Natural Standard® Patient Monograph, Copyright © 2017 ( All Rights Reserved. Commercial distribution prohibited. This monograph is intended for informational purposes only, and should not be interpreted as specific medical advice. You should consult with a qualified healthcare provider before making decisions about therapies and/or health conditions.


The coca plant (Erythroxylum coca), or "coca," is native to the Andean region in western South America. Coca leaves have been used widely by native South American tribes for thousands of years. It has been suggested that the use of the coca plant was originally reserved for priests and royalty in ancient South America and was used for religious purposes.

Traditionally, coca plant products have been used for reducing pain, decreasing hunger, and for their stimulating effects. Cocaine, a compound taken from the coca plant, is a highly addictive stimulant.

In the late 19th century, the use of cocaine for local anesthesia was popularized. Cocaine found its way into many different products including prescription drugs, medicine, and popular soda drinks (including the original Coca-Cola®). In modern times, cocaine's use in anesthesia is limited, due to the negative effects of cocaine and risk for addiction and death.

Coca leaves have been used for treating cocaine dependence. Coca leaves have also been used for exercise tolerance and hypoglycemia (low blood sugar). Illegal use of cocaine has had negative effects on antisocial behavior and general health. Further study is needed.

This evidence-based monograph was prepared by The Natural Standard Research Collaboration