Kuka, is Quechua and means unique, excellent and sacred, its the name of the coca plant and leaf. Discover the legend and folklore of coca in Peru and Bolivia and its use in traditional Andean culture.

In this Article

The discovery of mama coca, or Erythroxylum coca or Erythroxylon novogranatense, was ever a story of many dimensions, and the telling of the tale depended on the leaf’s use as medicine, food, drink or for sacred rites and rituals. It has also been a vital part of the cosmology of the Andean peoples of Peru, Bolivia, Ecuador, Colombia, Brazil, northern Argentina and Chile from the Pre-Inca period through to the present. Coca leaves play a crucial part in offerings to

  • Apus (mountains),
  • Inti (the sun), or
  • Pachamama (the earth).

The sacred leaf was intimately related to other deities, Achachilas, Mama Quilla, Manco Capac and his sister-wife Mama Oello, demi gods, and mortals.

When chewed, the coca leaves act as a mild stimulant and suppresses hunger, thirst, pain, and fatigue. Other benefits include muscle relaxation, which can help with menstrual cramps. This effect also helps to treat altitude sickness by opening up the respiratory tract and relieving the feeling of shortness of breath and tightness in the chest. Coca is highly useful for its antibacterial and analgesic properties, in addition to aiding in digestion and in preventing constipation. Because of the minerals, vitamines and the presence of the powerful bitter alkaloid Benzoylmethylecgonine.

Further research has indicated that Benzoylmethylecgonine can affect aspects of brain function and stimulates certain portions of the autonomic nervous system. It produces increased wakefulness, increased focus, and better general body coordination.

Profecía Andina:

La hoja de coca representa para los indígenas; la fuerza, la vida, es un alimento espiritual que les permite entrar en contacto con sus divinidades “Apus, Achachilas, Inti, Mama Quilla, Pachamama”. Mientras que para sus enemigos, la coca es una causa de locura y de dependencia…”

The coca leaf represents for the natives; strength, life, it is a spiritual food that allows them to enter into contact with their divinities

“Apus, Achachilas, Inti, Mama Quilla, Pachamama”.

While for its enemies coca is a cause of madness and dependence… “

earthstoriez| Legend of COCA, God Intis gift to Peru Bolivia

Mama Coca or Cocamama was not meant to be cooked up with chemicals…

Coca is not cocaine.

Coca is medicine, food, coca is fundamentally cultural.

This is the story we learned visiting the COCA museum in La Paz, Bolivia:

Cómo la coca llegó a los Incas

Cómo la coca llegó a los Incas

Coca era una joven india con una extrema belleza, que causaba envidiada a todas las regiones del imperio de Kollasuyo. Todos los hombres se derretían delante del encanto de la joven mujer, y Coca se complacía a este juego de seducción devastador. Si unos no podían evitar de soñar con Coca, los otros desarrollaban celos y rivalidad, lo cual ponía seriamente en peligro la cohesión y estabilidad del país.

El Inca estaba consciente del problema que representaba Coca, y decidió consultar al consejo de sabios. Estos se retiraron para observar a los astros y leer en las entrañas de la llama y concluyeron que la salvación del imperio pasaba por el sacrificio de Coca. El Inca, contra su voluntad, ordenó entonces la muerte de la joven mujer y que los restos sean enterrados en los jardines de sus pretendientes. El tiempo pasa, y en cada lugar donde los restos de Coca habían sido enterrados empiezan a crecer pequeños arbustos con hojas verdes ovaladas y lisas que le llamaron Coca, en homenaje a la joven mujer.

How the Coca plant came to the Incas

How the Coca plant came to the Incas

Coca was a young Indian lady who was famous in all the Kollasuyo Empire for her extreme beauty. No man could resist the charm of the young woman, and Coca was taking pleasure in this devastating seduction game. Some could not help dreaming of Coca, the others developed jealousy and the competition seriously put in danger the cohesion and stability of the country.

The Inca was aware of the troubles caused by Coca, and decided to consult the council of the Wise. After observing the stars and reading in the entrails of a llama, the Wise concluded that Coca’s sacrifice was necessary for saving the empire. Although not in favor of such decision, the Inca sentenced the young woman to death and requested that parts of her body would be buried in the gardens of all her lovers. Time goes bye, and in each place where Coca’s remains had been buried, small bushes with oval and smooth green leaves started to grow. These little bushes were called coca, in homage to the young woman.

earthstoriez| Legend of COCA, God Intis gift to Peru Bolivia


The cultivation, sale, and possession of unprocessed Coca leaf is generally legal in Bolivia, Peru, Chile and Argentina – where traditional use is established, although cultivation is restricted.

~ ○ ~

Keep exploring:

Works Cited & Multimedia Sources
  • Museo de la coca. La Paz, Bolivia.
  • Terrazas Orellana Carlos. La milenaria y sagrada hoja de coca.
  • Vacchelli Sicheri Gian Franco. La hoja de coca en la cosmovisión andina.
  • Villamil Antonio Diaz. Leyendas de mi tierra. 1929. Rewritten by N. Brachet.
  • Wikipedia: Coca.
  • Wikimedia Commons: Benzoylmethylecgonine, the psychoactive constituent of coca, by Nuklear (own work).