High Times Encyclopedia of Recreational Drugs
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Instead of gold and spices, Columbus had returned from the New World with news of tobacco and corn and hallucinogenic snuffs the DMT-containing cohoba of the Antilles. Suddenly a whole new continent of drug plants was open for exploration-and exploitation. Great 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 , instead of silk-clad mandarins drinking tea he found loinclothed natives chewing coca: "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 time: and the thing seemed wondrous to us, for we could not understand the secret, or with what object they did it.
When Pizarro charged into Peru in , he was offered sparkling chicha maize beer in golden goblets. He responded by seizing the Lord of the 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 the Incas as a devil's weed but fed it to the conquered tribes to stimulate their forced labor in the mines.
Though Monardes of Seville and others commented on coca's amazing stimulative powers, it was not until the nineteenth century that Europeans paid much attention to the drug. When Cortes took old Mexico, cutting a swath on horseback through the greatest psychedelic empire the world has ever known, he asked for gold, "as a specific remedy for a disease of the heart" that Europeans felt.
Montezuma showered him with it and proudly displayed huge gardens of medicinal plants as well. He offered the conquistadors "food of the gods"-frothy. 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, 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 campfires never seemed to rise and the natives drank datura to make themselves clairvoyant.
The sacred psychedelics of Mexico and the Southwest were driven underground, on pain of death. All except two. 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. But in North Arncr ica.
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But even in processed commercial tobaccos. 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. Shortly after Sir Walter Raleigh brought pipes. King James I issued a fiery "Counterblastc to Tobacco" -which deterred his loyal subjects not a whit.
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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 and were so startled by its bizarre effects that it has been popularly known as "jirnson weed" from "Jamestown" ever since. Drug traffic was the mainstay of mercantilism. Tobacco from the West and coffee from the East conquered Europe in the seventeenth century.
Smoke-filled coffeehouses served as centers of shipping and trade, as gossipy listening posts on the world. Modern insurance, the novel as a literary form, and august scientific institutions for example, the British Royal Academy were all hatched in coffeehouses. Daring plots of international intrigue spread coffee, tea and tobacco around the globe, and drugs became political forces and symbols.
American colonists signaled their contempt for "taxation without representation" by dumping British tea in Boston Harbor , and soon you could tell which side of a revolution people were on by what they 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 seventeenth-century physician Thomas Sydenham prescribed it so frequently that he was called Dr.
Hemp was planted around the world as a source of fiber. Worlda better use for it. The British East India Company sent thousands of adventurers abroad. Tobacco and opium smoking were forced on China, leading to nineteenth-century "opium wars. So many drug plants flowed into Europe that science and technology accelerated at a maddening pace. The Swedish royal botanist Carl Linnaeus invented genus-and-species classification to bring some order out of this chaos. He also grew marijuana on his window sill to confirm the sexuality of plants, which the monk Gregor Mendel later elevated to the science of genetics.
Protochemists such as the eighteenth century's "Marquis of Outrage" experimented with a new alchemy based on Cordus and Paracelsus-the extraction of crude drugs in alcohol ic tinctures. Trying to find a foothold from which to wrest India from the British, Napoleon led his troops and a contingent of scientific observers into Egypt in There, a whole army of Frenchmen turned on with hashish.
French doctors in North Africa learned about the medical value of cannabis, and J. Moreau de Tours invented modern psychopharmacology and psychotomimetic drug treatment with studies on datura and hashish India was the choicest assignment for young British officers, and many, like Robert Clive, first governor of Bengal, became opium addicts. A bright young surgeon, William B.
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O'Shaughnessy, introduced cannabis to Western medicine and the telegraph to India. Questions were put in Parliament about opium and cannabis, culminating in the first massive modern government investigations of drugs for example, the Indian Hemp Drugs Commission Report in Meanwhile, scholars busied themselves studying the Vedas and discovered that their ancestors were linked to the vast Indo-European language family in ages long past. Preparation of crude drugs advanced the procedures of analytic chemistry enough so that in a German pharmacist, F.
Serturner, was able to extract an alkaloid from opium that he named morphine, in honor of Morpheus, the Roman god of dreams. This ushered in the great nineteenth-century era of alkaloid toxicology. Caventou and Pelletier in Paris isolated strychnine from nux vomica, quinine from cinchona, caffeine from coffee; others followed with atropine from belladonna, coniine from hemlock and hyoscyamine from henbane.
The availability of pure alkaloids put pharmacology on a firm footing by allowing close scrutiny of dose-effect. It is also drunk by the medicine man, when called on to adjudicate in a dispute or quarrel-to give the proper answer to an embassy-to discover the plans of an enemy-to tell if strangers are coming-to ascertain if wives are unfaithful-in the case of a sick man to tell who has bewitched him, etc. The Indians say they see beautiful lakes, woods laden with fruit, birds of brilliant plumage, etc.
Soon the scene changes.
High Times encyclopedia of recreational drugs
They see savage beasts preparing to seize them; they can no longer hold themselves up, but fall to the ground. At this crisis the Indian wakes up from his trance, and if he were not held down in his hammock by force, he would spring to his feeet, seize his arms and attack the first person who stood in his way. Then he becomes drowsy, and finally sleeps. If he be a medicine man who has taken it, when he has slept off the fumes he recalls all he saw in his trance, and thereupon deduces the prophecy, divination or what not required of him. Soon youthful explorers were scouring the planet in search of more medicines.
Richard Spruce plunged into the Amazon and, in an uncanny burst of foresight. Had anyone bothered to analyze them, he would have realized that quite unrelated Old and New World species can contain the same chemicals, and the science of chemotaxonomy that Spruce foresaw would have been born. Not until 70 years later did chemists recognize that "telepathine" from the Amazon vine was the same as the harmine. As it was, Spruce's specimens served another purpose. Richard Evans Schultes of Harvard had them analyzed in and showed the amazing longevity of these hallucinogens: they were as active as if the material had been collected yesterday.
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Meanwhile, the Amazon spawned another scientific revelation. Naturalist Alfred R.