Coca bush

from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Coca bush
Coca bush (Erythroxylum coca), illustration

Coca bush ( Erythroxylum coca ), illustration

Eurosiden I
Order : Malpighiales (Malpighiales)
Family : Redwood family (Erythroxylaceae)
Genre : Coca bushes ( Erythroxylum )
Type : Coca bush
Scientific name
Erythroxylum coca
Coca bush ( Erythroxylum coca ) with leaves and fruits
Coca bush in Colombia
(-) - Cocaine , an alkaloid found in coca leaves.
(-) - Ecgonine , an alkaloid found in coca leaves.
Coca leaves
Mate de Coca (tea bags)

The Coca shrub ( Erythroxylum coca ) is a plant type , which the family of erythroxylaceae belongs (Erythroxylaceae).


It is an evergreen , up to 2.5 m high shrub that is kept low in cultivation as a useful plant . It has a reddish bark . The leaves are alternate, elliptical to spatulate and 5 to 15 cm long. 1 to 5 inconspicuous, small yellowish flowers grow from the leaf axils . Solitary red stone fruits develop from the upper ovary .

The number of chromosomes is 2n = 24.


The homeland of the coca bush is on the eastern slopes of the Andes from Peru , Bolivia to Colombia . Here the coca bush grows at altitudes between 300 and 2000 m above sea level . These countries are still the main cultivation areas for coca with a share of the worldwide harvest (status 2010) of 45.4% in Peru, 39.3% in Colombia and 15.3% Bolivia.

In the middle of the 19th century, the coca bush was also introduced in India , Ceylon and Java and is still widespread in many other parts of the world where cultivation is possible.

It is grown for leaf production in Peru, Bolivia, Brazil , Colombia, parts of Africa , Indonesia , India and Sri Lanka at heights of 500 to 1200 m above sea level. The export of his seeds from these countries is banned across the board, making them difficult to obtain.

The coca bush grows particularly well on humus-rich, loose loam soils , and it also needs high humidity and a lot of precipitation. Unlike Erythroxylum novogranatense , Erythroxylum coca requires acidic soils with pH values ​​below 5.5, ideally pH 3.5. This corresponds to the typical pH value of rhododendron earth. At pH values ​​of 6.5 and above, chlorosis and leaf deformations usually occur and the plants often die.

Species and Evolution

The plant genus Erythroxylum includes around 250 species. Also Erythroxylum novogranatense that grows at a lower height, contains cocaine. It is grown in Colombia , Venezuela, and India .

Erythroxylum australe is a plant native to Australia that does not contain cocaine. Even so, all Erythroxylum plants are prohibited from growing in Queensland , including the native species.

A new variant of the coca bush called "Boliviana negra" was recently discovered that is resistant to the herbicide Roundup . With Roundup's massive use to combat coca cultivation, it was obtained through selective breeding of different species and is now gaining popularity among coca farmers.


Dried coca leaves contain approx. 0.5 to 2.5% alkaloids , up to three quarters of which are cocaine .

They also contain relatively large amounts of carbohydrates , calcium, and proteins , iron , vitamin A and vitamin B2 . For the local indigenous population, the plant was the only rich source of calcium until the arrival of the Spanish conquistadores .


Coca leaf chewing has been common in the Andes and the Gran Chaco lowlands for centuries. The leaves are used as luxury goods, as food supplements, for cultic and medicinal purposes. They help to suppress hunger, tiredness and cold and are very effective against altitude sickness , as they improve oxygen uptake. The coca leaves also had a spiritual meaning. The chewed leaves, together with lime and other auxiliary substances (e.g. plant ash, Quechua llipt'a ), form a so-called bola . Various types of plants are used to produce the llipt'a , including Chenopodium quinoa ( ilucta ), Chenopodium pallidicaule and Baccharis species.

Studies have also shown that when chewing coca leaves, the addition of lime, which is practiced by the Andean population, converts the alkaloid cocaine, which was originally present in the leaves, into the alkaloid ecgonine , an alkaloid that is completely devoid of addiction, through alkaline hydrolysis . These studies are also an explanation for the fact that chewing coca leaves with the addition of lime, even over a long period of time, does not result in any dependency among the Andean population, while in contrast to this, the practice in western countries of consuming cocaine as a pure substance , almost always creates addiction after a while.

When saliva was applied to wounds after chewing coca leaves as described in this way, the local anesthetic effect may also have been used.

The tea "Mate de Coca" is a national drink in Peru and other Andean regions. In Peru, Bolivia and northern Argentina, it is available in many supermarkets, ready-packed in tea bags. It contains approx. 1 g of dried coca leaves per tea bag. Its effect is comparable to that of strong black tea or coffee, and it can also relieve stomach problems. Its taste is rather grassy (“green”) and slightly amine-like . Physical or psychological complaints or addictions - beyond those of coffee or tea - are generally not observed. The processing of coca leaves into teas is even subsidized by the state in Peru. Since the tea mixture contains plant parts of the coca plant, this is subject to the German Narcotics Act , which is why only the possession or import of such tea bags is punishable.

