Bananas – A Psychedelic Drug?
|Bananas – a
|Uses of the Banana|
|Bananas – the Dark Side|
Until its introduction in 1871 by the Cape Cod sailor, Captain
Lorenzo Baker, the banana was unknown in the United States. By
the turn of the century, Americans were consuming 16 million bunches a year. Today the dollar value of the world banana crop is greater than any other fruit crop in the world.
The latest boon to the industry has been the fitness craze. It seems that bananas are high in potassium, a mineral necessary for the proper functioning of muscles and nerves. Potassium is lost with perspiration and athletes and exercise enthusiasts the world over have taken to the banana as a natural, convenient and easily digestible source of that essential mineral.
The fact that bananas are high in potassium was discovered in 1967 by Federal Food and Drug Administration scientists who at the time were under pressure to find out everything they could about the chemical makeup of the common banana. The history of that research provides a bit of insight into to the era in which it was performed.
The 1960s were years of social and cultural changes. Young people were challenging traditional conventions and established authority. It was a decade of nonconformity, of free love, hippies, political activism and experimentation with marijuana and other psychedelic drugs. A subculture of professors, philosophers, pranksters and artists had developed around a newly discovered drug called LSD-25, and a sizable proportion of the youth of America and Western Europe were “dropping out, turning on and tuning in.”
On March 3, 1967, Marvin Garson wrote a “tongue-in-cheek” article
that was published in the Berkley Barb. According to Garson, you could get high by smoking banana peels. The high was said to be psychedelic like LSD, but pleasant and calming like opium. All that needed to be done was to obtain some bananas and scrape off the stringy white stuff on the inside of the peels. This could be dried out in the sun or in the oven and then smoked like tobacco or marijuana. The best part was that the drug source, the banana, was completely legal and readily available.
News of the new drug experience spread like wildfire, even being reported in mainstream publications like Time and Newsweek. There were reports of banana smoke-ins and of bearded, scruffy
hippies lining up at the fruit section of supermarkets and walking away with large bunches of bananas.
In the past, when the government found out that people could get high on a substance, that substance was made illegal, like marijuana in the 1930s and LSD in 1966.
But what about bananas? Could you make them illegal? Banana companies were political sacred cows. You didn’t mess with them; they were too powerful. Jocobo Arbenz, the popularly elected president of Guatemala, found this out when he had the audacity
to oppose the interests of the United Fruit Company in 1954. Arbenz was subsequently driven from office by a military coup
instigated and supported by the CIA.
Once again United Fruit acted to protect their interests. The
Food and Drug Administration was instructed to launch an investigation of the banana to find out whether or not it possessed hallucinogenic properties. The result of the study was that there were indeed certain psychoactive chemicals in banana peels, but not nearly enough to produce a high. It was also discovered that bananas possessed fair amounts of vitamins C, B2, B6 and A and that they were excellent sources of potassium and fiber.
Bananas were declared safe to eat and regained their respectability.
Furthermore, they were now recommended as a means for sweating athletes to maintain a proper electrolyte balance. And as far as any subversive, pleasure-seeking hippies were concerned, they would just have to go back to smoking their illicit marijuana and suffer the consequences if they were caught doing so.
How to Smoke a Banana
Way back in to 1960’s a lot of young people were just discovering drugs, and were experimenting with anything they could find lying about to smoke to get a HIGH.. In 1966 LSD-25 was banned right across America and the masses were unhappy.
The great banana hoax took root in March 3, 1967 when someone wrote to a Hippie paper in Berkeley, California called the Berkley Barb. They claimed that they smoked a banana peel and got high.
The paper ran an article on it and explained that a new psychedelic had been discovered, one that anyone could lay their hands on, since the only ingredient was dried banana peels.
The method of smoking banana peel was as follows:
1. Peel the banana.
2. Scrape off the inner proportion (the white stuff on the inside).
3. Dry it out in the oven.
4. Roll into joint and smoke.
5. Get high and roll about.
It was claimed that the high you got was comparable to opium, with some nice psilocybin shadings. The news spread like wildfire, all the other hippie papers repeated the story. Soon the banana story was national, even Time & Newsweek wrote about it. Hippies and students were having banana smoke ins, grocery stores were inundated with scruffy hippies buying crates of bananas. Were bananas going to be banned as well? A congressman from one of the states jokingly introduced two new acts to Congress: the Banana Labeling Act of 1967 and the Banana and Other Odd Fruits Disclosure and reporting Act of 1967. But not everyone was laughing. United Fruit was very pissed and were asking officials to find out if bananas were really hallucinogenic, a question that the Food & Drug Administration also wanted answered. Scientists got to work on the banana question and found that there are chemicals in the banana peels called serotonin and norepinephrine that are related to hallucinogens such as LSD, but not enough to get you high. It was also found that bananas are a good source of potassium and fibre. All the people who have smoked banana peels say it doesn’t get them high and only gave them a headache. The banana hoax had been started because you couldn’t make bananas illegal. The only trip you can take with a banana is when you slip on the peel.