Scientific name: Erythroxylum Coca
Origin: Highland Amazon Rainforest
Coca is traditionally cultivated in the lower altitudes of the eastern slopes of the Andes (upper jungle regions) of Peru, Chile, Bolivia, Ecuador and Colombia.
It is cultivated in mountainous and humid regions between 300 and 1,500 meters above sea level (1,000 and 5,000 feet).
Coca leaf properties
- Pain reliever
- Soothing and sedating
- Eliminates fatigue
- Improves blood circulation
- Prevents cavities
The Andean people chew dried leaves with a little piece of “llipt’a” (it looks like a small pebble) made of the ashes of plants like quinoa or kiwicha, allowing the effects of the alkaloids to be enhanced. After several minutes, an anesthetic effect is felt in the mouth. The leaves are not eaten, but rather spit out after 30 minutes.
Coca tea, or “mate de coca” is recommended for treating altitude sickness and is offered in all Andean hotels and restaurants.
Today one can find many different coca products, including candies, chocolates, drinks, etc.
Vestiges of coca use have been found as early as 3,000 bc in the Peruvian coast. “Coca” is the name that the Andean Indians gave this plant. It is very common in the Andean inhabitants. The chew the leaves (They call it chacchar or cullicar) to help with thirst, soothe hunger and tiredness.
The virtues of the coca leaf were approved by natural medicine (Monardes 1565, Hipólito Unanue – Lima 1794 Anad 1821, Pablo Mantegazza – Milan 1857 and 1859, Tomas Moreno and Maíz – París 1868, Sir Robert Christison – London 1876, Ulloa, Colunga and Ríos 1888, Golden W. Mortimer – New York 1901)
In 1859 Albert Niemann isolated its principal component and called it “cocaine”. The coca leaf became famous in Europe from an essay by Paolo Mantegazza.
In 1863 the industrialization of the coca leave was begun in France with Mariani wines. In 1884 Sigmund Freud promoted its use and considered it as “the third scourge”. In 1885, the American firm “Parke Davis & Company” distributed it in inhalers and cigarettes.
In 1886 “Coca Cola” was born, offered as a medicinal tonic. Then, important European laboratories commercialized in in a great variety of forms such as menthol pills, cocaine and borax for the throat that were given even to babies.
Composition of the coca leaf
The coca leaf is rich in minerals and vitamins, with high levels of nitrogen, calcium and carotene.
The coca leaves contains 14 natural alkaloids:
Analysis of Duke, Aulik and Plowman, Botanical Museum Leaflets 24 (6) – Harvard University 1975)