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Updated 12 March 2013

Coca leaf: a miracle plant?

As a kid growing up in Peru, we drank coca tea frequently, especially when we needed an extra dose of energy, writes Xavier Saer for Kilo2kili.

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As a kid growing up in Peru, we drank coca tea frequently, especially when we needed an extra dose of energy or we headed for the heights of the Andes on a winter escape, writes Xavier Saer for Kilo2kili.

For centuries, the coca leaf has been revered as a divine gift from Mother Earth by the people of the Andes. During the time of the Inca, the sacred leaf was used as currency and a pivotal part of holy ceremonies. In its natural state, coca leaf is considered benevolent as it contains riboflavin, vitamin A, iron, and calcium.

A study conducted by Harvard University found that chewing 100 grams of coca leaves is the equivalent of a full day of nutritional sustenance for an adult. The leaf acts as a natural stimulant and is effective in combating fatigue, hunger, thirst and altitude sickness.

This miracle plant also helps to reduce the tendency toward adult onset diabetes and obesity; it is rich in antioxidants, regulates blood glucose and enhances the metabolism. And it tastes good too, tasting like green tea but with a milder bitterness.

Is coca tea a drug?

This has been a subject of controversy since Albert Niemann first isolated the primary alkaloid of the leaf, also known as cocaine in 1860. On the one hand, coca tea is healthy. On the other, cocaine can send you to the grave.

Many people ask, "Does coca tea contain cocaine?"

The answer is yes.

Wait, it’s no time to panic. Tea contains teine. Coffee contains caffeine. Cocaine is an alkaloid, and the quantities present in a cup of coca tea are minimal. These traces provide only a small energising sensation, the equivalent of a cup of coffee.

To produce a gram of cocaine one would need several kilos of leaves and harmful chemical products. A cup of coca tea contains approximately one gram of coca leaves and 4.2 mg of coca alkaloid. A line of cocaine contains between 20 and 30 milligrams (plus the added chemicals.) That’s a tremendous difference.

'Healthy stimulant'

In countries like Peru, Ecuador and Bolivia, you can sit down in a restaurant or a shack on the side of the road and enjoy a cup of coca tea, with all its benefits without hassle. Millions of people enjoy the great taste of this popular beverage without judgement. There, coca tea is sold in all supermarkets and there is no age limit to purchase it.

As a kid growing up in Peru, we drank coca tea frequently, especially when we needed an extra dose of energy or we headed for the heights of the Andes on a winter escape.

In its natural state, the coca leaf is no short of a miracle medicinal plant. Nature is perfect. Yet, when its compound is extracted and processed with chemicals, the same plant can be harmful.

How you decide to look at the plant is based on your perceptions. I personally think coca leaf is like any other plant: made as nature intended. Coca leaf is a healthy stimulant and refreshing beverage with a unique taste and unfortunately, a bad name. Why don’t you try it and see for yourself?

Coca leave tea (called mate de coca in Peru) is currently available in South Africa (namely at Spar stores).

(Sources: http://en.wikipedia.org; www.inkanat.com; www.livestrong.com; www.ehow.com)

Written by Xavier Saer for Kilo2kili,  a for profit social enterprise focused on making a South Africa Lean & Green while, contribution through adventure and innovation. 

- (Health24, June 2012)

Read more:

Energy tea contains cocaine

 
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