latter has increased to suicidal intent. He considered that Coca might be used with benefit in certain mental diseases where opium is commonly prescribed, and was convinced of its sedative effect in spinal irritation, idiopathic convulsions and nervous erethism, and suggested its use in the largest doses in cases of hydrophobia and tetanus.

Some of the assertions of Mantegazza are directly opposed by our present knowledge of the action of Coca, particularly the observations as to its action on the heart and respiration. This is to be accounted for by the pronounced central action he observed, evidently prompted by a belief that the influence of Coca was primarily through the nervous system. It has been developed by more recent research that Coca has a direct action upon the muscular system. The action of Coca upon the heart is precisely as a regulator of that organ. If the heart’s action is weak it is strengthened – if it is excessive the over-activity is toned down – if irregular the beat is made uniform. This indicates that Coca is a direct cardiac tonic. Let the heart be running riot in a palpitation from over-exertion and a teaspoonful of Mariani Thé – taken in a small cup of hot water – will speedily bring the heart’s action to normal. This unique preparation of Coca is in the form of an agreeable fluid extract, said to represent in one part, two parts of the leaves, and presenting in concentrated form all the qualities of true Coca. It may be administered plain, or drunk as a tea with cream and sugar; in this latter form it has a taste resembling a rich English breakfast tea.

The Healing Power Of Coca & The Human Heart

The especial influence of Coca upon the heart is alone sufficient to establish it as a remedy of phenomenal worth. Lieutenant Gibbs, U.S.N., from a personal experience with Coca in crossing the high passes of the Andes, considered the sustaining action of Coca in high altitudes due wholly to its enabling the heart muscle to perform the extra work when called forth. Similar observations have been made by many travelers who have remarked the influence of Coca upon themselves. Recently Captain Zalinski, U.S.A. – who rendered the dynamite gun an effectual instrument of war – has been experimenting upon a concentrated ration suitable for the army. In pursuing his studies under a severe test he submitted himself to the hardships of Andean travel, and through the high altitudes used Coca Thé and Coca Pâte prepared by Mariani, the timely use of which, he assured me, had supported his life through a serious ordeal.

Dr. Beverley Robinson, referring to the efficiency of heart tonics has written: “Among well known cardiac tonics and stimulants for obtaining temporary good effects, at least, I know of no drug quite equal to Coca. Given in the form of wine or fluid extract, it does much, at times, to restore the heart muscle to its former tone.” In this connection, Dr. Ephraim Cutter says: “Coca should be more used in heart failure from direct weakness, and in many cases might well replace the conventional digitalis which advances the treatment of heart disease no more than it was forty years ago.”

Many physicians who have corresponded with me on the application of Coca have emphasized this influence from experiences in their practice. Coca is advocated to replace digitalis or to tone up the muscular structure of the heart after use of the latter, either employed alone or alternately with digitalis when that is considered essential.

The effect of Coca upon respiration is analogous to its action on the heart. It acts as a regulator, not increasing respiration, but giving force to the cycle – making inspiration deeper and expiration more complete.