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Archive for the ‘FDA’ Category

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Copaiba oil has a long history of use in South America, where it has traditionally been used as a topical remedy to help clear up skin problems including dermatitis, psoriasis, eczema, rashes, herpes, insect bites, injuries, wounds and boils.

Amazonian healers also recommend diluted copaiba oil for internal use as a treatment for a wide range of conditions. For example, it acts as an expectorant and can help alleviate respiratory problems like bronchitis. In Peru, a traditional sore throat remedy involves taking four drops of copaiba oil mixed with a spoonful of honey. Its antiseptic properties also make it an effective gargle for easing sore throats and tonsillitis.

Copaiba oil was first introduced to the rest of the world in the 17th century, when it was known as Jesuits balsam (because it had been brought back from the New World by the Jesuits). Among other things, it was used as a topical preparation applied to hemorrhoids, and also to soothe chilblains.

There are more than 30 different types of copaiba tree, and they are found mainly in the South American rainforests of Brazil, Argentina, Bolivia, Guyana, Colombia, Peru and Venezuela. The oil the tree produces is what is known as an oleoresin a substance that accumulates naturally in cavities within the trunk of the tree.

The oil is harvested by tapping or drilling holes into the trunk and collecting the oily resin that drips out. When it is actually leaving the tree, this substance is clear, thin and colourless; but when it comes into contact with the air, it becomes thicker and darker and has a bitter taste.

The copaiba tree is a sustainable crop in that it can provide about 40 litres of oleoresin a year, without destroying the tree or the forest in which it grows.

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Antioxidants are present in foods as vitamins, minerals, carotenoids, and polyphenols, among others.

Many antioxidants are often identified in food by their distinctive colors—the deep red of cherries and of tomatoes; the orange of carrots; the yellow of corn, mangos, and saffron; and the blue-purple of blueberries, blackberries, and grapes. The most well-known components of food with antioxidant activities are vitamins A, C, and E; β-carotene; the mineral selenium; and more recently, the compound lycopene.

While the body has its defenses against oxidative stress, these defenses are thought to become less effective with aging as oxidative stress becomes greater. Consumption of antioxidants is thought to provide protection against oxidative damage and contribute positive health benefits. For example, the carotenoids lutein and zeaxanthin engage in antioxidant activities that have been shown to increase macular pigment density in the eye.

Examples of Antioxidant Vitamins and Minerals

Vitamins Daily Reference Intakes*

Vitamin A 300-900 µg-d / Protects cells from free radicals / Liver, dairy products, fish
Vitamin C 15-90 mg-d /Protects cells from free radicals/ Bell peppers, citrus fruits
Vitamin E 6-15 mg-d / Protects cells from free radicals, helps with immune function and DNA repair/ Oils, fortified cereals, sunflower seeds, mixed nuts
Selenium 20-55 µg-d /Helps prevent cellular damage from free radicals/ Brazil nuts, meats, tuna, plant foods

From Food and Nutrition Board Institute of Medicine DRI reports and National Institutes of Health Office of Dietary Supplements
*DRI’s provided are a range for Americans ages 2-70.


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New in Merida are two new double-decker tourist buses called “Turibus.” Similar to buses used in London, Madrid, New York and Mexico City, these buses are a great way to see Merida in one hour. Or, you can use it to visit five designated stops around the city on your own time schedule. With the “get on and get off” option, you can get off at the designated stops, visit the area for almost as long as you want, then get back on to continue the route. The buses stop every 30 minutes between 8:30 AM and 10:00 PM.

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Sidewalk Sculpture Exhibit

Split Ring in Motion is the name of this impressive stainless steel sculpture created by American sculptor Rob Lorenson. Lorenson’s works have been shown in various exhibitions around the world, including the Pierwalk in Chicago, Illinois, the Sarasota Season of Sculpture
in Florida and The Convergence International Arts Festival in Providence,
Rhode Island, USA. His works are also housed in numerous public and private
collections.

And now, this particular sculpture, Split Ring in Motion, can be found on the Paseo de Montejo Boulevard between Calles 43 and 45, right in front of the Twin Houses, a half a block from the Musuem
of Anthropology. Split Ring in Motion is
one of the 50 sculptures that have been present on this majestic boulevard since April 15th. That was opening day of the exhibition that is the second exhibit of the program called Merida of Yucatan, City of Sculpture. This exhibit features works by both artists from the USA and from Mexico.

