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


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Coca Valley & The World Of Fools

CocaFlowersxThe Government of Peru is a major buyer of Coca Leaf in the Valley of the Apurimac-Ene-Mantaro Rivers, referred to in ever-charming government acronym style as “The VRAEM”. This Valley lies at the heart of the Andean mountain chain and could easily have been the model for Shangri-la. As it is, the Peruvian government, in league with the US Police State, has turned the Valley of the Apurimac-Ene-Mantaro Rivers into a war zone targeting peaceful Coca growers.

Interestingly the Peruvian government is also a major buyer of the Valley’s Coca Leaf, but the government buyers are well-known as cheapskates. That’s probably because – officially – government buyers and selected foreign buyers like Coca Cola are supposed to be the only buyers in the valley. They figure they’re doing the Coca growers a favor.

Of course, the Cocaine Cartels beg to differ with that, as do a substantial proportion of valley residents. And so there is no peace in the valley.

The Peruvian government owns and controls the non-Cocaine use of Coca Leaf through a monopoly named ENACO. This state-run company produces the official line of Coca tonics, medicines drinks and snacks for domestic consumption.

Peru’s politicians are in the Coca Leaf Remedios business because Coca Remedios are so deeply ingrained in Peruvian society that their use cannot be stopped – oh, and also because it’s a handy way to make some very nice revenue.

However, private entrepreneurs are not allowed to compete with the government monopoly, so Peruvian Coca Leaf products remain stuck with an incongruous “Soviet” look and excruciatingly ho-hum marketing. Too bad for Peru – Bolivian entrepreneurs and government officials are already making creative headway in the world markets for Coca Leaf and Coca Leaf medicines. (Pretty soon some country in Europe like the Netherlands or France is going to open up to Coca leaf entrepreneurs. The US is probably going to keep its Federal asshole puckered but one or two of the states ought to give Coca Leaf legalization a good hard look. )

Meanwhile, back in Coca Valley. At the same time that it low-balls the farmers’ Coca Leaf and makes cheesy Coca Leaf products, the Peruvian government wages war against any “extra” Coca growing by the people of Coca Valley. If they grow more than they are told to by the government, or if they refuse to sell to ENACO because of its ridiculous prices for their precious leaf, GOP burns and poisons their fields and makes their lives as miserable as possible. After all, their bottom-line motive is to satisfy the requirements of the US Police State that wants to be able to show the world that Peru is trying very, very hard to eradicate illicit Cocaine production. Very hard.

But Aha! Peru has come up with a plan! GOP wants the people of Coca Valley to grow only enough Coca to satisfy the government’s requirements, and then to convert to growing crops like bananas and cocoa – assisted of course by friendly “experts” from the US and UN.

Of course if you are a farmer in Coca Valley and your family has been growing Coca for generations and you don’t happen to like the chintzy prices the government is willing to pay, are you going to let the police rip out your Coca plants and make you start over with Bananas? Quite a few Coca Valley residents have not been pleased when approached by men with guns proposing this plan, and a few have gotten downright rowdy. Thrown rocks ‘n stuff. You know – terrorism.

Peru Cocaine Runways Photo GallerySo to complete the farce the Peruvian government declared the VRAEM a war zone a few years back, it ever since has been battling against the quickly shrinking remains of the once-powerful Shining Path rebels – as of late 2015 SL is down to under 100 guerillas, mostly old men and teenagers.

To go after this fearsome band the Peruvian government keeps sending in waves of troops, missiles and helicopters, while the US leaps in with space-based surveillance, military aircraft, dark ops and night raiders, chemical warfare assistance and high tech drones. All this firepower is arrayed against ragtag remnants of what was once a well-organized and very effective rebellion.

 

These survivors fight on, using the vast forests and jungles of the Coca Valley, an area the size of Switzerland, to hide in.

So this is the threat – a hundred tired rebels who are definitely at the end of their Shining Path. Can you imagine, a hundred guys getting together in the mountains almost anywhere else in the world and the central government spending $250 Million a year to try to get rid of the rebels and eradicate a few thousand hectares of croplands at the same time – and failing?

“The Peruvian government’s (2014) counternarcotics strategy includes ambitious goals for eradication, interdiction, and alternative development, and addresses associated issues such as the control of precursor chemicals, organized crime, money laundering, and the rule of law. The Humala Administration increased its counternarcotics budget from $220 million in 2012 to $256 million in 2013. For the first time, Peru contributed $11.6 million towards eradication efforts and concomitant aviation support, which historically has been funded by the United States.” US Department of State

OK, so the Peruvian government spends $256 Million of mostly US money a year to – what – combat terrorism and cocaine trafficking and deal with other related dangers to the children, like free speech?  And the US is right there helping out with money, technology, guns and manpower, just like the US was when the Fujimori government, funded by US foreign aid money, forcibly sterilized hundreds of thousands of Indian women in the 1980s in so-called “population control” programs.

Speaking of terrorism, let’s look at the terrorist activities of the Shining Path guerillas that are being used to justify all this government-initiated violence a little more closely.

So, how big a threat to the peace and tranquility of Peru is the Shining Path, actually? Here’s the US Department of State list of every one of the terrorist incidents involving the Shining Path in 2014. (Don’t worry – it isn’t a real long list)

      1. On April 9, Peruvian police arrested 28 leaders of the Movement for Amnesty and Fundamental Rights – a front organization that advocates for the release of imprisoned SL founder Abimael Guzman. Those arrested included two of Guzman’s long-time lawyers, Afredo Crespo and Manuel Fajardo. The 28 were charged with terrorism and terrorist financing using narcotics revenue. On August 4, the National Anti-Terrorism Court, citing lack of evidence, ordered that the 28 be released from pre-trail detention. Although the court ordered the detainees released, it did keep the charges intact so the trial can move forward.
      2. A May 16 clash between security forces and the SL in the Junin region left one SL guerilla dead and another wounded. The rest of the column was able to escape, but soldiers recovered weapons, ammunition, and communication equipment.
      3. On June 17, a combined Peruvian military and police force killed three SL terrorists in the VRAEM emergency zone. The joint patrol recovered a number of weapons, including a heavy machine gun that SL fighters reportedly stripped from a Russian-made Mi-17 helicopter they shot down in a 2009 attack that killed three soldiers.
      4. In August, security forces rescued six adults and three children from a work camp in the VRAEM used by SL to provide food and logistic support for its members.
      5. In August, police officers in the UHV arrested Oscar Silva, who is believed to have been the second-in-command to “Comrade Artemio,” who was captured in February 2012.
      6. In September, soldiers rescued 11 people, including six children, who were being forced to work for SL in Junin’s Satipo district.
      7. On November 2, security forces announced the arrest of Filemon Huillcayaure, considered one of the top financiers of SL in the VRAEM.

OK – there you are. That’s the Peruvian government’s 2014 body count in the US-sponsored War On Narco/Terror in Coca Valley. The totals include: 0 soldiers dead or wounded; 4 SL terrorists killed, 1 wounded; and 20 people including children rescued from slave labor for the Shining Path.

And that’s after a full year of running around this valley the size of Switzerland with thousands of troops, helicopters, attack jets, tanks, HumVees, guns and rockets, and the latest ground, air & space-based surveillance technology courtesy of the US. All this technology and manpower chasing approximately 100 Shining Path guerillas (now minus 4) as they shake down Coca growers, take pot shots at soldiers, hide in the jungle, enslave the occasional villager, and make Coca Base to generate an income.

So, now that we all know how well the “War On The Gang Of 100 Terrorists” is going – how about the “War On Coca Plants”?

Well, according to a 2014 roundup (sic) by the US Dept. of State, Bureau Of International Narcotics And Law Enforcement Affairs

“Peru remained the world’s top potential producer of cocaine for the third consecutive year, and was the second-largest cultivator of coca, with an estimated 50,500 hectares (ha) of coca under cultivation in 2012, the most recent year for which data is available. The majority of cocaine produced in Peru is transported to South American countries for domestic consumption, or for onward shipment to Europe, East Asia, and Mexico via private and commercial aircraft, and land and maritime conveyances. Peru is a major importer of precursor chemicals used for cocaine production.

