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Pure, Natural Coca Leaf – A Healing Gift Of The Divine Plant


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Vaporizing My Old Age

“I’ve recently completely changed my mind about vaporizing technology. It is a marvelous experience to inhale the essence of pure vaporized Cannabis flower, and vaporizing is so far superior to smoking that I feel like an idiot I was so blindly opinionated for so long without simply trying it.”

Both my parents smoked cigarettes, and I loved the smell of tobacco and the rituals surrounding it. The click of my Dad’s Zippo lighter as he flipped it open, the aroma of lighter fluid, then the scratch of the wheel and the muted whoosh of flame, followed by Dad’s first eager puff and long, slow, savory exhale. Cigarettes were actually real tobacco in those days, and their aroma was literally intoxicating to me. So naturally I began smoking too when I was pretty young.

I first discovered Marijuana when I was seventeen, and fell in love with the tastes and smells of those first strains to hit the streets of California – Acapulco Gold and Oaxacan Purple, and the mysterious Panama Red that occasionally drifted up from Florida. Of course, most of what we got was Mexican Smash – leaves, stems and the occasional beetle glued together with Coca Cola – but it was still great smoke as long as you were young and stupid and had no taste. The Marijuana we took huge risks and paid big money for in 1960 you couldn’t give away today, and rightfully so.

However, beginning in my 50’s it was clear that smoking was damaging my health, as was drinking, so I gradually phased both (mostly) out of my life. I did enjoy the occasional bud that floated my way out of the inherent kindness of the universe, and when I would find myself near a promising bar I wouldn’t deny myself the pleasure of a good margarita. But by & large I tried to become much more moderate, and even in moderation I was finding the experience of drinking and smoking was losing its appeal.

Moderation is a great thing – in moderation – and now that I find myself newly settled back in Oregon I am delighted to be able to walk into great little gourmet Cannabis shops and select a gram of bud from a strain I’ve never tried before. For a small party we had a few weeks back and I bought a Cannabis Tasting Flight, a gram each of the budtenders six favorite top shelf Sativa/Indica selections, the same way I would have for a Wine or Tequila Flight. How pleasant to be able to enjoy Cannabis as a normal part of life without the tinge of paranoia that was always (quite rationally) present.

But what adds so much to my pleasure in trying out all these new strains is that I don’t have to smoke any more. I’ve found that I can vaporize a pinch of dried flower in an efficient little device and enjoy this particular strain’s unique flavors and aromas along with whatever body and mind effects I’m looking for in a particular strain.

Nobody has to be old to enjoy the benefits of vaporizing whole Cannabis flowers, but if you are getting on in years like I am and want to be able to enjoy the medicinal and recreational benefits of Cannabis without the toxic side-effects of smoke, as I do, then you’re going to really appreciate the new whole flower vaporizing technology that’s out there. For me, it’s so superior to smoking the divine weed in any kind of pipe that I am never going back.

Don’t get me wrong – I love smoke. All kinds. Always have. I miss the days of walking out to the airplane across the tarmac, inhaling the jet fuel and diesel equipment fumes that smelled like freedom. Around campfires I would always take the downwind spot and enjoy inhaling the clouds of burning wood and charring meat. I couldn’t get enough of trains and train stations, and once underway I always spent as much time as possible between the cars enjoying the motion, the sounds, and the smells of the smoke trailing back from the diesel engines far ahead. Pulling out of Tokyo harbor in 1949 on an old Navy troopship carrying hundreds of military women & children back to America, the air full of salt, fish, garbage, oil and diesel, the whole ship vibrating beneath my feet and great clouds of bunker fuel fumes coming from the smokestacks and from the hard-revving tugs alongside – I was in little kid heaven.

I have to admit that for years I held a lot of ill-informed opinions about vaping, and I still don’t like the idea of inhaling the vapors of chemically-processed anything, even supposedly “natural” Cannabis products like Wax & Shatter. In retrospect it looks to me like vaporizing technology, or at least vaporizer marketing, skipped right past whole dried Cannabis flowers and went straight to more easily manufactured and standardized but potentially lethal products, and huge numbers of people went along without thinking.

