For 8,000 years, indigenous people in the Amazon and Andean regions of South America have chewed coca leaves. However, did you know that it wasn’t until the 19th century when individuals like Freud began to endorse cocaine as a miracle drug, that these leaves became a highly addictive substance?
Cocaine, which Freud extracted from Andean coca, was marketed as a panacea
Andean culture has used coca leaves for thousands of years as a natural stimulant. It is said that consuming or chewing coca tea increases energy, prevents altitude sickness, improves digestion, relieves hunger, reduces menstrual cramps and serves as an anesthetic.
In Bolivia, coca leaf chewing day is celebrated every year and Pope Francis has even been seen drinking coca tea.
The coca leaf played an important role in Andean culture and history, especially during the reign of the Inca Empire in 1200 AD. According to an Inca legend, the coca plant first appeared on the body of the beautiful Kuka, who had green skin and loved freedom.
Kuka was ordered by the Inca emperor to be executed, cut into pieces and buried because she had a reputation for seducing anyone who saw her and inspiring obsession in her wake. In his honor, the resulting plant was given the name coca.
Coca leaves were used in religious rituals and sacrificial victims admitted to having consumed a lot of coca before they died.
In addition, dried coca leaves were used as currency and were more valuable than gold. To increase production, the Spanish encouraged coca consumption among their slaves when they conquered the region.
However, it was not until the 1850s that the active alkaloid was first isolated from coca leaves and given the name cocaine in Germany.
Coca leaf and kola nut syrup were used to manufacture Coca-Cola, which was the best-known use of cocaine in 1860. Coca leaf is a mild stimulant similar to coffee, while cocaine is a white powder.
It was hailed as a miracle drug that could treat almost anything, but unfortunately, it was overprescribed and misapplied.
The father of psychoanalysis, Sigmund Freud, was fascinated by its psychological effects, which led to his theory of talk therapy (another word for cocaine-laden monologues?). Freud began to promote its use for various conditions, such as alcoholism and asthma and even as an aphrodisiac.
William Halsted, the father of modern surgery, was at the same time experimenting with cocaine as an anesthetic. Due to their self-experimentation, both eventually developed an addiction to cocaine.
Due to a false association between coca leaves and cocaine, governments have been trying to stop coca leaf production for decades.
While indigenous communities have traditionally used coca leaves responsibly because they consider them a gift from the gods, cocaine is an addictive narcotic that was once falsely marketed as a miracle drug by Western scientists.
It was falsely marketed as a miracle drug by Western scientists.