Natural stimulants are derived from plants and are mainly used for recreational uses after being extracted and processed to their most active forms. Natural stimulants are in usage since centuries; its just that their processing methods have became more sophisticated with the development of scientific technologies, paving way for the ‘super effects’. By virtue of their galvanizing and invigorating effects, natural stimulants have been in use ad infinitum and it’s just that with the sociological developments, the processing of these compounds has sophisticated to yield the purest form of active ingredients used for stimulation and recreational purposes.
LIST OF COMMON NATURAL STIMULANTS
Kola nut: Main alkaloid – caffeine (0.6 -3.7%), Theobromine, Theophylline.
Guarana: Main alkaloid – Caffeine (3.6 -5.8%), Theobromine, Theophylline.
Ma Huang: Main alkaloids – Ephedrine, Pseudoephedrine, Norephedrine, Norpseudoephedrine.
Khat: Main alkaloids – Cathinone (alpha-aminoprophenone), Cathine (d-morpseudoephedrine).
Dong Quai: Main alkaloid – Coumarin
Ginseng: Main alkaloid – Ginsenoside
Nicotiana tabacum: Main alkaloid – Nicotine
Areca nut (Betel Nut): Main alkaloids – Arecoline, Arecaidine, Arecaine, Arecolidine, Guvacine, Isoguvacine, Guvacoline, and Coniine.
FACTS ABOUT THE COMMON NATURAL STIMULANTS
- Archaeological evidence from Thailand, Indonesia and the Philippines suggests that they have been used in tandem for four thousand years or more. Their venturesome properties have increased the number of their users since centuries.
- A wide section of researchers believe that Betel chewing is an ancient habit that may have originated in India. The 13th century traveler Marco Polo mentioned in his diaries that Indians were in the habit of consuming betel.
- In Vietnamese the phrase “legend of betel and areca” is synonymous with marriage.
- Formerly in India and Sri Lanka it was a custom of the royalty to chew Areca nut and betel leaf. Kings had special attendants carrying a box with the ingredients for a good chewing session.
- There was also a custom to chew Areca nut and betel leaf among lovers because of its breath-freshening and relaxant properties.
- There was a sexual symbolism attached to the chewing of the nut and the leaf. The areca nut represented the male and the betel leaf the female principle.
- Use of areca nut has been associated with deterioration of psychosis in patients with preexisting psychiatric disorders.
- According to traditional Ayurvedic medicine, chewing areca nut and betel leaf is a good remedy against bad breath (halitosis)
- In Telugu poetry, the slightly red-stained lips of a young woman chewing areca nut and betel are considered a mark of beauty.
- In the 1st century AD, Sanskrit medical writings claim “betel possesses thirteen qualities to be found in the region of heaven. It is pungent, bitter, spicy, sweet, salty and astringent. It expels wind, kills worms, removes phlegm, subdues bad odors, beautifies the mouth, induces purification and kindles passion.
- It is preferred among African Muslims, who are forbidden to drink alcohol.
- In the 1800s, a pharmacist in Georgia took extracts of kola and coca and mixed them with sugar, other ingredients, and carbonated water to invent the first cola soft drink.
- Kola nuts are used as a religious object and sacred offering during prayers, ancestor veneration, and significant life events, such as naming ceremonies, weddings, and funerals. They are also used in a traditional divination system called Obi divination.
- The caffeine content in Kola Nut may also potentially help to relieve migraine headaches.
- Tradition stated that African Kola Nut rendered the most foul and putrid waters clean, made tainted meat edible; and when taken internally, helped prevent dysentery.
- In 1911, kola became the focus of one of the earliest documented health scares when the US government seized 40 barrels and 20 kegs of Coca-Cola syrup in Chattanooga, Tennessee, alleging that the caffeine in its drink was “injurious to health”.
References of Kola nuts in prominent audio-visual and literary media:
- The kidnapper asks for 10,000 kola nuts for ransom at the beginning of the song “Enfilade” by At the Drive-In.
- In Mariama Bâ’s novel So Long a Letter, Ramatoulaye remarks on a girl’s teeth that have been “reddened by cola nuts”.