“ President Ollanta Humala dedicated substantial resources to implement Peru’s 2012-2016 counternarcotics strategy. The strategy calls for a 200 percent increase in the eradication of illicit coca by 2016. The Government of Peru remains on pace to meet its ambitious targets in this area, and in 2013 eradicated in the Monzón River Valley, a hostile area with little state presence, for the first time in decades. Sendero Luminoso (SL or Shining Path) operating in the Apurimac-Ene-Mantaro River Valley (VRAEM) relied on cocaine trafficking for funding, and killed and wounded several police and military personnel during counternarcotics operations.”

Oops. It looks like even with hundreds of millions of dollars, armadas of military-scale technology, thousands of heavily armed soldiers and police, and humungous firepower applied year after year, you still can’t (or conveniently don’t want to) deal with 100 guerillas operating in an area the size of Switzerland, and at the same time in spite of this all-out War you also still have the distinction of being the world’s top potential producer of cocaine for the third consecutive year, and you were the second-largest cultivator of coca in 2014.

This whole US-promoted War On Drugs/War On Terror thing really isn’t working for you is it?

Respectfully, I have a suggestion to offer.

Peru has a world-class renewable natural resource in the Coca plant and the people who have grown it for centuries. Why not go with what you have instead of playing a losing game in return for Yankee dollars? Why not just tell the US to go home, make peace with the Cartels and let them make and export all the Cocaine they want as long as they pay taxes, work with the indigenous people to build a Coca Leaf-based economy throughout the country, build a health industry based on Coca Leaf treatment at spas scattered throughout the mountains, and allow private enterprise to apply the entrepreneurial spirit to development and global sales of Coca-based medicines?

Next, pay off Shining Path and let them go home for God’s sake – including those you are holding in prison. I imagine that $50-$100K per SL guerilla would do it – a total of $5-10 Million (one-time investment) to get the whole hundred of them to lay down their weapons, for which they receive amnesty and a piece of land to grow Coca. And the SL in prison who agree to go home and live peacefully ought to get the same deal.

So Government of Peru, instead of spending hundreds of millions every year on a couple of wars that are going nowhere and aren’t even yours, plus terrorizing whole communities of your People, why not lead the world and declare that Coca is a gift from nature and that the Peruvian government will no longer stand in the way of those who wish to make their living by growing and making products from it – including Cocaine. What the rest of the world thinks shouldn’t matter.

I mean, hey there, government of Peru – don’t you have better things to do than chase 100 members of the Gang Who Can’t Shoot Straight, a bunch of peaceful Coca growers, and gangs of very determined Cocaine makers? Didn’t that US-sponsored clown Fujimori bring down enough evil on Peru to make the government finally decide to work for rather than against the People? If everybody’s happy in Coca Valley who cares what the US thinks?

It can happen. The US isn’t so tough anymore. Just ask your neighbors in Bolivia.


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Poppy Juice, Synthetic Pills, & The Trap Of Addiction

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“The Intercept” has just run an excellent piece outlining the lobbying efforts of the Opioid Manufacturing sector of the Pharmaceutical Industry to scuttle new Federal regulations that would attempt to make it harder for doctors to prescribe Opioid drugs like Oxycontin. The major manufacturers involved in the lobbying are Purdue, Cephalon, Endo, and Janssen (a subsidiary of Johnson & Johnson).

The efforts of these parasitical manufacturers to maintain open season on the wholesale addicting of new “patients” while at the same time keeping up the flow of millions of tablets of these drugs that somehow manage to leak into the street market ( who, us?), is symptomatic of the thug-like nature of virtually the entire pharmaceutical industry.

When you look at the numbers you see that pills are the main “Opioid” killers, not Heroin, not Morphine, and certainly not Opium from the Poppy, and for all the hype about synthetic Opium pills like Oxy, the job they do of relieving pain is no better than a pipe of good opium. Of the 47,000+ drug overdose deaths counted by the CDC in 2014, 8800 were due to Heroin, which leaves +38,000 due largely to pills.

The single justification for the “Opioid” pill industry’s existence is that their products are claimed to be safer than natural Opium, Morphine, or Heroin. If you want to find the reason for the industry’s panic at the increase in Opioid pill deaths, look at the ratio between deaths from the dreaded slayer of youth Heroin and the supposedly safe if used as directed wonder pill.

If a huge part of your industry’s claim to fame is that your product is safer than the juice of the poppy then you have to be pretty upset when people are finally realizing that your pills are killing users nearly 5:1 compared to the fruits of the little flower.

Consider for a moment two possible tracks for our society – the one we are on and the one that could have been, and yet might be.

The track our society has taken is to turn our health, just like we’ve turned most of the other key aspects of our lives, over to highly intrusive institutional management. Most of us no longer have any management role in our food, our children’s education, our family and community security, our finances, or our privacy. One of the results of our capitulation to pervasive institutional management of our lives is that the exponentially-growing health industry, always quick to spot (or make) an opportunity, responded by creating vast numbers of expensive, enormously profitable drugs for all those astounding new diseases of modern society that patients are required to take by their doctors who give no natural options in place of the medical management system’s proprietary pharmaceuticals.

The second track, which might have been, is that all of the medical knowledge gained by doctors, patients and society at large in the 1700s and especially the 1800s regarding three of the great natural drugs – Opium, Coca and Cannabis – might have been kept and nurtured rather than discarded and largely forgotten. Had those three natural medicinal drugs not been demonized and outlawed as part of the warped spiritual movement of the early 1900s that gave birth first to Prohibition and later to the War On Drugs, these three great natural drugs would be available today as a part of the :People’s Pharmacy” just like hundreds of other herbal, natural medicines.

The industrial pharma industry would still have developed, and a lot of people would still be victims of their concoctions, but without the legal framework lovingly erected over decades by authoritarian conspirators there would be a whole segment of the Medical industry devoted to the use of all natural medicines, not just those permitted by the state as part of its role in enforcing the monopoly of Industrial Pharma over medicinal products.

Even more important, a nationwide, community-bases network of natural medicine practitioners would have evolved – people in every community who knew how to grow all of the ancient medical herbs and who utilized the advances of technology to produce ever-more effective but still natural medicines.

Of course we have a great model for this system in the network of Medical Cannabis growers and patients who are finally emerging after the long night of Prohibition – which is still in the very earliest stages of dawning – to point to and see what might have been for ALL the great natural medicines and not just Cannabis, and not just in a few states in the US and a few countries in the world.

In a society where those who wanted any form of any natural drug could grow and prepare it for themselves, or could go to a reputable dispensary or belong to a regulated collective, then we would certainly have some addicts among these people, but they would be able to lead as normal a life as they chose to live without the constant suffering, pain, and jeopardy of addiction to “illegal drugs” and all the horrors that go with that scene.

People with little income would not be driven to prostitute themselves and do violence to feed a drug habit if the drugs they wanted were freely available in safe, natural forms. It is possible, is it not, that given access to natural drugs in a climate free of violence and exploitation many if not most people could use drugs and still lead a normal life even if trapped in circumstances of poverty.

I believe that centuries of recorded experience in societies worldwide shows that the overwhelming problem with addiction is how society treats addicts. If an addict is free to lead an otherwise productive and normal life, many will do so, and those who won’t would have been lost whether drug laws made them criminals or not.

Perhaps what makes addiction so awful for so many people isn’t what the drug does to them, it’s what society does to them as a consequence of their addiction. The popular image of addiction is what is used to sell all the prevention/intervention programs that flourish around addicted people. Human degradation in every form is shown as a consequence of drug addiction, and many people buy that and think no further. But consider the number of people who are technically addicted who lead normal, productive lives in comparison with those whose lives are supposedly ruined by addiction, you begin to realize that plenty of people are addicted to drugs and other substances and don’t descend to street prostitution, emaciation, bleeding scabs and sleeping in alleys. It seems that one begins to see that maybe it is circumstances and not the drugs themselves that determine the direction that addiction takes. Remove all the harsh punishments for addiction and I wonder – what would happen to addiction?

