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Coca: sacred leaf of the Incas!

Updated on March 25, 2016

I wrote a hub about tejas a few days ago, but as I researched further I discovered that there are also coca tejas! Fancy that! I drank coca tea a few years ago when I was in Cuzco and got altitude sickness, but I never knew there were also coca tejas, or candies for that matter! I also found that they now have many different types of coca products, like extracts, cream, sweets and even soaps! I knew the usual way to get coca was in its traditional leaf form, but now they also have coca powder, liquor, and even capsules!

Typical Andean bag with coca leaves
Typical Andean bag with coca leaves

Coca plant

The Coca plant, often spelled Koka in Quechua and Aymara, is a plant native of north-western South America and it plays a significant role in traditional Andean culture. Coca leaves contain cocaine alkaloids, which forms the basis for the drug cocaine, a powerful stimulant. The plants thrive best in hot, damp climate, but the preferred leaves are obtained in drier locations, such as on hillsides. Coca plants are found mainly in relatively small areas of Peru and Bolivia, which are the major producing countries. The upper Huallaga Valley, in Peru, produces 60% of the world's coca.

Chewing coca leaves

Coca leaves are chewed by the Aymaras and Quechuas of Bolivia, Peru and other Andean countries. A mouthful of coca leaves is taken into the mouth, without swallowing, and chewing is done softly, trying not to crush the leaves completely. The ball formed is left to rest on the gums and mouth lining, just below the salivary gland for hours at a time. When the crushed leaves are dampened enough, they often combine the coca with chalk or ash, which helps dissolve the alkaloids.

Andean peasants and miners consume coca as it reduces pain from hunger and gives strength and endurance, as they must work long hours at high altitudes and low temperatures.

A few moments after chewing, there is an anesthetic effect in the cheeks, throat and tongue, but also on the lower intestinal tract and at the systemic level. This explains the custom in Andean countries to chew coca leaves to alleviate pain: headaches, toothaches, intestinal cramps, etc.

On the Inca Trail to Machu Pichu, guides usually serve coca tea with every meal because it is widely believed that it alleviates the symptoms of altitude sickness. Traditionally, official visitors travelling to La Paz in Bolivia, located at almost 4,000 meters above sea level, are greeted with a coca tea . News reports noted that Princess Anne and Pope John Paul II were served the drink during their visits to the country.

Chewing coca on the Inca Trail

Coca leaf products

Coca liquor
Coca liquor
Coca sweets
Coca sweets
Coca tejas
Coca tejas
Coca extract
Coca extract

Coca benefits

  • Revitalizes restores and energizes.
  • Elevates, brightens and controls moods.
  • Controls your need for sleep.
  • Helps digestion.
  • Regulates the metabolism of carbohydrates.
  • Acts against fatigue and altitude sickness

Coca leaf gifts

Taking advantage of the distinctive shape of the coca leaves, artists have now created coca bracelets, necklaces, pendants, earrings, coasters, artistic pictures and of course, the usual t-shirts!

Coca leaf pendant
Coca leaf pendant
Coca coasters
Coca coasters
Ceramic containers for coca leaves
Ceramic containers for coca leaves
Coca leaf t-shirt
Coca leaf t-shirt

Coca legend

God said to the Andean people:
"Guard the leaves with much love and when
you feel the sting of pain in your heart,
hunger in your body
and darkness in your mind...
take them to your mouth and softly, draw up
its spirit which is part of mine....."
You will find love for your pain
food for your body and light for your mind
Further more, watch the leaves dance with the wind
and you will find answers to your queries".

Antonio Diaz Villamil, Bolivian author

Old Coca Cola ad
Old Coca Cola ad


The most well known use of the coca plant was in the popular soft drink Coca-Cola, but cocaine was later dropped as an ingredient, although the actual name of Coca seems to have remained!

Coca poll

Have you ever tried, or used a coca product?

See results


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    • sylvia13 profile imageAUTHOR

      Sylvia Gadea de Beer 

      6 years ago from Shoal Bay, NSW, Australia

      Well, I can envision a Peruvian or Bolivian Indian chewing coca leaves, but not anybody else, especially not tourists!

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      I enjoyed reading this.Glad to know there are coca leaves lovers in there.

      I noticed the poll asked: coca tea leaves for making tea(not chewing!)

      Well actually its the same good leaves only dry and in portionbags wich makes them excellent for chewing.Very fast medicinal effects from dried leaves.

    • sylvia13 profile imageAUTHOR

      Sylvia Gadea de Beer 

      7 years ago from Shoal Bay, NSW, Australia

      I am glad you like it! It is very good when one gets high altitude sickness.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Hello! ekebdca interesting ekebdca site! I'm really like it! Very, very ekebdca good!

