Erythroxylum coca About people tamu edu neuralgia

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Erythroxylum coca About people tamu edu neuralgia Powered By Docstoc
					                                                                                Shannon Slivinske
                                                                                    Biol 328- 501
                                                                               November 19, 2008
                                    Erythroxylum coca

       Though originally from the Andean foothills, E. coca is found worldwide in Indonesia,

Seychelles, East Africa and India where it is called Ceylon huanuco. It has been cultivated since

3000 BC or more in South America, and continues with trade and use permitted in Peru, Bolivia

(including the Quechua and Aymara indigenous peoples) and northwest Argentina. Chili tolerates

its persistence and use is restricted in Ecuador, Venezuela and Columbia to a few isolated

indigenous groups. E. coca is historically inseparable from Andean Indians and sacred to many

other indigenous South American cultures. There are two main subspecies-- E. coca var. coca

and E. coca var. ipadu. The former is a wild form of the humid mountain regions from Ecuador

to Bolivia and has warty stems, also known as huanuco or Bolivian coca. The latter is a cultigen

known as Amazonian coca of the tropical lowlands. The primary method of botanical

identification of E. coca and E. novogranatense and less alkaloid-containing species is directly

chewing the leaf to anticipate a numbing sensation.

       E. coca is typically found between 500-1500m altitude (and up to 2000 m) in high

humidity environments with no frost and more than 2000 mm of rain yearly in light, humusy or

loamy soil. They produced elliptical foliage, spirally arranged with young bark reddish brown in

color. The E. coca var. ipadu produces more elliptical leaves on longer, thinner branches and is

usually covered in lichens. Small white flowers emerge from the axis of “scaly leaves” situated

at the base of younger branches. They produce red berries (truly drupes) that are dispersed by

avian species. E. coca is therefore typically seed cultivated, though they become infertile within

three days of drying. At about 18 months of age, the leaves are ready for harvest, which is

conducted about every two months during the rainy season, but only every three to four during
the dry. E. coca is incredibly resilient, tolerating almost complete defoliation. Typically pruned to

1.5 m and fondly called ilyimera by Andeans or “little bird”, if not pruned can obtain a height of

3-5 m (var. ipadu only 3 m or so). The former produce nonviable seeds (perhaps due to constant

defoliation, stunted growth an re-vegetation focus) and are propagated by cuttings.

       In pre-Columbian cultures it was utilized as currency, medicinal, ritual inebriant and as an

aphrodisiac. When indigenous Andeans meet, they exchange coca leaves as a form of greeting

and for socialization. A keystone in Andean religion, magic and healing, it is offered to the gods

in numerous rituals and forms. They are presented to repel evil spirits which still impart a major

role of psycho-physical ailments throughout the Andes and Peru to date, “inflicting” japipo when

spirits steal portions of souls, susto or fright induced from emotional burdens and so on. Diviners

and oracles read coca leaves, sometimes mixed with grains contaminated with Claviceps

purpurea (ergot) and Peruvian shamans inhale the coca smoke to alter or enter a higher

consciousness for diagnosis and treatment. E. coca is still the most important crop next to

Manihot esculenta (cassava) for Amazonians and historical Incan “postal runners” would not

have set precedence for modern carriers without the aid of coca leaves to carry them across the


       When the Spanish came to subdue and oppress indigenous cultures, there was a

widespread ban from 1560-1569 as they claimed it was a hedonistic plant and all practices

associated with it. New Spain also forbade it in the 17th century for much the same simplistic

reasons, but in oxygen poor, high-altitude environments, coca was essential to the Andean

Indians in addition to their regarding it sacred. After separation from Spain, Peru and Bolivia

legalized coca indefinitely to current day.
         E. coca leaves consumed fresh constitute a valuable nutritional food item to cultures

consuming leaves whole. They contain essential oils, flavonoids, tannins, protein, fat, as well as

enough vitamins (A, B, C) and large amounts Calcium, Iron and other minerals that at 100g (and

