Coca leaves (Cocaine) : Chemical Constituents and Uses

English: Erythroxylum coca, Erythroxylaceae, C...

Erythroxylum coca, Erythroxylaceae, Coca, leaves. The alkaloid cocaine is used in homeopathy as remedy: 

Morphology and Distribution of Coca:

Coca leaves are the dried leaves of Erythroxylon coca and Erythroxylontruxillense, belonging to the family Erythroxylaceae. It is known as coca.

Erythroxylon coca is commercially known as Bolivian or Huanuco coca and Erythroxylon truxillense is known as Peruvian or Truxillo coca. The coca plant is native to South American countries like Peru and Bolivia. The commercial cultivation is carried out in Peru, Java, Columbia, Bolivia, India and Sri Lanka.

History of Coca:

The coca leaves were first used by South Americans as a masticatory. It was considered as a ‘divine plant’ by them and it was reserved only to the native chiefs and Incas. Cocaine from this plant was isolated in 1860 and its local anaesthetic effects were discovered in 1882 by Koeller from Vienna. In the later half of the nineteenth century it was introduced into the medicine.

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Cultivation of coca plants:

Coca leaves contains tropane alkaloids like cocaine. Although it has local anaesthetic effects, it has hallucinogenic actions and it leads to addiction. Because of this, all the activities about this plant are strictly governed by Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act 1985 in India and by relevant acts in other countries. From the crude cocaine, pure cocaine is isolated. The total alkaloids are hydrolysed to get ecgonine and cocaine is synthesised from this. Large scale manufacture of cocaine is done in U.K, where the processes are protected by patents.

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Chemical constituents of Coca:

The drug contains alkaloids which are mainly tropane esters. Peruvian and Bolivian coca contains less alkaloids ad more amount of cocaine while Java coca contains more amount of alkaloids and less cocaine. The coca plant yields tropane derived alkaloids like cocaine (methyl benzoyl ecgonine), cinnamyl cocaine (methyl cinnamoylecgonine), a-truxilline (methyl-a-truxilloylecgonine), tropocaine, benzoyltropine, dihydroxytropane and benzoylecgonine. The cocaine is synthesised from ecgonine and is isolated as cocaine hydrochloride.

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Uses of Coca:

  • Local anaesthetic
  • Stimulant
  • Restorative agent
  • Useful in convulsions
  • Cocaine reduces the sedative and respiratory depressant effects of morphine and allied drugs
  • It has CNS stimulant properties
It is hallucinogenic and cause addiction. It has become the drug of abuse and its use is limited to opthalmic, ear, nose and throat surgeries.
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