10 Surprising Benefits of Coca Plant

by John Staughton (BASc, BFA) last updated -

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 leaves in a bowl and an earthen pot on an orange table

Chewing coca leaves is a traditional habit of South Americans. Photo Credit: Shutterstock

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:

Since coca leaves, when chewed or brewed into a tea, often contain cocaine, it can be a powerful stimulant, like coffee, but without the caffeine.

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.

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About the Author

John Staughton is a traveling writer, editor, publisher and photographer with English and Integrative Biology degrees from the University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana (USA). He co-founded the literary journal, Sheriff Nottingham, and now serves as the Content Director for Stain’d Arts, a non-profit based in Denver, Colorado. On a perpetual journey towards the idea of home, he uses words to educate, inspire, uplift and evolve.

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