Coca leaf infusion and its surprising health benefits

07 January, 2020
Some people should exercise caution when consuming this type of drinks, as they could harm them. Therefore, it is best to consult with the doctor beforehand.

Coca leaf infusion is a popular drink in South America. Originally from the Andean regions where they’ve been consuming it for hundreds of years. People also know it as “mate” or “coca tea.”

This drink has an effect similar to that of coffee; so, it’s a light stimulant, not a drug (such as cocaine).

What is the coca leaf?

The coca leaf (Erythroxylum coca) is native to the Andean areas of Bolivia and Peru, although it has also spread to Colombia, Ecuador, Chile, and Argentina. In these countries, you drink it in the form of “mate” or “coca tea,” which is the infusion of this medicinal plant.

Traditionally, people drink it after a meal to facilitate digestion and they sweeten it with a little sugar or honey. They also consume it as we do coffee, to wake up and continue their activities with energy. This is very useful when walking through mountainous areas or doing sports there.

Coca leaves have and continue to be used in the Andean regions of South America to prevent altitude sickness and certain minor pain. This is because they have a local anesthetic effect.

Coca Leaves
People make “mate” using the whole, unprocessed coca leaf. Therefore, it doesn’t cause dependence, unlike cocaine.

It is not a good idea to consume coca leaves or their infusion in large quantities. It’s best to try it and, if it’s included in the routine, drink it in moderation and after consulting with a physician.

Likewise, people chew coca in the popular sphere to increase the entry of oxygen into their blood and brain. This is commonly known as coking, acullico or chacchado, which consists of chewing it until you make a bolus that then dries and you can smoke.

But is it legal to consume this drink? Yes, indeed.

Health benefits

Dr. Alfonso Zavaleta states the following:

  • Coca is not food nor does it contain nutrients.
  • The coca leaf (and the flour) contains toxic alkaloids and eating it isn’t harmless to the human being. Thus, this means it can cause several alterations.
  • Coca leaf alkaloids don’t contribute to your health and none of the coca leaf alkaloids increase cellular oxygen.
  • Coca leaf and flour don’t have any nutritional benefits. Likewise, they’re not harmless and their nutritional value is questionable, with the exception of vitamin A.
  • You absorb vitamin A during coking but there’s no proof of good absorption of other vitamins (B and C) or calcium or phosphorus from coca leaf powder
  • It has not fat digestion compounds and it doesn’t have any slimming properties. So, it is not a fat-burning product.
  • Coking has zero nutritional value.
  • Bailey BA. Purification of a protein from culture filtrates of Fusarium oxysporum that induces ethylene and necrosis in leaves of Erythroxylum coca. Phytopathology, 1995 –
  • Gonzales-Carazas EF, Melgarejo-García GC, Chávez-Conde LK, Arellán-Bravo LJ, Carbajal-Lázaro E, Cabrera-Gómez YA, Quiróz-Sáenz GM, García-Antúnez IN, Llanto-Aguirre M, Choque-Nolasco FG. Efecto terapéutico del extracto etanólico de Erythroxylum coca spp. en anemia ferropénica inducida en ratas Holtzman macho. An. Fac. med. Lima 2013;74(1)