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Coca Leaf Tea: Benefits, Risks, & How to Make It at Home

Coca Leaf Tea is a drink that has been widely consumed for centuries in South America, particularly in the Andean regions. Despite its history and traditional use, it’s not that well known outside of these areas. 

Mainly because it’s not widely available in most countries (or not at all in some countries due to legality). However, with growing interest in natural remedies and alternative medicines, Coca Leaf Tea is starting to gain attention as a potential solution for various health problems. 

Despite its association with the illegal drug cocaine (it is actually the primary ingredient), coca leaf tea does not produce any psychoactive effects. It is in no way addictive and doesn’t produce any withdrawal symptoms (unless the person engages in excessive and prolonged use). 

Coca tea is best known as an effective natural remedy that could potentially have many important health benefits. These include relief of constipation, treatment of sore throats and stomach upsets, aiding in weight loss, stimulating the immune system, and regulating diabetes.

Cultural Significance and History of Coca-Leaf Tea

Coca leaf tea has been an integral part of the Andean culture for thousands of years (as far back as Inca times) and it is considered part of their national identity. It holds great cultural significance in Andean culture particularly for medicinal use but also for social and religious purposes.

Coca leaves were considered sacred and were used in religious ceremonies by the local people to communicate with the gods. The leaves were also used to treat various conditions without the use of conventional medication, including altitude sickness, stomach problems, and fatigue.

Coca leaf tea was also introduced to Europe by explorers and travelers, but it didn’t gain much popularity until the late 19th century. Around this time it began to be used as an ingredient in various products, such as wines, tonics, and soft drinks (that’s where the “Coca” in Coca-Cola comes from!)

Despite its cultural significance, coca leaf tea has been controversial due to being a source of cocaine (even though it’s not actually addictive and won’t get you “high”.) A series of studies has been conducted by the US Government on Bolivian coca tea bags and Peruvian coca tea bags using different extraction methods to determine the level of alkaloids. 

Urine specimens were also taken from study participants after drinking one cup of coca leaf tea. It was found that while the cocaine amount was small (just trace amounts), it was significant enough to produce a positive drug test for cocaine metabolites.

What are Coca Leaves?

Coca leaves are the leaves of a plant called coca (scientific name Erythroxylum coca) a plant native to the Andes of South America and other tropical regions. They contain a psychoactive alkaloid called cocaine among others (including ecgonine methyl ester and average amounts of benzoylecgonine).

However, coca leaves also have many traditional and medicinal uses, such as chewing them to relieve altitude sickness, fatigue, hunger, and pain. 

Coca leaves are traditionally chewed or brewed into a tea, which is called mate de coca but are also used to make candy, flour, and other coca products. The tea is often drunk as a stimulant to increase energy levels (similar to how we drink coffee) but also for other health benefits. 

While coca leaves are legal and widely used in many South American countries, they are banned in many other parts of the world because of their association with cocaine (including the USA and the United Kingdom). 

The amount of cocaine present in coca leaves is actually relatively small though, and the leaves themselves do not have the same addictive properties as the drug. 

1g of coca leaves used to prepare a cup of coca tea contains about 4.2 mg of cocaine alkaloid, so the ingestion of cocaine is minimal, and drinking the tea is no different from the effects of taking a strong cup of coffee. As long as it’s consumed in moderation, it can be a safe and beneficial herbal remedy that can help many different ailments. 

what is coca leaf tea good for

Is Coca Leaf Tea Legal?

If you are thinking of trying Coca Leaf Tea, you may be wondering about its legality in your country. The answer to this question depends on where you live. In some countries, Coca Leaf Tea is perfectly legal, while in others, it is not.

In the United States, for example, Coca Leaf Tea is illegal unless it has been decocainized. This means that all traces of cocaine have been removed from the leaves. However, it is important to note that Coca Leaf Tea is legal in parts of the world such as Colombia, Bolivia, and Peru. If you are traveling to any of these countries, you can legally purchase and consume Coca Leaf Tea. 

You just can’t import it or bring it back with you from a visit to these countries – you won’t get it through customs. 

