Coca (Erythroxylum coca)

=====Coca is a cultivated plant native to South America and belongs to the Erythoxylaceae plant family. The plant’s best-known use is for the production of Cocaine and serves as an important cash crop, specifically in Bolivia and Peru. Coca is part of the plant category that relates to cultural drugs. Merriam Webster dictionary defines cocaine as, “a bitter crystalline alkaloid C17H21NO4 obtained from coca that is used especially in the form of its hydrochloride medically as a topical anesthetic and illicitly for it’s euphoric effects and that may result in a compulsive psychological need” [1]




Kingdom Plantae (Plants)

Subkingdom Tracheobionta (Vascular plants)

Superdivision Spermatophyta (Seed plants)

Division Magnoliophyta (Flowering plants)

Class Magnoliopsida (Dicotyledons)

Subclass Rosidae

Order Linales

Family Erythroxylaceae

Genus Erythroxylum P. Br.

Species Erythroxylum coca Lam.

Other members of the Erythroxylaceae family (about 250 total):

Erythroxylum areolatum (swamp-redwood)

Erythroxylum brevipes (brisselet)

Erythroxylum novogranatense (Colombian coca) - also contains cocaine

Erythroxylum rotundifolium (ratwood)

Erythroxylum rufum (rufous false cocaine)

Erythroxylum urbanii (Urban's false cocaine)



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Geographic Distribution


Human use of Coca

For centuries, the coca leaf traditionally has been chewed and brewed for tea by indigenous peoples in the Andean region. Historically, it has not caused any harm, but rather serves as a benefit to human health.
People chew the leaf because it acts as a mild stimulant that suppresses hunger, thirst, pain and fatigue. It also aids altitude sickness. In the Andes, coca is brewed for sacred tea and is widely used.
The controversial manner of the coca leaf arose when Humans began to use the leaves of the coca plant to make cocaine. Cocaine is used as a drug because it creates feelings of euphoria, alertness, and decreased appetite. The drug is addicting and can be ingested through chewing, sniffing, injecting or smoking. Overdoses can lead to seizures and breathing and cardiac problems. Cocaine can also lead to hallucinations and is known for causing birth abnormalities if the drug is used by pregnant women (Poisonous Plants).

Coca in Bolivia

The Bolivian government licenses thousands of farmers to grow Coca in order to make cocaine which is prevalently used for recreational activities. Bolivia is the world’s third largest cocaine producer and has placed its own regulations on the growth of Coca in order to comply with drug wars. In 2009, Bolivia was kicked out of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), which was triggered by the ironic events including the arrest of the former head of the Bolivian anti-narcotics police on trafficking charges. Events like this led to Washington’s conclusion that Bolivia had not been meeting its global obligations to fight narcotics, and subsequently they were ousted from the DEA.
Although Bolivia has lost its privileges, the country has taken steps toward controlling the growth of coca, which has been triggered by the increasing scope of the war on drugs. Bolivia has implemented precautions including sophisticated monitoring of thousands of legal coca farms whose intended growth is to produce the coca leaf for traditional uses. People in Bolivia chew on coca leaves as a mild stimulant, they use it as medicine, as tea, and in rituals for religious practices. This makes Bolivia unique because they have legalized the plant for recreational use. Bolivians can obtain licenses to grow a specified amount of coca for these purposes. When they obtain these licenses they are entered into a database and their crops are tracked and monitored by GPS satellite imaging. Of course, this leads to cheating and people use the licenses to circumvent and make Cocaine.

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