Some years ago I read an article about the coca plant and its use by the people in the Peruvian Andes. They chewed the coco leaf while they worked, and it was a boon as an antidote to altitude sickness and enabling them to work long hours with little sleep or food. Thanks to the many ingredients in the leaf, including the B vitamins, it seems the people did not become addicted nor did it have deleterious side effects.
In modern times humans have isolated the chemicals of the coco leaf, removing the vitamins and chemical compounds, and we have some effective pain killers and more or less pure cocaine, both among the most addictive drugs being sold.
This week the Newshour on PBS TV had a segment on the scientific research on the medical uses of marijuana based upon a documentary done by the University of Montana (Check Montana PBS: “Clearing the Smoke…”)
Humans have been using cannabis for medical, religious and recreational purposes, all legally and socially accepted for nearly 6,000 years. It was legal in the United States until the mid 1930s when “Reefer Madness” hit the screens. The title of the film tells it all.
It is generally accepted that cannabis is very effective in alleviating nausea, vomiting and loss of appetite associated with treatments for cancer. It is also effective in treating Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, epilepsy, glaucoma, to name a few maladies. Some pharmaceutical researchers are trying to isolate the cannabinoid that treats the side effects of chemotherapy and other medications without giving the cancer patient the euphoric feeling associated with pot. They have synthesized one drug, Marinol, that almost does it, but is not as effective or acceptable to patients as smoking the herbal variety. The marijuana leaf has sixty-six cannabinoids, many of them, researchers are discovering, have other medicinal properties. But as with the coco leaf, we just can’t leave nature alone, even when it seems to know best.
In the 1970s I had breast cancer. It was a time when the disease was still whispered about and never admitted to. Treatments were clumsier and more drastic than they are today.
Following my operation, I went through radiation and chemotherapy. I experienced being drawn on with a black pencil and lying naked on a cold slab in an even colder room to be zapped with radiation and being injected with body punishing chemotherapy. During this time I smoked marijuana. Among the side effects of smoking was a lessened anxiety on my part and the ability to be more objective about my hospital visits, to relax, and even laugh. During this time, I also taught two college courses at different schools and held down a part-time office job.
After doing some research, I quit chemotherapy in my third or fourth week because studies found it was not very effective for women in my age range. Why kill all my other healthy cells on those odds, my objective mind told me.
Smoking pot has not been a part of my life for a very long time. But it was there when I needed it. What a shame that it has become a subject of so much misinformation, downright lies and ignorance due to politics, religion, greed and the inability to patent it.
I started this column planning to write about food. There is not much room, left but there is one quick and easy recipe that seems appropriate because it is great if you have the munchies.
I have long wondered what sauce cockaigne was. The name sounds suspicious, but I found a recipe in the respectable “Joy of Cooking.” I have always thought it was associated with New Orleans but here is my own Costa Rican version:
1 cup dried apricots chopped fine
1 cup water
Cook in a heavy bottomed sauce pan until apricots disintegrate when stirred with a whisk.
Add ½ cup miel de cana (can substitute white or brown sugar) and
1 15-oz. can of crushed pineapple
Bring mixture to boil again.
Cool and store in glass jar in refrigerator. It lasts a long time and is good with everything from yoghurt or cereal to a topping for ice cream or even something salty. It is especially good on whatever your version of Bananas Foster is, or alone by the tablespoonful. I don’t think it works on frozen broccoli.