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Coca

Coca

Overview
Coca, Erythroxylum coca, is a plant in the family
Family (biology)
In biological classification, family is* a taxonomic rank. Other well-known ranks are life, domain, kingdom, phylum, class, order, genus, and species, with family fitting between order and genus. As for the other well-known ranks, there is the option of an immediately lower rank, indicated by the...

 Erythroxylaceae
Erythroxylaceae
The Erythroxylaceae is a family of flowering plants consisting of 4 genera and approximately 240 species. The best-known species is the coca plant , the source of the drug cocaine....

, native to western South America. The plant plays a significant role in many traditional Andean culture
Andean culture
Andean culture is a collective term used to refer to the indigenous cultures of the Andes mountains especially those that came under the influence of the Inca empire...

s (see the Traditional uses section). Coca is best known throughout the world because of its alkaloid
Alkaloid
Alkaloids are a group of naturally occurring chemical compounds that contain mostly basic nitrogen atoms. This group also includes some related compounds with neutral and even weakly acidic properties. Also some synthetic compounds of similar structure are attributed to alkaloids...

s, which include cocaine
Cocaine
Cocaine is a crystalline tropane alkaloid that is obtained from the leaves of the coca plant. The name comes from "coca" in addition to the alkaloid suffix -ine, forming cocaine. It is a stimulant of the central nervous system, an appetite suppressant, and a topical anesthetic...

, a powerful stimulant
Stimulant
Stimulants are psychoactive drugs which induce temporary improvements in either mental or physical function or both. Examples of these kinds of effects may include enhanced alertness, wakefulness, and locomotion, among others...

.

The Erythroxylum coca plant resembles a blackthorn bush
Blackthorn
Prunus spinosa is a species of Prunus native to Europe, western Asia, and locally in northwest Africa. It is also locally naturalised in New Zealand and eastern North America....

, and grows to a height of 2–3 m (7–10 ft). The branches are straight, and the leaves, which have a green tint, are thin, opaque, oval, and taper at the extremities.
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Encyclopedia
Coca, Erythroxylum coca, is a plant in the family
Family (biology)
In biological classification, family is* a taxonomic rank. Other well-known ranks are life, domain, kingdom, phylum, class, order, genus, and species, with family fitting between order and genus. As for the other well-known ranks, there is the option of an immediately lower rank, indicated by the...

 Erythroxylaceae
Erythroxylaceae
The Erythroxylaceae is a family of flowering plants consisting of 4 genera and approximately 240 species. The best-known species is the coca plant , the source of the drug cocaine....

, native to western South America. The plant plays a significant role in many traditional Andean culture
Andean culture
Andean culture is a collective term used to refer to the indigenous cultures of the Andes mountains especially those that came under the influence of the Inca empire...

s (see the Traditional uses section). Coca is best known throughout the world because of its alkaloid
Alkaloid
Alkaloids are a group of naturally occurring chemical compounds that contain mostly basic nitrogen atoms. This group also includes some related compounds with neutral and even weakly acidic properties. Also some synthetic compounds of similar structure are attributed to alkaloids...

s, which include cocaine
Cocaine
Cocaine is a crystalline tropane alkaloid that is obtained from the leaves of the coca plant. The name comes from "coca" in addition to the alkaloid suffix -ine, forming cocaine. It is a stimulant of the central nervous system, an appetite suppressant, and a topical anesthetic...

, a powerful stimulant
Stimulant
Stimulants are psychoactive drugs which induce temporary improvements in either mental or physical function or both. Examples of these kinds of effects may include enhanced alertness, wakefulness, and locomotion, among others...

.

Description


The Erythroxylum coca plant resembles a blackthorn bush
Blackthorn
Prunus spinosa is a species of Prunus native to Europe, western Asia, and locally in northwest Africa. It is also locally naturalised in New Zealand and eastern North America....

, and grows to a height of 2–3 m (7–10 ft). The branches are straight, and the leaves, which have a green tint, are thin, opaque, oval, and taper at the extremities. A marked characteristic of the leaf is an areolated portion bounded by two longitudinal curved lines, one line on each side of the midrib, and more conspicuous on the under face of the leaf.

The flowers are small, and disposed in little clusters on short stalks; the corolla is composed of five yellowish-white petal
Petal
Petals are modified leaves that surround the reproductive parts of flowers. They often are brightly colored or unusually shaped to attract pollinators. Together, all of the petals of a flower are called a corolla. Petals are usually accompanied by another set of special leaves called sepals lying...

s, the anthers are heart-shaped, and the pistil consists of three carpels united to form a three-chambered ovary. The flowers mature into red berries
Berry
The botanical definition of a berry is a fleshy fruit produced from a single ovary. Grapes are an example. The berry is the most common type of fleshy fruit in which the entire ovary wall ripens into an edible pericarp. They may have one or more carpels with a thin covering and fleshy interiors....

.

The leaves are sometimes eaten by the larva
Larva
A larva is a distinct juvenile form many animals undergo before metamorphosis into adults. Animals with indirect development such as insects, amphibians, or cnidarians typically have a larval phase of their life cycle...

e of the moth
Moth
A moth is an insect closely related to the butterfly, both being of the order Lepidoptera. Moths form the majority of this order; there are thought to be 150,000 to 250,000 different species of moth , with thousands of species yet to be described...

 Eloria noyesi
Eloria noyesi
Eloria noyesi is a beige moth whose larva feasts on coca plants. It is found mostly in Peru and Colombia. The government of Colombia has proposed a plan to release large numbers of these moths to destroy the coca crops in their country.-External links:...

.

