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The Coca Leaf and Its Importance in the Inca Culture

The Coca Leaf and Its Importance in the Inca Culture

The Incas considered coca leaves as a sacred plant and gave very different uses to it. The coca leaf which was an important part of their social, economic and spiritual structure.

Uses of Coca Leaves by the Incas

Coca leaves had a variety of uses in the world of the Incas. They were also attributed to having magical qualities. The consumption of coca leaves dates back to the time of the Incas and is appreciated even today.

People who chew coca leaves can work for a longer duration without getting tired. This is because of the anaesthetic effect of alkaloids present in coca leaf.

The ancient doctors or Inca shamans recommended chewing coca leaf. This was to heal toothaches, stomach aches and other physical discomforts.

The Coca Leaf and Its Importance in the Inca Culture

The coca leaf was also used in ancient times to predict the future by the Inca sages as they could read the leaves for signs or omens.

The Inca populations paid tribute to the mother earth at the beginning of the rainy season. They offered coca leaves to ensure a good harvest and a good year.

There is a social gathering called Hallpay. This is where members of the community gather around a table full of coca leaves to consecrate the divine union between a man and the spiritual beings of the Andes.

A common practice during the Incas period was to exchange coca leaves with other products like meat, vegetables, potatoes, and beans as coca leaves were an important part of the Inca economy.

Chaskis were the people in charge of transporting the parcels through the Incas postal system and they travelled throughout the country on foot. This group of people used coca leaves as it allowed them to travel great distances without getting tired and fulfil their work.

The Coca Leaf and Its Importance in the Inca Culture

Natural Properties of the Coca Leaf

The Following Alkaloids are Found in the Coca Leaf:

  • Cocaine with an aesthetic and analgesic properties
  • Egnonin can metabolize fat and carbohydrates, and also thin the blood.
  • Atropine as an anaesthetic.
  • The pectin regulates the production of melanin for the skin.
  • Papain contributes to digestion.
  • Globulin can regulate the lack of oxygen in the environment
  • Pyridine increases blood supply to the brain while accelerating its formation and growth.
  • Conina acts as an efficient anaesthetic.
  • Reserpine helps to regulate blood pressure
  • Benzoin helps in the formation and growth of muscle cells.
  • Inulin can regulate bile secretion.

The coca leaf is also a complete food as it has Vitamins B1, B2, iron, calcium and proteins apart from having all the alkaloids.

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