LETTERS

    LETTERS

    There is a renewed interest in medicinal plants all over the world. The
    World Health Organization (WHO) now has a list including 150 plants that
    its experts consider therapeutic. And in Brazil right now there is a boom
    of natural medicine. At least 5 million Brazilians use homeopathy as their
    first choice for treatment, creating an annual half a billion dollar market.

    While in the US there are no more than 3,000 homeopathic doctors, in
    Brazil there are 13,000 of them. In 1982 there were a mere 300. No other
    country with the exception of India has more homeopaths. And, in the last
    20 years, the number of homeopathic pharmacies has skyrocketed from 10
    to 1600. Two thousand pharmacists produce 3,000 medicinal formulas using
    minerals, animals, and most of all plants. There are also 250 dentists
    and 100 veterinarians specialized in homeopathy.

    Modern pharmacology does not ignore the therapeutic effects of plants.
    Forty percent of the time industrialized medicines use plants as their
    active ingredient, although generally in a synthesized more concentrated
    formula. The active ingredient in aspirin, for example, was originally
    found in the bark of willow trees.

    According to the American publication The Nutrition Business Journal,
    60% of Yankee physicians have on occasion referred a patient to alternative
    treatments, including naturopathy, herbalism, and homeopathy. In the U.S.,
    the market for herbal supplements grossed over $700 million in 1995 and
    it is expected that this amount will grow to $1.6 by the year 2000.

    Botanists believe that from 35,000 to 70,000 plant species are used
    throughout the world as medicine, most of them growing in tropical forests.
    And in the U.S. there are at least 120 widely used prescription drugs made
    from 95 species of plants, 39 of which are originally from the rainforest.

    Roughly 1/4 of all pharmaceutical products in the market today use substances
    from the rainforest. Among widely used products based on plants we have
    aspirin, morphine, and codeine. There is also digitalis, used as a heart
    medicine; curare, as a muscle relaxant; and colchicin, prescribed as an
    anti-inflammatory.

     IN THE BEGINNING
    Five hundred years ago, 14% of the earth’s surface was covered by rainforest.
    Since then, an area of 3.5 million square miles of these forests, roughly
    equivalent to the size of the United States, has been destroyed. The rainforest
    today occupies only 6% of the earth. As a consequence of this destruction
    it is estimated that 1.5 million life form species were lost and 50,000
    more continue to be destroyed every year. All this was done and continues
    to be done in the name of progress and allegedly for economic reasons,
    even though studies have shown, for example, that 2.4 acres of land in
    the Amazon can produce $1,000 of annual income when clear cut, but generate
    $6,800 a year when left intact.

    Despite all the destruction, it is believed that the rainforests still
    preserve 30 million different species, roughly half of all life forms on
    earth and 2/3 of all plants. This without mentioning the importance of
    these forests to the earth’s weather and atmosphere. A third of the world’s
    tropical forests are in Brazilian territory and, as for the Amazon forest,
    two thirds of it are in Brazil. The country still boasts the Pantanal (the
    world’s largest wetland), the Cerrado (the world’s most biologically diverse
    Savannah), and the Mata Atlântica, an even richer life laboratory
    than the Amazon, despite its much smaller size.

    At the time of Brazil’s discovery, the Mata Atlântica, the strip
    of luscious forest covering the entire Brazilian coast, occupied an area
    equivalent to 12% of today’s national territory. In its widest area the
    strip was as large as 300 miles. Today this treasure has been reduced to
    10% of its original size. From 1985 to 1990 alone 1.2 billion trees were
    cut. Its destruction is a textbook case of how to dilapidate an inestimable
    patrimony.

    The devastation accompanied the several cycles of the Brazilian economy,
    all of them much more interested in immediate profit instead of a long-term
    planned investment. First was the brazil wood cycle that would cut this
    valuable tree destroying in the process 6,000 sq. km of the forest. In
    the XVIII century, the discovery of gold and precious stones gave the jungle
    a respite while 2,000 tons of gold were dug up. During the sugar cane and
    coffee cycles as well as the cocoa tree plantation cycle in the state of
    Bahia, huge areas of jungle would be burned down to make room for these
    crops. From 1.5 million sq. km 500 years ago, the Mata Atlântica
    today is just a sad shadow of its previous self, with just 95,000 sq. km
    left.

