These are rough notes on Richard Fowler's work with curare


Curare (He who it comes to must fall)

by Richard Fowler (aka Aukcoo)

Curare, also known as Ampi, can kill or cure. Indigenous people in all tropical regions of the world can make effective arrow and dart poisons from hundreds of varieties of plants, as well as animal and insect toxins. I have studied some of these compounds and they are very lethal. Here in the Amazon we have such a bounty of plants so rich in alkaloids that an effective survival curare can be made by boiling down several kilos of any combination of 20 different species (known and unknown species) of jungle leaves. Once it becomes a thick syrupy tar it will most likely be to bring down anything from a monkey to man. I call this "Martha Stewart Curare".

However, the indigenous Amazonian knows just what to look for and use. They make a curare for hunting game and a curare for killing humans (a war curare), and the recipes vary regionally and individually.

For the hunting curare the first plant they will look for is what they call ampihuasca (Chondrodendron tomentosum), the moonseed vine. A Vine from which they obtain the bark where the alkaloids are most concentrated, like tubocarirene, used in medicine, especially used for open heart surgery. The next plant they will include is the Strychnine plant, "Strycns Guinesis".

There are over a dozen species of this plant found all over the Amazon. The active ingrediant is strychnine, tubocarirene and toucine. As if this weren't enough they will include sacha ampihuasca (Curarea toxifera), active compounds include curine, curarine, isochondenrine and tocicopherine.

Once cooked down the substance has a powerful tranquilizer effect. A small dose can put a large animal or a human down for 15-20 minutes. A stronger dose can kill. First aid for wounds of this sort would include eating salt and rubbing salt directly on the wound. Artificial respiration may be necessary in the case of respiratory failure, which must continue for approximately 15-20 minutes, or until the poison wears off. An antidote would be a common drug known as prostigmin, a perfect neutralizer.

 For the war curare (for killing people) the process of poison preparation becomes more complicated as a medicine man gets involved and their shamonic meanery opens up a bag of real dirty tricks. All kinds of biting and stinging poisons are added like, bees, scorpions, wasp, fire ants, the big bullet ant (Panaponera), the whole heads of venomous snakes, blood, hair, spiders and poison frogs. Most are not necessary except as a way of augmenting the prestige of the medicine man, enhancing the confidence of the warriors and confusing anyone wanting to copy the solution.

The poison from dart frongs, Dendrobates and Phyllobates, have some of the most powerful toxins found in natue, and spell death if this gets in your blood stream. They are used for killing. The most dangerous of these frogs are found in Costa Rica, Columbia and Ecuador. I have seen Huaorni Indians in Ecuador justuse frog poison for hunting their prey. Note that one generation out of the wild, captive bred poison arrow frogs are not toxic at all.

On one trip to visit my friends, the Matese (also known as Mayaruna or cat people), I was invited to join a characteristic frog poison ordeal in which a beautiful frog, "Phyllomedusa bicolor", is used to obtain a mild poison, but loaded with peptids and amino acids. The Matese burn the surface of the skin and smear the poison on the burn. I'm one who believes in abuse in moedration so IOpted for 8 "pops" of this ordeal. The Matese hunters do anywhere from 5 to 10 pops!

Within 2 minutes I felt my whole nervous system shutting down and went to the ground. The sensation cleared quickly and I was ready for a ten day hunt with my Matese friends. The frog ordeal has been used by the Matese to make them feel stronger and better hunters (they are some of the best). The frog ordeal has never been known to kill anyone. For me it was a near death experience without the pain of death. I would think a man or animal hit with a dose of curare would have the same shut down effect (maybe not a bad way to go).

The dart is fashioned out of a sliver of palm or bamboo. A wad of cotton is taken from the seed of the kapoc tree and used on one end to create compression in the blow pipe. The "business" end is grooved to hold more poison and dried near a fire. A ring is cut around the shaft behind the point so as to break off under any stress. The broken point with the poison styays in the creture. Medical sciende has been able to isolate the various compounds for medical  use in saving lives. Curare has been used in modern medicine since the early 40's. It has a muscle relaxing effect and east to control so doctors don't have to use as much anasthesia in surgery, especially open heart surgery. One of the most important reasons for protecting the Amazon Rain Forest is for all the medicine we don't even know about yet. There is so much to learn and discover. I learn new things everytime I go to the jungle. If you are interested in one of my next trips please contac me. The Naturalist, Richard "AUKCOO" Fowler.

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