If the illegal status of drugs and the consequences for addiction were removed, at least drug addiction would no longer be part of the trap that ensnares millions of people in the US. Poverty and exploitation would continue in other ways – unless of course (you never know) some kind of new dynamic was released in poor communities by removing the key role of criminalized drug addiction in keeping the iron collar of poverty and exploitation firmly clamped around their necks.


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How Coca Leaf Could Balance & Heal Our Gut Microbiome

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The scientific and medical literature of the 1800s gives us thousands of case studies primarily from Europe, Canada and the US, as well as somewhat limited published research, on the role of Coca Leaf preparations in treating and healing an impressive range of conditions and diseases.

In these case studies Coca Leaf was almost always consumed by the patient as tea (hot water extract) or tonic (alcohol extract), which means that the initial site of almost all the recorded medical action of Coca Leaf on the body was the human gut.

The same has been true for hundreds of generations in the Andes – they chew Coca first to bathe their gut with the healing, balancing juices, and from there the healing influences radiate throughout their muscular, endocrine and nervous systems.

So according to the historical evidence, the healing action of Coca Leaf appears to be centered in the gut.

Fast forward to today.

We now know that it is the health and balance of an individual’s gut microbiome that determines their overall state of health. We know that when that balance is upset gut diseases occur, and we increasingly understand how metabolic and neurological diseases are linked to disturbances of the gut microbiome.

Human adults carry about six pounds of bacteria in our gut, and in this mass of living organisms there are literally tens of thousands of species – most of them still unidentified. However we do know the major players in the human gut, and increasingly we are finding out that changes in the populations of these major players, plus blooms of pathogenic players like klebsiella and c. dificil, seem increasingly likely to be causing serious human illness.

So it may not be making too much of a speculative leap to say that it is likely that one of the important things that 19th Century science is telling us is that Coca Leaf helps to maintain, and works to restore a healthy gut microbiome, although of course those 19th Century doctors knew nothing of the gut microbiome. But they did know that Coca Leaf preparations worked on a wide range of diseases – better than almost anything else in their apothecary.

It certainly wouldn’t take a major research project to confirm or to disprove what I believe the 19th Century medical literature so clearly suggests. As part of the work I’m doing in trying to find funding for “Centros de Coca Curación” I intend to include funding for research studies in this and related areas, engaging reputable degreed scientific and medical researchers in Peru, Bolivia and any other country where they would be free to conduct their work and publish the results.

Readers of this blog know that in past posts I have engaged in a lot of speculation on the modern implications what 19th Century science knew about the healing properties of pure, natural Coca Leaf. I believe that the richness of the human experience recorded in those days by people of science and medicine can guide us today, lost as we are in the machinations of the pharmaceutical and allopathic medical “industries”.

Isn’t it time to begin demanding that legislators in states that have legalized Medical Cannabis now move to legalize first the import of fresh Coca Leaf and Coca Medicines and also to legalize cultivation of Coca Leaf in the United States for general consumption as well as medical purposes?


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Resisting The War On Drugs In Peru’s Coca Valley

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The BBC has done it again with outstanding photography and gripping first-person stories of the Mochileros who farm and trade Coca in this beautiful valley deep in the Peruvian Andes. The atrocities that the US Drug Laws and our paramilitary War On Drugs have committed in the communities of this remote valley are well-documented in this excellent photo-essay although the crimes and their consequences are implicit rather than explicit. How the people of this beautiful valley live now is well documented here; how they could be living if not for the criminal insanity of the US is left unsaid.

Coca growing goes back to pre-historical times in this valley but the modern world’s insatiable demand for Cocaine has warped traditional Coca Leaf growing into a dangerous mix of guerillas, drug cartels, government agents, and foreign military/covert operations.

The BBC tells this story with a level of story and graphics that takes you directly into the Mochileros’s world and allows you to walk with them on their dangerous path through the mountains with a backpack full of Cocaine.

As I read this story I couldn’t help but wonder what life could be like in this beautiful valley if the people were free to tap into their Andean heritage to make natural coca medicines for the world instead of being forced to work as human mules.

To read BBC’s “Coca Valley” click here.


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A Compelling, Fact-Based Argument For Worldwide Legalization Of Coca Leaf

taita_sonqoThe 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)

Contents

> 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

> Bibliography

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).”


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Essential Differences Between Coca & Cocaine

It has been a while since I have posted selections from the Coca Leaf literature of the 19th Century, and I thought that readers of this blog might enjoy browsing some more of the insightful observations of Dr. Golden Mortimer and others on the topic of Coca leaf vs. Cocaine. 

Dr. Mortimer was acutely aware of the controversy regarding the potential dangers of the newly discovered alkaloid Cocaine, as well as the widely accepted efficacy of natural Coca Leaf in the treatment of a wide range of diseases and conditions.

The following comments will give the reader a good perspective on the thinking among physicians of the day on this subject. For more depth see Coca Leaf Papers.

“The action of cocaine has been placed midway between morphine and caffeine. In man the initial effect of Coca is sedative, followed by a rapidly succeeding and long continued stimulation. This may be attributed to the conjoined influence of the associate alkaloids upon the spinal cord and brain, whereby the conducting powers of the spinal cord are more depressed than are the brain centers.

In view of these physiological facts it is unscientific to regard strychnine as an equivalent stimulant to Coca or a remedy which may fulfill the same indications, as erroneously suggested by several correspondents. For immediate stimulation Coca is best administered as a wine, the mild exhilaration of the spirit giving place to the sustaining action of Coca without depression.

 “The action of Coca and cocaine, while similar, is different. Each gives a peculiar sense of well being, but cocaine affects the central nervous system more pronouncedly than does Coca, not – as commonly presumed – because it is Coca in a more concentrated form, but because the associate substances present in Coca, which are important in modifying its action, are not present in cocaine.

The sustaining influence of Coca has been asserted to be due to its anӕsthetic action on the stomach, and to its stimulating effect on brain and nervous system. But the strength-giving properties of Coca, aside from mild stimulation to the central nervous system, are embodied in its associate alkaloids, which directly bear upon the muscular system, as well as the depurative influence which Coca has upon the blood, freeing it from the products of tissue waste. The quality of Coca we have seen is governed by the variety of the leaf, and its action is influenced by the relative proportion of associate alkaloids present.

If these be chiefly cocaine or its homologues the influence is central, while if the predominant alkaloids are cocamine or benzoyl ecgonine, there will be more pronounced influence on muscle. When the associate bodies are present in such proportion as to maintain a balance between the action upon the nervous system and the conjoined action upon the muscular system, the effect of Coca is one of general invigoration.

“It seems curious, when reading of the marvelous properties attributed by so many writers to the influence of Coca leaves, that one familiar with the procedure of the physiological laboratory should have arrived at any such conclusion as that of Dowdeswell, who experimented with Coca upon himself.

After a preliminary observation to determine the effect of food and exercise he used Coca “in all forms, solid, liquid, hot and cold, at all hours, from seven o’clock in the morning until one or two o’clock at night, fasting and after eating, in the course of a month probably consuming a pound of leaves without producing any decided effect.” It did not affect his pupil nor the state of his skin. It occasioned neither drowsiness nor sleeplessness, and none of those subjective effects ascribed to it by others. “It occasioned not the slightest excitement, nor even the feeling of buoyancy and exhilaration which is experienced from mountain air or a draught of spring water.”

His conclusion from this was that Coca was without therapeutic or popular value, and presumed: “The subjective effects asserted may be curious nervous idiosyncrasies.”

This paper, coming so soon after the publication of a previous series of erroneous conclusions made by Alexander Bennett, created a certain prejudice against Coca. Theine, caffeine and theobromine having been proved to be allied substances, this experimenter proceeded to show that cocaine belonged to the same group. As a result of his research he determined that “the action of cocaine upon the eye was to contract the pupil similar to caffeine,” while the latter alkaloid he asserted was a local anesthetic; observations which have never been confirmed by other observers.

