Coca is a leaf that is integrated in the Bolivian culture through rituals, medicine, food, religion, social interactions, and much more. The primary use for the coca leaf is consumption; it is chewed or brewed for tea. Coca leaves are not exclusive to Bolivia, rather many Andean countries such as Colombia, Chile, Argentina, Ecuador, Peru, Paraguay, and Brazil use coca for similar cultural practices as well.
Every day, millions of people in the Andes use coca like people in North America use coffee; they brew the leaves in hot water to make tea; some chew on the leaves to reenergize at work. For centuries, Andean populations have cherished the health and spiritual benefits of coca. In both uses, coca acts as a mild stimulant––like coffee––that can also suppress hunger, thirst, pain, and fatigue, and even relieve symptoms of altitude sickness.