    Despite all the recent rhetoric in Brazil about preserving the green,
    Brazilians were and still are too eager to cut trees. Not before the 80s
    did the first green groups start to voice their outrage and the theme became
    a national issue. In Brazil, the jungle and backwardness have always been
    equated. Caipira and caipora, two words to designate a rustic
    man without culture have their roots in Tupi terms that referred to inhabitants
    of the forest.

    “The Amazon’s chemiodiversity is much bigger than the forest’s visible
    part,” says Massuo Kato from Universidade de São Paulo’s (USP) Chemistry
    Institute. Kato has worked in the development of a new classification for
    the Amazon’s vegetables based on the chemistry of its fruits. This should
    help to find what is the best time for picking the fruit as well as indicate
    which part of it has more active elements.

    There are tens of millions of species in the world, according to scientists
    speculations, even though they were able to describe less than 1.5 million
    up to now, half of them living in rainforests. Some scientists believe
    that that proportion would grow to 90% in favor of the tropical forest
    if a complete tally of all species was ever accomplished. Brazil is home
    to the greatest number of insects species, as well as of terrestrial vertebrates,
    amphibians, primates, freshwater fish, and flowering plants. With a handful
    of other countries, it is classified by scientists as a megadiversity land.
     

     

    GET OFF OUR JUNGLE
    Most of all, the military are today in the forefront of a movement to keep
    foreigners out of the Brazilian jungle. Some of them are even ready to
    go to war, literally, in defense of the rainforest against what they call
    the “international cupidity”.

    “We can start a guerrilla war over there as the Vietnamese have done,”
    said reformed colonel Gélio Augusto Fregapani at the end of last
    year in Rio, during a forum called “Amazon – Threat of Territorial Losses,
    Occupation, and Development,” which was part of the Third National Encounter
    on Strategic Studies, a meeting organized by the Escola Superior de Guerra
    ( Higher School of War).

    It was a rare instance of the right and left putting aside their differences
    to join efforts against a common enemy. Former Army minister Leônidas
    Pires Gonçalves was there as well as Roraima’s governor Neudo Campos,
    and historian Lygia Garner, who teaches at Southeast Texas University.

    The assembly’s indignation was palpable when lieutenant-colonel, Marcus
    Vinicius Belfort Teixeira, who at 43 is considered one of the youngest
    most active military voices today, denounced the U.S. effort to internationalize
    the Amazon. And the mood was belligerent when the Air Force officer told
    about a sticker circulating on car windows in London that say: “Fight for
    the forest. Burn a Brazilian.”

    According to Belfort, the Brazilian government is demarcating indigenous
    areas on the frontier with other South American countries—something he
    considers extremely dangerous to national security—succumbing to international
    pressure mainly from the United States and Germany. Americans and Germans,
    according to Teixeira and other military personnel, are interested in the
    mineral-rich area’s subsoil.
     

     

    AMERICA’S 
    WONDER DRUGS

    Coca

    A sacred plant used as food and folk medicine in the Andes for a variety
    of purposes including an anesthetic and calcium supplement. Coca (Erythroxylum
    coca) means simply tree in the Aymara dialect. It was in 1860 that German
    chemist Carl Köler isolated the cocaine and found its virtues as a
    local anesthetic. After that, coca and cocaine started to be used for a
    variety of ailments and were added to several tonics including Coca-Cola.
    Curare

    A poisonous concoction with several plants whose formula was kept a
    secret for centuries. Alexander von Humboldt was the first European to
    witness and describe the way the ingredients were put together, in 1800.
    But curare would start being used as an anesthetic only in 1943, four years
    after its active ingredient, the d-tubocurarine was isolated.
    Quinine

    Used as an infusion by the Amazon natives in the treatment of fever.
    Derived from the cinchona tree (Cinchona officinalis) it was used
    in the 20s in the US for the treatment of malaria. Known as Indian fever
    bark the product was used in Europe since the early 1500s. One century
    later its name had been changed to Jesuit fever bark. The demand for the
    cinchona almost made it extinct. By smuggling it from South America to
    Java, in 1865, Englishman Charles Ledger saved the plant. Sixty years later,
    more than 95% of the world’s quinine was coming from Java.
     