It is also worth noting that while Coca Leaf Tea is legal in some countries, it may still be subject to certain restrictions. For example, in some countries, it may only be legal to consume Coca Leaf Tea for medicinal purposes. In other countries, it may be legal to purchase Coca Leaves for personal consumption, but not for commercial purposes.

If you are unsure about the legality of Coca Leaf Tea in your country, it is always best to check with your local authorities. This will help you avoid any legal issues that may arise from consuming or purchasing Coca Leaf Tea.

What is Coca Leaf Tea Good For?

Drinking Coca Leaf Tea has been associated with a variety of potential health benefits. Here are some of the most notable:

Alleviates High Altitude Sickness

If you’re traveling to high altitudes, Coca Leaf Tea may help alleviate the effects of altitude. The tea has been used for centuries by local people in the Andes to combat altitude sickness, and it is effective in reducing symptoms such as nausea, headaches, and dizziness. If you’re intending to visit South America and some of its higher altitude areas, keep coca leaf tea in mind as it really does work!

Boosts Energy and Mental Clarity

Coca Leaf Tea contains alkaloids that can help improve energy levels and mental clarity. It’s a natural stimulant that can help you stay alert and focused throughout the day. In countries such as Peru and Bolivia, it is consumed daily in a similar fashion to our use of coffee. Coca tea has been found to help improve cognitive function, memory, and mood just like caffeine.

Relieves Digestive Issues

Coca Leaf Tea has long been used to help relieve digestive issues such as indigestion, constipation, and stomach cramps. The tea contains natural compounds that can help soothe the digestive system and promote healthy digestion.

Reduction In Appetite

Although it can be used as a weight loss aid or to prevent overeating, it is more commonly used by South American workers who don’t have the privilege of 3 square meals a day. It helps them to get on with their work without the distraction of an empty stomach and hunger pangs. 

Helps Regulate Blood Sugar Levels

Coca Leaf Tea could potentially help to regulate blood sugar levels, making it an option for people with diabetes as it may help to improve insulin sensitivity and reduce blood sugar. 

Protects the Heart

Coca Leaf Tea contains antioxidants that can help protect the heart from damage caused by free radicals. The tea has been found to help reduce inflammation and improve blood flow, which can help lower the risk of heart disease.

Improves Respiratory Function

Coca Leaf Tea has been found to help improve respiratory function, making it a potential treatment option for people with respiratory issues such as asthma. It may help to open airways and improve breathing.

how to make coca leaf tea


Although it’s not the most powerful analgesic it can help to relieve some pain and discomfort and is popular with laborers and other workers in South America to help them get through the day. 

Although the health benefits haven’t widely been studied, drinkers of coca tea strongly believe in its health benefits that make it a great addition to your daily routine. However, it’s important to note that the tea contains natural stimulants and should be consumed in moderation – too much could actually be dangerous. If you have any underlying health conditions or concerns, it’s always best to consult with your healthcare provider before adding Coca Leaf Tea to your diet.

Altitude Sickness

If you are planning to travel to high-altitude destinations, such as Cusco, Peru, or La Paz, Bolivia, you are likely to experience some altitude sickness. Altitude sickness is a common condition that occurs when you ascend to high altitudes too quickly, and your body does not have enough time to adjust to the change in air pressure and less oxygen availability.

There are a number of different symptoms which can include headache, nausea, dizziness, fatigue, shortness of breath, and loss of appetite. Altitude sickness can be very severe though depending on the person and their tolerance for altitude, and in the worst cases, it can even be life-threatening.  

Consumption of coca tea is popular as a remedy for altitude sickness. The tea contains alkaloids, including cocaine, which can help to alleviate the symptoms of altitude sickness. It is especially useful to workers in South America who have to work at high altitudes – it helps to relieve discomfort making it easier to work without feeling sick. A cup of Peruvian coca tea has been shown to help alleviate the symptoms of altitude sickness, and it is widely available in high altitude destinations in South America.

However, it is important to note that the use of coca leaves is illegal in many countries, including the United States unless the leaves have been decocainized. Even one cup of coca tea could cause a positive result on a drug test for cocaine.