- Ceremonial sharing of the kola nut plays an important role in Chinua Achebe’s 1958 novel Things Fall Apart.
- In the movie Tears of the Sun, the refugees give the SEALs a drink with kola nut to help them stay awake.
- Chewing khat is part of the Yemeni business culture to promote decision-making, but foreigners are not expected to participate.
- The ancient Egyptians considered the khat plant a “divine food” which was capable of releasing humanity’s divinity. The Egyptians used the plant for more than its stimulating effects; they used it as a metamorphic process and transcended into “apotheosis”, intending to make the user god-like.
- Within the counter-culture segments of the Kenyan elite population, khat (referred to as veve ) is used to counter the effects of a hangover or binge drinking, similar to the use of the coca leaf in South America.
- A 1973 estimate suggested that over 4 billion hours of work a year were lost in Yemen as a result of khat chewing and, whether true or not, khat has a reputation for encouraging laziness.
- Khat is so popular in Yemen that its cultivation consumes much of the country’s agricultural resources. It is estimated that 40% of the country’s water supply goes towards irrigating it. Water consumption is so high that groundwater levels in the Sanaa basin are diminishing; because of this, government officials have proposed relocating large portions of the population of Sana’a to the coast of the Red Sea.
- Harvesters transport khat by packaging the leaves and stems in plastic bags or wrapping them in banana leaves to preserve their moisture and keep the cathinone potent.
- Long-term use can precipitate permanent tooth darkening (of a greenish tinge) and diminished sex drive.
- While in most of the countries storage, cultivation and consumption of Khat is illegal, in Australia, the importation of khat is controlled under the Customs Regulations 1956 and individual users must obtain permits to import up to 5 kg per month for personal use.
- A khat-based frozen concentrate, “Pisgat,” is manufactured and sold in Israel as a health food, its maker claiming that 2 tablespoons is equivalent to the effect achieved by several hours of chewing fresh khat.
Ma Huang (Ephedra herb)
- Ma Huang, one of the most common ephedrine-based medicinal extracts, has been used in China for over 5,000 years to treat fever, nasal congestion, and asthma.
- According to the legend, lers bodyguards of Gengis Kahn, being afraid of being beheaded, were in the habit of consuming some tea in the ephedra to remain watchful.
- Monks Zen used Ma Huang to favor concentration and peace during meditations.
- Two billion doses of ephedrine-containing dietary supplements were consumed each year by Americans till onset of 21st centuary. However as the ephedra containing products were banned later, the consumption declined sharply.
- In february 2004, FDA finalized its first-ever ban of a dietary supplement, ephedra, after taking two years to prove harm to the number of 155 deaths.
- A jury awarded $4.1 million to a man who suffered a massive hemorrhagic stroke causing brain damage and severe disabilities after using Dymetadrine Xtreme, a dietary supplement containing ephedra.
Sports legends associated with Ma Huang i.e. Ephedrine
- In the 1994 FIFA World Cup, the Argentine footballer Diego Armando Maradona tested positive for ephedrine.
- The Japanese motorcycle racer Noriyuki Haga tested positive for it in 2000, being disqualified from two races and banned from two more as a result.
- NFL punter Todd Sauerbrun of the Denver Broncos was suspended for the first month of the 2006 season after testing positive for ephedra.
- According to a myth attributed to the Sateré-Maué tribe, guarana’s domestication originated with a deity killing a beloved village child. In order to console the villagers, a more benevolent god plucked the left eye from the child and planted it in the forest, resulting in the wild variety of guarana. The god then plucked the right eye from the child and planted it in the village, giving rise to domesticated guarana.
- Brazil, which is the third-largest consumer of soft drinks in the world, produces several soft drink brands from guarana extract.
- The guarana fruit’s colour ranges from brown to red and contains black seeds which are partly covered by white arils. The colour contrast when the fruit has been split open has been likened to eyeballs; this has formed the basis of a myth.
