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Coca facts for kids

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Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
Division: Magnoliophyta
Class: Magnoliopsida
Order: Malpighiales
Family: Erythroxylaceae
Genus: Erythroxylum
Species: E. coca
Binomial name
Erythroxylum coca

Coca is a plant in the family Erythroxylaceae, native to north-western South America. The plant plays a significant role in traditional Andean culture. Today the plant has many uses.


Coca has been cultivated by Andean cultures for thousands of years. Traditionally people would chew the leaf or soak it in hot water to make tea in order to experience the various benefits the leaf provides. Coca was introduced to Europe in the 16th century.


Raw coca leaves, chewed or consumed as tea or mate de coca, are rich in nutritional properties. Specifically, the coca plant contains essential minerals (calcium, potassium, phosphorus), vitamins (B1, B2, C, and E) and nutrients such as protein and fiber.

In 1961 the United Nations classified the coca leaf as a narcotic even though studies had shown the leaf itself was non-addictive. This has led the United States to pressure coca-growing countries such as Peru and Bolivia to stop growing coca entirely. These countries have responded by fighting the 1961 decision, trying to remove the coca plant from the list.

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