Unfortunately too much of the Cannabis industry seems to have fallen into this trap. Although hundreds of growers are producing thousands of beautiful, flavorful, exotic strains of Cannabis, most shops price and sell these flowers based on their THC levels without regard for taste and smell, mind/body effects like creativity or couchlock, or therapeutic effects like sleep initiation or appetite stimulation. It is as if fine wines were being sold primarily for their alcohol content, on the premise that nobody cared about enjoying them any other way.

Out of an enormous worldwide market for cheap addictive chemicals in sleek little devices has come the shadow world of unregulated vaping compounds packaged in colorful, toy-like electronic inhalers. I’m afraid that a lot of people are being conned into inhaling vapors of cheap industrial chemicals from China and India in totally unregulated compounds disguised with clever names and fruity flavors. I’m concerned that many of these folks are going to have deep regrets sooner rather than later. I would not be surprised at all to see epidemiologists soon begin announcing the discovery of a mysterious multi-symptom epidemic of irreversible neurological damage among young people that will ultimately be traced to vaping these clever little toys filled with whatever industrial chemicals the device manufacturer thinks will kick ass.

In whatever terrible ways that onrushing tragedy may evolve, I’ve recently completely changed my mind about vaporizing pure Cannabis flower. It is not only a marvelous experience in itself, but it is so far superior to smoking that I feel like an idiot I was so blindly opinionated for so long without simply trying it. I’m writing this post because I’ve come to believe that vaporizing dry Cannabis flower may be the best medical and recreational option for many people my age – let’s just say someone who’s well into those golden years.

Older people who want to enjoy Cannabis as part of a lifestyle or who find that Cannabis is a helpful medication need to discover that vaporizing Cannabis flowers is a smoke-free option with real advantages. For one thing, your body isn’t being subjected to Cannabis smoke, which in addition to the good stuff like THC also contains concentrated particles of carcinogenic soot as well as carcinogenic combustion gasses. Smoke itself, any smoke, is full of substances and chemicals created by combustion that are known to lead directly to horrible diseases. That’s true of any smoke coming from any combusted organic matter – Cannabis, cigarettes, backyard grills, fireplaces or campfires.

I’ve found vaporizers easy to use – at least my device is simplicity itself and if it lasts over a couple of years I’ll consider it a worthwhile buy. All I have to do is to pinch off a bit of Cannabis flower and put it into the small ceramic chamber, tamp it down and then put the mouthpiece back on, tap in the code and wait a few seconds for the digital readout to show me that the chamber is at 400 degrees, and then draw in a stream of almost invisible vapor.

My first hit of fresh Cannabis flower vapor is exactly like the first long sip of a cold beer on a hot day – I know there won’t be a better sip in the whole bottle. All of the volatile, delicate flavors and aromas of the flower come across fresh and intact in that first sip of vapor. Everything that follows, while enjoyable and pleasant, can never equal that first rush of magical molecules.

I find that if I stop after the first hit of vapor (I wish I were inclined to do so more often), I am already close to where I want to be, and I find that I need only a few tokes on the vaporizer to enjoy the same results that would otherwise take a whole bowl or joint. I like that I am not subjecting my increasingly aging body to the toxic stress of smoke just so that I can enjoy being high and receiving the health benefits of Cannabis.

Whether you are medicating with Cannabis, or simply relaxing with a bud after a long day, by using a vaporizer you will be able to do so discreetly, cleanly, and without the toxic side effects of smoke. Vaporizing is an especially nice way to use Cannabis as a sleep aid because your body doesn’t have to deal with the toxic effects of smoke in order to get the beneficial effects of the vaporized THC and CBD. Just fire up the vaporizer, take a clean, sweet hit, lie back, relax and drift off to sleep. It’s especially nice not to have to worry about choking your partner with a bedroom full of smoke at 2 AM just because you’ve woken up and need a hit to get back to sleep.

