Good News: The Coca Leaf Is Not A Drug!

I just came back from an incredible vacation with my childhood friends. I had the opportunity of marking out one of the dreams in my Bucket List- Machu Picchu!!!!

It is as beautiful and amazing as everybody says but, personally, was mainly TRANSFORMING…full of those values that we lose in our society with prosperity and materialism.

We were all afraid of the altitude sickness but, surprisingly, we control it with our friend during this trip - The Coca Leaf!! Only legal in Cuzco, Peru. Imaging how popular is the coca leaf in Cuzco that the first day we arrived in the hotel, they welcome us with coca tea or “Mate de Coca”. Also, every day in the morning, our dear guide Yovany, gave us a few leaves to chew and overcome the altitude sickness.

Everybody asks me the secret question: “Did you get high?”

Of course not!! Let me tell you a little bit more about this magical plant ……

Coca was native to the mountainous jungles of Peru and spread throughout the Andes, and the Incas used it in the past for medicinal purpose and in sacred spiritual ceremonies.

The coca plant grows vigorously to an altitude of 1,800 meters above sea level. A shrub that grows up to three meters tall, it produces small red fruits and a foliage of oval leaves with smooth borders, which, once dried, are chewed to momentarily alleviate the sensation of fatigue and hunger.

The leaves contain carotene, riboflavin, thiamin, iron and calcium, while among its alkaloids, besides cocaine, it has “ecgonine’, an active component of atropine, an element that helps digestion and the assimilation of carbohydrates, which are, as is well known, the mainstay of the diet of Andean peoples. It is also known that chewing the leaves or drinking Mate de Coca alleviates the effects of altitude sickness, helping to relax the airways to the lungs and restore tone to the smooth muscles of the digestive system. Every time I got bloated with the food or the altitude change, I chewed a few coca leaves and the symptoms disappeared. If coca leaves were legal, it would be a great treatment for digestive distress.

The alkaloid content of coca leaves is low, between 0.25% and 0.77%. Chewing the leaves or drinking the tea does not produce the same high that people experience with processed cocaine (extractive chemical processing of the coca leaf). I only felt my tongue and cheek a little numb.

Quechua still use coca as a medicine and a magical plant in cult activities, in shamanism and divination. It is why they fought to keep legal the used of the leaves in Cuzco, when the US government was trying to prohibit it to control the production and trafficking of cocaine. Quechua claimed “The Coca Leaf is not a Drug”, it is part of their culture and tradition from their ancestors, the Incas.

I don’t know if it was chewing the coca leaves what it connected us to the Inca land, the Pachamama (Mother Earth in Quechua), but we left in there a piece of us.

I am happy to share my stories with you. Have you tried the coca leaf?

Make a comment and tell me your story with one of your adventures in the bucket list that changed a piece of you.



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