Species and classification


There are twelve main species and varieties. Two subspecies, Erythroxylum coca var. coca and Erythroxylum coca var. ipadu, are almost indistinguishable phenotypically; a related high cocaine-bearing species has two subspecies, Erythroxylum novogranatense
Erythroxylum novogranatense
Erythroxylum novogranatense, from Latin: novo = new, granatense = Granada, named by William Turner Thiselton-Dyer, the third director of Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, because its country of origin was the Spanish colonial Viceroyalty of New Granada—present day Colombia. It is a neotropical species of...

var. novogranatense and Erythroxylum novogranatense
Erythroxylum novogranatense
Erythroxylum novogranatense, from Latin: novo = new, granatense = Granada, named by William Turner Thiselton-Dyer, the third director of Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, because its country of origin was the Spanish colonial Viceroyalty of New Granada—present day Colombia. It is a neotropical species of...

var. truxillense that are phenotypically similar, but morphologically distinguishable. Under the older Cronquist system
Cronquist system
The Cronquist system is a taxonomic classification system of flowering plants. It was developed by Arthur Cronquist in his texts An Integrated System of Classification of Flowering Plants and The Evolution and Classification of Flowering Plants .Cronquist's system places flowering plants into two...

 of classifying flowering plant
Flowering plant
The flowering plants , also known as Angiospermae or Magnoliophyta, are the most diverse group of land plants. Angiosperms are seed-producing plants like the gymnosperms and can be distinguished from the gymnosperms by a series of synapomorphies...

s, this was placed in an order
Order (biology)
In scientific classification used in biology, the order is# a taxonomic rank used in the classification of organisms. Other well-known ranks are life, domain, kingdom, phylum, class, family, genus, and species, with order fitting in between class and family...

 Linales
Linales
Linales is a botanical name of an order of flowering plants. The Cronquist system used this name for an order placed in subclass Rosidae with the following circumscription :* order Linales*: family Erythroxylaceae...

; more modern systems place it in the order Malpighiales
Malpighiales
Malpighiales is one of the largest orders of flowering plants, containing about 16000 species, approximately 7.8% of the eudicots. The order is very diverse and hard to recognize except with molecular phylogenetic evidence. It is not part of any of the classification systems that are based only on...

.

Cultivation


Coca is traditionally cultivated
Agriculture
Agriculture is the cultivation of animals, plants, fungi and other life forms for food, fiber, and other products used to sustain life. Agriculture was the key implement in the rise of sedentary human civilization, whereby farming of domesticated species created food surpluses that nurtured the...

 in the lower altitudes of the eastern slopes of the Andes
Andes
The Andes is the world's longest continental mountain range. It is a continual range of highlands along the western coast of South America. This range is about long, about to wide , and of an average height of about .Along its length, the Andes is split into several ranges, which are separated...

 (the Yungas
Yungas
The Yungas is a stretch of forest along the eastern slope of the Andes Mountains from southeastern Peru through central Bolivia. It is a transitional zone between the Andean highlands and the eastern forests. Like the surrounding areas, it has characteristics of the Neotropic ecozone...

), or the highlands depending on the species grown. Since ancient times, its leaves have been an important trade commodity between the lowlands where it is grown and the higher altitudes where it is widely consumed by the Andean peoples of Bolivia
Bolivia
Bolivia officially known as Plurinational State of Bolivia , is a landlocked country in central South America. It is the poorest country in South America...

, Colombia
Colombia
Colombia, officially the Republic of Colombia , is a unitary constitutional republic comprising thirty-two departments. The country is located in northwestern South America, bordered to the east by Venezuela and Brazil; to the south by Ecuador and Peru; to the north by the Caribbean Sea; to the...

, Ecuador
Ecuador
Ecuador , officially the Republic of Ecuador is a representative democratic republic in South America, bordered by Colombia on the north, Peru on the east and south, and by the Pacific Ocean to the west. It is one of only two countries in South America, along with Chile, that do not have a border...

, Venezuela
Venezuela
Venezuela , officially called the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela , is a tropical country on the northern coast of South America. It borders Colombia to the west, Guyana to the east, and Brazil to the south...

, Peru
Peru
Peru , officially the Republic of Peru , is a country in western South America. It is bordered on the north by Ecuador and Colombia, on the east by Brazil, on the southeast by Bolivia, on the south by Chile, and on the west by the Pacific Ocean....

 and northwestern Argentina
Argentina
Argentina , officially the Argentine Republic , is the second largest country in South America by land area, after Brazil. It is constituted as a federation of 23 provinces and an autonomous city, Buenos Aires...

.

Fresh samples of the dried leaves are uncurled, are of a deep green on the upper, and a grey-green on the lower surface, and have a strong tea-like odor. When chewed, they produce a pleasurable numbness in the mouth, and have a pleasant, pungent
Piquance
Piquance is a sensation associated with the sense of taste. In various Asian countries it has traditionally been considered a basic taste.-Etymology:...

 taste. They are traditionally chewed with lime
Lime (mineral)
Lime is a general term for calcium-containing inorganic materials, in which carbonates, oxides and hydroxides predominate. Strictly speaking, lime is calcium oxide or calcium hydroxide. It is also the name for a single mineral of the CaO composition, occurring very rarely...

 to increase the release of the active ingredients from the leaf. Older species have a camphor
Camphor
Camphor is a waxy, white or transparent solid with a strong, aromatic odor. It is a terpenoid with the chemical formula C10H16O. It is found in wood of the camphor laurel , a large evergreen tree found in Asia and also of Dryobalanops aromatica, a giant of the Bornean forests...

aceous smell and a brownish color, and lack the pungent taste.

