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5.2.3 The European Reception of the First Drugs from the New World
This is an article that highlights the items from the Americas that Europeans were interested in obtaining and learning more about. What specific items do the explorers mention that they found? Why would the monarchs, Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand, send a physician, or doctor, with the crew on the second voyage? How does the description in this article provide evidence to help you answer the question, Why did Europeans explore?
This academic article allows students to see that one of the primary purposes for exploration was to obtain the rich natural resources found in foreign lands. Columbus searched for a route that Europe could access and control to gain the natural resources of Asia. Although Columbus and his crew reached the Americas, the goal of identifying spices and other natural resources remained. Be sure to have students collect evidence from this excerpt that helps them describe the economic motivations of explorers.
In 1493, Ferdinand and Isabella sent a royal physician, Diego Alvarez Chanca, with Columbus’s second voyage to the New World. Early in 1494 Chanca reported that he had seen several drugs that Columbus had found a year and a half earlier — nutmeg, gingers, aloes, cinnamon, myrobalans and mastic … Some of Columbus’s men witnessed the use of two other plants that would later have major impacts on the world’s pharmacological economy. On 6 November 1492, a detachment on Hispaniola saw Indians who had “herbs to drink the smoke thereof,” in the form of cigars. And on 17 February 1503, during the fourth voyage of exploration, several Spaniards saw Panamanians who “never stopped chewing a certain dry herb which they stuck in their mouths ...This seemed a very nasty habit.” This was probably the first report of coca to reach Europe.