• The Coca Leave is sacred in Peru, especially in the Andean region
  • The Coca plant is also used for the production of cocaine
  • Coca leaves are considered to have several beneficial characteristics
  • Chewing coca leaves helps suppress hunger and fatigue
  • Mate de Coca is the remedy for altitude sickness according locals
The coca leave or coca is a native plant that has a lot of beneficial and cultural value but has come under a lot of pressure in Peru. Most of the world knows the coca plant as the plant where they make cocaine from. Coca is grown in many countries such as Colombia, Peru and Bolivia. The most part of the production of coca goes indeed to the cartels to turn them with the use of several chemicals into cocaine. For this reason in Colombia the cultivation of coca has been completely prohibited.
In Peru and Bolivia on the other hand it is not that easy. As the coca leave is an important symbol and is used for both religious as for medical purposes, in Peru and Bolivia it is still legal to grow coca. True a large part of the coca grown in these countries also comes in the hands of the drug cartels but another part is actually been used in daily life. The most beneficial effect of coca is the supposed help it provides with altitude sickness. In the Peruvian highlands you will often get served mate de coca or coca tea. The tea is served with the coca leaves straight into the tea and has a bit of a bitter taste. No worries you will not get high from the coca tea. Local farmers use the coca leave during work. They chew coca leaves all day as the working substance in the leave will makes them feel less fatigue, hunger and the altitude.
Among the highland population the coca leave is also used in reading the future and many other rituals such as making payments to Mother Earth. You will probably get offered some mate de coca or coca leaves while in Peru. Therefore it is important to keep an open mind and feel free to ask locals about the coca culture in Peru.