Chewing coca leaves

Chewing coca leaves

In Bolivia bags of coca leaves are sold in local markets and by street vendors. The activity of chewing coca is called mambear, chacchar or acullicar, borrowed from Quechua, coquear (northern Argentina), or in Bolivia, picchar, derived from the Aymara language. Chewing coca leaves is most common in indigenous communities across the central Andean region.
Coca is still chewed in the traditional way, with a tiny quantity of ilucta (a preparation of the ashes of the quinoa plant) added to the coca leaves, it softens their astringent flavor and activates the alkaloids.
Traditional medical uses of coca are foremost as a stimulant to overcome fatigue, hunger, and thirst. It is considered particularly effective against altitude sickness. It also is used as an anesthetic and analgesic to alleviate the pain of headache, rheumatism, wounds and sores. Before stronger anaesthetics were available, it also was used for broken bones, childbirth, and during trephining operations on the skull. The high calcium content in coca explains why people used it for bone fractures. Because coca constricts blood vessels, it also serves to oppose bleeding, and coca seeds were used for nosebleeds.
Uyuni, Altiplano, Bolivia

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