Coca is any of the four cultivated plants in the family Erythroxylaceae, native to western South America. The plant is a cash crop in Argentina, Bolivia, Colombia, and Peru. It also plays a role in many traditional Andean cultures as well as the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta (see Traditional uses). Coca is known throughout the world for its psychoactive alkaloid, cocaine. The alkaloid content of coca leaves is low, between 0.25% and 0.77%.This means that chewing the leaves or drinkingcoca tea does not produce the intense high (euphoria, megalomania, depression) people experience with cocaine. Coca leaf extract had been used in Coca-Cola products from 1885, with cocaine being completely eliminated from the products in or around 1929. Extraction of cocaine from coca requires several solvents and a chemical process known as an acid/base extraction, which can fairly easily extract the alkaloids from the plant.
Traces of coca have been found inmummies dating 3000 years back. Other evidence dates the communal chewing of coca with lime 8000 years back. Extensive archaeological evidence for the chewing of coca leaves dates back at least to the 6th century AD Moche period, and the subsequent Inca period, based on mummies found with a supply of coca leaves, pottery depicting the characteristic cheek bulge of a coca chewer, spatulas for extracting alkali and figured bags for coca leaves and lime made from precious metals, and gold representations of coca in special gardens of the Inca in Cuzco.