The seed
Seed
A seed is a small embryonic plant enclosed in a covering called the seed coat, usually with some stored food. It is the product of the ripened ovule of gymnosperm and angiosperm plants which occurs after fertilization and some growth within the mother plant...

s are sown from December to January in small plots (almacigas) sheltered from the sun, and the young plants when at 40–60 cm in height are placed in final planting holes (aspi), or if the ground is level, in furrows (uachos) in carefully weed
Weed
A weed in a general sense is a plant that is considered by the user of the term to be a nuisance, and normally applied to unwanted plants in human-controlled settings, especially farm fields and gardens, but also lawns, parks, woods, and other areas. More specifically, the term is often used to...

ed soil. The plants thrive best in hot, damp and humid locations, such as the clearings of forests; but the leaves most preferred are obtained in drier areas, on the hillsides. The leaves are gathered from plants varying in age from one and a half to upwards of forty years, but only the new fresh growth is harvested. They are considered ready for plucking when they break on being bent. The first and most abundant harvest is in March after the rainy season, the second is at the end of June, and the third in October or November. The green leaves (matu) are spread in thin layers on coarse wool
Wool
Wool is the textile fiber obtained from sheep and certain other animals, including cashmere from goats, mohair from goats, qiviut from muskoxen, vicuña, alpaca, camel from animals in the camel family, and angora from rabbits....

len cloths and dried in the sun; they are then packed in sacks, which must be kept dry in order to preserve the quality of the leaves.

Pharmacological aspects



The pharmacologically
Pharmacology
Pharmacology is the branch of medicine and biology concerned with the study of drug action. More specifically, it is the study of the interactions that occur between a living organism and chemicals that affect normal or abnormal biochemical function...

 active ingredient of coca is the alkaloid cocaine, which is found in the amount of about 0.3 to 1.5%, averaging 0.8%, in fresh leaves. Besides cocaine, the coca leaf contains a number of other alkaloids, including methylecgonine cinnamate
Methylecgonine cinnamate
Methylecgonine cinnamate is a natural tropane alkaloid found within the Erythroxylum coca plant. Its more common name, cinnamoylcocaine, reflects its close structural similarity to cocaine. It is said to be pharmacologically inactive.-See also:*Cocaine...

, benzoylecgonine
Benzoylecgonine
Benzoylecgonine is a topical analgesic and the main metabolite of cocaine.-History:Benzoylecgonine is used as the main pharmaceutical ingredient in the prescription drug Esterom, a topical solution used for the relief of muscle pain....

, truxilline, hydroxytropacocaine
Hydroxytropacocaine
Hydroxytropacocaine is a tropane alkaloid found in Erythroxylum coca....

, tropacocaine
Tropacocaine
Tropacocaine is a cocaine related alkaloid....

, ecgonine
Ecgonine
Ecgonine is an organic chemical and tropane alkaloid found naturally in coca leaves. It has a close structural relation to cocaine: it is both a metabolite and a precursor, and as such, it is a controlled substance, as are all known substances which can be used as precursors to ecgonine...

, cuscohygrine
Cuscohygrine
Cuscohygrine is a pyrrolidine alkaloid found in coca. It can be extracted from plants of the family Solanaceae as well, including Atropa belladonna , Datura inoxia and Datura stramonium...

, dihydrocuscohygrine, nicotine
Nicotine
Nicotine is an alkaloid found in the nightshade family of plants that constitutes approximately 0.6–3.0% of the dry weight of tobacco, with biosynthesis taking place in the roots and accumulation occurring in the leaves...

 and hygrine
Hygrine
Hygrine is a pyrrolidine alkaloid, found mainly in coca leaves . It was first isolated by Carl Liebermann in 1889 as an alkaloid accompanying cocaine in coca. Hygrine is extracted as a thick yellow oil, having a pungent taste and odor....

. When chewed, coca acts as a mild stimulant and suppresses hunger, thirst, pain, and fatigue.

Absorption of cocaine
Cocaine
Cocaine is a crystalline tropane alkaloid that is obtained from the leaves of the coca plant. The name comes from "coca" in addition to the alkaloid suffix -ine, forming cocaine. It is a stimulant of the central nervous system, an appetite suppressant, and a topical anesthetic...

 from the leaf is much less rapid and efficient than from the purified forms of cocaine
Cocaine
Cocaine is a crystalline tropane alkaloid that is obtained from the leaves of the coca plant. The name comes from "coca" in addition to the alkaloid suffix -ine, forming cocaine. It is a stimulant of the central nervous system, an appetite suppressant, and a topical anesthetic...

, and it does not cause the euphoric and psychoactive effects associated with use of the drug. Some proponents have claimed that cocaine itself is not an active ingredient when unprocessed coca leaf is chewed or brewed as an infusion. However, studies have shown that small but measurable amounts of cocaine are present in the bloodstream after consumption of coca tea. Addiction or other deleterious effects from the consumption of the leaf in its natural form have not been documented.

History



Traces of coca have been found in mummies dating 3000 years back. Other evidence dates the communal chewing of coca with lime 8000 years back. Extensive archaeological evidence for the chewing of coca leaves dates back at least to the sixth century A.D. Moche
Moche
'The Moche civilization flourished in northern Peru from about 100 AD to 800 AD, during the Regional Development Epoch. While this issue is the subject of some debate, many scholars contend that the Moche were not politically organized as a monolithic empire or state...

 period, and the subsequent Inca period, based on mummies found with a supply of coca leaves, pottery depicting the characteristic cheek bulge of a coca chewer, spatulas for extracting alkali and figured bags for coca leaves and lime made from precious metals, and gold representations of coca in special gardens of the Inca in Cuzco

Coca chewing may originally have been limited to the eastern Andes before its introduction to the Incas. As the plant was viewed as having a divine origin, its cultivation became subject to a state monopoly and its use restricted to nobles and a few favored classes (court orators, couriers, favored public workers, and the army) by the rule of the Topa Inca (1471–1493). As the Incan empire declined, the leaf became more widely available. After some deliberation, Philip II of Spain
Philip II of Spain
Philip II was King of Spain, Portugal, Naples, Sicily, and, while married to Mary I, King of England and Ireland. He was lord of the Seventeen Provinces from 1556 until 1581, holding various titles for the individual territories such as duke or count....

 issued a decree recognizing the drug as essential to the well-being of the Andean Indians but urging missionaries to end its religious use. The Spanish are believed to have effectively encouraged use of coca by an increasing majority of the population to increase their labor output and tolerance for starvation, but it is not clear that this was planned deliberately.

