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Coca (Erythroxylum coca or Erythroxylon coca) is a shrub or small tree that belongs to the Erythroxylaceae family; it is of origin of the tropical, central and north-western areas of South America. Its botanical classification that in the past was attributed to the order of the Linales, lately with the phylogenetic reclassification has been attributed to the order of the Malpighiaceae. From the leaves of this plant we get cocaine which is an amazing one. However, the process for obtaining cocaine is quite complex: the leaves of the plant are first cut and shredded; after which hydrocarbons such as kerosene, gas oil, petroleum (or potassium carbonate) are added to allow the dissolution of the organic components. Subsequently, the hydrocarbons are eliminated with a chemical-physical process; at this point water and sulfuric acid are added; the resulting mixture is then filtered and lime or ammonia added (a process which allows the salts to precipitate) and dried to obtain cocaine paste, i.e. the unrefined raw product.

Further processing, to get to the finished product, then include treatment with hydrochloric acid and extraction with acetone or ethanol. In the past, cocaine leaves were chewed or consumed mainly by the Peruvian people. But how ancient this custom was not yet established with certainty. A study carried out by an international team and published in the Antiquity magazine shows how ancient Andean societies consumed coca over 8000 years ago. The leaves of the coca plant contain an average amount of cocaine equal to 0.8% of the weight of a fresh leaf. But not only cocaine: cinnamate of methylecgonine, truxilline and other alkaloids that seem to help during the permanence at high altitude. Moreover, contrary to what is thought, chewing coca leaves has a much less bland and rapid effect than the intake of purified forms of cocaine, does not cause psychoactive effects, not dependence and does not seem to cause other deleterious effects on the body (at least on cases documented until now). The use of coca is therefore lost in millennia in traditional Andean medicine. It is used as an anesthetic against headaches, rheumatism, wounds and sores; moreover, the cocaine contained in the coca leaves restricts the blood vessels, and helps to slow the bleeding. In addition, the Andean peoples also used coca to fight malaria and asthma, to improve digestion and as an aphrodisiac. But there is more; religion and cosmology revolved around coca. the pre-Inca Andean populations had inserted it into their cosmology, and venerated it as a deity. It was a fundamental part of the offerings to the gods, and they were used in divination. Traces and findings confirm all this and the habits of people like Peruvian and Bolivian people are united by praxis, uses and rituals that are lost in the mists of time. In short, a tradition that must be evaluated and serenely addressed in the fight against drugs without exaggerations and speculations of part. Some argue that chewing coca is a much more recent tradition, a few hundred or thousand years, but it is a deeply rooted economic, social and religious tradition in the Andes.
As usual, exaggerations and commercial interests often exacerbate the tone and do not lead to a good knowledge of the truth. The coca plant exists, it is part of a scenario and ecological habitats that Nature wanted. It is up to the man to make good use of it, avoiding that exasperation, and above all strong, dangerous and deviant interests, will affect the man himself.

Warning: The information reported is not medical advice and may not be accurate. The contents are for illustrative purposes only and do not replace medical advice.

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