In view of our present knowledge of the Coca alkaloids, it seems possible that these experiments may have been made with an impure product in which benzoyl-ecgonine was the more prominent base. However, the absolute error of Bennett’s conclusions has been handed down as though fact, and his findings have been unfortunately quoted by many writers, and even crept into the authoritative books.

Thus Ziemssen’s Cyclopcedia of the Practice of Medicine which is looked upon as a standard by thousands of American physicians, quotes Bennett in saying: “Guaranine and cocaine are nearly, if not quite, identical in their action with theine, caffeine and theobromine.” The National Dispensatory refers to the use of Coca in Peru as being similar to the use of Chinese tea elsewhere – as a mild stimulant and diaphoretic and an aid to digestion – which are mainly the properties of coffee, chocolate and guarana, and Bennett is quoted to prove that the active constituents of all these products: “Although unlike one another and procured from totally different sources possess in common prominent principles, and are not only almost identical in chemical composition, but also appear similar in physiological action.”

“These statements, which are diametrically opposed to the present accepted facts concerning Coca, are not merely a variance of opinion among different observers, but are the careless continuance of early errors, and suggest the long dormant stage in which Coca has remained, and has consequently been falsely represented and taught through sources presumably authentic.

“As may be inferred from its physiological action. Coca as a remedial agent is adapted to a wide sphere of usefulness, and if we accept the hypothesis that the influence of Coca is to free the blood from waste and to repair tissue, we have a ready explanation of its action.

Bartholow says: “It is probable that some of the constituents of Coca are utilized in the economy as food, and that the retardation of tissue-waste is not the sole reason why work may be done by its use which can not be done by the same person without it.”

Stockmann considers that the source of endurance from Coca can hardly depend solely upon the stimulation of the nervous system, but that there must at the same time be an economizing in the bodily exchange. An idea which is further confirmed by the total absence of emaciation or other injurious consequences in the Indians who constantly use Coca. He suggests that “Coca may possibly diminish the consumption of carbohydrates by the muscles during exertion. If this is so, then less oxygen would be required, and there is an explanation of the influence of Coca in relieving breathlessness in ascending mountains.”

Native America’s Greatest Chiefs – A Slideshow

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I thought that after the rather heavy subject matter of my last post on Gulf War Syndrome readers might enjoy something a little less complicated, so I am offering a slideshow of this marvelous collection of portraits and biographies of some of the greatest Native American Chiefs. (You can pause the show anytime by clicking the double vertical bars in the control panel at the bottom, and then re-start by clicking the right-arrow in the same spot.)

As a follow-up to this post I am assembling another slideshow with the images of the great Inca leaders, which I will post as soon as it is complete. Just as Coca was sacred to the Inca, Tobacco was sacred to the Native Americans. Both were considered to be the gift of the Great Spirit and Mama Coca respectively, and while both have been corrupted by the exploitative madness of the white races, the sacred nature of both great spirit plants remains strong.

Respect for others no longer favors the use of Native American images or references in advertising, names of sports teams, or tasteless racist jokes, but many years ago, even at the height of racism in America, the Redman Tobacco Company issued a line of trading cards that were packaged with the company’s Tobacco products that featured the powerful images and impressive biographies of some of the greatest Native American Chiefs.

Remarkably, for the times that these cards were produced, the portraits were dignified and the short biographies were respectfully written. Tobacco trading cards, usually featuring sports heroes, are high-dollar collectibles these days, and a good friend of mine has been collecting the Redman “Chiefs” cards for many years. When I was writing my “Cultivators Handbook of Natural Tobacco” he allowed me to scan some of the best in his collection, and I would like to share these fascinating images with my readers. Some of them appear in the tobacco book but only in B&W, whereas these originals are in full color and are really quite wonderfully detailed. I don’t know about you, but for me, looking at these faces and reading their brief bios, makes these ancient leaders of Native America come alive in my mind.

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Coca Leaf As A Travel Necessity

I enjoy re-reading my collection of old books on Coca because no matter how carefully I pay attention to the rich treasure of history and thought they represent, my mind is always drawn to whatever aspect of the current quest is most important, thus passing over information and insight that, in retrospect, was as vital and interesting as the object of the initial quest.

So it is with this passage from “The History of Coca” by Dr. Golden Mortimer (1912). Buried deep in Chapter Seven, this passage not only describes the diverse ways in which the indigenous people of the Andes use Coca to sustain themselves while journeying through the high mountains, it also offers the careful reader some fascinating insights into the world that these people inhabited in the past – the same world where they live their lives to a large extent today, in spite of centuries of outside interference and exploitation.

For example, the brief note that while in the process of mining silver the women charged with evaluating each piece of ore brought to the surface could, at a glance, tell how much silver the piece contained and if it was less than 20% silver, down the mountainside it went and onto the trash pile. 20% silver! Of course this isn’t news to modern-day miners who have worked these “trash piles” for many years, but it does give you an idea of how rich the original mother lodes were, and how expert and intuitive the women were whose job was to sort the keepers from the rejects. 

And then Dr. Mortimer goes on to note that men could do exactly the same sort of quick sort as they walked through a Coca patch. With just a glance, and using who knows what other senses, the man could tell immediately which plants would yield the highest quality Coca Leaf and which were destined to be not worth further effort. I have to wonder if that ability persists today among the indigenous Coca growers of the Andes, or if it has been lost and replaced by technology.

Finally, because this post contains multiple references to the use of “Lime” in the chewing of Coca Leaf, it seems a good place to reiterate that we are talking about calcium carbonate as in limestone or seashells, not as in Margaritas and Key Lime Pie. Just a small point to keep in mind should you be fortunate enough to find yourself in possession of some fine quality Coca leaf. 

(Excerpt from Chapter VII in “The History of Coca”)

The Indians chew Coca just as they do everything else, very deliberately and systematically. The mouthful of leaves taken at each time is termed acullico, or chique, which is as carefully predetermined as would the skilled housewife apportion the leaves of some choice bohea intended for an individual drawing. In preparing the chew the leaf is held base in between the two thumbs, parallel to the midrib, the soft part of the leaf being stripped off and put in the mouth. From the constant presence of this quid through many years the cheek on the side in which it is usually held presents a swollen appearance known as piccho. It is an error to suppose that the Indian journeys along and plucks the Coca from bushes by the wayside to chew, for the leaf must be carefully picked, dried and cured, and, just as tobacco or tea or coffee has to undergo certain processes before ready for consumption, so the full property of the Coca leaf is only developed after a proper preparation. Usually carried in the chuspa, or huallqui with the leaves, or fastened to it outside, is a little flask or bottle made from a gourd and called iscupuru, The word is not Quichua, but belongs to the dialect of the Chinchay-suyus along the banks of the Marañon. The Spanish authors termed it poporo. In this gourd is carried a lime-like substance made from the ashes left after burning certain plants or by burning shells or limestone. This, which they term llipta, or llucta is intermixed with the leaves when chewing by applying it to those in the mouth with a short stick dipped into the gourd from time to time. After this application the lime left on the stick is wiped about the head of the gourd in an abstracted way, leaving a deposit of lime which increases with time, for the Indian never parts with his poporo. M. Gaugnet presented M. Mariani with a poporo, brought from Colombia, a cast of which in my possession well represents this formation.

The operation of chewing is termed in Bolivia and Southern Peru acullicar while in the North it is called chacchar. The llipta is made in different localities from various substances; in the South from the ashes of the algarroba, the fruit of which has an immense reputation as an aphrodisiac, the mass being held together with boiled potatoes, while in the North quicklime is used, and in some of the Montaña regions ashes of the musa root or that of the common cereus are employed. The ashes of the burnt stalk of the quinoa plant, chenopodium quinua, mixed with a little lime, is the ordinary preparation. In Caravaya the llipta is made in little cone-like lumps; in other places it is found in flat dried cakes, which are scratched into a powder with a stick as it is required for use. Tschudi mentions the use of sugar with the leaves, but this must have been a European innovation which was supposedly an improvement, but not warranted by local customs. In Brazil, Coca – or ypadú as there termed – is powdered and mixed with the ash of Cecropia palmata leaves.