Coca was first introduced to Europe in the 16th century, but did not become popular until the mid-19th century, with the publication of an influential paper by Dr. Paolo Mantegazza
Paolo Mantegazza
Paolo Mantegazza was a prominent Italian neurologist, physiologist and anthropologist, noted for his experimental investigation of coca leaves into its effects on the human psyche. He was also an author of fiction.-Life:...

 praising its stimulating effects on cognition. This led to invention of cocawine
Cocawine
Coca wine is an alcoholic beverage combining wine with cocaine. One popular brand was Vin Mariani, developed in 1863 by Corsican entrepreneur Angelo Mariani.-Related beverages:...

 and the first production of pure cocaine. Cocawine
Cocawine
Coca wine is an alcoholic beverage combining wine with cocaine. One popular brand was Vin Mariani, developed in 1863 by Corsican entrepreneur Angelo Mariani.-Related beverages:...

 (of which Vin Mariani
Vin Mariani
Vin Mariani was a tonic and patent medicine created circa 1863 by Angelo Mariani, a French chemist who became intrigued with coca and its economic potential after reading Paolo Mantegazza’s paper on coca's effects...

 was the best-known brand) and other coca-containing preparations were widely sold as patent medicines and tonics, with claims of a wide variety of health benefits. The original version of Coca-cola
Coca-Cola
Coca-Cola is a carbonated soft drink sold in stores, restaurants, and vending machines in more than 200 countries. It is produced by The Coca-Cola Company of Atlanta, Georgia, and is often referred to simply as Coke...

 was among these. These products became illegal in most countries outside of South America in the early 20th century, after the addictive nature of cocaine was widely recognized. In 1859, Albert Niemann
Albert Niemann (chemist)
Albert Friedrich Emil Niemann was a German chemist. In 1859 - about the same time as Paolo Mantegazza - he isolated cocaine, and he published his finding in 1860.-Life:...

 of the University of Göttingen became the first person to isolate the chief alkaloid of coca, which he named "cocaine".

In the early twentieth century the Dutch colony of Java
Java
Java is an island of Indonesia. With a population of 135 million , it is the world's most populous island, and one of the most densely populated regions in the world. It is home to 60% of Indonesia's population. The Indonesian capital city, Jakarta, is in west Java...

 became a leading exporter of coca leaf. By 1912 shipments to Amsterdam, where the leaves were processed into cocaine, reached 1 million kg, overtaking the Peruvian export market. Apart from the years of the First World War, Java remained a greater exporter of coca than Peru until the end of the 1920s. Other colonial powers also tried to grow coca (including the British in India), but with the exception of the Japanese in Formosa
Formosa
Formosa or Ilha Formosa is a Portuguese historical name for Taiwan , literally meaning, "Beautiful Island". The term may also refer to:-Places:* Formosa Strait, another name for the Taiwan Strait...

, these were relatively unsuccessful.

In recent times (2006), the governments of several South American countries, such as Peru, Bolivia and Venezuela, have defended and championed the traditional use of coca, as well as the modern uses of the leaf and its extracts in household products such as teas, toothpaste and condoms. (see industrial use below)

Medicine


Traditional medical uses of coca are foremost as a stimulant to overcome fatigue, hunger, and thirst. It is considered particularly effective against altitude sickness
Altitude sickness
Altitude sickness—also known as acute mountain sickness , altitude illness, hypobaropathy, or soroche—is a pathological effect of high altitude on humans, caused by acute exposure to low partial pressure of oxygen at high altitude...

. It also is used as an anesthetic to alleviate the pain of headache, rheumatism
Rheumatism
Rheumatism or rheumatic disorder is a non-specific term for medical problems affecting the joints and connective tissue. The study of, and therapeutic interventions in, such disorders is called rheumatology.-Terminology:...

, wounds and sores, etc. Before stronger anaesthetics were available, it also was used for broken bones, childbirth, and during trephining operations on the skull. 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 for malaria
Malaria
Malaria is a mosquito-borne infectious disease of humans and other animals caused by eukaryotic protists of the genus Plasmodium. The disease results from the multiplication of Plasmodium parasites within red blood cells, causing symptoms that typically include fever and headache, in severe cases...

, ulcer
Peptic ulcer
A peptic ulcer, also known as PUD or peptic ulcer disease, is the most common ulcer of an area of the gastrointestinal tract that is usually acidic and thus extremely painful. It is defined as mucosal erosions equal to or greater than 0.5 cm...

s, asthma
Asthma
Asthma is the common chronic inflammatory disease of the airways characterized by variable and recurring symptoms, reversible airflow obstruction, and bronchospasm. Symptoms include wheezing, coughing, chest tightness, and shortness of breath...

, to improve digestion
Digestion
Digestion is the mechanical and chemical breakdown of food into smaller components that are more easily absorbed into a blood stream, for instance. Digestion is a form of catabolism: a breakdown of large food molecules to smaller ones....

, to guard against bowel laxity, as an aphrodisiac
Aphrodisiac
An aphrodisiac is a substance that increases sexual desire. The name comes from Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of sexuality and love. Throughout history, many foods, drinks, and behaviors have had a reputation for making sex more attainable and/or pleasurable...

, and credited with improving longevity
Longevity
The word "longevity" is sometimes used as a synonym for "life expectancy" in demography or known as "long life", especially when it concerns someone or something lasting longer than expected ....

. Modern studies have supported a number of these medical applications.

Religion


Coca has also been a vital part of the religious cosmology of the Andean peoples of Peru, Bolivia, Ecuador, Colombia and northern Argentina and Chile from the pre-Inca period through the present. They follow the making and worship the coca beans when they are ready. Coca leaves play a crucial part in offerings to the apus
Apus
Apus is a faint constellation in the southern sky, first defined in the late 16th century. Its name means "no feet" in Greek, and it represents a bird-of-paradise . It is bordered by Triangulum Australe, Circinus, Musca, Chamaeleon, Octans, Pavo and Ara...

