Coca: Food, Medicine, Sacrament

Although actually endemic to Amazonia, the coca leaf is much more widely used in the Andes regions. Incan legend states that the coca leaf was a gift from the sun god Inti and the moon goddess Mama Quilla to the people of the sun.  Mythologically, the Incan People consider themselves to be direct descendents of the sun.  Even today the coca leaf is revered as a divine plant by Andean people, where it is used as food, medicine and for sacred rituals.

For thousands of years up to present times, coca has been used by the people of the Andean highlands as a nutritional supplement, where it is commonly consumed as a tea, called "mate de coca" or by chewing the leaves, a ritual known as "chachar," loosely meaning "to masticate in the way that only coca can be masticated."   Its diverse nutrient profile includes essential minerals (calcium, potassium, phosphorus) and vitamins (B1, B2, C, and E) as well as other nutrients such as protein and fiber. Traditionally due to a lack of dairy products in their region, the diet of Andean people should have been deficient in calcium. However, even without knowledge of chemical analysis, this deficiency has been intuitively regulated by the collective supplementation of coca. 

From an Ayurvedic standpoint, coca is an excellent tool for reducing excess Kapha dosha, by expelling dense, cold and heavy qualities, especially in the cardiopulmonary region.  Coca has an affinity to Prana vaha srotas, the respiratory channels of the body.  It helps to clear these channels of excess phlegm and dilate the bronchi and bronchioles, decreasing airway resistance and thereby facilitating airflow, which is extremely beneficial to allergy and asthma sufferers. Lack of proper flow of prana can lead to fatigue and dullness in the mind and body. Conversely, increasing the intake of prana can contribute to an increase in energy levels.  Coca has been used traditionally in Andean cultures for a multitude of purposes.  Commonly, it was and still is utilized by peasants who work in high altitudes where there is less oxygen present, such as in the challenging environs of the altiplano, to increase energy levels and simultaneously suppress appetite.  For these reasons, coca would make an excellent food for trekking.  Coca relates to the air element on the physical level through its affinity to the respiratory system, in its ability to enhance the flow of oxygen as well as on an energetic level.  Coca has an affinity to the heart chakra and can help to open energetic blockages in the region this chakra governs that can manifest as emotional aloofness or feelings of disconnectedness - both from ourselves, our loved ones and our natural environment. 

Other important uses can be derived from its digestive and carminative properties. Coca can assist the stomach and intestines in maintaining proper digestive function, by preventing gas from forming and aiding in dispelling gas from the colon. This can be beneficial in relieving colic, gas and bloating due to abdominal distention.  In Ayurveda, these symptoms can be interpreted as a high Vata condition, or an excess of air and ether elements in the large intestine, one of the largest repositories of Vata dosha in the physical body.  Digestive forces are governed by Samana vayu, known as the balancing air. Samana vayu is located at the navel center, which connected us with our physical mother in utero and continues to connect us with our cosmic mother. The umbilicus, called nabhi in Sanskrit, is considered the source of where all the 72,000 nadis (the subtle channels of the body), emanate from in a spider web-like network.  Similar to the function of Samana vayu, vibrational preparations of coca, like our flower essence or Inala Drops, can aid in the assimilation of prana in all its forms. It teaches us to collect and harness the life-giving energies of nature that can be absorbed through breath, sunlight, nourishing food and sensory perceptions.  On a physical level coca can enhance oxygen intake while subtly, the flower essence helps us to amplify the movement of prana or life-force energy through the subtle channels. This magnification of prana pulsating through the body imparts a sensation of great power and inner vitality while opening us up to receive and integrate the information contained within the matrix of the natural world, which the air element serves as the vehicle of.

The ancient Incas used coca to facilitate a deeper connection a with Nature. They chewed the leaves and used them in various rituals, divinatory practices and traditional offerings, such as the Quinto, to communicate with and offer gratitude to Pachamama, or Mother Earth.  Esoterically, coca leaves were used to connect the individual soul to the sun via the apus, or primordial earth guardians that take the form of great mountains.  The essence of coca acts as a mediator, channeling the strength of the Earth, Avani Shakti (Sanskrit for "power of the Earth"), while connecting us to the sun and greater cosmos.  One of its other archetypal roles is as translator, between the human spirit and the greater spirits of Nature.  Perhaps this is why coca is used as a divining tool.  Coca can be used in the same way today, for example, as we take walks in Nature, observing the blooming flowers, fruit-laden trees and giving thanks for the abundance the Earth continues to provide for all living beings.

Almost all of the information shared in this article has come through the deepening of my personal relationship with coca over the years and the process of opening to hear her teachings, which may not come in a familiar form or language but is none-the-less discernable, if not with the mind, then with the heart.  Nature is communicating with us all the time, indigenous peoples from the Native Americans to the Incans, from the Hawaiians to the Dogon were completely aware of this and in synch with this greater communication.  We all have the ability to refine our connection/communication/communion with the natural world.  It requires nothing more than a willingness, an openness and time spent in Nature, away from the barrage of sensory stimulation that has become the norm in our light-speed paced, multi-tasking, instant-gratifying, ADHA-riddled modern world.  At the behest of my plant allies, La Madrecita Coca included, we invite you to remember your true nature, as a divine child of the Universe.  Step into your divine birthright and accept your majestic inheritance as steward of the living biosphere.