So exactly what does the coca leaf additive do for your skin? How does it benefit my skincare routine? 

The coca leaf contains powerful antioxidants and vitamins, but most importantly it enhances oxygen flow to the skin & blood steam. Enhanced oxygen flow helps the skin to appear more firm, revitalized and plump. 

As a mild and natural vasodilator Coca Leaf supports healthy blood flow and circulation which is key to overall vitality, skin health and nutrient absorption. Having higher oxygen levels on the skins surface helps to increase cell turnover, which in turn boosts collagen production while taming inflammation. 

Coca Leaf also contains a variety of skin and body benefiting essentials: 

-Plant-based Vitamins A, B1, B2, B6, C and E

-Plant-based Minerals Calcium, Magnesium and Phosphorus (antioxidant powerhouses)

-Plant-based Natural Fibers

-Plant-based Protein

In Bolivia and other parts of South America daily Coca Leaf consumption is commonly the natural alternative to taking dietary supplements.


Coca has inspired many legends, driven the rise and fall of empires and is the muse for the top selling soft drink around the world. The byproduct of the single illegal alkaloid has starred in more films than any famous Hollywood actors, helped secure Grammys, been to the best parties and even recently to the Oval Office, yet the Coca Leaf has been abused and subjected to one of the worst public relations campaigns in recent history. Coca plantations have been doused with cancer causing chemicals widely banned across the EU and US in the name of “the war on drugs” by the UN backed governments poisoning the farming soil for generations to come. Coca Leaf has been both worshiped and demonized by the world for a single alkaloid. Needless to say, Coca Leaf has major “main character” energy. 

Legends about Coca are endless, but the most well known starts with an irresistible woman. Kuka, a woman of such extraordinary beauty that none across the Empire could resist her. Aware that her exquisite beauty and charm allowed her to easily take advantage of men, the Incas ordered that she be sacrificed, cut in half, and buried. From her grave, a miraculous plant sprouted, and it is what today we call Coca. 

Source: Bolivian Natural History Archives

However, if we want to examine the origins of Coca we have to go quite a bit back in history to a time before legends - the Amazon.   

Coca’s use and  consumption are believed to have had their origin among the tribes of the central Amazon.The Aymara word “Khoka” is the generic term for 'tree' or ‘bush'. The coca plant eventually broke out of its jungle-bound habitat and was carried by trade into the Andes Mountains. Researcher Jason Palmer (2010) states that Peruvian foraging societies  were already chewing coca leaves 8,000 years ago. His discovery pushed back the first  known Coca use by at least 3,000 years. 

The use of coca in ritual and belief in its divine origin was widespread for centuries  before the Incas. No satisfactory theory has yet explained why the coca leaf became  associated with the divine. However, since the coca leaf aroused strange sensations, it  was called a " divine plant, "and its use was limited to members of the Inca aristocracy.  During colonial times, its use expanded to all Inca social casts.

Between the Spanish Conquistadors and the invention of the oil well there were rise and falls of empires, civil wars and in 1860 a German chemist Dr. Albert Nieman isolated the infamous alkaloid. Novak studied all of the alkaloids and came to the conclusion that the overall effect gained from using whole coca products may be in fact from the sum total of all plant constituents, rather than just cocaine alone. Basically, Novak concluded that the sum is greater than its parts. From 1860 on, very little research has been done on the Coca Leaf in its entirety.  

Fast forward 100 years - Coca, together with cannabis and opium, became one of the main control targets of  the 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs Act, including special restrictions on cultivation, proscribing the phasing out traditional use within 25 years and listing the Coca Leaf as “a substance liable for abuse” in Schedule 1 . However, a later addendum  permitted the use of coca under certain restrictions to help Coca-Cola with their imports of Coca.


Little traction for the Coca Leaf was realized until 1995 when the WHO’s Expert Committee on Drugs finished “the largest global study on cocaine use”, including one part on the use of Coca Leaf, concluding that "the use of Coca Leaves appears to have no negative health effects and has positive therapeutic, sacred and social functions for indigenous Andean populations", apparently one of  the reasons the study was obstructed in a peer review process, and never published. 

In September 2007 the UN adopted the Universal Declaration on the Rights of  Indigenous Peoples, reflecting a global commitment to respect cultural traditions and  medicinal practices of all indigenous populations. This recognition reflects a clear contradiction in international law regarding the legal status of traditional use of coca.  

In 2009 the Bolivian government proposed to amend the 1961 Single Convention by removing two sub paragraphs that bans coca leaf chewing. A  United States led coalition presented objections within the 12 months period established by the  procedure, and blocked the amendment. 

However, the United States' objections did not deter Bolivia and in 2011 Bolivia denounced the 1961 Single Convention, which came into effect 2012. Bolivia receded the treaty in January 2013 and was successful in winning the influence of the majority of the UN treaty members.  Bolivia returned to the Single Convention, but did so having won a significant victory in its efforts to right the historic wrong in the classification of the coca leaf as a dangerous narcotic. However, the right to traditional uses of the coca leaf only pertains to Bolivia; the exportation and use of coca leaf internationally remains prohibited. 



OBELISK believes that reforms are overdue. A step forward would be for the international community to entirely remove the Coca Leaf from List 1 of the 1961 Convention. As of October 2023 Bolivia has initiated the WHO to conduct a ‘critical review’ of the Coca Leaf over the next year. Based on its findings, the WHO may recommend changes in Coca’s classification under the UN drug control treaties. The WHO recommendations would be submitted for approval by the UN Commission on Narcotic Drugs (CND), with voting likely in 2025.


Interested in updates on the Coca Leaf and its path to emancipation? 

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