The conqueror Gonzalo de Zárate , who was commissioned by Charles III. of Spain consolidated the colonial power in Argentina, praised the effect of the coca leaf: "The Indians in the mines can stay 36 hours underground without sleeping or eating". The coca tax subsequently became an important pillar of colonial rule. Until well into the 20th century, coca remained an indispensable component of the wages of the natives and mestizos in the Andes. The coca leaf only became a political issue when the Cold War spread to South America. As early as 1946, the Soviet embassy in Lima started a campaign against the “drug slavery” of unscrupulous US multinationals. At the instigation of the mining company Cerro de Pasco Copper Corporation , an American delegation before the United Nations parried the attack with an instruction on the advantages of the traditional coca custom. The US is now at the forefront of the war against the coca bush, while the political left has discovered a victim of cultural imperialism in the coca leaf .

The cultivation of Erythroxylum coca by the Cocaleros , the coca farmers, is only legal in certain quantities in the Andean countries, the processing of the leaves into cocaine or its preliminary products is strictly prohibited. From 1988 to 2006, Law 1008 was in force in Bolivia, which allows an annual cultivation area of ​​12,000 hectares in the Yungas region near La Paz for the traditional use of leaves. On December 19, 2006, the Bolivian President Evo Morales announced that he would make 20,000 hectares of his land available for coca cultivation by 2010. Cultivation on the other areas is being fought by the Bolivian government with strong support from the USA. Since Evo Morales' election as President of Bolivia in December 2005, the government's drug policy has remained open. Morales is striving to legalize the coca leaf, also in order to allow the many possible uses for toothpaste, shampoo, etc. The export of the leaves is currently prohibited. Exceptions are exports for pharmaceutical companies.

Bolivia failed in January 2011 with the application to exclude the coca bush from the international treaties for the Andean region and within a limited framework. As a result, Bolivia terminated the 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs in June 2011 in order to rejoin it , subject to Article 50 that it may allow the cultivation , trade and consumption of coca leaves in its country. On January 11, 2013, Bolivia was re-admitted as a party.

On August 17, 2011, Peru stopped its eradication program because the strategy of eradication was a failure that led to more cultivation. The discontinuation of the program is necessary to re-examine the anti-drug strategy.

Use as a medicinal plant

The dried leaves , Cocae folium, are used as a medicinal drug.

Research by Bardales at the Center for Andean Biology in Lima suggests that coca alkaloids affect breathing at high altitudes and that this allows the natives of the Andes to adapt to the reduced supply of oxygen.

Active ingredients are: Ecgonine - alkaloids with the main alkaloid cocaine , next to cinnamoylcocaine , and truxilline ; Pyrrolidine alkaloids such as hygrin and cuskygrin ; Tannins , flavonoids , small amounts of essential oil with methyl salicylate .

Applications: The alkaloid cocaine or the cocaine hydrochloride listed in the pharmacopoeia have strong local pain relievers. The substances are only used to a very limited extent, e.g. B. in surgical interventions on the eye.


The main active ingredients are the 0.5–1.4% alkaloids contained in the leaves, especially cocaine .

Erythroxylum coca contains two groups of alkaloids:

A) Tropin - and Tropin- carboxylic acid derivatives: tropacocaine , cocaine , Cinnamylcocain . Benzoylecgonine and Truxilline

B) Pyrrolidine derivatives: hygrin , cuskhygrin and nicotine .

Continuous daily consumption can develop an amotivational syndrome (AMS) or an addiction disease in people .

Discovery of cocaine and political consequences

1859 succeeded Albert Niemann , cocaine isolate from the plants and this as schmerzbetäubendes use medication to. Cocaine became a common drug in the 20th century. At the same time, coca cultivation became an international political issue. The USA put pressure on many Latin American countries to ban the cultivation and destroy the plantations . In many countries this posed a threat to the existence of coca farmers . Resistance to these measures also spawned politicians such as Evo Morales , who went from being a union leader for coca farmers to becoming president of Bolivia.


The leaves are dried either immediately or after a short fermentation . During fermentation, glycosides are broken down , and the drug develops a sweetish taste. Cocaine (hydrochloride), known as a whitish powder , is obtained from the fresh or dried leaves by acid-base extraction and further chemical processing.


Originally, the intoxicating effect of coca was a means of establishing contact with supernatural powers. It has also been used as a pain-healing drug by the indigenous population .

Legal status

Erythroxylum coca (plants and plant parts of the species Erythroxylum coca - including varieties bolivianum , spruceanum and novogranatense  - owned plants) is due to its performance in the Federal Republic of Germany Appendix II BtMG a marketable , but not prescription capable narcotics. Handling without permission is generally a criminal offense. Further information can be found in the main article Narcotics Law in Germany .

