Theophrastus: "One should draw three circles round the mamirakv with a sword... and at the cutting of the second pitee onti should dancc around the patient. The leaf, they say, is useful for wounds, and the root for red skin welts, when scraped and steeped in vinegar, and also for gout, for sleeplessness, and Sot low potions."
Dioscorides: "One cyathus (one and a half ounces) of the wine of mandragora is given to those who cannot sleep, and such as are in grievous pans, and these to he cut or cauterized, when it is wished to produce anesthesia/'
sweet flag, onions, juniper and a great many flowers and spices. His compendium had immediate impact on Galen and Pliny and (lie later great herbalists. Clear through the height of the Renaissance, De Materia Medic a was regarded as llie almost infallible authority. Dioscorides, incidentally, first used the word anesthesia in its modern medical sense. And Dioscorides's approach to pharmacy lives on in modern, lexis such as the Merck Index, which now intrudes 42,000 chemicals and drugs, laid out in the easy-reference alphabetical order invented by this studious army doctor almost 20 centuries ago.
The Merck Manual* on the other hand, follows a pattern _ set by the Egyptian papyri of listing various diseases, with appropriate prescriptions for each. This is also the style of the Ayurvedic medical teachings of India, which are much broader in scope. Indian medicine began in Vedic religious and magical texts of the second millennium b.c. and advanced into encyclopedias attributed to doctors Charaka and Sushruta.
"There is no substance in the world that is not medicine," Charaka proclaimed, and proved the point, employing thousands of drugs in prescriptions for every conceivable disease. Charaka records the world's first drug conference in the seventh century B.C., and it seems likely that his work is a compilation of all the plant lore of India at that time. Among the innovations in Charaka are recognition of about 80 varieties of wine, treating mental patients in padded cells, mantra chanting to make drugs more effective, intensive training of dancing giuls as poisoners, careful notes on drug storage and smoking aromatic, herbs through iced pipes off cloth cigars: in cases of tubercular cough, for example, Charaka recommends that "the patient may smoke the cigar rolled with (he doth of linseed, impregnated with red arsenic, palas, wild carrot, bamboo manna and dry ginger. After smoking, the
"For fever marked by severe burning sensation of the body The body of the patient should be anointed with Sata-dhauta Ghrita (clarified butter oil) and then plastered with a paste formed by mixing powders of badey, kola and amaiaka ... or be given a bath in cooling drugs. On the alleviation of the burning sensation, the patient should be raised out of (he cub and washed with a spray of cold water and smeared with soothing sandal pastes. Young, gay, beautiful and lotus-faced damsels with their youthful cooling breasts profusely smeared with sandal pastes, wearing gatlands of pretty lotuses and necklaces of pearls, clad in fine thin silks, should be asked to hold the depressed patient in their firm embrace and kiss him. These damsels should be removed as soon as the patient shows signs of exhilaration, and wholesome food and purgative and soothing medicines administered."
Tropica) fever remedy of Hindu surgeon Sushruta ca. 300 B.C.
patient may drink the juice of sugar cane or gur water."
The surgeon Sushrula listed over 760 plant drugs, including anesthetics, poisons, naicotics and spices. Licorice and pepper were his favorite medicines; mangoes, myrobolans, peppers and datura were his aphrodisiacs of choice. He was the world's first plastic, surgeon, rebuilding noses cut off as punishment for adultejy. Sushruta fumigated operating rooms with aromatic herbs and used deadly nightshade, Indian hemp and datura" to induce stupor. Snakeroot (Rauwctfia serpentina), from which modern chemists extract the tranquilizer reserpiite, was prescribed for fever, snakebite, cholera, difficult childbirth and "moon madness," or lunacy.
The origin of Chinese pharmacology is ascribed to the mythical emperor Shen Nung. Tradition has it that he tested a hundred drugs on himself and, because he could make his system transparent at willl (what a nice metaphor for seeing into oneself _ with drugs), he was able to observe their action and take an antidote if necessary. He was thus able to classify them: "superior" drugs were Lionpoisonous and rejuvenating; "medium" were somewhat toxic, depending on dose; and "inferior" were poisonous, but useful in certain illliesses. The fust Chinese pharmacopoeia (pen ts'ao) followed this scheme and was attributed to Shen Nung, though it was actually, compiled by scholars of die Han dynasty (206 b.c.-a.D. 220). It listed 365 therapeutic herbs-one for every day of the year-including hemp, ephedra, rhubarb, licorice, sesame, ginger, cassia, cinnamon and the marvelous aphrodisiac and cure-alL_ ginseng. Like
mandrake in ihe West, the more ginseng root resembled the human body, the more effective it was thouglu to be.
Effervescent powders were administered in wine, and one of these-mo-fei-son, probably a cannabis concoction-was the earliest anesthetic of China. It was invetiled by ilie revered surgeon Hua Vo at the end of the Han dynasly for cases where acupuncture^ _■ moxa or salves didn't work and surgery was required. Hua employed few drugs otherwise but was so knowledgeable about tliem that a ruler fearful of being poisoned ordered him put to death-ending Chinese surgery for hundreds of years. Before lie went, however, Hua had trained his students in exeicises ("the frolics of five animals") to promote good health; these were the forerunners of i'oi chi ch'uun and a)l the martial arts.
Soon Taoisl magicians were seeking immortality, with kung fu, health food and a host of drugs. Undoubtedly many were charlatans-but the greatest, an alchemist named Ko Hung (ca. a.d. 300), was not.. Ko allegedly succeeded in transforming herbs and precious metals into an elixir of immortality, with cinnabar, and it is said that when he died his coipse felt, incredibly light, as if the shrouds had been emptied of the body. Ko formulated rules to strengthen breathing and blood circulation with tonics and special diets. He emphasized the need for simple, inexpensive cures for common ailments, such as his prescription for asthma-a compound of ephedra, cinnamon, licorice and powdered apricot kernels. Similar folk remedies were spread far and wide by Buddhist monks who wandered slowly from India to China, Japan and Southeast Asia gathering herbs. Tea was legendarily. discovered by Bodhidhamta, the founder of Chan (Zen) Buddhism, who cut off his eyelids after falling asleep while meditating; where the bloody eyelids fell* the lea plant sprang up, from which Bodhidhamta made a drink that would keep him awake. (Similar slories abound in Arabia about Sufi monks with coffee.) Herbal teas rapidly took their place beside ginseng and wines in Chinese pharmacy and remain an important pari of medicine as practiced by China's "barefoot doctors" today.
While European science was dozing through the Dark Ages, Arabic and Chinese pharmacology were vital and bright; and when these two traditions met with Hindu medicine over the silk routes, every doctor and doper in the known world was intrigued. Medieval Europe became a continent of fabulous hearsay, a seething cauldron of magical secrets and rumors from Arabia^ India and Cathay. Professional medicine was barely removed ftom sorcery, and in fact the witches may have known more about drugs than the doctors. Other than alcohol, , the major anesthetic was the spongio somnífera, which consisted of opium, mandrake, mulberry, hemlock, wood ivy, dock and lettuce juice soaked on a sponge. Witches' brews had about the same ingredients, with added solanaceous hallucinogens.
Famine, smallpox and plague swept through rat-infested towns, whose starving citizens reluctantly ate diseased rye and wheat crusts, which gave them ergotism (St. Anthony's fire), a mania accompanied by open sores and gangrene. The sick and dying sought refuge in the Church, where pharmacy meant picking garden herbs and medicine meant faith. A common prescription for blindness was to swallow a live worm whole while reciting the Lord's Prayer; bleeding, by leeching and cupping, was the cure for bubonic plague. The favorite recreational drugs (except among witches) were still mead, beer and wine.
