How to chew coca leaves the traditional way. Chewing coca leaves is part of the traditional culture of many native South Americans. People in places like the Andean mountains in Peru, Bolivia, Ecuador, and Columbia chew coca leaves for its medicinal properties. But, if you think chewing coca leaves will give you the same effect as taking cocaine. Think again.
Coca leaves are the natural form of the plant. To produce cocaine, the plant is put through a complex chemical process. While in some South American countries it is illegal to grow and cultivate coca, it is legal to possess a certain amount.
People living in high altitudes use it to ward of altitude sickness and it revitalises your energy. To do this they must learn how to chew coca leaves properly. Coca leaves are readily available at markets in South America. They are cheap and all you do is roll a couple up, pop them into your mouth, and suck on them. Most people hold them in one side of their cheeks and let the leaves absorb the moisture. Coca leaves will numb that part of your face.
Five common reasons to chew coca leaves
There are many medicinal benefits from chewing coca leaves. Here are five simple reasons to chew coca leaves.
Chewing coca leaves activates alkaloids contained within the leaves to oxidise your blood. The effect is to leave your teeth a brilliant white.
Stimulant similar to coffee
Chewing coca leaves is a similar stimulant to coffee and can be enough to stave off drowsiness. It also acts as an appetite suppressant, wards of thirst, hunger, tiredness, and pain.
Coca leaves are nutritious
Coca leaves a jam packed full of minerals and vitamins including iron, calcium, and vitamins C, E, B1 and B2. They also contain minerals such as calcium, potassium, barium, copper and magnesium.
Acts as an anesthetic
Chewing coca leaves will leave an anesthetic feeling in your mouth, down your throat affecting your tongue. You can chew the leaves to relieve tooth and headaches, and to relieve the pain of minor injuries and for some back pain. Arthritis sufferers can also get relief from chewing coca leaves.
Oxygenates your bloodstream
When you chew coca leaves, it allows your bloodstream to absorb oxygen more easily. Many people farm at high altitudes in the Andes where they are affected by altitude sickness because the air does not have high oxygen levels at high altitudes. Chewing coca leaves helps them cope with altitude sickness.
Pope Francis backs chewing coca leaves in Bolivia
On a trip to Bolivia in 2015, Pope Francis asked to chew coca leaves after being offered coca tea. While coca leaves were banned under the 1961 UN Convention on Narcotic Drugs, it can be grown for medicinal and religious use with a licence obtained from the government.
The indigenous people of Bolivia believe the coca plant is sacred. They declared its leaves a ‘cultural patrimony’ in the Bolivian constitution in 2009. Even the Bolivian President, Evo Morales, once a coca grower, now campaigns for decriminalising chewing coca leaves. He believed the pope’s request to chew coca leaves would lend credibility to his campaign.
For many years, South America’s indigenous people understood the effects of the coca plant. It enhances their daily lives living at high altitudes. And, these days while travelling through the country, Westerners can do the same.
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