The coca bush falls under the international standard agreement on narcotics and the associated restrictions.

Common names

The other German-speaking common name Peruthen exists or existed for the coca bush.

See also


  • Reinhard Lieberei, Christoph Reisdorff, founded by Wolfgang Franke : Nutzpflanzenkunde. 8th edition, Thieme, Stuttgart 2012, ISBN 978-3-13-530408-3 .
  • Robert Lessmann : Coca Policy and Drug Control . In: Ders .: The new Bolivia. Evo Morales and his democratic revolution . Rotpunkt, Zurich 2010, ISBN 978-3-85869-403-4 , pp. 182–197.
  • Robert Lessmann: Cocaine, for example . Lamuv, Göttingen 2001, ISBN 3-88977-605-1 .
  • Robert Lessmann: Drug Economics and International Politics . Vervuert, Frankfurt am Main 1996, ISBN 3-89354-241-8 (= series of publications by the Institute for Ibero-American Customers , Volume 41, also dissertation at the University of Vienna 1994).
  • Otto Nieschulz and P. Schmersahl: Investigations into the significance of the addition of lime when chewing coca leaves. In: Planta Medica . 17 (2), 1969, pp. 178-183.
  • CE Turner, MA Elsohly, L. Hanuš and HN Elsohly: Isolation of dihydrocuscohygrine from Peruvian coca leaves. In: Phytochemistry . 20 (6), 1981, pp. 1403-1405.
  • Gereon Janzing: The Indians have their coffee: coca . Edition RauschKunde, Löhrbach, ISBN 978-3-930442-62-1 .
  • Jens Niklas Schaper: The coca plant: a useful plant from a legal, political and cultural perspective , Lit, Berlin, 2014, ISBN 978-3-643-12510-1 (= Bremen research on criminal policy , volume 18, also a dissertation at the University of Bremen 2013 ).
  • Ingrid and Peter Schönfelder: The New Handbook of Medicinal Plants, Botany Medicinal Drugs, Active Ingredients Applications , Franckh-Kosmos Verlag GmbH & Co. KG, Stuttgart, 2011, ISBN 978-3-440-12932-6
  • L. Roth, M. Daunderer, K. Kornmann: Poison Plants Plant Poisons , 6th revised edition, 2012, Nikol-Verlag, ISBN 978-3-86820-009-6

Individual evidence

  1. ^ A b Albert Gossauer: Structure and Reactivity of Biomolecules , Verlag Helvetica Chimica Acta, Zurich, 2006, p. 245, ISBN 978-3-906390-29-1 .
  2. Erythroxylum coca at In: IPCN Chromosome Reports . Missouri Botanical Garden, St. Louis
  4. Emanuel L. Johnson, T. Austin Campbell, Charles D. Foy: Effect of soil pH on mineral element concentrations of two erythroxylum species . In: Journal of Plant Nutrition . tape 20 , no. November 11 , 1997, ISSN  0190-4167 , p. 1503-1515 , doi : 10.1080 / 01904169709365352 .
  5. ^ Evolutionary History: Uniting History and Biology to Understand Life on Earth, Edmund Russell . Cambridge University Press, 2011, ISBN 9780521745093 (Retrieved March 12, 2011).
  6. ^ Richard J. Kitz, Leroy D. Vandam: A History and the Scope of Anesthetic Practice. In: Ronald D. Miller (Ed.): Anesthesia. 3 volumes, Churchill Livingstone, New York / Edinburgh / London / Melbourne 1981, 2nd edition ibid. 1986, ISBN 0-443-08328-2 , Volume 1, pp. 3–25, here: p. 4.
  7. ^ Deutsche Welle: Bolivia wants to legalize coca chewing
  8. Answer of the Federal Government to a small question about what the "drug policy considerations" are, which justify Germany's opposition to Bolivia's proposal to amend the drug convention of 1961 in the field of coca chewing (PDF; 67 kB)
  9. Mattia Cabitza: Bolivia to withdraw from drugs convention over coca classification. June 23, 2011, accessed July 30, 2018 .
  10. Annual report 2011 of the Narcotics Control Council, p. 4. (PDF; 2.0 MB)
  11. Peru stops extinction of the coca bush . ( Memento of the original from October 16, 2011 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. In: Los Angeles Times , via @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot /
  12. ^ Peru suspends coca eradication program . In: Los Angeles Times
  13. ^ Georg August Pritzel , Carl Jessen : The German folk names of plants. New contribution to the German linguistic treasure. Philipp Cohen, Hannover 1882, page 147. ( online ).

Web links

Commons : Coca shrub ( Erythroxylum coca )  - album with pictures, videos and audio files
Wiktionary: Coca bush  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations