Discover the 12 shocking health benefits of coca leaf and side effects.
The coca leaf has many health benefits. Coca (Erythroxylum coca and E. novogranatese) is an agricultural plant native to the western side of Latin America.
It is a shrub that can grow up to 2-3 meters tall. The branches are thin with dark-colored leaves. The flowers are small, growing in clusters with short stems.
These flowers would later turn into red berry fruits. The coca tree can easily grow in any tropical area.
Native Americans recognized the health benefits of coca leaves long before Columbus arrived in America.
The indigenous peoples of the Andes around the Andes Mountains (Bolivia, Colombia, Venezuela, Peru) have long recognized the health benefits of coca leaves.
Both men and women use coca leaves. The leaves can be made into tea or chewed. We can find stores that sell coca tea bags in all societies around the Andes mountains.
The coca leaf is a valuable dietary supplement. Several studies analyzed the nutritional characteristics of the coca leaf.
Two notable ones include a 2009 study published in the Food and Nutrition Bulletin (Can coca leaves contribute to improving the nutritional status of the Andean population ? Penny, Zavaleta, et al.) And a Harvard study in 1975 (Nutritional value of the coca leaf, Duke, Aulick, Plowman). They found that for every 100g the leaves contained:
• Carbohydrates (44.3 g)
• Protein (19.9 g)
• Fat (3.3 g)
• Fiber (14.2 g)
• Vitamin A (10,000 – 14,000 IU)
• Vitamin B1 (0.58 – 0.68 mg)
• Vitamin B2 (1.73 mg)
• Vitamin B6 (0.58 mg)
• Vitamin C (1.4 – 53 mg)
• Vitamin D (trace amounts)
• Vitamin E (16.72 mg)
• Calcium (990.18 – 1749 mg)
• Copper (1.1 mg)
• Iron (26.8 – 45.8 mg)
• Magnesium (197 – 225 mg)
• Phosphorus (637 mg)
• Zinc (2.63 – 3.8 mg)
The documented ancient uses of the coca leaf and those discovered by modern science cover a large area of health conditions.
They include the use of the coca leaf as an anesthetic and analgesic to relieve headaches, rheumatism, wounds, and sores, etc.
According to WebMD, people chew coca leaves to relieve hunger and fatigue and to improve physical performance.
Coca extracts are used to stimulate stomach function, cause sedation, and treat asthma, colds, and other ailments.
Coca tea is commonly used for altitude sickness in the Peruvian Andes and other parts of the world.
There have also been reports of the leaves being used as a stimulant for concentration and enhancing cognitive function.
Coca leaves are a rich source of various alkaloids, which can help or harm our health depending on how they are used.
Therefore, it is important to remember that many plants, including the coca leaf, are very powerful medications and therefore must be used with the help of an expert.
It is important not to mix alcohol with the use of the coca plant, or to use it if you are pregnant or breastfeeding.
The most outstanding benefits are:
• Coca leaves act as a mild stimulant that can elevate mood and eliminate fatigue.
• The absorption of the coca alkaloid from its leaves is much longer than the absorption of powdered cocaine from the nose.
• After being swallowed, the coca alkaloid reaches its maximum concentration 2 to 12 hours after consumption. This makes the coca leaves non-addictive.
• The indigenous people drink coca leaf tea (mate de coca) every day because they believe that coca leaves provide them with many health benefits.
• Although coca leaves also contain cocaine, cocaine is mild and not as strong as that used by people addicted to cocaine.
• It also reduces the incidence of cocaine withdrawal syndromes, as alkaloids replace cocaine in the brain.
• Due to the alkaloid contents and non-addictive properties, it is suggested to use coca leaves in narcotic rehabilitation therapy.
• Mountain sickness is often caused by a lack of oxygen in the blood, which often results in shortness of breath, headache, and even death.
• Healthy red blood cells carry oxygen throughout the body.
• One of the health benefits of the coca leaf is rich in iron, which is essential for the production of healthy red blood cells.
• The indigenous people use coca leaves as anesthetics and analgesics, to eliminate headaches, rheumatism, wounds, etc.
• It is also used to eliminate pain during labor and bone therapy fractures.
• Before modern anesthetic drugs were found, coca leaves were used as an anesthetic in the trepanation operation (making a hole in the skull, a tradition of the indigenous people in the Andes).
• The daily intake of foods high in calcium is necessary for healthy bones and teeth and prevents us from having osteoporosis.
• The indigenous people recognize that coca leaves have health benefits by healing broken bones, probably due to the high calcium content and the anesthetic effect.
• Some factories in the Andes region use extracts as ingredients in toothpaste, due to their high calcium content.
• Coca leaves have astringent and vasoconstrictive properties.
• Indigenous people often use mashed coca leaves to stop bleeding from wounds.
• The crushed coca leaves and seeds can be used to stop nosebleeds.
• Women who have just given birth drink coca leaf tea, to reduce pain, prevent uterine bleeding, and as a general tonic.