Want more outdoor sculpture? After you stroll the Paseo de Montejo, head down to the Main Plaza and visit the sculptures located between the Cathedral and the Ateneo Penisular Building where the Macay Museum is housed.

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For centuries, geography made it difficult for the Yucatecans to communicate with the rest of Mexico. As a result, architectural and cultural influences from Europe, the Caribbean and New Orleans were as strong or stronger in the growth of the city. To this day, the people who live here consider themselves Yucatecans first, Mexicans second. If you look carefully, you will see tshirts and bumper stickers proclaiming Orgulloso Yucateco, Yucatecan Pride.

The Yucatan is one of Mexico’s most tranquil and safest states, with a climate resembles that of Florida or Cuba. Yucatecans are good, tranquil and hospitable people who have strong roots and traditions. They take pride in their city, known as “The White City”, not only for the predominance of white limestone as a building material, but because of its streets, plazas and parks that are cleaned daily.

When I read this description of the Yucatan I realized the wonderful opportunity that had come my way. A chance to visit a long desired location in Mexico, meet local healers and stay with a family that still speaks the local Mayan dialect. This opportunity will add another layer of interest to my budding eco-travel business, Concentric Rings.

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Ayahuasca is a hallucinogenic Amazonian plant brew. It has been used by native Indian and mestizo shamans in Peru, Colombia, and Ecuador for healing and divination, for hundreds, if not thousands of years. Used as a sacrament in religious ceremonies, it is an integral component of their religious expression. The indigenous peoples who worship their gods with the use of Ayahuasca are having their religious freedom threatened by western culture whom in their zealous desire to control drug use (fueled by the so called “drug war”) are passing legislation that bans the use of this plant. Through pressure and manipulation by the United States, most countries have unilaterally criminalized any use of various plants and the compounds within them, Ayahuasca is one of them. These legislative bans have been made without analysis or consideration of the people involved or the religious significance of the use of these plants in spiritual ceremonies.

In the following essay, I will explore the history and spiritual significance of Ayahuasca to the indigenous people of South America, and I will defend their right to use Ayahuasca in religious ceremonies.

Ayahuasca comes from the Quechua language: huasca means ‘vine’ and aya meaning ‘soul’ or ‘spirit’. This ‘Vine of the spirits’ is vital to spiritual tribal health and vitality. It is an integral part of their spiritual worship that has endured for centuries. The origins of the use of Ayahuasca in the Amazon Basin can be traced to prehistory. No one can say for certain where the practice originated but its widespread use among indigenous tribes throughout the Amazon Basin came to the attention of Western ethnographers in the mid-19th century. There is abundant archeological evidence (in the form of pottery vessels, anthropomorphic figurines, snuffing trays and tubes, etc.,) that plant hallucinogen use was well established in the Ecuadorian Amazon by 1500 – 2000 B.C. Suffice it to say, the use of Ayahuasca in worship is grounded in antiquity, it is a foundational component to Amazonian spiritual life.

Dimethyltryptamine or DMT is the active, mind altering compound of Ayahuasca. DMT can be found in relatively any life form, plants, animals, fungi or most astonishingly, secreted by the human brain. Despite its ubiquity, the role of DMT remains a mystery. It is believed that DMT fuels vivid dreams, mystical revelations, and religious exaltation, as well as having a role in memory. The difficulty in studying the effect of DMT in the body is that it is broken down quickly by the enzyme, monoamine oxidase. This enzyme quickly renders the compound useless in the gut before reaching the brain, unless taken with an MAO inhibitor. The role of MAO was only realized by scientists through the study of shamanic rituals in Ecuador, Brazil, and obscure areas of the Amazonian basin. Shamans have overcome MAO’s effects by careful combinations of wild Amazonian plants. One such plant is Psychotria viridis bush, which contains significant quantities of DMT. The other is the vine Banisteriopsis caapi, which contains Harmine, one of the most effective MAO inhibitors. This combination allows the DMT to pass the brain blood barrier causing a psychedelic effect.

Many Western trained physicians and psychologists have acknowledged that these substances can give access to spiritual dimensions of consciousness, even mystical experiences similar to classic religious mysticism. In spite of the fact that no harmful physiological effects have been found in association with Ayahuasca consumption, the US government has continued to pressure foreign governments to criminalize its use.