Traditional Forms of Consumption

Coca leaf tea has been used for centuries by the indigenous people of the Andes Mountains. There are two traditional ways of consuming coca leaves: chewing and tea.


Chewing coca leaves is the most common traditional method of consumption. The leaves are chewed with a small amount of ash or lime to release the alkaloids. The alkaloids produce a mild stimulating effect, similar to caffeine. Many people chew coca leaves to help alleviate altitude sickness, hunger, and fatigue.

If you ever make a visit to Machu Picchu in the Peruvian Andes (one of the 7 Wonders of The World) and you’ll probably take a walk around the streets of Cusco. One of the first things you’ll notice is the locals chewing coca and open sale of coca leaves. Indeed, it’s a vital part of the Peruvian culture, and they drink coca tea in the same we drink ordinary tea. It even tastes quite similar to green tea!

Anecdotal evidence suggests that coca can have an effect similar to local anesthesia in the mouth, throat, and tongue, which can relieve pain but also damage tooth enamel over time. Additionally, chewing coca leaves may affect the oxygenation of the blood, the stimulation of the nervous system, and the levels of blood pressure and sugar. 

These effects may be beneficial or harmful depending on the individual’s health condition and altitude. Chewing coca leaves may also interact with some medications or supplements, so it is advisable to consult a doctor before trying it. Coca is unsafe to use during pregnancy and breastfeeding and is linked to sudden infant death syndrome. 

what is coca leaf tea good for


Coca tea is made by steeping coca leaves in hot water. The tea has a slightly bitter taste and is often sweetened with honey or sugar. Coca tea has been used by the Andean people for medicinal purposes, such as treating stomach pain, intestinal spasms, and nausea. 

In Andean culture, coca leaves are considered a sacred plant and are often used in spiritual ceremonies. Coca leaves are also used in traditional medicine practices. The extra nutrients provided by coca leaves are often much needed in high-altitude communities where green vegetables are scarce and it’s not common to make regular trips to the doctor. 

Overall, coca leaf tea has been an important part of Andean culture for centuries. Its traditional forms of consumption have been used for medicinal, spiritual, and nutritional purposes.

How to Prepare Coca Leaf Tea

If you’re interested in trying Coca Leaf Tea, it’s important to know how to prepare it properly. Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to make Coca Leaf Tea:

  1. Boil water in a pot or kettle.
  2. Measure out one level teaspoonful of Coca Tea leaves per cup of water. For a stronger brew, use two teaspoonfuls.
  3. Place the Coca Tea in a tea infuser or directly in the pot.
  4. Pour the boiling water over the tea.
  5. Allow the tea to brew for 3-5 minutes.
  6. Stir the tea and wait 20 seconds for the tea particles to settle.
  7. Sweeten with a little honey or sugar if desired (it is similar in taste to green tea so can be a little bitter). Do not add milk.

Don’t ever boil Coca Leaf Tea or the beneficial alkaloids will be destroyed. Also don’t drink more than 2-3 cups in a day.


In conclusion, coca leaf tea is a fascinating beverage with a rich history and numerous potential benefits. The fact that it’s associated with an illegal drug may be a concern for some people (and a fascination for others!) but it’s important to remember that coca leaf tea doesn’t actually cause a cocaine-like reaction in the body. 

Don’t expect to get high! It is however worth taking for its range of health benefits from increased energy to reduced altitude sickness (if you’re travelling to high altitudes). 

If you do get a chance to try coca leaf tea, make sure to consume it in moderation – excess consumption could have adverse effects. It is also important to source coca leaf tea from reputable suppliers to ensure quality and avoid potential contamination or illegal activities. Remember, if you’re in the US it is illegal to import or use coca leaves, so your best chance to try coca leaf tea is on a visit to the South American countries where it is legal!

As global awareness of alternative remedies and herbal infusions grows, coca leaf tea was bound to gain attention for its potential therapeutic properties. However, we are still lacking in scientific research on how it works and how it might interact with certain medications.

Judging by how many people in South America swear by it though, it definitely seems worth trying if you get the chance!

Coca Leaf Tea is a drink that has been widely consumed for centuries in South America, particularly in the Andean regions. Despite its history and traditional use, it’s not that well known outside of these areas.