 (mountains), Inti
Inti
According to the Inca mythology, Inti is the sun god, as well a patron deity of the Inca Empire. His exact origin is not known. The most common story says he is the son of Viracocha, the god of civilization.- Worship :...

 (the sun), or Pachamama
Pachamama
Pachamama is a goddess revered by the indigenous people of the Andes. Pachamama is usually translated as Mother Earth, but a more literal translation would be "Mother world"...

 (the earth). Coca leaves are also often read in a form of divination
Divination
Divination is the attempt to gain insight into a question or situation by way of an occultic standardized process or ritual...

 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
Cerro de Pasco
Cerro de Pasco is a city in central Peru. It is the capital of the Pasco region, and an important mining center. It is connected by road and by rail to the city of Lima.- Overview :...

 to soften the veins of ore
Ore
An ore is a type of rock that contains minerals with important elements including metals. The ores are extracted through mining; these are then refined to extract the valuable element....

, if masticated (chewed) and thrown upon them (see also Cocomama).

Traditional preparation


Traditionally, coca leaves are prepared either as a chew or as a tea (mate de coca
Coca tea
Coca tea, also called mate de coca, is a tisane made using the leaves of the coca plant; typically the raw leaves of the plant. It is made either by submerging the coca leaf or dipping a tea bag in hot water...

).

Chew


Bulk bags of coca leaves are sold in local markets and by street vendors. The activity of chewing coca is called mambear, chacchar or acullicar, borrowed from Quechua
Quechua languages
Quechua is a Native South American language family and dialect cluster spoken primarily in the Andes of South America, derived from an original common ancestor language, Proto-Quechua. It is the most widely spoken language family of the indigenous peoples of the Americas, with a total of probably...

, coquear (northern Argentina), or in Bolivia, picchar, derived from the Aymara language
Aymara language
Aymara is an Aymaran language spoken by the Aymara people of the Andes. It is one of only a handful of Native American languages with over three million speakers. Aymara, along with Quechua and Spanish, is an official language of Peru and Bolivia...

. The Spanish masticar is also frequently used, along with the slang term "bolear," derived from the word "bola" or ball of coca pouched in the cheek while chewing. Typical coca consumption is about two ounces per day, and contemporary methods are believed to be unchanged from ancient times. Coca is kept in a woven pouch (chuspa or huallqui). A few leaves are chosen to form a quid (acullico) held between the mouth and gums. Doing so may cause a tingling and numbing sensation in their mouths. (The common dental anaesthetic Novocaine
Procaine
Procaine is a local anesthetic drug of the amino ester group. It is used primarily to reduce the pain of intramuscular injection of penicillin, and it was also used in dentistry. Owing to the ubiquity of the trade name Novocain, in some regions procaine is referred to generically as novocaine...

 has a similar effect.) Chewing coca leaves is most common in indigenous communities across the central Andean region, particularly in places like the highlands of Colombia, Ecuador, Bolivia and Peru
Peru
Peru , officially the Republic of Peru , is a country in western South America. It is bordered on the north by Ecuador and Colombia, on the east by Brazil, on the southeast by Bolivia, on the south by Chile, and on the west by the Pacific Ocean....

, where the cultivation and consumption of coca is as much a part of the national culture similar to chicha
Chicha
For the musical genre, see Peruvian cumbiaChicha is a term used in some regions of Latin America for several varieties of fermented and non-fermented beverages, rather often to those derived from maize and similar non-alcoholic beverages...

, like wine is to France or beer is to Germany. It also serves as a powerful symbol of indigenous cultural and religious identity, amongst a diversity of indigenous nations throughout South America.

Coca is still chewed in the traditional way, with a tiny quantity of ilucta (a preparation of the ashes of the quinoa
Quinoa
Quinoa , a species of goosefoot , is a grain-like crop grown primarily for its edible seeds. It is a pseudocereal rather than a true cereal, or grain, as it is not a member of the grass family...

 plant) added to the coca leaves; it softens their astringent
Astringent
An astringent substance is a chemical compound that tends to shrink or constrict body tissues, usually locally after topical medicinal application. The word "astringent" derives from Latin adstringere, meaning "to bind fast"...

 flavor
Flavor
Flavor or flavour is the sensory impression of a food or other substance, and is determined mainly by the chemical senses of taste and smell. The "trigeminal senses", which detect chemical irritants in the mouth and throat as well as temperature and texture, are also very important to the overall...

 and activates the alkaloids. Other names for this basifying substance are llipta in Peru and the Spanish word lejía, lye in English. The consumer carefully uses a wooden stick (formerly often a spatula of precious metal) to transfer an alkaline component into the quid without touching his flesh with the corrosive substance. The alkali component, usually kept in a gourd (ishcupuro or poporo), can be made by burning limestone
Limestone
Limestone is a sedimentary rock composed largely of the minerals calcite and aragonite, which are different crystal forms of calcium carbonate . Many limestones are composed from skeletal fragments of marine organisms such as coral or foraminifera....

 to form unslaked quicklime, burning quinoa
Quinoa
Quinoa , a species of goosefoot , is a grain-like crop grown primarily for its edible seeds. It is a pseudocereal rather than a true cereal, or grain, as it is not a member of the grass family...

 stalks, or the bark from certain trees, and may be called ilipta, tocra or mambe depending on its composition. Many of these materials are salty in flavor, but there are variations. The most common base in the La Paz
La Paz
Nuestra Señora de La Paz is the administrative capital of Bolivia, as well as the departmental capital of the La Paz Department, and the second largest city in the country after Santa Cruz de la Sierra...

 area of Bolivia is a product known as lejía dulce (sweet lye), which is made from quinoa ashes mixed with aniseed and cane sugar, forming a soft black putty with a sweet and pleasing flavor. In some places, baking soda is used under the name bico.