Ernst has traced the derivation of a number of the terms which are applied to the use of Coca among the Colombian Indians. These have been built up from the name of the gourd used to carry the lime or from the little sack in which the leaves are carried, which is always worn by the Indian. Thus the Chibchas term the alkali anna, which signifies a bluish lime.

Dr. Monardes speaks of the use of tobacco combined with Coca and says of the Indians: “When they will make themselves to be out of judgment they mingle with the Coca the leaves of the tobacco, at which they totter and go as though they were out of their witts, or if they were drunk, which is a thing that doth give them great contentment to be in that sorte.” Tobacco is still mixed with Coca by some of the Colombian Indians, but it is doubtful if such a mixture alone would produce the effect described. The hallucinations and narcotic action attributed by early writers to Coca are largely confusional from imperfect facts. Some of the Indians gather the leaves of a plant they term huaca or huacacachu. It is a running vine with a large obvate leaf, pale green above and purple beneath, growing in the Montaña only upon ground where there has previously been a habitation; for what is now an apparent virgin forest it is thought may three or four hundred years ago have been thickly inhabited. No scientific facts are known regarding this leaf as far as I could learn after submitting specimens of it to several of our leading botanists. The Indians term so many things huaca – which is a name they apply to anything they consider sacred – that it is very difficult to determine simply from the name. Von Tschudi probably refers to this leaf in what he describes as bovachero, or datura sanguinea. Several writers refer to the use of this leaf as a remedy for snake bite and against inflammations. A liquor is prepared from the leaves which the Indians term tonga, the drinking of which, they believe, will put them in communication with their ancestors, and from its strong narcotic action perhaps it may. Tschudi describes the symptoms observed in the case of an Indian who had taken some of this narcotic. “He fell into a heavy stupor, his eyes vacantly fixed on the ground, his mouth convulsively closed and his nostrils dilated. In the course of a quarter of an hour his eyes began to roll, foam issued from his mouth, and his body was agitated with frightful convulsions. After these violent symptoms had passed off a profound sleep followed of several hours’ duration, and when the subject recovered he related the particulars of his visit with his forefathers.” Because of this superstitious property the natives termed huaca “the grave plant.”

The Indians have fixed places along the road where they rest and replace their chews of Coca. Usually it is in some spot sheltered from the wind; and if near one of these retreats, they will hurry until reaching there, where they may drop exhausted, and after resting for a few moments will begin to prepare the leaves for mastication. In about ten minutes they are armado – as it is termed, or fully prepared to continue their journey. The distance an Indian will carry his ccepi – or load, of about a hundred pounds, under stimulus of one chew of Coca is spoken of as a cocada, just as we might say a certain number of miles. It is really a matter of time rather than distance, the first influence being felt within ten minutes, and the effect lasting for about three-quarters of an hour, during which time three kilometres on level ground, or two kilometres going up hill, will usually be covered. Although the roads are marked out with league stones, the exact number of miles these represent is a varying quantity, and travelers soon fall into the local habit of computing distance by the cocada as more exact.

These ccepiris – or burden bearers, which is the Quichua term or cargaderos – as they are termed on the coast, commonly travel six to eight cocadas a day without any other food excepting the Coca leaf used in the manner as indicated. It is not at all unusual – as related by numerous travelers – for a messenger to cover a hundred leagues afoot with no other sustenance than Coca. The old traditional chasqui, or courier, who has been continued since the time of the Incas, is still given messages to carry on foot rather than by horse or mule. He always carries a pack, which is fastened on his back and to his head also, leaving both arms free; and where the road is so steep that he cannot walk he will scramble along on all fours very rapidly. When the Indians come to their resting place they throw off their burdens and squat down, and the traveler might just as well decide to rest here as to attempt to go on. All persuasion would be just as useless to induce a resting Indian to proceed as it would be in the case of their favorite beast of burden, the llama, which is as unalterable of purpose as is his master.

The amount of Coca that is used by an Indian in a day varies from one to two handfuls, which is equivalent to one or two ounces. The leaves are not weighed out, but are apportioned to each man in accordance with the amount of work that is to be done. As an extensive operator in Peru expressed it to me, “the more work the more Coca,” while conversely, the more Coca the more work they are capable of doing. If the placid calm of an Indian is ever ruffled, it is only manifest through his taking an extra chew.

Away up in the cold and barren regions of the mountains wood and brush are too scarce to supply fuel, so the dried droppings of the llama are used instead; and as no one ever thinks of having a fire in this region merely for the purpose of keeping warm, this fuel is only used for cooking and necessity soon corrects any over-fastidiousness in the epicure. One of the remarkable peculiarities of the llama is that the beast deposits this mountain fuel always in the same places; a whole herd will go to one fixed spot, and so greatly lessen the labor of gathering the dung. In some of the particularly dangerous passes in the mountains there are rude crosses erected, which have been set up by the missionaries to mark the piles of sacred stones of the early Incan period. These stone piles are often far removed from loose stones, which must be carried for a long distance in anticipation of adding to the heap.

As the Indian makes his offering he also expects all travelers as they pass to make a like obeisance to the god of the mountain, expressive of gratitude for a journey that has been safe thus far, and imploring a favorable continuance. Often these places are decorated with little trinkets, which are hung upon the arms of the cross or thrown upon the pile of stones. Any object that has been closely attached to the person is offered; sometimes this may be even so simple as a hair from the eyebrow, but commonly the cud of Coca is thrown against the rocks, the Indian bowing three times and exclaiming ‘Apachicta’ which is an abbreviation of the term Apachicta-muchhani “I worship at this heap,” or “I give thanks to him who has given me strength to endure thus far.” The offering is made to Apachic, or Pachacamac, of whom the stone pile is an emblem. It is a curious fact that diametrically opposite on the globe, in that portion of Chinese Tartary where the priests are called Lamas, offerings are made by the natives to similar stone piles which are there termed obos.

Arduous as may be the task of the cargo bearer, the severest trial the Indian is subject to is mining. They commence this labor as boys of eight and spend the greater part of their lives in the mines. These places are wet and cold, and the work is very hard. In getting out the ore the workers must use a thirty-pound hammer with one hand, while the carriers are obliged to bear burdens of about one hundred and fifty pounds up the steep ascent of the shaft to the surface. This mining is continuous, being carried on by two gangs of men, one of which goes on duty at seven at night, working until five in the morning, when, after a rest of two hours they continue until seven at night, and are then relieved by the other party. Some of the silver mines employ thousands of operatives, both men and women, the men working in the mine and the women breaking and sorting the ore which is brought to the surface. Unless there is at least twenty per cent, of silver in the ore it is cast aside; and these women are so expert that as they break the stones into small pieces they determine instantly how it shall be sorted.

A similar cleverness is shown on the part of the Indians who select the Coca or cinchona plants. They will walk rapidly through a nursery and determine at a glance the value of individual plants or of the whole field without apparent hesitation. The Indians do not always select mining through choice, but are almost driven to it through the influence of the authorities. They have a dreadful fear of temporal powers and dare not disobey, even though their inclinations might suggest that they were born agriculturists. But these people have no inclinations; they have always been taught to do as commanded. It is suggestive of an instance I once met with when a physician, in reprimanding his colored servant, asked him why he did a certain thing, to which the poor fellow started to explain by “I thought.” “Thought!” said the doctor – “there you go thinking again; you have no right to think!” And so it is with these poor Indians; they can have no opinion, they have no right to think.

The Incas did a prodigious amount of work in their mining efforts, which, even if primitive, were forcible and effective. A system of waterways, similar to the extensive aqueducts of the coast, was made use of to conduct these operations, and several of these canals still exist, some many miles long. They are from three to five feet wide, and five to eight feet deep; in places cut through the solid rock, and in others, when over a porous soil, they are lined with sandstone. Numerous smaller ones were extended from the main canal, generally ending in reservoirs, from which sluice gates might be opened to permit the pent-up volume of waters to suddenly rush down a hill, carrying with it hundreds of tons of golden gravel. At the same time other streams were run along the base of the cliffs, undermining them, and by this ancient method of hydraulic mining, continued through centuries, whole mountains have been washed away. At Alpacata, in the upper part of Aporoma, at an elevation of seven thousand five hundred and fifty feet, is still to be found one of these old canals, together with the huge tanks for storing water, in a fair state of preservation.

