have been an important part of "Boliviafn culture] since pre-Incaic times.
Annually, approximately 75 thousand tons of coca leaves
are used to produce various medicinal tinctures.
Once harvested, the coca leaves
are ground up and saturated with a chemical then baked in the sun to become a dry, white powder.
Although Coca-Cola no longer contains cocaine, the company still uses an extract of coca leaves
in its beloved soft drink.
Ch'ama creator Victor Escobar says the ancient residents of the area (the 'Indians') used to chew coca leaves
to protect themselves against altitude sickness, which is locally known as soroche and can be quite disconcerting.
If the world supply of coca leaves
significantly increased, the mechanics of the trade might change, but the cocaine industry would most likely boom.
If this was true, hundreds of thousands of indigenous people chewing coca leaves
on a daily basis would have died from overdoses.
He argues that chewing coca leaves
, which helps alleviate the symptoms of acute mountain sickness, is an integral part of the culture of the Andes.
Long before the arrival of European explorers to South America, the Incas had discovered that chewing a concoction made by mixing coca leaves
with lime had a stimulating effect and warded off hunger.
Many people there earnmoney from processing the coca leaves
used to make cocaine, and thus the locals are wary of him.
Density of coca cultivation per hectare has remained stable, as has the efficiency of alkaloid extraction from coca leaves
, according to the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA).
People in Bolivia, as well as parts of neighboring Peru and Columbia, have traditionally used coca leaves
in teas and even religious rituals.
This report is of a study of the macrobotanical remains of archaeological coca leaves
(Erythroxylum novagranatense var.
Another Bolivian-inspired drink--one that is understandably rather controversial--recently appearing on the market is Agwa de Bolivia liqueur, produced from Bolivian coca leaves
, as well as 32 other herbs and botanicals.
have been used since ancient times, he points out, but people learned to purify or alter cocaine to deliver it more efficiently to their brains (by injecting or smoking it, for instance).