In the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta
Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta
The Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta is an isolated mountain range apart from the Andes chain that runs through Colombia. Reaching an altitude of 5,700 metres above sea level just 42 km from the Caribbean coast, the Sierra Nevada is the world's highest coastal range...

, on the Caribbean
Caribbean
The Caribbean is a crescent-shaped group of islands more than 2,000 miles long separating the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean Sea, to the west and south, from the Atlantic Ocean, to the east and north...

 Coast of Colombia, coca is consumed by the Kogi
Kogi
Kogi or Cogui may be:*Kogi State, Nigeria*the Kogi people, Colombia**the Kogi language...

, Arhuaco and Wiwa
WIWA
WIWA is a radio station broadcasting a Spanish language Christian format. Licensed to St. Cloud, Florida, USA, it serves the greater Orlando area. The station is currently owned by Centro De La Familia Cristiana Inc....

 by using a special device called poporo
Poporo
Poporo is a device used by indigenous cultures in present and pre-Columbian South America for storage of small amounts of lime . It is constituted by two pieces: the receptacle, and the lid which includes a pin that is used to carry the lime to the mouth while chewing coca leaves...

. The poporo is the mark of manhood. It represents the womb and the stick is a phallic symbol. The movements of the stick in the poporo symbolize the sexual act. For a man the poporo is a good companion that means "food", "woman", "memory" and "meditation". It is important to stress that poporo is the symbol of manhood. But it is the woman who gives men their manhood. When the boy is ready to be married, his mother will initiate him in the use of the coca. This act of initiation is carefully supervised by the mama, a traditional priest-teacher-leader.

Tea




Although coca leaf chewing is common only among the indigenous populations, the consumption of coca tea (Mate de coca) is common among all sectors of society in the Andean countries, and is widely held to be beneficial to health, particularly in the high altitudes. Coca leaf is sold packaged into teabags in most grocery stores in the region, and establishments that cater to tourists generally feature coca tea.

Commercial and industrial uses


In the Andes commercially manufactured coca teas, granola bars, cookies, hard candies, etc. are available in most stores and supermarkets, including upscale suburban supermarkets.

Coca is used industrially in the cosmetics and food industries
Industry
Industry refers to the production of an economic good or service within an economy.-Industrial sectors:There are four key industrial economic sectors: the primary sector, largely raw material extraction industries such as mining and farming; the secondary sector, involving refining, construction,...

. A de-cocainized extract of coca leaf is one of the flavoring ingredients in Coca-Cola
Coca-Cola
Coca-Cola is a carbonated soft drink sold in stores, restaurants, and vending machines in more than 200 countries. It is produced by The Coca-Cola Company of Atlanta, Georgia, and is often referred to simply as Coke...

. Before the criminalization of Cocaine
Cocaine
Cocaine is a crystalline tropane alkaloid that is obtained from the leaves of the coca plant. The name comes from "coca" in addition to the alkaloid suffix -ine, forming cocaine. It is a stimulant of the central nervous system, an appetite suppressant, and a topical anesthetic...

, however, the extract was not de-cocainized. Therefore, Coca-Cola
Coca-Cola
Coca-Cola is a carbonated soft drink sold in stores, restaurants, and vending machines in more than 200 countries. It is produced by The Coca-Cola Company of Atlanta, Georgia, and is often referred to simply as Coke...

's original formula did include Cocaine
Cocaine
Cocaine is a crystalline tropane alkaloid that is obtained from the leaves of the coca plant. The name comes from "coca" in addition to the alkaloid suffix -ine, forming cocaine. It is a stimulant of the central nervous system, an appetite suppressant, and a topical anesthetic...



Coca tea
Coca tea
Coca tea, also called mate de coca, is a tisane made using the leaves of the coca plant; typically the raw leaves of the plant. It is made either by submerging the coca leaf or dipping a tea bag in hot water...

 is produced industrially from coca leaves in South America by a number of companies, including Enaco S.A. (National Company of the Coca) a government enterprise in Peru. Coca leaves are also found in a brand of herbal liqueur
Liqueur
A liqueur is an alcoholic beverage that has been flavored with fruit, herbs, nuts, spices, flowers, or cream and bottled with added sugar. Liqueurs are typically quite sweet; they are usually not aged for long but may have resting periods during their production to allow flavors to marry.The...

 called "Agwa de Bolivia" (grown in Bolivia and de-cocainized in Amsterdam), and a natural flavouring ingredient in Red Bull Cola
Red Bull Cola
Red Bull Cola is a beverage from Red Bull GmbH, makers of the energy drink Red Bull. The cola, which contains natural flavoring and caffeine, was introduced in 2008 in several countries.- Ingredients :...

, that was launched in March 2008.

New markets


Beginning in the early 21st century, there has been a movement in Bolivia
Bolivia
Bolivia officially known as Plurinational State of Bolivia , is a landlocked country in central South America. It is the poorest country in South America...

, Peru, and Venezuela
Venezuela
Venezuela , officially called the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela , is a tropical country on the northern coast of South America. It borders Colombia to the west, Guyana to the east, and Brazil to the south...

 to promote and expand legal markets for the crop. The presidents of these three countries have personally identified with this movement. In particular, Evo Morales
Evo Morales
Juan Evo Morales Ayma , popularly known as Evo , is a Bolivian politician and activist, currently serving as the 80th President of Bolivia, a position that he has held since 2006. He is also the leader of both the Movement for Socialism party and the cocalero trade union...

 of Bolivia (elected in December 2005) was a coca growers union leader. Morales asserts that "la coca no es cocaína"—the coca leaf is not cocaine. During his speech to the General Assembly of the United Nations on September 19, 2006, he held a coca leaf in his hand to demonstrate its innocuity.