An engineer, extensively interested in mining interests, who spends several months of each year in Peru, has described to me the peculiar methods followed by the Indians, who sometimes conduct their gold washings in the streams to their own profit. Selecting a part of some river bed that is left without water during the dry season, the Indian paves it with large sloping stones, forming a series of riffles. When the freshets of the rainy season cause the stream to rise and overflow these paved spots, any gold carried down is caught between the stones and is gathered during the following dry season. The annual returns from such farms are almost exactly the same each year, so that the Indian may count with as great accuracy on the yield of gold from his several mining chacras as he would upon the products of his corn or Coca fields. This primitive form of mining is still carried on to a limited extent, and these gold farms are handed down from father to son as regular property. The Indians appear to have an intuitive and very accurate knowledge of the relative richness of the various streams, but their natural reticence makes it extremely difficult to gain this information from them.


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Coca Leaf & Chronic Low-Level Whole Body Inflammation

                                   Tea Time!

Recently on this blog I’ve posted what I believe is solid evidence that Coca Leaf tea can probably be used as-is, right out of the “Mate de Coca” bag from Peru or Bolivia, to successfully treat inflammatory obesity and many chronic conditions underlying congestive heart failure.

This would NOT be the Coca Leaf tea that has been ‘sanitized’ for export to the US – the “de-cocainized” stuff that the US government so graciously allows in. I’m talking of course about the pure, natural leaves of the Coca plant, produced, packaged and widely consumed in Peru and Bolivia. There is where I believe that a very simple but effective approach could be devised to begin validating Coca Leaf as a medicinal herb of the highest order.

When you think about it there is already remarkable evidence right in front of our eyes that Coca Leaf is probably a powerful, natural medicine for a range of health issues – it’s just one of those things hidden in plain sight.

Up to 500,000 travelers to the Andes in the past couple of years are estimated to have used Coca Leaf tea successfully for altitude sickness, and of course for countless generations the indigenous people of the mountains have seen this benefit too. (They have also, in the absence of western disease and culture, often lived long and productive lives.) There is solid evidence going back as far as western records go that the powers of Coca Leaf in effectively treating Altitude Sickness have been proven beyond dispute.

So, we know that the Divine plant is useful for altitude sickness. We also know that it’s effective because of its broad action on multiple body systems – heart, lungs, muscle efficiency, metabolism, brain function, and oxygen use. All of the same body systems, incidentally, involved in inflammatory conditions that lead to obesity and congestive heart failure.

But because so many people know from experience that Coca Leaf is so good at relieving altitude sickness- then it’s easy to miss the follow-up question – “what else could Coca Leaf tea be doing?”

Coca Leaf For Rheumatism – Bolivia

So let’s zero back in on inflammation. It’s a very interesting topic in the medical literature because it is so often treated as the baseline, the underlying condition that is simply there. Chronic low-level inflammation is simply the way things are for lots of people. Doctors seem to start with inflammation as a given – they “give you something for it” and then go on and ‘treat’ the conditions that have arisen from the underlying inflammation, which so often remains despite “medications”.

A little while ago I posted an opinion on a forum elsewhere regarding chronic low-level inflammation, industrial foods and obesity and that post provoked a lot of “fat hate” comments like “Oh, a new excuse for being a fat pig”, and “the only thing inflamed is their greedy gut” and other such slobbering wit.

Maybe it’s difficult for people, even those affected, to visualize whole body inflammation. Most of us can picture an inflamed toe, or a sore throat, but what does who body inflammation look like?

Well, if it’s low-level it isn’t going to be dramatic – like an open sore. And if it’s whole body then nothing will be disproportionate – like a 3X normal toe.

The idea of chronic low-level whole body inflammation has always made sense to me because I link it to my own experiences with cuts and sores during my life. Depending on the cut or sore, and whether or not it leads to infection, there are different levels of the body’s own attack on the cut or sore. It always involves sore, pink flesh – responding to the injury with blood and body fluids that swell cells and flood the area with healing bio-chemicals. But – the clue to me is “Pink”. When the area around a sore or wound turns Pink then at that moment it is always in the first stages of inflammation.

So then I mentally translate that very early stage pinkness to a whole body situation and what I get is slightly-to-definitely swollen, slightly to definitely “Pink” people (whether their natural racial color is black, Brown or White). There’s just a swollen quality to them, and they move as if they are in pain.

I see a lot of those people as I move around my community and elsewhere. I see a lot of people with chronic low level whole body inflammation as a baseline in their lives, which then creates a short but deadly list of diseased conditions like diabetes and heart disease. And I see people who I sincerely believe could be helped by a few cups of tea a day from the Divine Coca plant.

So I have to ask – what if it were possible to conclusively prove that you could control chronic low-level whole body inflammation with either a few cups of Coca leaf tea every day, or with safe doses of a natural extract of Coca Leaf such as the 1890’s “Vin Mariani”? As you read the opening paragraph of the summary of the following research, ask yourself what if the conditions that the authors identify with chronic low-level inflammation could be controlled so easily and naturally? Who knows if Coca Leaf offers a cure for chronic low-level inflammation especially if the “cause” of the inflammation is a combination of environment, genetics, and behavior.

I’m sure that new fortunes will be made in Peru, Bolivia and other Andean countries by those who dare to reclaim their heritage and use the Coca Leaf for natural healing of inflammatory disease in clinics and spas throughout the Andes. Later I believe that this will happen in the Pacific Northwest and the Rocky Mountains, and in other areas of the world where we already know from the historical record that Coca grows well.

Chronic low-level inflammation isn’t a mysterious topic, and the fact that it underlies a lot of disease process, and might be treated or cured by Coca Leaf, makes it worth asking the question.

With the role of Coca Leaf chronic low level inflammation in mind it’s interesting to note the following excerpts of a research paper on Cytokine levels in different populations. As I understand it, Cytokines are a family of small proteins circulating in the blood and involved in cell signaling, some of which are used by the body to guide inflammatory processes to wounds, infections, and the like. They are reliable markers of low-level widespread inflammation, among other things, and this research indicates that there are lots of reasons for different people to suffer from the condition. Parenthetically I have to wonder what the results would have been if the following study had been able to include a sample of recent immigrants of Andean origin?

Plasma Cytokine Levels in a Population-Based Study: Relation to Age and Ethnicity

Raymond P. Stowe, M. Kristen Peek, Malcolm P. Cutchin, and James S. Goodwin

E-Pub Info: J Gerontol A Biol Sci Med Sci. 2010 Apr;65(4):429-33. doi: 10.1093/gerona/glp198. Epub 2009 Dec 16.

EDITOR”S NOTE: You can access the complete article by clicking here

Abstract (Excerpts)

“Inflammation is believed to contribute to the onset of many age-related diseases as evidenced by a variety of medical studies linking proinflammatory cytokines to Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, and multiple sclerosis. Much attention has been paid to interleukin (IL)-6 because of its association with cardiovascular disease, the leading cause of death. IL-6 is associated with a broad spectrum of age-related illnesses, chronic stress, and functional disability in older adults. IL-6 is also a strong inducer of C-reactive protein (CRP) by the liver, and both IL-6 and CRP are important in the development of cardiovascular disease. IL-6 and CRP also play a pathogenic role in a number of diseases associated with disability in older adults, such as arthritis, osteoporosis, and depression among others.”

“Studies of older humans have reported age-related increases in proinflammatory cytokines, but the switch from the inflammatory burst that resolves following an infection or injury to the chronic elevation encountered in many older adults is not well understood. Several investigations have indicated that there is an age-related increase in circulating IL-6, which has been called a “cytokine for gerontologists”. However, some studies have found no changes with age. Similarly, tumor necrosis factor (TNF)-α, a cytokine that is involved in septic shock, was reportedly increased in some studies but not others.”