Anti-drug legislation has been particularly harsh with regard to hallucinogenic substances since the popularity of Lysergic Acid Diethylamide in the 50’s. Legislation was pushed in part because the effects produced by psychedelic drugs are strikingly similar to the symptoms of psychosis. In the 1950s, these similarities led to the suggestion that psychoactive compounds like DMT were the cause of schizophrenia. This gross speculation was later found to be short sighted and erroneous.

Ayahuasca is not the latest party drug, but a foul-tasting plant concoction that Amazonian people have been consuming and using for religious purposes for centuries. The nausea and vomiting that ensues after consumption of the plant verifies that it is not a “party drug” but is used for a spiritual, personal journey.

Ayahuasca is a plant of many legends, credited by natives to yield visions of the future, communication with nature, and telepathic communication with the spirit realm. Today this bitter tea, also known as hoasca, has become the sacramental ritual of two modern religions in Brazil. One of them, the União do Vegetal (UDV) church, has begun a legal battle with modern pharmaceutical companies in an effort to invalidate patents they acquired through nefarious means. The conflict over the plant began more than 10 years ago, when Loren Miller, director of the small California-based International Plant Medicine Corporation, took a sample of a medicinal plant cultivated by an indigenous community in Ecuador. Miller returned to California and obtained a patent from the U.S. government in 1986, claiming a new plant variety, which gave him exclusive rights to sell and breed new varieties from the plant. U.S. patent law requires the person requesting the patent to be the original breeder of the new plant variety. Indigenous groups argue that the plant is widely used throughout the region and that Miller did nothing to the plant to improve it. Therefore, they say, he cannot claim to be the “inventor” of the plant, and is not eligible for a patent. “The root of the dispute is not the Foundation or Miller, but that the U.S. patenting process favors corporations over the rights of indigenous people” (Edward Hammond, a researcher with the Rural Advancement International Foundation (RAFI)). He says because the U.S. patent office does not thoroughly check to see if a plant variety is genuinely new or if the applicant is indeed the original breeder, corporations can easily claim patents on plants grown and bred in other countries by indigenous peoples.

The perceived theft of Ayahuasca is especially disturbing to indigenous groups because the vine, also known as Yage, is held sacred by many indigenous communities. It has been cultivated throughout the Amazon rainforest since the pre-Colombian era for religious ceremonies and medicinal purposes. Only shamans are authorized to prepare it and no member of the community can drink it without the guidance of a shaman. “We would like to believe that, as the millennium is ending, so is the time of paternalism, protection and colonial practices — but it seems that we have the sin of optimism,” Augustin Grefa says (a leader of the Rio Blanco community, which is located 350 kilometers of Quito, Ecuador). “Commercializing an ingredient of the religious ceremonies and of healing for our people is a real affront for the over 400 cultures that populate the Amazon basin.”

There is much unrest and anger within tribes and groups in the Amazon basin and world wide. This anger I feel stems from the unfair, capitol driven, legislation of the US government. As globalization becomes more prevalent, US foreign policy must evolve as well.

For 35 years the federal government has allowed Native Americans to use peyote in their religious rituals (in spite of the fact that the drug is otherwise banned) while denying American members of Centro Espirita Beneficiente Uniao do Vegetal (UDV), a Brazil-based religious group, the use of Ayahuasca in their religious ceremonies . This is a double standard, both religious experiences are grounded in antiquity, neither substance has proven harmful after thousands of years of use, and both represent freedom of religious expression.

Freedom of religious expression is the cornerstone upon which the United States was founded. Yet laws are being passed that obstruct the religious freedoms of countless peoples. Through sanctions and political pressuring, the U.S. has managed to impose unilateral drug laws worldwide. Ayahuasca was placed under federal control in Schedule I (along with heroin and cocaine) when the Controlled Substances Act was passed in 1971, this means it is illegal to manufacture, buy, possess, or distribute (sell, trade or give) without a DEA license. Since then, several countries have followed suit (Table A1) including all countries in the United Nations. The penalty for distribution could result in up to seven years imprisonment. There have been several developments in 1999, 2000, and 2001 which have affected the practical legal status of Ayahuasca. In the United States, Europe, and South America, Ayahuasca has become a part of the “War on Drugs” resulting in several arrests for possession of Ayahuasca or its component plants.