Alan García, president of Peru, has recommended its use in salads and other edible preparations. A Peruvian-based company has announced plans to market a modern version of Vin Mariani
Vin Mariani
Vin Mariani was a tonic and patent medicine created circa 1863 by Angelo Mariani, a French chemist who became intrigued with coca and its economic potential after reading Paolo Mantegazza’s paper on coca's effects...

, which will be available in both natural and de-cocainized varieties.

In Venezuela
Venezuela
Venezuela , officially called the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela , is a tropical country on the northern coast of South America. It borders Colombia to the west, Guyana to the east, and Brazil to the south...

, president Hugo Chávez
Hugo Chávez
Hugo Rafael Chávez Frías is the 56th and current President of Venezuela, having held that position since 1999. He was formerly the leader of the Fifth Republic Movement political party from its foundation in 1997 until 2007, when he became the leader of the United Socialist Party of Venezuela...

 said in a speech on January 2008 that he chews coca every day, and that his "hook up" is Bolivian president Evo Morales. Chávez reportedly said "I chew coca every day in the morning... and look how I am" before showing his biceps
Biceps
Biceps may refer to:*Biceps brachii muscle, a muscle located on the inside of the upper arm*Biceps femoris muscle, one of the hamstring muscles of the back of each thigh*Biceps , a point in a metrical pattern...

 to his audience, the Venezuelan National Assembly.

On the other hand, the Colombian government has recently moved in the opposite direction. For years, Bogotá
Bogotá
Bogotá, Distrito Capital , from 1991 to 2000 called Santa Fé de Bogotá, is the capital, and largest city, of Colombia. It is also designated by the national constitution as the capital of the department of Cundinamarca, even though the city of Bogotá now comprises an independent Capital district...

 has allowed indigenous coca farmers to sell coca products, promoting the enterprise as one of the few successful commercial opportunities available to recognized tribes like the Nasa
Paez people
The Paez, also known as the Nasa, are a Native American people who live in the Andes Mountains of Colombia.-Religion:In the early 1900s, Lazarists built missions among the Paez and began the work to convert them to Christianity. Jesuits had originally tried to convert the Paez, but failed. However,...

, who have grown it for years and regard it as sacred. In December 2005, the Paeces, a Tierradentro (Cauca) indigenous community, started in December to produce a carbonated soft drink called "Coca Sek
Coca Sek
Coca Sek is a carbonated beverage that the Páez people of south-western Colombia began selling in December, 2005. The drink is based on coca leaves, which native Colombian peoples have been consuming for centuries....

". The production method belongs to the resguardos of Calderas (Inzá) and takes about 150 kg of coca per 3,000 produced bottles. The drink was never sold widely in Colombia, the efforts to do so ended in May 2007 when it was abruptly banned by the Colombian government.

Coca Colla
Coca Colla
Coca Colla is an energy drink which is produced in Bolivia with the use of coca extract as its base. It was launched on the Bolivian market in La Paz, Santa Cruz and Cochabamba in mid-April 2010. Not only are the name and ingredients similar to Coca-Cola, but the colors and logo are of a similar...

 is an energy drink
Energy drink
Energy drinks are beverages whose producers advertise that they "boost energy." These advertisements usually do not emphasize energy derived from the sugar and caffeine they contain but rather increased energy release due to a variety of stimulants and vitamins....

 which is produced in Boliva with the use of coca extract as its base. It was launched on the Bolivian market in La Paz
La Paz
Nuestra Señora de La Paz is the administrative capital of Bolivia, as well as the departmental capital of the La Paz Department, and the second largest city in the country after Santa Cruz de la Sierra...

, Santa Cruz
Santa Cruz de la Sierra
Santa Cruz de la Sierra, commonly known as Santa Cruz, is the capital of the Santa Cruz department in eastern Bolivia and the largest city in the country...

 and Cochabamba
Cochabamba
Cochabamba is a city in central Bolivia, located in a valley bearing the same name in the Andes mountain range. It is the capital of the Cochabamba Department and is the fourth largest city in Bolivia with an urban population of 608,276 and a metropolitan population of more than 1,000,000 people...

 in mid-April 2010.

Literary references


Probably the earliest reference to coca in English literature is Abraham Cowley
Abraham Cowley
Abraham Cowley was an English poet born in the City of London late in 1618. He was one of the leading English poets of the 17th century, with 14 printings of his Works published between 1668 and 1721.-Early life and career:...

's poem "The Legend of Coca" in his 1662 collection of poems "Six Books of Plants".

One of the best known examples of coca's reference in fiction is Patrick O'Brian's character, Stephen Maturin. In many of the more than twenty book series, a.k.a. Aubrey-Maturin series, Maturin expounds the benefits of coca. However, the reader is made aware of the truly addictive effects of the drug when rats, who have found the coca (Erythroxylum coca), become seriously addicted and scour the ship looking for it.

International prohibition of coca leaf



Coca leaf is the raw material for the manufacture
Manufacturing
Manufacturing is the use of machines, tools and labor to produce goods for use or sale. The term may refer to a range of human activity, from handicraft to high tech, but is most commonly applied to industrial production, in which raw materials are transformed into finished goods on a large scale...

 of the drug
Psychoactive drug
A psychoactive drug, psychopharmaceutical, or psychotropic is a chemical substance that crosses the blood–brain barrier and acts primarily upon the central nervous system where it affects brain function, resulting in changes in perception, mood, consciousness, cognition, and behavior...

 cocaine
Cocaine
Cocaine is a crystalline tropane alkaloid that is obtained from the leaves of the coca plant. The name comes from "coca" in addition to the alkaloid suffix -ine, forming cocaine. It is a stimulant of the central nervous system, an appetite suppressant, and a topical anesthetic...

, a powerful stimulant and anaesthetic extracted chemically from large quantities of coca leaves. Today, since it has mostly been replaced as a medical anaesthetic by synthetic analogues such as procaine
Procaine
Procaine is a local anesthetic drug of the amino ester group. It is used primarily to reduce the pain of intramuscular injection of penicillin, and it was also used in dentistry. Owing to the ubiquity of the trade name Novocain, in some regions procaine is referred to generically as novocaine...