“Anti-inflammatory mediators, such as IL-10 and interleukin-1 receptor antagonist (IL-1ra), may also be important in the aging process because they counteract proinflammatory cytokines. With regards to IL-10, few studies have measured circulating levels of this cytokine, but there have been reports that indicated no change occurs with aging. Reports have also shown an age-related increase in the IL-1ra. Altogether, the discrepancies regarding these cytokines mostly likely relate to variations in age and sample size.”

“Besides age, cytokine levels may also be influenced by ethnicity. Plasma levels of IL-8 and granulocyte colony-stimulating factor were elevated in African Americans compared with Caucasians, and TNF-α has been reported to be higher in non-obese Mexican Americans compared with non-Hispanic whites. Because there is little other information on circulating pro-inflammatory cytokine levels and ethnicity, our goal was to investigate plasma levels of circulating cytokines in relation to ethnicity as well as age in a large population-based study. We found age-related differences in proinflammatory cytokines as well as significant differences in circulating cytokine levels between Mexican Americans, non-Hispanic whites, and non-Hispanic blacks.”

“Because our study population was tri-ethnic in nature, we analyzed the data accordingly and found significant associations between cytokine levels and ethnicity. The highest levels of pro-inflammatory markers were found in either non-Hispanic whites or blacks. Interestingly, it has been proposed that the health status of Hispanics in the Southwestern United States is comparable more so with whites than with blacks despite the fact that socioeconomically Hispanics are more similar to blacks than the more advantaged whites; this has been aptly named the “Hispanic Paradox”. Our results support this concept, which demonstrates that, collectively, lower levels of inflammatory cytokines were found in Hispanics compared with whites or blacks. Notably, the lowest inflammatory levels were found in foreign-born Hispanics. We have previously proposed that protective measures (eg, acculturation) may in part underlie the differences between foreign-born and US-born Hispanics because we found that increasing years in the United States was associated with increasing IL-1ra levels among Hispanic women at 22–24 weeks of pregnancy. Further research is needed to determine the mechanisms underlying the differences in cytokine profiles between foreign-born and US-born Hispanics.”

“One potential explanation for the ethnic variations in cytokine levels is differences in cytokine gene polymorphisms. Allelic variations in the regulatory regions of inflammatory cytokine genes have been shown to affect the expression of some cytokines. Several studies have focused on IL-6 because of its biological importance and have demonstrated that the G/G IL-6 genotype, which results in high IL-6 production, is predominantly found in blacks. It has been hypothesized that the dissimilarities in cytokine gene polymorphisms may contribute to the differences in inflammatory responses and cancer incidence and mortality in blacks. Additionally, obesity was a significant determinant of CRP levels in non-Hispanic blacks, and BMI was significantly higher in non-Hispanic blacks than either non-Hispanic whites or Hispanics (data not shown).”

“In summary, our results confirm and extend other studies demonstrating age-related increases in circulating proinflammatory cytokines. In addition, we have shown ethnic differences in cytokine levels, and to our knowledge, this is the first study demonstrating ethnic differences in proinflammatory and anti-inflammatory cytokine profiles in large population-based study. Future studies are needed to determine the epigenetic link between inflammation and ethnicity.”

Editor’s Afterthought: When it’s so clear that chronic low-level inflammatory processes are at work underlying so much disease, is there any good reason that pure, natural Coca Leaf sourced directly from growers in Peru and Bolivia by legal means shouldn’t be tested for potential health benefits?

Even if Coca Leaf were simply helpful, without causing any harm, Coca Leaf could form the core of therapies at spas and clinics. And incidentally, these Spas and Clinics should be free to grow their own Coca Leaf or to contract with any indigenous person or group to grow their Coca Leaf for them.


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Coca Leaf And Metabolic Fire

Coca Leaf And Metabolic Fire

Editor’s Note: Not everyone in the scientific community is completely ignoring the medical potential of Coca Leaf, as evidenced by the following article in the Indian Journal of Clinical Biochemistry from 2010.

While the findings of this study on the effects of Coca Leaf on altitude sickness are quite modest and do not begin to reflect the enormous range of healing potential of Mama Coca’s gift to her people and, through them, to all of Earth’s people, it is studies like these that will ultimately lay the foundation for refuting the propaganda of the ruling classes and their pet monkey experts who have spent many generations and literally billions of dollars creating the illusion that the Coca plant and its products are a great evil to be eradicated without mercy.

In spite of such fools, the spirit of Mama Coca continues to thrive, and will ultimately regain her rightful place in the healing apothecary of natural plants.

Before looking at this contemporary research into Coca Leaf and altitude sickness, it’s worth remembering that physicians and scientists in the 1800s already knew of these benefits of Coca Leaf and used that knowledge to go far beyond simply documenting that, yes, Coca Leaf does the job.

After all, altitude sickness is really the manifestation of the impact of oxygen deprivation on human metabolism, and the scientists of the 1800s were studying the impact of Coca leaf on metabolism from many different angles. The original studies included in “The Coca Leaf Papers” are rich with references to the beneficial metabolic impact of Coca Leaf on many conditions and diseases – not just its role in helping people function remarkably well at high altitudes. In my mind, by far the most valuable contribution of this contemporary research is contained in the last paragraph. “It is also possible that the beneficial effects of chewing coca leaves are related to the flavonoids found in the coca leaves and not because of release of the cocaine.” Could it be any more clear that the healing properties of Coca Leaf are NOT about the Cocaine in the leaf but about the whole properties of the leaf? The leaf is the gift – not the single alkaloid. For those who understand – enough said.

I have chosen not to abbreviate the original research here, and have provided all of the data tables in a format that is easily legible. My apologies to any reader who prefers the Twitter format with a limit of 140 characters to any thought. This post, like most of the posts on PanaceaChronicles, is intended for those who don’t mind the effort of reading for comprehension.

Indian J Clin Biochem. 2010 Jul;25(3):311-4. doi: 10.1007/s12291-010-0059-1. Epub 2010 Aug 25.

Does chewing coca leaves influence physiology at high altitude?

Casikar V, Mujica E, Mongelli M, Aliaga J, Lopez N, Smith C, Bartholomew F.

Abstract

Andean Indians have used coca leaves (Erythroxylon coca and related species) for centuries to enhance physical performance. The benefits and disadvantages of using coca leaf have been a subject of many political debates. The aim of this study was to investigate the effects of chewing coca leaves on biochemical and physiological parameters. Cutaneous microdialysis catheters were used to estimate systemic biochemical changes. We subjected 10 healthy adult males (local residents) in Cajamarca (Peru, altitude 2700 m) to a standardised exercise routine on a stationary cycle ergometer. The blood pressure, oxygen saturation (digital), pulse, VO2 max and ECG (Holter monitor) were recorded before the exercise. Cutaneous microdialysis catheters were introduced in the forearm. The subjects were given to chew 8 g of coca leaves with a small amount of lime. They were then placed on the cycle ergometer for 20 min. Blood pressure, oxygen saturation, pulse, ECG and VO2 max were recorded. Pyruvate, glucose, lactate, glycerol and glutamate levels were estimated. Oxygen saturation, blood pressure, and pulse rate did not show any significant changes between the two groups. Glucose levels showed hyperglycaemic response. Glycerol, Lactate and Pyruvate increased. Glutamate remained unchanged. Similar changes were not seen in the controls. These results suggest that coca leaves have blocked the glycolytic pathway of glucose oxidation resulting in accumulation of glucose and pyruvate. The energy requirement for exercise is being met with beta-oxidation of fatty acids. The glycerol released was also getting accumulated since its pathway for oxidation was blocked. These experimental findings suggest that chewing coca leaves is beneficial during exercise and that the effects are felt over a prolonged period of sustained physical activity.

