Magazine article New Internationalist

Stigma Cola - the Banning of an Indigenous Wonder-Food

Magazine article New Internationalist

Stigma Cola - the Banning of an Indigenous Wonder-Food

Article excerpt

Coca, in its natural leafy form, is possibly the most stigmatized food and medicine the world knows. Medical studies from Harvard University have shown that it has two to three times as much calcium as milk and in a form that is easily absorbed, suggesting possibilities for treating osteoporosis. It helps regulate blood sugar levels, so could help with diabetes and hypoglycaemia. It contains more protein than walnuts and has large amounts of vitamins A and E. It's also rich in iron and potassium, good for blood and heart health. Used in a poultice, coca leaves offer relief from rheumatism and bone dislocation.

At a more mundane level, it makes flour for baking, tea for drinking, or left in its original leaf form for chewing, which has a mildly stimulating effect, similar to coffee. It could even be made into a fizzy soft drink that Bolivians could make and sell, or chewing gum, toothpaste, cosmetics.

Instead, because it is also the leaf from which the chemical drug cocaine is derived, it's doomed. Coca is stigmatized and its legal export, from countries like Bolivia or Peru where it grows most abundantly, is restricted to a fraction of its potential. To police this restriction, the US launched coca eradication programmes in Andean countries, destroying the livelihoods of thousands of local peasant farmers. Meanwhile, half of the world's illegal cocaine continues to be consumed in the US.

But coca is not cocaine, any more than natural sugar is vodka. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.