Cultural patrimony and a sacred plant

Cultural patrimony and a sacred plant


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I always hear negativity and ignorant comments surrounding the coca leaf which is a shame because those people are missing the real meaning and experience of it. The coca leaf is used as a powerful stimulant that helps with suppressing hunger, pain, thirst, nausea and altitude sickness. Coca is a small leaf from a plant that is usually made into tea or chewed by  people from the Andes of South America, but of course other people use it as well. Some people don’t understand that just  because it is an ingredient to make cocaine that the actual leaf is not a drug.

In the United States it is illegal to sell or consume coca and the charge of consuming the leaf has the same consequence of using cocaine, which in my opinion it’s absolutely ridiculous. Where I am from the coca leaf is legal and is seen as part of our culture. In the Bolivian constitution it is legalized due to being a cultural patrimony and a sacred plant. It is respected and not mistreated. The first time I tried coca was when I was a little girl in Bolivia. I had to go on an eight hour road trip through the amazons and sierras without stopping while being in high altitude. Instead of taking over of the counter medication for the severe nausea and migraines, I did the ‘Bolivian thing’ and chewed coca leaf. Throughout the whole ride I was alert and able to enjoy the scenery without having any complication along the way.

I am not from the Andes part of Bolivia and even though I am from the Amazon I still grew up with the belief that coca leaf is a natural medicine. My grandpa had stage three colon cancer and through his fight against it he was unable to take coca leaf tea. To him no amount of medication compared to his homemade tea, so when the doctors told him he only had a few months of living he immediately stopped going through chemo and started drinking coca tea again because he wanted to die drinking his favorite tea. Even the Pope requested to chew coca leaves during his visit to Bolivia.

A coca leaf is also known for being used to help people with ADD or ADHD. It helps people calm down and to concentrate more. I take Adderall for it and I would prefer to take coca tea instead of actual medication, but at the end of the day it can be prescribed unlike Coca leaves which is mind blowing that a plant leaf can’t be.  It’s not fair that a plant leaf is illegal, yet a drug that can make me addicted to it is not. I don’t expect it to be legalized any time soon, but it should be at least a prescribed medication like marijuana is in some states.