Coca is a plant. It is the source of cocaine, which is an illegal drug that is used nasally, injected, or smoked for mind-altering effects. Cocaine is also an FDA-approved Schedule C-II drug. This means cocaine can be prescribed by a healthcare provider, but the process is strictly regulated. The worry about cocaine is that it is unsafe and highly addictive.

Despite safety concerns and illegality, the coca leaf is used to make medicine.

People chew coca leaves to relieve hunger and fatigue and to enhance physical performance.

Coca extracts are used for stimulating stomach function, causing sedation, and treating asthma, colds, and other ailments.

Coca tea is used for altitude sickness in the Peruvian Andes and elsewhere.

A form of cocaine that can be applied to the skin is available by prescription. It is used to numb eye, nose, and throat pain; and to narrow blood vessels.

In manufacturing, coca extract with the cocaine removed is used to flavor cola drinks and food products.

How it works

The cocaine found in coca can cause an increase in brain activity and have numbing (anesthetic) effects. Cocaine is highly addictive.


Not Proven
Cocaine dependence

Early research suggests that chewing coca leaf might improve mental health in people addicted to cocaine.

Stimulation of stomach function
Altitude sickness
Other conditions


Likely safe

Coca leaf without the cocaine (decocainized) is LIKELY SAFE for most people when used in normal food amounts. The cocaine contained in the coca leaf is LIKELY SAFE for use on the eye or skin when prescribed and monitored by a medical professional

Likely unsafe

Cocaine is LIKELY UNSAFE when taken by mouth for medicinal uses and UNSAFE when taken by mouth or inhaled for recreational uses. Cocaine is illegal and can cause hyperactivity, restlessness, excitement, migraine headaches, seizures, strokes, heart attacks, aneurysms, high blood pressure, and liver and kidney failure. As little as 1/4 of a teaspoon of cocaine can be deadly. Cocaine is highly addictive.



Pregnancy and breast-feeding: It'sUNSAFEto inhale coca or take it by mouth if you arepregnant. The cocaine in coca might cause amiscarriageor birth defects. Coca use is also associated withsudden infant death syndrome(SIDS).

It's also UNSAFE to inhale coca or take it by mouth if you are breast-feeding. Cocaine is excreted into breast milk, and harmful effects can occur in infants breast-fed by mothers who were recently exposed to cocaine.

Asthma: The cocaine in coca can make asthma worse. Don't use it.

Heart disease: The cocaine in coca can make heart disease worse. Don't use it.

Diabetes: Coca or the coca constituent cocaine might increase blood sugar levels in some people. Coca might affect blood sugar control in people with diabetes.

High blood pressure (hypertension): Coca or the coca constituent cocaine might increase blood pressure in some people. People prone to high blood pressure should avoid using.

History of stroke or at risk for stroke: If you have a history of stroke or are at high risk for having a stroke, do not use coca. The cocaine in coca increases the chance of dying from a broken blood vessel in the brain.

A condition called plasma pseudocholinesterase deficiency (PPD): People with PPD are more likely than others to have seizures and/or die after using cocaine.


Always consult with your doctor.

Coca contains cocaine. Cocaine can affect your thinking. Alcohol can also affect your thinking. Do not take coca if you have been drinking alcohol.


Coca contains cocaine. Taking cocaine with nifedipine increases the risk of serious side effects such as seizure.

Medications for high blood pressure (Antihypertensive drugs)

Coca might increase blood sugar. Diabetes medications are used to lower blood sugar. By increasing blood sugar, coca might decrease the effectiveness of diabetes medications. Monitor your blood sugar closely. The dose of your diabetes medication might need to be changed.Some medications used for diabetes include glimepiride (Amaryl), glyburide (DiaBeta, Glynase PresTab, Micronase), insulin, pioglitazone (Actos), rosiglitazone (Avandia), chlorpropamide (Diabinese), glipizide (Glucotrol), tolbutamide (Orinase), and others.Coca might increase blood pressure. Antihypertensive medications are used to lower blood pressure. By increasing blood pressure, coca might decrease the effectiveness of antihypertensive medications. Monitor your blood pressure closely.Some antihypertensive medications include captopril (Capoten), enalapril (Vasotec), losartan (Cozaar), valsartan (Diovan), diltiazem (Cardizem), Amlodipine (Norvasc), hydrochlorothiazide (HydroDIURIL), furosemide (Lasix), and many others.

The information provided on this page is for reference purposes and is not meant to be used as a medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always consult with a medical professional.