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History of Drugs-4

In the land of BMW, Germany, things are different. The laws allow natural medicines to be sold, but as food supplements without any indication of use on the label. Even so, every one knows what they are for and so, for example, we see Gingko biloba extract taken from the tree much used in herbalism, becoming the best-selling prescription drug in Germany - where it is used to stimulate cerebral circulation in the elderly.

Chemical companies  are not keen to switch their attention to producing extracts or essential oils from natural plants and it may have something to do with the difficulty in patenting the remedies  that have been known for centuries, But it is possible to extract the active constituents  of plants quite easily, and it's much easier than trying to replicate their extraordinary complex powers in chemistry.

Lavender oil is the classic case in point. It is the treatment par excellence for burns. Put on badly burn skin, lavender, nothing short of miracously, returns it to normal, and very, very quickly. But for all the work, lavender will not easily give up her secrets. Chemists can make a liquid that smells like lavender, and they can even breal it apart, and label a certain number of its constituents, but they cannot make a substance that is like lavender in that it heals burns. As systems of analysis get better, more molecular and other secrects will be revealed. Meanwhile, in burns departments in hospitals, people suffer.

Of course science has made great strides in the fields of medicine, and we all have reason to be grateful for it, but let us not forget the relationship between science and nature. Science looks to nature in amazement, tries to break it apart and copy it. Nature makes cells and gets them to interact in unbelievably complex ways, while the whole of science and technology cannot between them make a single cell - plant, animal or human. Looking at nature and science, we ask ourselves, which is the more clever?

The Shamans
Consciousness is at the core of humanity. Deprived of sight, hearing, touch, taste and smell, we still have consciousness. It is, if you like, the essences of being, but throughout time people have strived to enlarge their consciousness or to change it so that other dimensions of being are reached. Substances which alter perception are used to put people in touch  with the spirits of dead ancestors: or seek union with the  godhead; or by traditional healers who want to gain a more profound insight into the nature of a patients disease - often perceived as the result of outside, non-material, forces. Other people use them to get 'in tune' with animals they want to hunt.
The Mates are a small, semi-nomadic tribe of hunter-gatherers who live in the rainforest of Peru/Brazil border. Their pharmacopia contains a drug, nu-nu. , which hunters use to induce visions of future movements of animals. They see the animal situated in a particular place,. and from clues in the vision, they estimate the time of day. Armed with this information, they lie in wait and make the kill. Peter Gorman may be the only westerner who has tried nu-nu, which is blown into the nostrils down a hollow reed tube, and this is his description of the experience:


When the nu-nu hit, it seemed to explode in my face , it burnt my nose, and I began to choke up, wretched green phlegm. but the pain quickly subsided  and I closed my eyes. Out of the blackness I began to have visions of animals  - tapir, monkey and wild boar - that I saw more clearly than my limited experience with them should have allowed. Then suddenly the boars stampeded in front of me.Gorman told the Matse what he had seen, and from the clues in his vision, the time and place of the stampede was determined. The next morning German and several Indians set off for the place seen in the vision. He writes: 'As we neared it, I was astounded to hear the thunderous roar of dozens of boars charging across the river in front of us. We jumped out of the boat and chased them'. They returned to the village with seven boars-'enough meat for the entire village for four days'.
Gorman also took another Matse drug, sapo, which is made from the secretions of a frog, dow -kiet ! or phyllomedusa bicolor . The immediate effects of ingesting this drug were horrendous, according to Gorman's account, but the results were worth it. His hearing was greatly improved, and more besides:

My vision, my sense of smell, everything about me felt larger than life, and my body felt immensely strong....During the next few days, my feeling of strength did not diminish; i could go whole days without being hungry or thirsty and move through the jungle for hours  without tiring. Every sense I possessed was heightened  and in tune with the environment, as though the sapo put the rhythm of the jungle into my blood.
The Matse use huge quantities of the drug sapo to do nothing less than project their animals, their spirit, into the form of an animal - which they use as a lure for real animals. Gorman's informant, Pablo, set a trap in the forest then returned to the village where he took the sapo for two days.

The next morning he woke Gorman up before dawn and, with the rest of the village rushed to the place where the trap had been set. Just as the people arrived, a tapir was approaching the trap - and was duly caught. On analysis, it turns out that sapo contains  seven bioactive peptides - triggers which cause chemical reactions in the body. However, why sapo should give a person the ability to project their animals remains a mystery.

Reference: Fragrant Pharmact/ V. Worwood

Read More...History Of Drugs - 5 

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