    A Natural 
    First-Aid Kit
    Ayahuasca or caapi or santo daime or jagupe (Banisteria caapi)—Stimulant
    of the senses, with claims to cure cancer. Patented by International Plant
    Medicine Corporation.

    Bibiri or beberu (Ocotea radioei)— Used as contraceptive
    and as a HIV and small tumors inhibitor.

    Cabacinha (Luffa operculata)—Mixed with cachaça
    (sugar-cane hard liquor) it is used against sinusitis and as a nasal
    decongestant. As an unguent it is applied on tumors.

    Erva botão (Eclipta prostata)—An antidote to snake
    bites.

    Erva de jabuti or aperta-ruão (Leandra lacunosa)—Good
    against diabetes.

    Guaraná (Paulinia cupania)— Source of caffeine,
    it fights fatigue. Used in soft drinks.

    Hortelã roxo—Used as solution for ear pain.

    Jaborandi (Pilocarpus jaborandi)—Taken as a tea
    as a diuretic or to induce sweat. Also used in treatment of diabetes, asthma,
    arthritis, and baldness.

    Japana (Eupatoriu ayapana)—Leaves are rubbed on insects
    bites.

    Muirapuama (Ptychopetalum olacoides)- It is reputed
    to be an aphrodisiac. Also used for arthritis and as a stimulant.

    Oriza—Tea is taken for heart ailments

    Pau d’Arco (Tabebuia impetiginosa) A medicine for candida,
    athletes foot and also used as a natural anti-biotic. It has also been
    used against cancer.

    Picão (Bidens Pilosa)—For the treatment of malaria
    and hepatitis

    Puxuri or puxiri or pixurim (Licaria Puchurymajor)—A preventive
    medicine against baby colic.

    Quebra-pedra (Parietaria officinalis)—For kidney stones
    and urinary tract relief. Patented by Fox Medical Center for the treatment
    of hepatitis B.

    Saracura-mirá—A cure-all elixir. Used to treat all kinds
    of pain and also malaria

    Sucuuba (Himathantus Sucuba)—Mosquito repellent. It can
    be used in candles.

    Suma or piriguara or paraguaia (Achietea salutaris)— Called
    South American Ginseng. Used as tonic and to relieve the symptoms of menopause.
     

    Want to know more? 
    Try these places:
    By Brazzil Magazine

    The purpose of this note is twofold. First, I would like to congratulate
    you for your May article about the economic force that businesses in Brazil
    have found in the gay community in Rio. It is nice to see that the trend
    present in the U.S. is also taking place in Brazil. Now, in your June issue,
    Adelaide B. Davis’s “Os Alegres Rapazes da Banda” (The Boys in the Band)
    brought us another look at this very complex subject of homosexuality.
    This time it was in the form of an extraordinary piece of fiction.

    What was so fascinating about her story was the simple and non-sensationalistic
    approach to the narrative. Furthermore, the human side of the story was
    outstanding. While reading her short story, I found myself identifying
    with the main character in many situations. The accuracy of this fictional
    piece was impressive and many times similar to the reality I lived when
    I was still in Brazil. Short stories like this, other literary articles
    (such as the one about Clarice Lispector), and your music columns make
    Brazzil a great source of information.

    I am sorry, however, that I cannot say the same about your Rapidinhas.
    The contents in that section are despicable. I am Brazilian and realize
    that what you present in that column does appear in the Brazilian media,
    but it is not in a publication of the caliber that Brazzil can be.
    With the public you reach, you are doing Brazil a disfavor and perpetuating
    a bad stereotype. The tone of the articles and the photos associated with
    them are generally far from what the respectable press publishes in Brazil.
    If you want to continue with your Rapidinhas the way they have been, you
    might as well get the financial benefit of also advertising those 900 numbers
    found in sex magazines. You will, however, continue to lose a lot of your
    readership.


    Egídio Leitão 

    egidio@mail.utexas.edu 

    Austin, Texas


     

    Thought You 

    Were Serious

    For your knowledge, Brazil is not the only country on earth where we see
    scandals. The USA is full of them, with the President being a part of a
    big one. The language used in this publication shows only prejudice an
    lack of information. Too bad. I thought at first that this was a serious
    journalistic publication. What a shame…



    Paula F.