Shamans are spiritual guides and healers to the tribe’s people they represent. From crafting poisonous arrows for hunting, to healing those who suffer from physical or spiritual sickness, the shaman’s role is akin to that of professor, doctor, and pastor. They have endured the criminalization of their religious practices and suffered the loss of land and resources. Ayahuasca is the largest and possibly oldest psychedelic religion known. Thousands of years of knowledge and culture are represented by tribes that practice Huasca rituals. Whether Ayahuasca is truly a conduit for spiritual planes of existence or not, it is imperative that as a global community we protect the rights and culture of all people.

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Correa and Lula plot to cut down the forest and scoop out the rivers

In yesterday’s el Comercio, as in the other major Ecuadorian papers, the headlines were Correa’s visit with Lula in Brasil, which culminated in the signing of fifteen economic convenios (agreements) ordered in three categories: (i) to widen the energy cooperation; (ii) widen the financial integration (in Latin American, one of Correa’s main points); and (iii) a commission that shall analyse the situation of a corridor from Manta to Manaus.

!these are not tree-huggers, but loggers!

The corridors – and the devastating effect it is likely to have on the environment and the culture and livelihoods of the people who live along the roads and rivers to be turned into commodity highways – has been a topic in previous entries and this entry shall serve only to reiterate where Mr. Correa is taking his neo-socialist movement: to the destruction of the forest while ignoring the land and culture of the indigenous peoples of the Amazon..

Correa’s visit in Brasil, as already mentioned, concluded with the signing of fifteen convenios and should be understood as a longer process that began before Correa had even taken his presidential seat in Quito and which extends plans of previous Ecuadorian governments.

One of the main points on the exclusively economic agenda of Correa’s neo-socialist revolution in Ecuador is the Manta-Manaus corridor and it was agreed, between Ecuador and Brasil, to set down a bi-national commission to analise “the situation”:

“Una comisión analizará la situación de la vía Manta-Manaos. Una vía que una el puerto de Manta en Ecuador con Manaos en Brasil y se convierta en la ruta de entrada para el Atlántico, en el caso ecuatoriano, y el Pacífico, en el caso brasilero, fue parte del discurso de ayer de los mandatarios Rafael Correa y Lula da Silva.

Ambos anunciaron que tomaron la resolución de formar una comisión binacional que se reunirá dentro de 15 días en Quito para empezar a trabajar en el proyecto, y que continuará con reuniones periódicas en ambos países. “

The commission is to commence working in Quito within fifteen days, that is, by now, fourteen and counting….

Hidrovias are a common Euro-American developmentalist paradigm phenomenon and is currently also debated in southern Brasil where evaluations of “the hydrologic impact of the Hidrovia project on the Pantanal of Mato Grosso, that is, the changes in water and sediment runoff to be expected as a result of project implementation” has been carried out.

A fairly “general” point made in the evaluation reads:

“# Channel modifications (straightening, dredging, and particularly blasting of rocky sills), will destabilize the river’s baseflow regime, and will demand future action in the river to continue to maintain the required minimum draft for navigation, i.e., it will set in place a vicious circle of channel interventions.”

The German “Gesellschaft für technische Zusammenarbeit” (GTZ) has been doing studies for the purposes of scooping out an hidrovia on the Rio Napo already, since the projected Manta-Manaus corridor was an idea of the late Gustavo Noboa government.

Rafael Correa has adopted the idea and it is now a central element in his plans for economic development and financial integration of Latin America, which also counts a Brasil-China-Ecuador collaboration to exploit some of Ecuador’s major oil fields, including investments by Petroleo Brasileiro SA in Ecuador reaching U$1 billion by 2010:

“Brazil’s Petrobras today signed a memorandum of understanding with Ecuador’s state-owned PetroEcuador to propose plans to explore the Ishpingo-Tiputini-Tambococha oil fields, the Rio de Janeiro-based company said in an e-mailed statement.

Chilean state oil company Empresa Nacional de Petroleo and a unit of China Petroleum & Chemical Corp., Asia’s largest oil refiner, will bid with Petrobras to develop the ITT fields.”

¿¿So, yea, what’s left to say, other than, perhaps, to paraphrase an old hippie tune, Where do the children play in a neo-socialist economy?

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