Official learning centered in the monasteries, where scribes laboriously copied out crumbling parchments by hand. Ultimately, it was this painstaking "copyright" that brought Europe out of the dark, for- by this means Arabic science, translated into Latin, slowly seeped into Europe.
.And what splendors the genius of Muslim pharmacology offered the world! Oriental scientist-philosophers preserved the Greek and Roman tradition and crowned it with the glories of Asian drug lore. Innovations arrived from deep within Africa, up through Salerno, and Cordova, across Persia ftom India and Tang Dynasty China, as fast as Arabian stallions could carry them.
Gehers dislU/olion oppomtus
What began as mysticism became Line science. The alchemist Geber (AX). 750) developed Dioscorides's herbal inlo an esteemed dissertation oil poisons, adding electuaries of bhang, ergot, nux vomica, mercury, arsenic and cinnabar. He tried to find the "philosophers' stone," by which base metals could be transmuted inlo gold, and in the process invented nitric acid, sulfuric acid and the distillation of alcohol. . Europeans regarded his cryptic writings as mere "gibberish"- the origin of that lerm-until . they discovered the pleasures of his aqua viflle in whiskey, brandy and gin.
Rhazes of Baghdad (A.D. 900) well. understood the pathology of smallpox and other terrifying pestilences; yet seven centuries later, European doctors were still. wearing bird masks lo fend off. plagues. The Persian visionary A vicenna (980-1037) turned lime-honored mythology into clinical research by trying anesthetics oil himself,, recording his experiments in a bulging treatise on drugs; he is said lo have died of an opium overdose as a result. . Ibn Beitar in the thirteenth century expanded Avicenna's work into the most extensive Muslim materia medica, with Ihe therapeutic applications of about 1,400 drugs. Europe slowly became conscious of iliese advances. Cliaucer, for one, was familiar with "Avicenna's long relation/Concerning poison and its operation" and the works of other Arabic dope doctors mentioned in The Canterbury Tales.
The rich Muslim tradition absorbed kola and kanna from Africa, khal from Yemen, datura and betel from India, nutmeg and cloves from the Spice Islands, and in return gave the world opium, hashish, coffee and alcohol. . Mandrake, myrrh, iheriac, fenugreek, aconile, cardamom and many other exolif drugs well known in Arabia found their way into Chinese medicine by the eleventh century; distilled alcohol, , by the thirteenth. The Mongol warlords such as Kublai Khan, who ruled China when Marco Polo visited in the thirteenth century, were fierce drinkers and dopers, and their heirs, the Moghul emperors of India, cultivated opium and pot and made (heir use common courtly practice. Taniric adepts used wine, spiced meal and marijuana milkshakes in elaborate erotic religious ceremonies. The Tang, Sung, Yuan (Mongol) and Ming dynasties of China gathered all Ihe drug information of Asia in magnificent pharmacopoeias, cuhninating in Ihe Pen Ts'ao Kong Mu of Li Shih-chen in llie sixteenth century, which took 27 years to complete and gave 8,160 recipes for 1,871 different substances. Europe, meanwhile,, was just finding out about coffee-and trying to ban it as some Satan's swill. of the infidels.
When Marco Polo returned to inform the good citizens of Venice about ambergris. musk, spice wine, camphor, saltpeter, cloves, peppers, cubcbs, coconuts, ginger, condensed milk, crocodile gall., spikenard, nutmeg and other treasured medicines-noi to mention spaghetti, .. gunpowder, asbestos, paper money and the Assassins-they dismissed liim as a crackpot teller of tales. But the enlightening influence of the great Muslim information influx was powerful indeed. Valerius Cord us (1514-44) revised Dioscorides lo give Europe its first real pharmacopoeia and transformed Ceber"s sulfuric acid into sweet oil of vitriol, later called ether.. His contemporary, Ihe mad Swiss doctor Paracelsus. tossed Avicennas books into the fire as a protest against hide hound reliance on the past, but craftily retained the recipes for ether and opium tincture (laudanum) for personal use.