Introduction

Andean Indians have used coca leaves for centuries to enhance physical performance. The modern methods of obtaining cocaine were not known to the Andean culture. The benefits and disadvantages of using coca leaf had been a subject of many political debates. Spielvogel et al. [1] and Favier et al. [2] have reported the physiological benefits of coca leaves. The latter concluded that the beneficial effects of coca chewing on exercise tolerance were not related to either improved maximal exercise capacity or increased work efficiency. The beneficial effect on fatty acids was alluded to in their report. Hanna 1971 [3], concluded that heart rates and oxygen intake were not significantly different between those who chew coca and those who do not. Carter and Mann [4] have demonstrated, through a study of over 3,000 leaf users, that mine workers, the largest consumers, chew an average of 13 oz a week, i.e. extracts an average of 3.9 net grams of alkaloids per week. Therefore, the theoretical maximum dose is half a gram, in a period of 24 h (always assuming 100% efficiency in mouth extraction).

A recent investigation conducted by Instituto Boliviano de Biologica de Altura (Gregorio Lanza) [5] disclosed that after chewing about 30 g of leaves, blood cocaine contents can be traced to around 98 ng using High Pressure Liquid Chromatography. That is 0.000000098 g! Paracelsus [6] commented, “Every element in nature has its own poison and its antidote as well. There is a need to revert to the natural sources for remedy.” We would like to make a distinction between chewing coca leaves by the Indians of Andes and using cocaine as a recreational drug by the western cultures.

The aim of this study was to investigate the effects of chewing coca leaves on the biochemical and physiological parameters. Based on our earlier experience with the biochemical changes at high altitude [HA] [7], we decided to study the biochemical parameters as markers of adaptation to HA. Cutaneous microdialysis is now known to reflect systemic biochemical changes [8, 9]. We chose to use this technique as it is relatively non-invasive and it is possible to monitor the changes continuously over a long period of time.

Materials and Methods

The Ethics Committee, Andean Institute of Andean Biology, Lima, Peru, approved the study protocol.

We subjected 10 healthy adult males (local residents) in Cajamarca (Peru, altitude 2700 m) to a standardised exercise routine on a stationary cycle ergometer. The blood pressure, oxygen saturation (digital), pulse, VO2 max and ECG (Holter monitor) were recorded before the exercise. Blood samples were drawn to estimate the hormone levels (testosterone and progesterone). Only four of the subjects who chewed coca leaves agreed to give two blood samples. All the controls were happy to provide the blood samples.

Cutaneous microdialysis catheters (Mfg. CMA Microdialysis AB, Sweden) were introduced in the forearm and attached to the pump. At the end of 20 min the perfusate sample was collected. The subject was given to chew 8 g of coca leaves. They were then placed on the exercise machine for 20 min. The rate of revolution was maintained between 80 and 100 cycles/min. At the end of 20 min, the perfusate of the microdialysis was collected. Blood pressure, oxygen saturation, pulse, ECG and VO2 max were recorded. The subjects were allowed to rest for 20 min. All the above parameters were again recorded and the perfusate was collected. The subjects were again reintroduced to the exercise program. This cycle was repeated eight times. The subjects were chewing the coca leaves during the entire period of the experiment.

Four adult male subjects who were also residents of Cajamarca were used as controls. The same exercise routine was followed, but these did not use coca leaves. The VO2 max in sub-maximal exercise was measured in cycle ergometer by the Fox test. The values were calculated using the Fox equation for men (VO2 max = 6.3 – 0.0193 × FC). The values were corrected by the factor for the age.
Pyruvate, glucose, lactate, glycerol and glutamate levels were estimated in the microdialysis samples using the standard analyser provided by the company. The values of three subjects who had used coca leaves were excluded, as the volume of the perfusate was insufficient due to improper placement of the catheter.

Statistical Analysis

The changes in serum analyte measurements during the experiments were computed from start to finish of each test period for each subject. These were calculated as a net change and also as a percentage change as follows:

Percent Change = 100 X (finish – start)/start

Positive values indicate an increase in value. Differences in baselines between test and control groups were tested using the Mann–Whitney U-test. Mean differences in change between exposed and control groups were tested using Mann–Whitney U-test at a significance level of 0.05. All calculations were carried out using statistical software (SPSS for Windows).

Results

Oxygen saturation, blood pressure, and pulse rate did not show any significant changes between the two groups. The ECG recording (Holter monitor) did not show any changes during the entire period. The VO2 max (ml kg−1 min−1 was 53.02 ± 3.06 in the coca chewers (Table 1). Among the non-chewers, it was 66.59 ± 6.33 (Table 2). The differences were not statistically significant. The aerobic capacity (VO2 max) was classified as either excellent or average according to the classification of American Heart Association 1972 [11].

Table 1
VO2 max in coca-leaf chewing group
Alt_Table1

Table 2
VO2 max in control group
Alt_Table2

 

 

The changes in the biochemical parameters are shown in Tables 3 and and 4. The glucose levels showed a hyperglycaemic response to coca chewing even after the exercise was completed.

Table 3
Absolute changes in analytes
Alt_Table3

Table 4
Percentage changes in analytes
Alt_Table4

The glycerol values showed accumulation at the end of the second episode of exercise. This was seen in two of the control subjects as well. The pyruvate was seen accumulating in almost all the coca-chewing volunteers. Two controlled subjects also showed pyruvate accumulation, but to a lesser degree. The lactate was getting progressively accumulated in volunteers chewing coca. There was also an accumulation of lactate in the controls, but the magnitude was not as high as in those who were chewing coca leaves. The glutamate values were more or less unaffected among the coca chewers. It showed a significant increase in the controls.

Discussion

The purpose of this pilot study was to determine if there were any subtle biochemical changes, which were influenced by chewing the coca leaves. Standard methods of assessing a person’s response to continued exercise such as blood pressure, pulse rate, VO2 max and ECG changes did not show any significant changes between the two groups.

The experimental findings suggested that chewing coca leaves induces biochemical changes that enhance physical performance at high altitude. These changes appeared sustained and were detectable at the later stages of the experiment.

During normal short-term exercise carbohydrates are the primary source of energy. In this situation the respiratory quotient (RQ) remains near 1. The glucose, glycerol and pyruvate did not accumulate as they were utilized as soon as they were formed. However, lactate accumulated as its utilization by the liver in re-conversion to glucose and glycogen lagged behind. This was probably taking place during the resting period.

Under endurance of long-term exercise the carbohydrate reserves being small the energy source is switched over to fatty acids and fats. The RQ under this condition is below 1. The fats are hydrolysed into fatty acids and glycerol. The glycerol enters the glycolytic pathway and metabolised to glycerol pyruvate pathway. The fatty acids undergo beta-oxidation entering Krebs cycle as acetyl-coenzyme A.

It seems that coca leaves have blocked the glycolytic pathway of glucose oxidation at the Pyruvate Dehydrogenase level resulting in accumulation of glucose and pyruvate. The energy requirement for exercise is being met with beta-oxidation of fatty acids. The glycerol released was also getting accumulated since its pathway for oxidation was blocked.

These experimental findings suggest that chewing coca leaves gives a beneficial effect during a performance of exercise and that the beneficial effects are felt over a prolonged period of sustained physical activity. Perhaps this gives the users energy to function at a sustained level over long periods of time.

Lipid fuel sources are energy substrates during prolonged exercise of moderate intensity. Plasma and muscle triglycerides and free fatty acids make a significant contribution to lipid metabolism. Grant [11]. The individual contribution from each of these towards skeletal muscle mechanism is discussed in detail by Turcotte [12].

Aerobic Glycolysis is a major producer of usable energy during high endurance physical activity. The aerobic Lipolysis provides energy through Krebs cycle during sustained low levels of activity. The switch over from Glycolysis to Lipolysis is an adaptation to prolonged low levels of activity and efficient use of energy sources. It is possible that coca leaves have adaptogens, which are capable of influencing the switch depending on the level of activity [13, 14].

The duration of the experiment was for a period of two and half hours. Perhaps if this experiment had been continued for a much longer period the affects could have been more clearly visible.

It is also possible that the beneficial effects of chewing coca leaves are related to the flavonoids found in the coca leaves and not because of release of the cocaine. The amount of cocaine that is released in the process of these customary chewing coca leaves is extremely small and unlikely to be off any physiological benefit. Further research into the effects of flavonoids is being looked into. It is also planned to perform the field experiments on a much larger population over a longer period of time to evaluate this problem further.

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