Why I defend the Coca Leaf

Why I defend the Coca Leaf

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By Rodolfo Faggioni

I defend the coca leaf because it is a food. The first testimonies of the food use of the coca leaf in the Andean region date back 4,500 years.

I defend the coca leaf because it is a food. The first testimonies of the food use of the coca leaf in the Andean region date back 4,500 years. At that time, and in that area, the coca plant (Erytroxylon coca) was cultivated and human beings made a healthy and sensible use of it, as is done today in the fields by chewing the leaves, often with a reagent such as ashes or baking soda.

Coca is an alkaloid plant, as are tea and coffee, which contains several alkaloids; one of them is cocaine (present in a minimal amount, between 0.5 and 1.1% in coca leaves) that during chewing, due to the action of saliva, combines with the rest of the alkaline elements, decomposing, to become ecgonine : this substance helps to burn fat accumulated in the liver, generating glucose and therefore energy. Without having known such chemical processes in detail, the Incas, and before them the Aymara and Quechuas, knew that chewing coca leaves provided well-being and strength. The simple act of? Pijchar? or? chajtar? Coca leaves, that is, chewing them and keeping them in the mouth in a compact and fibrous ball, represents a source of energy and nutrition for the body.

The reputation of coca, however, suffered a negative appreciation in 1860 when a German chemist, Albert Neimann, succeeded in isolating the alkaloid of cocaine. It is the beginning of the diffusion of this as a devastating drug. It has been a tertiary amino that could have been a good anesthetic if its strong toxicity and the psychic dependence it causes, had not guided researchers to solutions obtained by modifying the cocaine molecule in the laboratory. Thus, novocaine and many other synthetic anesthetics were born, while cocaine, starting in the 20th century, has been increasingly successful as a narcotic. 150 years have been enough to put millennia of culture, identity and well-being at risk.

The uses of the coca leaf for food have not been lacking in the last century. At the beginning of the 20th century, a Corsican chemist, Angelo Mariani, invented an alcoholic preparation made from coca leaves, Vin Mariani, which was immediately successful as a tonic and a remedy for a sore throat. In the United States, this recipe is used to achieve, with successive adaptations, removing the alcohol and adding cola, a type of African nut that contains caffeine and caramel syrup, the formula for Coca Cola: and this is the most clamorous case of food use of coca leaves that have been decocainized before use. But even this has not prevented the United States from including the coca leaf, and not cocaine, as one of the most harmful narcotics in the 1961 UN Convention in New York. Producing cocaine from coca is not simple. Dozens of chemical elements and specialized laboratories are necessary.

At present, those coca growers from the Andes, the Chapare and the Yungas who do not want to give in to the flattery of drug trafficking, must make arrangements with the heavy interventions of the US DEA (Drug Enforcement Administration), which offers them ridiculous idemnizations for the destruction of coca crops with vague promises of crop conversion. A reconversion that never comes, thus, when the money from the DEA runs out, the coca growers become workforce for drug trafficking.

* RODOLFO FAGGIONI is a journalist. Bolivian by birth, he lives and works in Italy carrying out an intense activity as a correspondent for Latin American media.

Video: Coca plants destroyed as eradication programme begins (June 2022).


  1. Zuluzshura

    Sorry, I thought about it and deleted this phrase

  2. Akir

    Bravo, that the necessary phrase ..., the excellent thought

  3. Togul

    Let's know! Thank you for the news.

  4. Brarisar

    did not regret it!

  5. Lifton

    You must tell him that you are not right.

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