The Arabs learned paper-making from the Chinese and exported cotton paper throughout the Mediterranean. In Spain hemp and flax fields flourished, and by the thirteenth century the resulting paper was widely used in Castile. From there it was just a hop over the Pyrenees to France, then Germany, where in 1454 Johannes Gutenberg printed a Bible with movable type. Suddenly the new technology made it possible to print Iierbals for wide dissemination of drug information, instead of relying on rumor and musty old manuscripts.
And so came the Renaissance-ca rebirth of learning in a Europe weary of lethal epidemics and fruitless crusades. Experience supplanted rumor with hundreds of drug plants. 10 1542. Hisloria Stirpium appealed, scolding scholars for their ignorance, summarizing a thousand years of information about native and foreign plants and providing stunning new woodcut illustrations of
many of them. Fuchs also included some American plants, such as Indian com. The Age of Discovery was in full bloom.
Instead of gold and spices, Columbus had returned from the New World with news of tobacco and corn and hallucinogenic snuffs (the DMT-coniaining cohoba of the Antilles). Suddenly a whole new continent of drug plants was open for exploratioii-and exploitation.
Gieat was the explorers' astonishment when it dawned on them that this continent was not the Indies of their dreams, but a strange new land. When Amerigo Vespucci reached the island of Margarita off the coast of Venezuela in 1499, instead of silk-clad mandarins drinking tea he found loinclothed natives chewing cocar "They were very brutish in appearance and behavior, and their checks bulged with the leaves of a certain green herb which they chewed like cattle, so that they could hardly speak They did this frequently, a little at a lime: and the thing seemed wondrous to us, for we could not understand the secret, or with wlial object they did it." Little did Vespucci know ihal lie had stumbled on a sacred tradition stretching back 4,000 years; but lie did understand that he wasn't in Cal hay.
When Pizarro charged into Peru in 1532, he was offered sparkling chicha (maize beer) in golden goblets. He responded by seizing the Lord of tlie Incas, ransoming him for a roomful of gold, killing him and then melting down the gleaming Temple of the Sun, adorned with priceless gold models of coca sprigs. Inquisition priests spurned the Divine Plant of lhe Incas as a devil's weed bul fed it to the conquered tribes to stimulate their forced labor in i he mines. Though Mo i lardes of Seville and others commented on coca's amazing stimulative powers, it was not until: the nineteenth century that Europeans paid much attention to lhe drug.
When Cortes took old Mexico, cutting a swath on horseback through the grealesl psychedelic empire the world has ever known, he asked fot gold, "as a specific, remedy for a disease of the heart" that Europeans felt,. Montezuma showered him with il and proudly displayed huge gardens of medicinal plants as well.. He offered the conquistadors "food of l he gods"-fto thy
"And soon itobfewottwn were swigging hot chocolate in chuivh"
"And soon itobfewottwn were swigging hot chocolate in chuivh"
chocolate, tobacco reed cigarettes and pulque. The hospitable emperor commanded his sorcerers to make certain sacraments, doubtless including magic mushrooms, peyote, morning glory seeds and sinicuichi, the auditory hallucinogen. Cortes refused these as "bewitched food" and went on to slaughter 60,000 or more Aztecs» Soon after, Coronado led an expedition north in search of the seven cities of gold. About all he found was the Los Angeles basin, where he noted that the smoke from the campftres never seemed to rise and the natives drank datura to make themselves clairvoyant. . The sacred psychedelic s of Mexico and the Southwest were driven underground, on pain of death.
