Sunday, July 10, 2011

Additional Clues to the Land of Promise Location-Part I

Besides the Land of Promise location matching scriptural clues such as winds and currents moving Nephi’s ship that was “driven forth before the wind,” the temperature and climate needed to grow seeds from Jerusalem exceedingly and provide an abundant crop, locating ore deposits in abundance where ore contains gold, silver and copper in a single unit, finding two unknown animals that were as “useful to man” as the elephant, and two unknown grains on a par with corn, wheat and barley, there are other clues in the scriptural record that also needs to be found in the Land of Promise.

One of these would be herbs to cure deadly fever. As Alma wrote “And there were some who died with fevers, which at some seasons of the year were very frequent in the land—but not so much so with fevers, because of the excellent qualities of the many plants and roots which God had prepared to remove the cause of diseases, to which men were subject by the nature of the climate” (Alma 46:40).

The most deadly fever known to man throughout the centuries is malaria—a parasitic disease that involves high fevers which can result in convulsions, coma, and death. This fever is widespread in tropical and subtropical regions, including the Americas. Even today, a widely available vaccine that provides a high level of protection for a sustained period is still beyond our reach.

In the last six centuries B.C. and the first four centuries A.D., (and for a nearly 1500 years after that) malaria had no cure of such deadly fevers other than one natural remedy--Quinine, a natural white crystalline alkaloid, that has been synthesized in the lab since the mid 1940s, but found naturally only in the bark of the cinchona tree, which is the only known natural source of quinine.

While the deadly fever of malaria was known throughout the Southern Hemisphere, only one location in the entire world possessed the natural cure of this disease—the Andean area of Peru in South America

The only known source of the cinchona tree prior to its transplanting by the Dutch in the 1800s, was the Andean area of Peru where the tree is indigenous. Quinine has long been used by the Quechua Indians of Peru as an effective muscle relaxant to halt shivering due to low temperatures. These early Peruvians would mix the ground bark of the cinchona trees with sweetened water to offset the bark’s bitter taste, thus producing a tonic water.

Discovered in Peru by the early Spaniards in the 16th century, it was exported to Europe and first used in Rome in 1631 A.D. During the 17th century there, malaria was endemic to the swamps and marshes surrounding the city of Rome and responsible for the death of several popes, many cardinals and countless common Roman citizens. Jesuit priests, familiar with the symptoms of malaria in Rome, when traveling to the Andean area after the Conquest, saw how the Quechua Indians used the cinchona bark to cure the disease. When exported to Europe, the cinchona bark was known as Jesuit’s bark and became one of the mot valuable commodities shipping from Peru to Europe. In fact, the cinchona bark not only cured malaria, but some dozen other maladies, including cardiac arrhythmias and related heart conditions, digestive problems and different types of infections or disorders, throat and oral problems, muscular cramps, chronic arthritis, sciatica and dysentery, kapha and other disorders, and also reduced elevated temperatures during fevers of all kinds—thus becoming known as the first miracle cure obtained from the wild.

As Alma wrote: “…because of the excellent qualities of the many plants and roots which God had prepared to remove the cause of diseases to which men were subject by the nature of the climate” (Alma 46:40).

The Quechua word for the cinchona bark was “quina” or “quina-quina,” which roughly means “bark of bark,” or “holy bark.” This herbal cure became more valuable than gold in Europe and especially in Rome, and provided Europeans with the ability to travel to Africa, which had been known previously as “the white man’s grave.” As historians have written, “It was quinine’s efficacy that gave colonists fresh opportunities to swarm into the Gold Coast, Nigeria and other parts of west Africa.”

To maintain their monopoly on cinchona bark, Peru and surrounding countries began outlawing the export of cinchona seeds and saplings beginning in the early 19th century, but the Dutch smuggled out seeds and started chinchona plantations in Java (Indonesia), and by the 1930s were producing 32 million pounds of cinchona bark, or 97% of the world’s quinine production.

During World War II, the Germans occupied the Netherlands and the Japanese occupied the Philippines and Indonesia, cutting off the United States supply of quinine—resulting in tens of thousands of U.S. troops dying of malaria in the South Pacific and Africa. Today, Cinchona trees remain the only economically practical source of quinine. However, under wartime pressure, research was undertaken to synthesize quinine and several have been achieved, but none can compete economically with the isolation of the alkaloid from natural sources.

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