The importance of coca leaf in Perú

“From the Live series “Conversations with a Tour Guide” every Wednesday and Saturday on Facebook @adventuroustravelguide”

For anyone that has visited Peru is not a surprise that Hoja de Coca plays a very important role in the lives of people here, especially highlanders. I believe it is important to clarify its use and value, as it is for sure the most misunderstood native product of Peru in the world.

My last talk on Facebook about this plant was inspired in the book : Anatomy of the Coca Leaf (Anatomía de la hoja de coca) written by Sacha Barrio Healey

Plant of medicinal and social use:

When we talk about coca leaf , we don’t simply talk about a plant, herb, or medicine, in many societies of peru coca is seen as an entity with its own spirit, it is respected and venerated, it is the source if the energy of the working men. Since ancient times it’s use was well spread , so much that the very conquistadors started to use it in the andes seeing how it improved their energy and helped them to fight altitude sickness

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Use back in Prehispanic times

  • On funerary ceremonies
  • In presence of deities and in temples
  • To promote reciprocity and “ayni”(work in benefit of your neighbor)
  • As medicine


  • To foment good relations within the family
  • Rituals within communities to solve problems or issues
  • To promote reciprocity and “ayni”

Tonic or stimulant?

To know it, let’s see the difference between them:

  • Stimulant: Brings health problems in a medium or long term, it damages celular tissues , normally it doesn’t have nutrients , creates celular oxidation, creates degenerative diseases.
  • Tonic:brings benefits to your health, builds or regenerates celular tissues , source if vitamins , minerals and proteins, source of antioxidants , used to fight diseases.

Therapeutic uses:

It is rich in energetic alkaloids , high concentration of calcium, magnesium and reserpine , all mentioned help to calm anxiety.

It is a great calcium supplement and a great source of proteins (19% protein content), helps out with chronic fatigue, is an analgesic in case of pane, improves digestive functions, spasms, colics

Cocaine is 1 of the 14 alkaloids Coca leaf have, this is a list of all of them:

  • Cocaine
  • Ecgnonine
  • Benzoin
  • Quinonine
  • Reserpine
  • Papaine
  • Inuline
  • Cocamine
  • Globulin
  • Piridine
  • Higrine
  • Atropine
  • Pectine
  • Coniine

The Germán Dr Albert Niemann investigated and named Cocaine this alkaloid in 1859

Dosis letal:

The lethal dose of cocaine is about 1200 mg , a chewer of coca can intake about 20 to 80 frames of leaves , equivalent of 0.16 to 0.64 mg to reach the lethal dose this person needs to consume about 150 kg of coca leaf almost at the same time , as the alkaloid degrades in the blood.

Campaign for the eradication of coca leaf

Unfortunately , more for misunderstanding than for facts, there is an agresiva campaign against coca, with the intention of eliminating it completely , (imagine eliminating grapes, sugar cane, and barley to eliminate alcoholism?) it wouldn’t be better to controle the 16 products use to produce cocaine illicitly?

I wish you enjoyed reading this article. Hope to see you on our next live.

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