Saturday, March 29, 2008

Drug 'Warriors' Ignore History of Medical Successes and Safety of Coca

More from my unpublished manuscript "Coca- Forgotten Medicine"

An account, illustrative of the day's knowledge, written by the chief physician at the hydrotherapeutic establishment of Plessis-Lalande, Dr. Scaglia, and published in the May 12, 1877 Gazette des Hopitaux:

The first effect of Coca, when it is chewed as leaves, mixed with alkaline powder which the Indians call Ilipta, or when it is swallowed in the form of an extract, is a notable hypersecretion of saliva, which is followed at the end of a variable time, generally half an hour, by a very pronounced dryness of the throat, accompanied with anesthesia of the oral and pharyngeal mucous membrane. When the saliva, saturated with Coca has arrived in the stomach, one experiences a sensation of more or less heat in the epigastric region. At the end of from half hour to one hour, when the quantity of Coca has been large enough, the pulse is accelerated by eight to ten pulsations per minute, the temperature rises about half a degree, the urera is increased 11 per cent, respiration is quickened, and the breathing becomes more frequent, say, from 16 to 25 per minute.

From these experimental data, which have been furnished by Gazeau and confirmed by Rabuteau, we can establish the rational indications of Coca. Above all things, Coca is a tonic; it increases the secretion of the gastric juice and that of saliva; but, as this hyper secretion is but temporary, it is important to take the preparation of Coca one- half hour before or immediately after meals, for the hyper secretion is followed by a dryness of the mucous membrane, causing anesthesia, which finds its use at the beginning of digestion, but which at the beginning of digestion would be more hurtful than useful.

Now, in what cases is this tonic action most applicable? Without doubt in anemia and chlorosis. In anemia, connected with chronic pulmonary affections without fever, and in anemia accompanied by gastralgic pains, Coca will have an excellent effect. The stimulating properties of Coca can be admirably utilized in those intermediate states of impaired health which are not yet anemia, but must in the end become so- the cerebral weakness due to excess of work and pleasure, the exhaustion from which the inhabitants of large cities suffer from the irregularities of diet and imperfect hygiene, due to their position and surroundings. These are the principle cases in which to prescribe Coca. But there are also others: Dr. Flauvel has made use of its soothing action upon the throat, in granulous angina, where it admirably replaces the yellow plaster, or the caustic applications which often do a good deal of harm; by the use of Coca the feelings of heat and smart, which are the most troublesome symptoms of this so common disease of the throat are rarely abated. Coca has stimulating effects upon the cerebro-spinal nervous system, which must not be ignored, notwithstanding the exaggerations of the early observers. Without producing the agreeable hallucinations of hashish and opium, it certainly excites in a measure cerebral activity, as well as muscular activity. Its moderate use is unquestionably of benefit to people of sedentary habits worn out by work, to convalescents who, from a prolonged confinement in bed, have lost muscular strength, to patients suffering with diabetes or Bright's disease, whose muscles have lost their elasticity and vigor.

As Coca is also an element of oxidation and dissimulation, it may be used to reduce obesity- at least as an adjutant of hygienic treatment undertaken for this purpose. In such a case, as in diabetes, it is important not to use sugared preparations, as these might destroy all the benefits of the medicament. For these, the "Mariani Wine of Coca" is recommended.

Such was surely the message carried abroad to the United Kingdom and ultimately the United States by physicians tutored by Flauvel and Mariani in Paris, and likely a stock of Vin Mariani, including Morell McKenzie and Lennox Brown, around 1870.

Writing upon this in hindsight, Dr. Mackenzie, who became a Counseling Physician to the Hospital for Disease of the Throats noted in a letter to Mariani the latter later published:

"I have much pleasure in stating that I have used the "Vin Mariani" for many years, and consider it a valuable stimulant, particularly serviceable in the case of vocalists."

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