Traditional Usage


Posted by aboutcocaleaf | Posted in c. Traditional Use | Posted on 10-05-2011

The coca leaf has been chewed and brewed for tea traditionally for centuries among its indigenous peoples in the Andean region. These forms of ingestion do not cause any harm and are beneficial to human health.

The traditional method of chewing coca leaf consists of keeping a saliva-soaked ball of coca leaves in the mouth together with an alkaline substance, such as lime or wood ash, which assists in extracting alkaloids, including cocaine from the leaves.

When chewed, coca acts as a mild stimulant and suppresses hunger, thirst, pain, and fatigue. It helps overcome altitude sickness. Coca chewing and drinking of coca tea is carried out daily by millions of people in the Andes without problems, and is considered sacred within indigenous cultures. Coca tea is widely used, even outside the Andean Amazon region. Coca has an established use spread among all social classes, in two Northern provinces of Argentina. There is an increasing use of coca flour as a food supplement. (5)

Coca Leaf for Labor


Posted by aboutcocaleaf | Posted in Coca for Labor | Posted on 10-05-2011

Before starting work on the farm, together with their relatives, friends and community members who will work with the owner (who will reciprocate their cooperation in the future), coca, drinks and cigarettes will be passed around.  They all give thanks for the gift, choose three leaves blowing into the direction of a mountain which will protect them and the community, and pray to the spirits. Then, slowly, they begin to chew the leaves.  
The owner will pay homage to the ancestors and to Mother Earth, burying some coca, cigarettes and candy in the ground, invoking their ancestors (Peru).In the Andes, the work day is divided in three or four shifts, with a break between shifts when coca is chewed after their meals.  The same is done when performing community work, where their authorities will hand out the coca leaves. 

In the Bolivian Yungas, thanks to the leaf, the ayni or reciprocation institution has been extended considerably because coca is a permanent crop which requires good care for the future.  Under the ayni, the work performed for others is done with the same care as for their own property.  The harvest under the reciprocation system is done by the women and this is the social event per excellence, they don their best clothing, blue skirts in contrast with the green coca fields and reddish brown earth.  The young men of the community look for a suitable partner, the women flirt about, and there is laughter, tales, and gossip.
The harvest is the major workshop for social control by the community. In farming communities, the practice of reciprocation for work shows that labor is a community resource, shared by all members as if they all belonged to a single domestic unit and it is work which will establish the rank of the community member. (14)

Magical Purposes


Posted by aboutcocaleaf | Posted in Magical Purposes | Posted on 10-05-2011

In a religious sense, coca is used humbly to give thanks for blessings or to make offerings to the gods.  All traditional Andean rituals are celebrated around the coca leaves.  All present must chew the leaves under the direction of the fortune teller (yatiri).  Likewise, coca is indispensable in preparing the offerings, services for the ancestors, to Mother Earth (Pacha Mama) as an act of thanks giving for good harvests, health or thriving of their livestock.

The gods, the Incas, and the ancestors in ancient and sacred times, dictated the rules for social and individual use of coca.  The use of this plant as dictated by custom, in agricultural feasts, at work or during the ceremonies of their vital cycle, is to enter and experience the mythical and primeval space-time continuum of the gods, cultural heroes and their ancestors.

Coca will always be present in all important moments of their life because it is not only a product, but heritage as well.  It is not only their most important element of their survival, but it also represents what is sacred to them, their culture, traditions and their endurance against abuse and exploitation. “Like people, it must never be killed, uprooted, nor should the leaves be cast away… I interpret your sickness and all other ill fortune as a punishment from Pacha Mama for having eradicated the coca -it is sacred- is it not true?” (14)