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Coca

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  • Botanical: Erythroxylum coca
  • Family: Erythroxylaceae
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Coca

Botanical

Erythroxylum coca

Family

Erythroxylaceae

Known as

Cuca. Cocaine.

Collection Times

The leaves are gathered three times a year, the first crop in spring, second in June, and third in October; must always be collected in dry weather.

Parts Used

leaves

Medicinal

abdominal pain, anorexia, colic, convulsions, cramps, difficulty breathing, exhaustion, spasm

Heart & Circulation

bleeding

Muscle & Joints

rheumatism

Mind & Nerves

headache, pain relief, stress relief

Respiratory System

asthma, difficulty breathing

Stomach & Intestinal

digestion, ulcers

Skin & Hair

open sores, wounds

Properties

anticonvulsive, anesthetic, aphrodisiac, narcotic, stimulant, tonic

Description

Small shrubby tree 12 to 18 feet high in the wild state and kept down to about 6 feet when cultivated. Grown from seeds and requires moisture and an equable temperature. Starts yielding in eighteen months and often productive over fifty years. There are two varieties in commerce, the Huanuco Coca, or Erythroxylon Coca, which comes from Bolivia and has leaves of a brownish-green colour, oval, entire and glabrous, with a rather bitter taste, and Peruvian Coca, the leaves of which are much smaller and a pale-green colour.

Coca leaves deteriorate very quickly in a damp atmosphere, and for this reason the alkaloid is extracted from the leaves in South America before exportation.

The Coca shrubs of India and Ceylon were originally cultivated from plants sent out there from Kew Gardens and grown from seeds.

Properties & Uses

Nutrition

Raw coca leaves, chewed or consumed as tea or mate de coca, are rich in nutritional properties. Specifically, the coca plant contains essential minerals (calcium, potassium, phosphorus), vitamins (B1, B2, C, and E) and nutrients such as protein and fiber.


Religion

Coca has also been a vital part of the religious cosmology of the Andean peoples of Peru, Bolivia, Ecuador, Colombia, northern Argentina, and Chile from the pre-Inca period through the present. Coca leaves play a crucial part in offerings to the apus (mountains), Inti (the sun), or Pachamama (the earth). Coca leaves are also often read in a form of divination analogous to reading tea leaves in other cultures. As one example of the many traditional beliefs about coca, it is believed by the miners of Cerro de Pasco to soften the veins of ore, if masticated (chewed) and thrown upon them. In addition, coca use in shamanic rituals is well documented wherever local native populations have cultivated the plant. For example, the Tayronas of Colombia's Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta use to chew the plant before engaging in extended meditation and prayer.

Traditional preparation

Traditionally, coca leaves are prepared either to chew or as a tea

Traditional Use

The actions of Coca depend principally on the alkaloid Cocaine, but the whole drug is said to be more stimulating and to have a mild astringency. In Peru and Bolivia the leaves are extensively chewed to relieve hunger and fatigue, though the habit eventually ruins the health. Coca leaves are used as a cerebral and muscle stimulant, especially during convalescence, to relieve nausea, vomiting and pains of the stomach without upsetting the digestion. A tonic in neurasthenia and debilitated conditions. The danger of the formation of the habit, however, far outweighs any value the drug may possess, and use of Coca in any form is attended with grave risks. Cocaine is a general protoplasmic poison, having a special affinity for nervous tissue; it is a powerful local anaesthetic, paralysing the sensory nerve fibres. To obtain local cutaneous anaesthesia the drug is injected hypodermically. Applied to the eye it dilates the pupil and produces complete local anaesthesia. It is a general excitant of the central nervous system and the brain, especially the motor areas producing a sense of exhilaration and an incitement to effort

Cautions

It is addictive;  can cause hallucinations and delusions, restlessness, tremors; convulsions, emaciation, memory loss, sleeplessness, severe agitation, tachycardia, perspiration, elevated blood pressure.

Distribution

Bolivia and Peru; cultivated in Ceylon and Java

Constituents

alkaloid, cocaine, carbohydrate, proteins, calcium, iron, vitamin A, vitamin B2