300 calories) would satisfy the daily recommended intake as well. Arguably more important is its

long-standing medicinal use as a local anesthetic, used in modern societies in ear, nose and throat

surgery and in cancer pain. It is an intoxicant, euphoric and traditional masticatory of the Andes

to relieve hunger pangs and fatigue. The active compounds block sodium ion channels in

neurons, inhibiting dopamine and noradrenaline re-uptake. The “aspirin of the Andes” also acts

on neuralgia, rheumatism, colds, flu, indigestion, constipation, colic, upset stomach, and altitude

sickness. E. coca incenses are burned for bronchitis, asthma and coughs. It is also very affective

at maintaining appropriate blood sugar levels whether they're too high or low. However, the use

of coca leaves can lead to a psychological dependence and damage of mucous membranes

(mouth or nose) and ulceration.

         The leaves are chewed, smoked or prepared as a beverage, but must be dried and roasted

before use. They then must be mixed with an alkaline substance or “sweetened” to release the

primary constituent (cocaine). In South America, a mixture of plant ash or burned/slacked lime

are chewed with the leaves. Andeans roast chosen plants in a ceramic pot until ashen, mix this

with lemon juice and boiling water or chicha, sugarcane schnapps, camellia tea, yerba mate or

even urine. The substrate is kneaded into cakes, pyramids, snakes and other forms and allowed to

dry for 24 hours before pieces can be broken off. Bolivians and peoples of northwest Argentina

can buy sodium bicarbonate in markets and simply chew this directly with the leaves. Caution

should be taken when drinking hot substances, however, from the local anesthetic affects on the

       Albert Niemann first isolated cocaine in 1859, and as the primary alkaloid, cocaine can

comprise up to .11-.41% dry weight of E. coca var. ipadu. A higher content, however is reported

in Erythroxylum novogranatense var. truxillense at .42-1.02% dry weight. Cigars and cigarettes

of coca leaves following Niemann's study were smoked in Philadelphia and England. In 1863,

Angelo Mariani concocted a sweet tonic wine, “Vin Mariani”, which was appraised by Queen

Victoria, Pope Leo XIII and Thomas Edison. It was inspired by traditional “coca des incas” and

“mate de coca” though the tea bags of mate were likely produced with leaves of the

aforementioned E. novogranatense var. truxillense. John Pemberton created an imitation

cocawine (+ Centella asiatica or Gotu Kola) of the French phenomenon in Georgia, Pemberton's

French Wine Coca, which was intended for it to be a “patent medicine”. Yet, in 1885, Fulton

County, GA (and thus Atlanta) passed prohibition on cocawine. Pemberton excluded the alcohol

in response, and thus Coca~Cola was born. E. novogrunutense var. truxillense is rich in methyl

salicylate ( of which wintergreen oil can be derived) and accompanying constituents are of

greater value fore Coca~Cola production and is still incorporated (decocainized extracts) today.

       With quite a rich history and prominent traditional importance in South America, E. coca

seems to be fairly misunderstood like many other “victims” of the “War on Drugs”. One could

argue that the coca leaf by itself may rival wine in antioxidants and health benefits, or present

proportionally lighter adverse effects than alcohol, but the moral dichotomy between “good

coca” and “bad cocaine” will continue for decades (or more) to come.
                                          Works Cited

Bieri, S., Brachet, A., Veuthey, J. and P. Christen, 2005. Cocaine Distribution in Wild
        Erythroxylum Species. Journal of Ethnopharmacology, 103 (3): 439-447.

Bremness, Lesley, 1994. “Erythroxylum coca.” Herbs, 53.

Plowman, Timothy, 1981. Amazonian Coca. Journal of Ethnopharmacology, 3 (2-3): 195-225.

Ratsch, C. and Albert Hoffman, 2005. “Erythroxylum coca.” Encyclopedia of Psychoactive
       Plants: Ethnopharmacology and Its Applications, 242-252.

Wink, M. and Ben-Erik van Wyk, 2004. “Erythroxylum coca.” Medicinal Plants of the World,

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