- Guarana has a long history that begins in the rainforests of Brazil. Named after the Guarani tribe, the natives claimed that this “miraculous plant” could give endurance and allow one to go hunting for days without getting hungry or fatigued.
- It is the most widely grown commercial non-food plant in the world. As such it holds a high importance in financial and economic policies in many countries.
- In Amazonian Ecuador and Peru, the smoke of Nicotiana tabacum was believed to protect from evil spirits. Males used to consume juice from steeped tobacco leaves at the age of six to help them to achieve arutam (spirit vision).
- Chain smoking was invented by primitive tribes, where a shaman could smoke 12 meter-long cigars in a row.
- Tobacco has also been steeped in cold water and drunk to produce acute intoxication, and licking of a thick jelly concentrate of Nicotiana is almost always fatal and is done in a few regions as a bond between blood brothers.
- A nasal snuffer from 100 B.C. was found in Mexico, and from Mexico have also come accounts that the Mayan priests used rising smoke to carry messages to the gods by blowing smoke to the four winds.
- Columbus discovered tobacco along with America. On 13 October, 1492, he encountered a man on San Salvador with dry tobacco leaves, and on 2 November he saw the natives of Cuba smoking cigars.
- The cigarette was invented in Spain and became popular; during the Crimean War, Turkish soldiers wrapped shredded tobacco with cannon fuse paper, which burned evenly. The first machine-made cigarettes were made in 1883 by J.B. Duke of Durham, North Carolina.
- Tobacco plants produce nicotine to protect themselves against natural enemies in the food chain like grazing animals.
STIMULANT USE BY ATHLETES
- The first known stimulant used by athletes was strychnine, which at low doses acts as a CNS stimulant.
- Cocaine was also used in the 19th century in a coca wine by the French cycling team. It was even advertised as a wine for athletes.
- Amphetamines were used during World War II and later by professional soccer players in England and Italy. Boxers and cyclists also used this energy source. These drugs were considered to be idyllic ergogenic drugs. These drugs were habitually used in the Olympic Games in 1952 and 1956, and several deaths were also attributed to overdoses of these drugs. At the 1960 Games a Danish cyclist died on opening day and 3 other cyclists collapsed with amphetamines in their system.
- Cyclist Tommy Simpson died during the 1967 Tour de France and his body had 2 types of amphetamines in his body.
- In the 1972, an American swimmer named Rick De Mont was found to be using a newly banned substance – ephedrine. At that time, ephedrine was an approved medication for asthma, and the irony was that Mr. De Mont was an asthmatic with a prescription for it.
- Ben Johnson, a Canadian sprinter, won the 100 metres at the 1988 Seoul Olympics in a world record time but was later stripped of his gold medal and banned for two years after testing positive for an anabolic steroid.
- China won four swimming gold medals at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics and then took 12 of 16 women’s titles at the 1994 world championships. Eleven athletes tested positive for dihydrotestosterone at the 1994 Asian Games and 3 gold medals had to be canceled.
- During the 1996 Atlanta Olympic Games, Michelle Smith was the avante-guard of Ireland after winning 3 gold medals in the pool. Her results in past 2 Olympics were extreme mediocre. Finally, in 1998, Smith gave her blood sample on demand to be tested, but because she was wearing a bulky sweater, the tester couldn’t monitor the process of blood collection. The sample was sealed and sent to a Barcelona lab for examination. The results were shocking enough to be true; the sample contained a level of alcohol that would be fatal if consumed by a human. FINA concluded that the sample had been manipulated, that whiskey had been added as a masking agent and they suspended Smith for four years.
- In July 2000, former East German sporting geek Manfred Ewald was found guilty of doping more than 100 young athletes. He was given a suspended prison sentence of 22 months.
- In May of 2002, Jose Canseco announced his retirement from baseball, and as a parting shot (and perhaps a promo for his tell-all book) he said 85 per cent of all baseball players used steroids. Later, Canseco admitted to taking steroids himself.
- Ashwini Akkunji and two of her teammates from India in the 4×400-meter relay squad that won gold at the Commonwealth and Asian games were among eight track and field athletes banned in July 2011 for out-of-competition doping violations.