The coca plant has a dangerous reputation around the world, due to its role in the production of illegal drugs, but there are also some health benefits when the plant is used appropriately.
What is Coca?
Coca refers to one of the four different plants, traditionally grown in South and Central America. The reason this plant is so well known throughout the world is due to an active ingredient present in it, an alkaloid called cocaine. Through a relatively simple extraction process, coca leaves can be separated from their antioxidants and a powerful stimulant – cocaine – can be created. For that reason, coca leaves are illegal in many countries, as is the cultivation or processing of these plants. However, coca leaves have been used for cultural, medicinal, and spiritual reasons for hundreds, if not thousands of years, by indigenous people in these areas. When used responsibly, there are some important health benefits to consider.
Nutritional Facts of Coca
The leaves of the coca plant are primarily composed of protein, fiber, and vitamin C, as well as high levels of vitamin A, vitamin B, vitamin D, and vitamin E, along with calcium, iron, zinc, phosphorous, and copper, among others. The leaves also contain alkaloids, such as nicotine, hygrine, and ecgonine, in addition to cocaine.
Benefits of Coca
The main benefits of the leaves of the coca plant include their effect on the following:
- Mental health
- Digestive health
- Mood improvement
- Reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety
- Eliminate altitude sickness
- Relieve constipation
Uses of Coca
Aside from being processed into cocaine, coca leaves are primarily used in two ways – in a tea form or chewed directly. Both of these applications can lead to certain health benefits or effects for people, without the negative side effects of consuming concentrated cocaine.
Side Effects of Coca
There are some side effects of the coca plant, particularly if you have a history of the following:
Pregnant women should also avoid using coca, particularly if it has not been decocainized.