Thursday, June 28, 2012

Coca Plant

In class this week, we talked about beverage plants and those that can be abused. One of the plants we talked about was the coca plant (Erythroxylum coca). This plant is what the illegal substance cocaine is made from.
However, this plant is not all bad. Throughout history, the coca plant has been used in medicine. It was thought to "cure" depression and melancholy states, it was used as an anesthetic, and was added to chewing gum to treat toothaches. Because of it's mood-enhancing properties, it was also added to sodas as an alternative to alcohol (hence: Coca-Cola!) and added to cigarettes sometimes as well.
In 1914, the Harrison Narcotic Act outlawed cocaine, (even though it is incorrectly classified as a narcotic). It was wrongfully classified in the U.S. until 1970, when it was considered a controlled substance.
The world's leading producer of the coca plant is Colombia, which produces 3/4 of the world's supply alone. It is the only option for many farmers there, because the demand is so high and their other options are very limited. Farmers are upset because their government doesn't want them to grow the coca plant, but they won't assist them to grow other crops.
There are still other uses for the coca plant in practice today. Some people make tea from it, some people chew it, similar to chewing tobacco in America. This is popular in the Andean region because it appeases hunger, gives energy, reduces muscular exertion, and gives the body more oxygen control all of which are essential to life in higher altitudes. Coca tea is popular, also, because it's healthy for climbers and it helps with altitude sickness.
All in all, the coca plant has been greatly abused, but there really are some better uses for it that are beneficial rather than harmful to the body!

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