Thursday, October 16, 2008

Top5 therapeutic uses of coke

Coca Cola was invented in the 19th century as a patented medicine in the drug store of John Pemberton. It was initially known as coca wine, and contained cocaine extracts as one of its active ingredients. It was supposed to cure morphine addiction, dyspepsia, neurasthenia, headache, and impotence. Since 1904 coca-cola has been using dry coca leaves (1oo tons) which are imported from South America under a special permit and processed to extract to cocaine, which is resold for medical purposes while "spent" leaves are used for flavoring. While it is now cocaine-free (other than trace amounts) and primarily enjoyed as a caffeinated soft drink, it still does have some medical uses:

  1. Coca Cola can be used on a wasp sting (but not bee) in an emergency. The phosphoric acid can help inactivate the alkaline wasp venom. The same is true for jelly-fish stings in case you don't have any vinegar handy.
  2. While not strictly medical, coca cola can be used to fade hair dyes and clean stains including blood. However Mythbusters showed that it wasn't a particularly good cleaning agent, and does not dissolve rust or teeth/T-bones for that matter...
  3. Rehydration for infants suffering from diarrhea. While any sweet water will do, it is often the only "clean" liquid available in less fortunate parts of the world...
  4. Dissolving phytobezoar. These are undigested clumps of plants that can accumulate and block the stomach. Think of it as a human "hairball" (pictured above) and check out the awesomely disgusting examples here.
  5. As a contraceptive. However this was disproved by the winners of this year's IgNobel.
Finally, Coke given to rats in an Italian study published in the annals of N-Y academy of science, shows that chronic usage isn't so therapeutic:

"The results indicate: (a) an increase in body weight in all treated animals; (b) a statistically significant increase of the incidence in females, both breeders and offspring, bearing malignant mammary tumors; (c) a statistically significant increase in the incidence of exocrine ademonas of the pancreas in both male and female breeders and offspring; and (d) an increased incidence, albeit not statistically significant, of pancreatic islet cell carcinomas in females, a malignant tumor which occurs very rarely in our historical controls."

However since the control was drinking water I'm not sure what you can conclude from this study other than it's probably not a good idea to substitute all drinking water to a sweet liquid.


Julia said...

To be fair, Coke's use as a contraceptive was both proven and disproven by this year's Chemistry IgNobel winners. :)

Award citation: "CHEMISTRY PRIZE. Sharee A. Umpierre of the University of Puerto Rico, Joseph A. Hill of The Fertility Centers of New England (USA), Deborah J. Anderson of Boston University School of Medicine and Harvard Medical School (USA), for discovering that Coca-Cola is an effective spermicide, and to Chuang-Ye Hong of Taipei Medical University (Taiwan), C.C. Shieh, P. Wu, and B.N. Chiang (all of Taiwan) for discovering that it is not."