Another real advantage of using a vaporizer is that your environment isn’t permeated by stale smoke. As delightful as those first hits of fresh bud are, a Cannabis smoker’s living space quickly gets as nasty as any cigarette smoker’s cave. Stale smoke is just stale smoke, no matter how delightful its origins. But with a vaporizer, especially if you only take the first few puffs when the vapor is so pure that it is practically invisible, there is almost no lingering odor to disturb others or to betray you to the smoke Nazis that seem to be on patrol everywhere these days.

Bottom line – if you’re getting on in years and haven’t tried vaporizing Cannabis flowers as an alternative to smoking then you owe it to yourself to have the experience. It may open up new possibilities in areas of fun and pleasure that you thought were fading away, and it will certainly make using Cannabis for your health, vitality and medical needs a lot cleaner and more private.

But perhaps the best reason of all to vaporize is that smoking is now a relic of the past, just like living in caves – people have loved the essence of Cannabis since the dawn of time, and for thousands of years we had to inhale smoke to enjoy that essence (except for bhang, of course), and so we all went ahead, fired it up, lay back and watched the shadows dancing on the walls of the cave. Now that vaporizing technology has arrived we don’t have to smoke to enjoy and benefit from Cannabis, and I for one am happy to leave those delightful but poisonous clouds far behind in the cave where they belong.


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A Rational Perspective On The Opium Poppy

Editor’s Note:

Readers of this blog have encountered the remarkable Sir George Birdwood before in my previous post “A Dismal End To The War On Drugs Predicted – in 1885”. As I mentioned in that post I am currently working on a companion book to “The Coca Leaf Papers” that is titled “The Poppy Juice Papers”, and Birdwood’s carefully reasoned essays appear in several key sections of this new book.

Birdwood was not only a strong voice of reason arguing for an enlightened approach to Opium regulation, but was also an informed observer of the realities of Opium in India and China, as well as a vigorous critic of the actions of the British Government acting through its commercial surrogate the British East India Company to wage war on China for the “right” to addict the Chinese people for profit.

I am writing “The Poppy Juice Papers” in order to argue, as I am doing with regard to Coca Leaf, that access to this great natural medicine should not be denied to individuals who choose to grow their own poppies. As I describe in my book “The International Cultivators Handbook: Coca, Opium & Hashish” the Opium Poppy is just about the easiest plant in the world to grow and harvest, and offers anyone with the faintest tinge of green on their thumb to produce a fine personal crop of pure, natural Opium. I would not argue for unrestricted rights to grow Opium Poppies on a commercial scale in order to produce Morphine and Heroin, any more than I am arguing that Coca Leaf ought to be freely available for commercial production of Cocaine.

Cocaine is the product of the industrial manipulation of the natural medicinal Coca Leaf, just as Morphine and Heroin are industrial manipulations of the Poppy Flower, and the insidious motivations behind these industrial products – which do have some limited health benefits – do not, in my mind, justify allowing them to be exploited by criminal syndicates on either side of the law. The Cartels and the DEA’s of the world are simply two sides of organized criminal enterprise – as is all government, to a large degree. But the natural medicines that are the gift of nature, whether the Coca Leaf or the Poppy Flower, ought to be as freely available to any person who wants and needs them as is the right to choose a God to believe in and worship, whatever others may think of one’s choice.

That said, I am certain that readers of this blog will enjoy the fine mind and acute perceptions of Sir George Birdwood in this short essay as he dissects the myths and the realities of Opium in China. You will encounter his work in other equally interesting contexts when “The Poppy Juice Papers” is finally published early in 2015.

(Please note that I have not “corrected” Birdwood’s spelling, which is of course impeccable by 1800’s standards but out-of-date today.)