    Brasília, DF, Brazil


     

    Indecency 

    Antidote

    Find attached a very good and positive article about Caetano Veloso published
    by the Los Angeles Times. Now you don’t have any excuses for presenting
    indecent and pornographic materials.


    Evie Blount 

    Huntington Beach, California


     

    For Beauty’s Sake
    Thanks for your fine publication! I read every word in each issue. Please
    don’t let the small-minded suppressors of free speech (like the Consul
    who won’t distribute your magazine because she doesn’t like the content)
    inhibit you from publishing interesting and provocative articles and photographs.
    The human body is not a shameful thing. It is a gift of God to be appreciated,
    admired and respected. An occasional sensual photograph in your publication
    adds a touch of beauty and fantasy to an otherwise serious publication.
    (A male nude would be nice too now and then!)

    I wish to add a bit to May’s article on homosexuality in Brazil. It
    was my friend and co-minister, Onaldo Alves Pereira, who performed the
    wedding of Luís Mott to his partner. Rev. Pereira is not Catholic,
    but was a minister in the Church of the Brethren (an historic peace church
    with about 150,000 members in the U.S.). Soon after performing the wedding,
    Rev. Pereira lost his credentials in the Church of the Brethren, but he
    continues to pastor the Comunidade Pacifista Cristã in Brazil.

    The Comunidade is a church which does not discriminate based on sexual
    orientation and which celebrates the commitment and love two adults of
    any gender share with each other. Rev. Pereira and I cofounded the Comunidade
    in 1987 and it has, in spite of church burnings and threats of violence,
    continued to offer a voice of hope, peace and love to oppressed people
    throughout Brazil. Rev. Pereira is a gentle but prophetic voice who should
    be honored for his participation in the struggle to ensure equality for
    all Brazilians.



    Steve Newcomer 

    West Hollywood, CA

    Pleasing a Friend
    I have enjoyed Brazzil magazine for some time now. I have also attended
    a few of the nightclubs and cultural affairs that were advertised or listed
    in the magazine. I’ve shown several issues to a friend. He likes Brazzil
    so much, he gets excited when we talk about articles he has enjoyed,
    and things Brazil. He reads Brazzil from cover to cover. My wife
    and I would like for him to have a gift subscription. Enclosed is a money
    order for a two-year subscription.

    P.S.: It would be great to read articles about samba schools, in particular,
    and in general. Perhaps, if enough info on the makeup of a samba school
    was related in articles in Brazzil, it might spark those who know
    little about samba schools, like myself, to join a local group or start
    one in their community. Information is not only power, but most encouraging.
    Thank you and keep looking up.



    Bill Randolph 

    Alhambra, California


     

    Giant Task
    Please renew my subscription for the next couple of years. My copy has
    started to arrive almost midway through the month now. Can you mail it
    a little earlier please. Not being Brazilian nor having been to Brazil,
    one of the things I appreciate about Brazzil is the variety of opinions,
    viewpoints, and the dialogue that seems to get generated around the various
    topics you cover and how you cover them. It must be a monumental task to
    try to decide what to present each month on a country as large and diverse
    as Brazil is.



    Cheryl Harrison 

    Seattle, Washington


     

    Just the Best
    I just saw Brazzil for the first time and I think it is very good!
    I am an ex-journalist (music critic), and current jazz musician and samba
    percussionist married to a Carioca sambista. I’ve read all of the
    Brazilian magazines, newspapers, etc., published on the East Coast, and
    yours is superior to all of them. Congratulations!



    Amy Duncan 

    New York, New York

    Can You Help?
    I read Bruce Gilman’s article on Carlinhos Brown (Brazzil, September
    1996) and I simply loved it. Great writing. I am music critic for the Spanish
    newspaper El Nuevo Herald in Miami. I have been trying to locate
    Mr. Brown for an interview and I was wondering if you have any way to reach
    him. Thank you for any help.



    Eliseo Cardona 

    Miami, Florida

    Fans Exaggerate
    We adore Brazzil. For the quality of its articles, level of information
    and perfect writing. The Brazilian community feels honored to have Brazzil.
    Many thanks for giving us this pleasure.



    Rosalia and Scott Ennis 

    North Bay Village, Florida

    And what do 

    you think?

    Send us your E-mail: 

    brazzil@brazzil.com

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