The Coca Plant

Topics: Bolivia, Andes, Coca Pages: 1 (305 words) Published: June 25, 2008
The Coca plant is in the Kingdom Plantae, the Phylum Magnoliophyta, the Class Magnoliopsida, the order Mapighiales, the Family Erythroxylacae, the Genus Erythroxylum, and the Species Erythroxylum Coca. The Coca plant originates in Northwestern South America particularly Columbia, but it can also be found in Peru, Venezuela, and Bolivia. The Coca plant can grows to a height of 7–10 ft, the branches are straight, and the leaves are green tinted ovals. The plant also has small yellowish-white flowers that mature into red berries. The plant Erythroxylum Coca is one of 12 species in it the genus Erythroxylum. The Coca plant is probably most famous for the powerful drug Cocaine, which comes from its leaves.

The plant was originally cultivated on the eastern slopes of the Andes mountain, by the Andean people that inhabited that area around 5400 years ago. There are traces of cocaine in mummies dating back to 3000 years ago when the Andean people used the Coca leaves for many traditional purposes. There has also been evidence of Coca use by the Inca’s and subsequent people that inhabit the area around the Andes. Traditionally these people chewed on the dried up leaves for its natural anesthetic abilities. The stimulant that the Coca leaves produce was used to alleviate the pain of headaches, rheumatism, wounds, sores, broken bones, and childbirth. The Coca plant is still used an anesthetic today in a synthesized form known as Novocain. Since the people of Andes lived high in the mountains they also used it to overcome fatigue, hunger, thirst, altitude sickness, and nose bleeding that result from high altitudes. The Coca plant is effective against these conditions because cocaine constricts blood vessels. Indigenous use of coca has also been reported as a treatment for malaria, ulcers, asthma, improved digestion, as an aphrodisiac, and longevity.
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