Opium Smoking
Sir George Birdwood
January 17, 1882

Opium smoking, which is the Chinese form of using the drug, for which the Indian Government is specially held responsible, is, to say the least in its favour, an infinitely milder indulgence. I hold it to be absolutely harmless. I do not place it simply m the same category with even tobacco smoking, for tobacco smoking may, in itself, if carried into excess, be injurious, particularly to young people under 25; but I mean that opium smoking in itself is as harmless as smoking willow bark or inhaling the smoke of a peat fire or vapour of boiling water.

Opinions, of course, differ. Medhurst (“China”) is the weightiest lay authority against it, and Marsden (“Sumatra,” pp. 278-279). In its defence. Professor O’Shaughnessy (“Bengal Dispensatory,” pp. 180-181) admits that what is recorded against it applies only to the abuse of the practice. Dr. Oxley, quoted in Crawford’s “Dictionary”(p. 313), Dr. Smith (“Lancet,” Feb. 19, 1842, quoted at sufficient length by Pereira, Dr. Eatwell (“ Pharmaceutical Journal,” 1851-52, pp. 264-265), and Dr. Impey (in his Report on Malwa opium) all protest against the indiscriminate condemnation directed by prejudiced or malicious writers against it.

I have not seen Surgeon-General Moore’s recent paper on opium in the “Indian Medical Gazette,” but I gather from a notice of it quoted from the “Calcutta Englishman” in the “Homeward Mail “ of the 14th of November last, that it supplies a most exhaustive and able vindication of the perfect morality of the revenue derived by the Indian Government from the manufacture and sale of opium to the Chinese.

He quotes from Dr. Ayres, “No China resident believes in the terrible frequency of the dull, sodden-witted, debilitated opium smoker met with in print.” and from Consul Lay: “In China the spendthrift, the men of lewd habits, the drunkard, and a large assortment of bad characters, slide into the opium-smoker; hence the drug seems to be chargeable with all the vices of the country.”

Mr. Gregory, Her Majesty’s Consul at Swatow, says Dr. Moore, never saw a single case of opium intoxication, though living for months and travelling for hundreds of miles among opium smokers.

Dr. Moore directly confirms my own statement of the Chinese having been great drinkers of alcohol before they took to smoking opium. I find, also, in a remarkable collection of folk-lore (“Strange Stories from a Chinese Studio,” by Herbert A. Giles), evidence in almost every chapter of the universal drinking habits of the Chinese before the introduction of opium among them, notwithstanding that the use of alcohol is opposed to the cardinal precepts of Buddhism. What Dr. Moore says of the freedom of opium-smokers from bronchial and thoracic diseases is deserving of the deepest consideration.

I find that, on the other hand, the Chinese converts to Christianity suffer greatly from consumption. The missionaries will not allow them to smoke, and, as they also forbid their marrying while young, after the wise custom, founded on an experience of thousands of years, of their country, they fall into those depraved, filthy habits of which consumption is everywhere the inexorable witness and scourge. When spitting of blood comes on the opium pipe is its sole alleviation. The opium, as retailed to the smokers, is already diminished by various admixtures in narcotic power, and is, apparently, still more so by it’s preparation in the form of pure “smokeable extract.”

Then the pill so prepared is placed in a flame, where it is instantly set ablaze. It blazes furiously, and its vapour is at the same instant inhaled into the throat and lungs in one inspiration.

But none of the active principles of opium are volatilizable! And if any one of your readers will get Indian opium, as retailed in the bazaars, and prepare pure chandoo from it, and smoke as many pills of it as he pleases, in the above manner, he will find that they will not produce the slightest effect on him, or any one else, one way or the other, beyond causing that pleasant and peaceful warmth throughout the body which comes of sitting over a peat fire on a chilly day, or inhaling the fragrant vapour from a bowl of whisky toddy as you stir the boiling water into it, or, for that, from the simple steam issuing from a jug of boiling water.

I conclude myself that nothing passes from the deflagrating chandoo pill into the lungs but the volatile resinous constituents of opium. At least, if this be the fact, it explains the antiseptic and prophylactic action of opium-smoking in the pulmonary affections of the Chinese.