, cocaine is best known as an illegal recreational drug. The cultivation, sale, and possession of unprocessed coca leaf (but not of any processed form of cocaine) is generally legal in the countries – such as Bolivia, Peru, Chile and Argentina – where traditional use is established, although cultivation is often restricted in an attempt to prevent the production of cocaine. In the case of Argentina, it is legal only in some northern provinces where the practice is so common that the state has accepted that an interference might serve only to undermine its authority.

The prohibition of the use of the coca leaf except for medical or scientific purposes was established by the United Nations in the 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs
Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs
The Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs of 1961 is an international treaty to prohibit production and supply of specific drugs and of drugs with similar effects except under licence for specific purposes, such as medical treatment and research...

. The coca leaf is listed on Schedule I of the 1961 Single Convention together with cocaine and heroin. The Convention determined that “The Parties shall so far as possible enforce the uprooting of all coca bushes which grow wild. They shall destroy the coca bushes if illegally cultivated” (Article 26), and that, “Coca leaf chewing must be abolished within twenty-five years from the coming into force of this Convention” (Article 49, 2.e).

The historic rationale for international prohibition of coca leaf in the 1961 Single Convention comes from "The Commission of Enquiry on the Coca Leaf study" published in 1950. It was requested of the United Nations by the permanent representative of Peru, and was prepared by a commission that visited Bolivia and Peru briefly in 1949 to “investigate the effects of chewing the coca leaf and the possibilities of limiting its production and controlling its distribution.” It concluded that the effects of chewing coca leaves were negative, even though chewing coca was defined as a habit, not an addiction.

The report was sharply criticised for its arbitrariness, lack of precision and racist connotations. The team members’ professional qualifications and parallel interests were also criticised, as were the methodology used and the incomplete selection and use of existing scientific literature on the coca leaf. Questions have been raised as to whether a similar study today would pass the scrutiny and critical review to which scientific studies are routinely subjected.

Despite the legal restriction among countries party to the international treaty, coca chewing and drinking of coca tea is carried out daily by millions of people in the Andes as well as considered sacred within indigenous cultures. They claim that most of the information provided about the traditional use of the coca leaf and its modern adaptations are erroneous. This has made it impossible to shed light on the plant’s positive aspects and its potential benefits for the physical, mental and social health of the people who consume and cultivate it.

In an attempt to obtain international acceptance for the legal recognition of traditional use of coca in their respective countries, Peru and Bolivia successfully led an amendment, paragraph 2 of Article 14 into the 1988 United Nations Convention Against Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances
United Nations Convention Against Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances
The United Nations Convention Against Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances of 1988 is one of three major drug control treaties currently in force. It provides additional legal mechanisms for enforcing the 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs and the 1971 Convention on...

, stipulating that measures to eradicate illicit cultivation and to eliminate illicit demand “should take due account of traditional licit use, where there is historic evidence of such use.” Bolivia also made a formal reservation to the 1988 Convention, which required countries to adopt measures to establish the use, consumption, possession, purchase or cultivation of the coca leaf for personal consumption as a criminal offence. Bolivia stated that “the coca leaf is not, in and of itself, a narcotic drug or psychotropic substance” and stressed that its “legal system recognizes the ancestral nature of the licit use of the coca leaf, which, for much of Bolivia’s population, dates back over centuries.”

However, the International Narcotics Control Board
International Narcotics Control Board
The International Narcotics Control Board is the independent and quasi-judicial control organ for the implementation of the United Nations drug conventions...

 (INCB) – the independent and quasi-judicial control organ for the implementation of the United Nations drug conventions – denied the validity of article 14 in the 1988 Convention over the requirements of the 1961 Convention, or any reservation made by parties, since it does not "absolve a party of its rights and obligations under the other international drug control treaties."

The INCB stated in its 1994 Annual Report that "mate de coca, which is considered harmless and legal in several countries in South America, is an illegal activity under the provisions of both the 1961 Convention and the 1988 Convention, though that was not the intention of the plenipotentiary conferences that adopted those conventions." It implicitly also dismissed the original report of the Commission of Enquiry on the Coca Leaf by recognizing that "there is a need to undertake a scientific review to assess the coca-chewing habit and the drinking of coca tea."

Nevertheless, the INCB on other occasions did not show signs of an increased sensitivity towards the Bolivian claim on the rights of their indigenous population, and the general public, to consume the coca leaf in a traditional manner by chewing the leaf, and drinking coca tea, as "not in line with the provisions of the 1961 Convention." The Board considered Bolivia, Peru and a few other countries that allow such practises to be in breach with their treaty obligations, and insisted that “each party to the Convention should establish as a criminal offence, when committed intentionally, the possession and purchase of coca leaf for personal consumption.”

In reaction to the 2007 Annual Report of the INCB, the Bolivian government announced that it would formally issue a request to the United Nations to unschedule the coca leaf of List 1 of the 1961 UN Single Convention. Bolivia led a diplomatic effort to do so beginning in March 2009, but eighteen countries (chronologically: the United States, Sweden, United Kingdom, Latvia, Japan, Canada, France, Germany, Bulgaria, Slovakia, Denmark, Estonia, Italy, Mexico, Russian Federation, Malaysia, Singapore, and Ukraine) objected to the change before the January 2011 deadline. A single objection would have been sufficient to block the modification. The legally unnecessary step of supporting the change was taken formally by Spain, Ecuador, Venezuela, and Costa Rica. In June 2011, Bolivia moved to denounce the 1961 Convention over the prohibition of the coca leaf.
Since the 1980s, the countries in which coca is grown have come under political and economic pressure from the United States to restrict the cultivation of the crop, in order to reduce the supply of cocaine on the international market.