Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Medical uses of Coca Tea/ Coca leaf
based on the article of: Lester Grinspoon and James B. Bakalar
Cocaine is an alkaloid extracted from the leaves of the shrub Erythroxylon coca, which has long been cultivated in Bolivia and Peru as a stimulant and for medicinal purposes. For thousands of years, inhabitants of the Peruvian and Bolivian highlands and the western Amazon region have been mixing coca leaves with ash or lime, putting the wad in a cheek, and letting the juice trickle into their stomachs. In many parts of the Amazon and the Andes today, coca is the everyday stimulant drug, used more or less as coffee, tea, chewing tobacco, and khat are used in other areas of the world.
Coca was found to be the standard remedy for symptoms of hunger and cold and for two folk illnesses: el soka, a condition of weakness, fatigue, and general malaise; and el fiero, a chronic wasting illness. Coca was also the treatment of choice for stomach upset and stomachache and for colic, or severe gastrointestinal distress including diarrhea, cramps, and nausea. 2
In the form of leaf powder or tea, coca is taken for toothache, ulcers, rheumatism, asthma, and even malaria. Coca tea is often served to tourists arriving in hotels and inns in the high Andes as a remedy for the nausea, dizziness, and headache of soroche (altitude sickness). Unlike other stimulants, coca is also a local anesthetic. The juice of the leaf can be applied to soothe eye irritations or gargled for hoarseness and sore throat. Coca leaves are also used as a topical anesthetic for mouth sores. Coca contains minerals, vitamin C, and some B vitamins, and it is sometimes said to be an important source of these nutrients in the Andean diet.
An American physician, Andrew Weil, has recently been trying to revive interest in the therapeutic uses of coca, which he believes have been neglected because of the medical profession's fascination and subsequent disillusionment with the pure alkaloid cocaine. He has found coca useful in the symptomatic relief of indigestion, gastritis, constipation, motion sickness, laryngitis, and other ailments. He believes that it could serve as a substitute for coffee in persons who find that their stomachs are upset by that stimulant. He also proposes its use as an appetite-reducing drug and as an energizer for physical labor, and he suggests that it might serve as a relatively safe substitute in treating amphetamine and cocaine dependence. He points out that coca differs from cocaine in several ways. It contains a number of related alkaloids rather than a single one, and it is less subject to abuse because it enters the body by the normal gastrointestinal route rather than intranasally, intravenously, or through the lungs. He believes that coca might best be administered in the form of a chewing gum.
Ever since the Spanish conquest there has been controversy about the health effects of habitual coca use. The evidence is unreliable, contradictory, and heavily colored by the political and social biases of observers. A number of studies have suggested that coca chewers are apathetic, subnormal in intelligence, or subject to various physical illnesses because they are weakened by the drug.' But even these results are ambiguous and inconclusive.' The biggest problem is separating cause from effect. If coca users in the high Andes seem undernourished, demoralized, and unhealthy, that is easily explained by the miserable physical and social conditions under which many of them live-conditions for which coca use apparently gives them some relief. It is significant that many Indians in the Amazon who use coca are reported to be strong and healthy.' In any case, the people of the Andes themselves, including those who do not use coca, usually reject the suggestion that it is a drug problem, a threat to health, or a danger to their community.
In 1863 Angelo Mariani, a Corsican chemist, patented a preparation of coca extract and wine, which he called Vin Mariani; it became one of the most popular prescription medicines of the era, and was used by such celebrities as Thomas Edison, Ulysses Grant, Henrik Ibsen, Pope Leo XIII, Emile Zola, Jules Verne, and the Prince of Wales. Mariani wrote several articles and monographs on coca in which he combined historical, botanical, and medical information with the promotion of his company's product; he could list thousands of physicians who recommended it.
Andrew Weil, "The Therapeutic Value of Coca in Contemporary Medicine," Journal of Ethnopharmacology 3 (1981): 367-76.
Carlos Gutierrez-Noriega, "El Cocaismo y la Alimentacion en el Peru," Anales de la Facultad de Medicina 31 (1948): 1-90; J. C. Negrete, "Psychological Deficit in Chewers of Coca Leaf," Bulletin on Narcotics 19, no. 4 (1967): 11-13; H. B. M. Murphy, 0. Rios, and J. C. Negrete, "The Effects of Abstinence and Retraining on the Chewer of Coca Leaf," Bulletin on Narcotics 21, no. 2 (1969): 41-47; Alfred A. Buck et al., "Coca chewing and Health: An Epidemiological Study Among Residents of a Peruvian Village," American Journal of Epidemiology 88 (1968): 159-77.
Lester Grinspoon and James B. Bakalar, Cocaine: A Drug and Its Social Evolution (New York: Basic Books, 1976), pp. 120-29; Andrew T. Weil, "Coca and Brain Damage," April 1978 (unpublished).
Weil, "Therapeutic Value of Coca," p. 374.
Angelo Mariani, Coca and Its Therapeutic Applications (New York: Jaros, 1890).
The statements on this blog's post have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. Nothing on this post is intended or should be taken as medical advice. These are solely the opinions of the authors of this blog and are provided for educational and informational purposes only .

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