• Coca leaves have health benefits by curing boils and abscesses.
• The indigenous people place the crushed leaves on the affected area and cover it with bandages to prevent it from falling off.
• To speed up the healing process and eliminate pain, they drink coca tea or chew the leaves as well.
• One of the health benefits of the coca leaf that has been known to indigenous peoples is to cure malaria.
• The astringent and analgesic properties reduce fever, as well as other mineral and vitamin compounds that help kill Plasmodium in the body and accelerate the healing process.
• Until now, people around the Andes Mountains believe that consuming coca tea every day can cure low libido, due to the high content of minerals and vitamins necessary for the reproductive system to function normally.
• In ancient times, couples who could not conceive any child were given a decoction of coca leaves, to improve sexual performance and to be able to conceive early.
• The stimulating effect also helps a lot, it reduces stress, the main problem that causes low libido these days.
• Coca leaves have health benefits by promoting good sleep.
• Like any other narcotic, the coca leaf has a calming effect.
• Minerals and vitamin B help relax muscles.
• However, overuse of coca leaves can make people sleepy and lazy.
• People in the Andes mountains often consume coca tea.
• They believe that drinking coca tea can restore the functions of the body and increase your spirit and energy.
• It makes sense since coca leaves are rich in vitamins and minerals, which contribute to their health benefits.
• Coca leaves are sold in tea bags in almost every convenience store in the Andes mountains.
• In tourist areas, coca tea is served alongside other traditional dishes for tourists.
• Tourists receive information on the health benefits of coca leaves (which they consume as tea) from their tour guides.
• Although most people in the Andes now adopt Catholicism, they still practice traditional rituals.
• The coca leaf has been an important part of the traditional religions of indigenous peoples in the Andes (Peru, Bolivia, Ecuador, Colombia, northern Argentina, and Chile) since pre-Inca times.
• Coca leaves are used as offerings to Apus (mountain), Inti (sun), and Pachamama (land).
• Coca leaves and tea are often used in religious rituals, just like tea in Chinese or Japanese cultures.
• In addition to religious rituals, indigenous people also believe in superstitions about coca leaves.
• Miners in the city of Cerro de Pasco in Peru believe that coca leaves can soften the layers of the mine if the coca leaves are chewed and dumped on the ground.
• Likewise, coca leaves are used in shamanic practices in each region where the indigenous people plant them. For example, the Tayronas tribe in the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, Colombia, is used to chew coca leaves before taking parts in medicines and religious rituals.
Coca has been widely planted for 3,000 years. There is archaeological evidence that the indigenous people had already chewed coca leaves with lemon for 8,000 years. The widespread chewing of coca leaves had its peak in the 6th century of the Moche civilization.
This tradition was still practiced in the Inca civilization, some centuries after Moche, which was represented in a mummy found with coca leaves, pottery with coca chewers, and a metal spatula that represented a bag full of coca leaves that were used to extract alkaloids.
At first, coca leaves were only used on the eastern side of the Andes, the center of the Inca civilization.
The Incas believed that coca plants were God’s plants, therefore, the crops were monopolized by the Emperors, and only the nobles and the bourgeois could use coca.
This happened in the time of the Topa Inca (1471-1493). After the Inca Empire began to decline, coca leaves could be used by common people.
In 2006, the governments of some Latin American countries such as Venezuela, Peru, and Bolivia won the petition to preserve the traditional use of coca and the modern uses of its extracts in household products, such as tea and toothpaste.
However, coca leaves are restricted to adults only in other countries. In Colombia, children are prohibited from consuming coca tea or leaves, as it can cause them to sleep during school hours.
During the Dutch colonization in Indonesia, the Dutch cultivated coca plants, especially on the island of Java, as secondary plants in coffee/tea plantations.
Plants could adapt well in Indonesia, as Indonesia is a tropical country. Coca leaves grown in Java are said to contain higher alkaloids than those grown in Latin America.
However, after Indonesian independence, coca leaves are illegal, therefore it is no longer commercially cultivated in Indonesia.
However, the plants can sometimes be found growing naturally in forests.
Although coca leaves have so many health benefits, we must take precautions of the law in each country on the use.
If we travel to Latin America, especially if we are over 18 years old, we can try to consume coca tea, to experience the health benefits of coca leaves.
Cocaine present in coca leaf is unsafe.
Cocaine is illegal and can result in hyperactivity, restlessness, excitement, migraine headaches, seizures, strokes, heart attacks, aneurysms, high blood pressure, and liver and kidney failure. As little as 1/4 of a teaspoon of cocaine can be deadly. Cocaine is highly addictive.
We can incorporate these wonderful benefits of the coca leaf most often in the form of tea, however chewing the leaves is also a common practice.
When chewed, they produce a warm sensation in the mouth and a pleasant, spicy taste.
In, its natural form, coca does not produce toxicity or dependence. As mentioned above, the coca leaf is native to certain parts of South America, such as Peru, so the best way to take advantage of its unique benefits is to consume it with caution and responsibility.