All except two. that is. Cortes sent seeds of cacao back to the Infanta of Spain, and soon noblewomen were swigging hot chocolate in church. And tobacco-was it psychedelic? It was the wonder drug of America, more widel) used than any other, often mixed with other plants. Mild NicotianC/ ta/mctim was snorted as snuff and drunk as juice from Mexico to Chile. Bui in North Arncr ica. harsher species (A1', rusticn. C/tteSuoto. /)ige/ovii) were used ceremonially. and the earliest
The Pahs leaving ( or (he For East Indians welcoming Cones reports make it sound hallucinogenic; medicine men going into trances, braves chortling over two-foot-long cylinders of weed, whole tribes sucking pipe after pipe and dancing in glorious frenzy, perhaps due to the other drugs smoked with it. But even in processed commercial tobaccos, chemists have discovered harrnala alkaloids closely related to those in yoga, the Amazon visionary vine. We still have much to learn about these sacred plants.
William Emboden points out that "within a few decades there were more Spaniards converted to smoking than Indians converted to Christianity." and the same holds true for the British, French and Dutch. Shortly after Sir Walter Raleigh brought pipes, tobacco and an Indian back to London. King James I issued a fiery "Counterbiastc to Tobacco" (1604)-which deterred his loyal subjects not a whit.. Tobacco became big business in Virginia, and colonists continued foraging for other drugs, A troop of soldiers stationed at Jamestown cooked up some datura in 1676 and were so startled by its bizarre effects that it has been popularly known as "jirnson weed" (from "Jamestown") ever since.
GEORGE WASHINGTON'S HEMP LETTERS
October ]76l, Letter from Mount Vernon, private to the Secretary of the Treasury; "How far... would there be propriety, do you conceive, in suggesting the policy of encourging the growth of cotton and hi mp in such ports cf the Unite-.! Stales as arc adapted to the culture of thtsc articles? The advantages which would result to this Country from the produce cf .articles which ou^ht to be manufactured at home is apparent" (Vol. 31. p. 399.)
t7y4, Washington instructs his gardener at Ml. Ver- ; nnn to "make thti most you can" <>f the "India hemp" sued and to sow it everywhere. A letter to a doctor friend in Scotland: "t thank you as well for the seeds \ as for the Pamphlets which you had the goodness to send me. The artificial preparation of Hemp, fium Silesia, is really u curiosity." A letter tp his Mt. Vernon carttalter: 'I cannot with certainty rccollecl, whether I snw the India hemp growing when 1 was last In Ml. Vernon; hut think it was in the Vineyard: somewhere I ho;>e it was sown, and therefore desire that the Seed may fie saved in due season and with as little loss as possible."' (VaL 33. pp. 27«. 3fM. 469.}
May. 17iJ6. "What was done with the seed saved from the India Hemp lost summer? It ought, all of it. to have been sewn Again; that not oniy a stock of st-edf sufficient for my own purposes might haw bran raised, but tp have disseminatw! the seed ty < thcrs; as it is more valuable than the commun Hemp." (Vol. 35. p. 72.)
George Washington Writing of Washington .
Drug traffic was ihe mainstay of mercantilism. Tobacco from the West and coffee from llie East conquered Europe in the seventeenth century. Smoke-filled coffeehouses served as centers of shipping and trade, as gossipy listening posts on llie world. Modem insurance, the novel as a literary form, and august scientific institutions (foil example, the Biilish Royal Academy) were alJ hatched in coffeehouses. Daring plots of international intrigue spread coffee, lea and tobacco around (he globe, and drugs became political forces and symbols. American colonists signaled their contempt for "taxation without representation" by dumping British tea in Boston Harbor (1773), and soon you could tell which side of a revolution people were on by what lliey served you for breakfast .. Drugs were the key ingredients in the "triangle trades "-rum, slaves and molasses in the West Indies, and opium, tea and silk in Asia Laudanum, an opium tincture, was especially prized as medicine. The seven tee nth-century ___ physician Thomas Sydenham prescribed it so frequently that lie was called Dr. Opiatus. Hemp was planted around Ihe world as a source of fiber, but African slaves (and, later, indentured Hindu servants) brought to ihe New
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