I conclude (my chemistry is of 1850-54 and quite out of date) that the rarefied resinous vapour inhaled protects the surface of the bronchial passages and lungs from the outer air, and that, when consumption has once set in, this empyreumatic vapour has the effect of checking the suppuration. This might be tested at the Brompton Hospital. Only one inspiration is taken from each pill, and the residuum is then mixed up with such drugs as Indian hemp, Tobacco, and nux vomica, and resold at a greatly reduced rate to the poorer smokers. It is really this tye-chandoo, or “refuse chandoo” that has given opium smoking so bad a name among superficial and untrained observers. But even in respect of it, considering the exhaustive incineration the pill undergoes in being smoked, I doubt whether anything but harmless smoke passes into the lungs.

It is the general debauched habits of the lower outcast populations of the cities of China which are really responsible for their cachetic appearance, and not the accidental circumstance that some of them indulge in opium smoking. As to the alleged special aphrodisiac properties of opium, I discredit them altogether. At all events, it must never be forgotten, as a factor which tends to confuse even expert observation that is not severely verified, of any such alleged effect, that throughout the East the great majority of the people are always deliberately plying themselves with aphrodisiacs or reputed aphrodisiacs. The whole system of Eastern medicine seems based on the idea of the aphrodisiac or anti-aphrodisiac properties of things. European medical men are pestered all their days in the East, from Morocco to Shanghai, by simple natives persistently supplicating them for some potent aphrodisiac of which it is believed they have the golden secret. I know a medical officer who, when serving in the Indian Navy, was followed from port to port, all up and down the Persian Gulf, by a picturesque old Arab Chief in quest of aphrodisiac pills, and nothing would content him but to have them, although they consisted only of pellets of bread crumbs rolled in magnesia.

Every medical man who has practised in the East is familiar also with the phenomenon of the sudden wasting away, in body, mind, and soul, of the healthiest and most beautiful and intellectual boys on their reaching the critical period of adolescence. At the other critical period, between 45 and 50, the best and strongest of good men also suddenly turn bad, and “go to the dogs” utterly. Opium has nothing to do with these sad catastrophes of daily occurrence; while I am •convinced that some form of smoking might often prevent them.

Those, indeed, who can believe that opium is injurious to the morality of the Chinese can have little idea of what morality means in Eastern Asia – much less immorality. I need add no more. I do not seek to support any particular financial or commercial policy in India. I desire simply to instruct the consciences of my countrymen.

I have been charged with having a private purpose to serve by the argument I have taken in this controversy. The views I hold on opium I first stated as a student in a discussion before the Royal Medical Society of Edinburgh. In a work I published before 1868 on the “Vegetable Products of Western India,” which went through two editions, I maintained the same views, founded on facts gathered from every region of the globe. I might, therefore, be credited with now writing on the subject from strict conviction. I hold opium smoking, in short, to be a strictly harmless indulgence, like any other smoking, and the essence of its pleasure to be, not in the opium itself so much as in the smoking it.

If something else were put in the pipe instead of opium, that something else would gradually become just as popular as opium, although it might not incidentally prove so beneficial. It was in this way that the Red Indians took to smoking willow bark in place of tobacco, which was too costly for them. It is in this wav that one is often able to substitute harmless prescriptions for harmful philters among the nympholeptic sons of Ham and Turan.

In China and the Indian Archipelago, and wherever else opium is smoked, we ought to endeavour to supply it as pure and cheap as possible. It makes milder smoking than tobacco, and is evidently beneficial in many ways; and we may rest assured that mankind, where it has once taken to it, will never give up smoking either opium, tobacco, or some other such stuff, however silly it may look. It is not really sillier than eating and drinking, or any other natural action, to look at, while it is undoubtedly one of the least alloyed of the pleasures of the senses, if, indeed, it may not be said to be almost a supersensuous pleasure; for it seems, in some way past searching out, to possess the true magic which spiritualises sense.