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Erythroxylum coca

Erythroxylum coca (Erythroxylaceae)

COCA, CUCA, COCAINE

 

Coca leaves, chewed as a stimulant by Peruvians for centuries, have been used in orthodox medicine as a source of cocaine. This drug is now used mainly as  local anaesthetic during minor surgery.

 

Peruvian Indians chew coca leaves to relieve hunger and fatigue, and it was this practice that led to the idea of basing Coca-Cola's original recipe on coca extracts. In 1902, however, use of the plant in the drink was banned because of its dangerous side-effects. The first records of coca use date from AD500, but it was not until 1860 that the drug cocaine was first extracted. It is native to Peru and Bolivia but has been introduced to Indonesia. A shrubby tree with thick oval leaves, it flowers in summer and produces small round berries similar to coffee fruit.

 

PARTS USED

Leaves.

 

ACTIVE INGREDIENTS

Tropane alkaloids, including cocaine and cinnamyl-cocaine; glycosides; cocatannic acid; volatile oil containing methyl salicylate; flavonoids.

 

ACTIONS

Central nervous system stimulant; local anaesthetic.

 

MEDICINAL USE

Its medicinal use is almost entirely restricted to that of a local anaesthetic for minor surgical procedures. Occasionally, a mixture of morphine and cocaine (a Brompton cocktail) is prescribed for terminally ill patients to relieve pain and suffering.

 

PREPARATIONS

Leaf, tincture, pharmaceutical preparations.

 

CAUTION

A restricted drug in most countries; possession is illegal.    

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