Coca – Inca Power!

Dried coca leaves in clay bowl with fresh coca tea (mate de coca). Cusco, Peru

A stimulant with health benefits, coca has been an Andean favourite right back into pre-history and is another purported ‘Food of the Gods’.

Even today coca (Erythroxylum novogranatense) is a staple food of people in the Andes mountains and held as a sacred crop by the indigenous and mestizo inhabitants of Peru, Bolvia and other South American countries. Campensino farmers use it for its energy giving properties and tourists to combat altitude sickness.

Evidence dates the communal chewing of coca with lime 8000 years back.   




Coca, Cocaine and the other Alkaloids

Besides cocaine, the coca leaf contains a number of other alkaloids, including; 

  • Methylecgonine cinnamate
  • Benzoylecgonine
  • Truxilline
  • Hydroxytropacocain
  • Teropacocaine
  • Ecgonine
  • Cuscohygrine
  • Dihydrocuscohygrine
  • Nicotine
  • Hygrine

When chewed, coca acts as a mild stimulant and suppresses hunger, thirst, pain, and fatigue. Absorption of coca from the leaf is less rapid than nasal application of purified forms of the alkaloid (almost all of the coca alkaloid is absorbed within 20 minutes of nasal application, while it takes 2–12 hours after ingestion of the raw leaf for alkaline concentrations to peak). When the raw leaf is consumed in tea, between 59 and 90% of the coca alkaloid is absorbed.

Andean peasants eat coca as a staple part of their diets. It is regarded as a sacred food

Coca addiction?

The coca leaf when consumed in its natural form does not induce a physiological or psychological dependence, nor does abstinence after long-term use produce symptoms typical to substance addiction.

Due to its alkaloid content and non-addictive properties, coca has been suggested as a method to help recovering cocaine addicts to wean off the drug.

Coca Leaves, Cusco, Peru

Medical Uses of Coca

A seeming cure all for a variety of issues as varied as birth pains, altitude sickness and fatigue. The uses of these magic little leaves are startling.

Traditional medical uses of coca are foremost as a stimulant to overcome fatigue, hunger, and thirst. It is considered particularly effective against altitude sickness. It also is used as an anesthetic and analgesic to alleviate the pain of headache, rheumatism, wounds and sores, etc.

Before stronger anesthetics were available, it also was used for broken bones, childbirth, and during trepanning operations on the skull. The high calcium content in coca explains why people used it for bone fractures.

Because coca constricts blood vessels, it also serves to oppose bleeding, and coca seeds were used for nosebleeds. Indigenous use of coca has also been reported as a treatment formalaria, ulcers, asthma, to improve digestion, to guard against bowel laxity, as an aphrodisiac, and credited with improving longevity. Modern studies have supported a number of these medical applications.

The Coca leaf is highly nutritious. For instance, 100 grams of coca leaf supplies more than the US recommended daily intake of calcium, phosphorus, iron, and vitamins A, B2, and E. Some doctors believe coca and other psychoactive plants may play a role in helping the brain function properly, particularly when used during times of poor nutrition and in stressful environments.

According to a study published by Harvard University in 1975 (Duke, J., D. Aulik and T. Plowman, Nutritional Value of Coca), chewing 100 grams of coca is enough to satisfy the nutritional needs of an adult for 24 hours. Thanks to the calcium, proteins, vitamins A and E, and other nutrients it contains, the plant offers even better possibilities to the field of human nutrition than it does to that of medicine, where it is commonly used today.

per 100 g= Organic acids: 3.2mg; Carbohydrates: 46.2g; Fibre: 14.2g; Fat: 3.3g;Moisture: 7.2g


Coca Ceremonies in the Sacred Valley, Cusco, Peru

Munay Medicine hold coca ceremonies at our high class retreat centre in the Sacred Valley, near Cusco, Peru.  Please visit our retreat pages or contact us for more information.

10 Day Ayahuasca & San Pedro Retreat