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      If somebody is looking for to get some genuine coca fresh leaves products such: coca candies, coca bar, coca powder, coca liquor and coca fresh leaves don't hesitate to visit to:

    • sylvia13 profile imageAUTHOR

      Sylvia Gadea de Beer 

      9 years ago from Shoal Bay, NSW, Australia

      Thanks very much for your comment! I enjoyed seeing the first link, as the quetzal reminds me of Guatemala and their beautiful woven handicrafts! I also think the coca leaf is good for you, pity is cocaine gives it a bad reputation! In Austria they make pumpkin seed oil, which is delicious with salads, but now the toasted seeds are increasingly being used for adding to bread and even adding to chocolates!

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      I read of legends myself.

      I like beautiful birds.

      Try to get some, its good for you. It really is.

      The stigma over the issue of the production of the zombie potion cocaine from the coca leaf is trivial. The coca leaf is all the good none of the bad. It has to do with chemical amounts within the plant material. It takes 320+ kilos of raw coca leaf to produce one kilo of cocaine. One is a zombie potion. The other is a sacred plant teacher. That can heal you. You can live off of it. It is a food stuff. An excellent one in fact. Especially when organic & free of trioxin 245.

      Ultimately one has a natural right to chemical bliss. Natural selection will take its course when broad legalization occurs. The general public armed with knowledge is capable of fending off ignorance over the issue because the logical choice of substances to use are the superior choices. A magical cornucopia of entheogenic delights exist. Things that help you.

      Coca leaf is good.

      Witches tonic for curing oneself of many human parasites.

      Green pumpkin seeds, Green black walnut husks, and cloves. I love oven roasted pumpkin seeds.

    • sylvia13 profile imageAUTHOR

      Sylvia Gadea de Beer 

      9 years ago from Shoal Bay, NSW, Australia

      Destroy the Inca Empire they sure did! I had not heard of that legend, but I think Quetzalcoatl is Central American, as Quetzal is the currency of Guatemala. Once again, thanks for commenting!

    • Christopher Price profile image

      Christopher Price 

      9 years ago from Vermont, USA

      I read quite some time ago of an Incan legend that said Quetzalcoatl gave the coca leaf to the Incas to help them ease pain and increase vitality. He also warned of the coming of white invaders who would try to destroy the Incas.

      But, when the white men messed with the coca and bastardized its purpose, it would turn to poison and kill them.

      Lesson: Organic good...refined into cocaine bad.

      Prophetic legend proving true.

      Good hub. Wish I could acquire coca tea where I live.


    • Kosmo profile image

      Kelley Marks 

      10 years ago from California

      Peru is definitely my favorite country in South America; in fact, in terms of archaeological sites, it may be my favorite in the entire world! Anyway, coca certainly has many uses. Too bad it's also used to create a very addictive substance many people love to abuse. Later!

    • sylvia13 profile imageAUTHOR

      Sylvia Gadea de Beer 

      10 years ago from Shoal Bay, NSW, Australia

      I guess I associate chewing coca leaves with Indians in the Andes and although I agree with their use of it, it does not look so elegant. Although I agree that mixing with baking soda at home sounds like a good idea to get the effects. I have noticed that people in Austria like going to the chemist or health food store to get not only herbs and teas, but also pills, like for example Kurbis Kern, which are just pumpkin seeds reallly, but instead of consuming the seeds, which are so nice, they take them in pill form! I have taken note of your links and will investigate! Thanks for your comment!

    • profile image


      10 years ago

      Chewing on coca leaves is superior. It is harmless.

      Just get some tea and mix with baking soda...put a quid of this in your mouth.

      Then go happily run 10 miles uphill in the forest. ;-)

      I recommend the website erowid, it is a valuable resource of knowledge as far as entheogens go. Below is a link to the coca vault on erowid.

      You should consider trying achuma a.k.a. san pedro contains mescaline. It is very good for you.

      What herbs native to Austria do you use? and for what purpose? I am curious.

    • sylvia13 profile imageAUTHOR

      Sylvia Gadea de Beer 

      10 years ago from Shoal Bay, NSW, Australia

      Yes I had a cup of coca tea once when I was in Cuzco and it really helped me with the "soroche" (altitude sickenss) I am a great believer in coca tea, although I don't know whether I would be game enough to chew the leaves!

    • profile image


      10 years ago

      Coca tea, is wonderful medicine.

      If you haven't had a cup, your missing out. It has a pleasant flavor, aroma, and taste.

      It is great for stress, pain, breathing, and the stomach in my opinion.

      If you have back pain, coca leaf works!

    • sylvia13 profile imageAUTHOR

      Sylvia Gadea de Beer 

      10 years ago from Shoal Bay, NSW, Australia

      Que lindo encontrarte por aqui! No tengo idea si venderan la pelicula en video! Yo incluyo los videos en los Hubs, pero no se nada sobre ellos! Yo tambien voy a ver si te escribo manana!

    • profile image 

      10 years ago

      Sylvia muy interesante , venderan esa pelicula en video ?

      me gustaria mucho verla voy a seguir mirando tu pag.web chaito manana te escribo carinos Sara


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