How Medical Coca Can Be Cultivated

There are 230 species of coca found naturally on multiple continents (North and South America, Africa, Asia, and Australia).  The kinds most commonly domesticated are the South American species. Depending on the species, they grow in a variety of climates and conditions.  As medical research is done on various medical applications of alkaloids found in coca leaves, this is extremely important. What is assumed to be a plant that can only grow in tropical rain forests can actually be grown in arid Mediterranean climates.  Indeed, there are species in the Erythroxylum genus (the genus of coca plants) that grow in arid Australia.  Meaning as medical research finds additional usages of coca, it could be grown in nations such as Spain, Portugal, Italy, Greece, Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Egypt, Hawaii, Florida, California, and other Southwestern United States.  Or it could even be grown in greenhouses or otherwise indoors in colder climates, like cannabis.  

Erthroxylum novogranatense is a species of coca found in Peru’s Northern coastal deserts and valleys.  Unlike certain other species, it doesn’t have to be grown in rainy climates such as tropical Colombia.  The Trujillo variety, in particular, is grown in coastal deserts in Peru. It could potentially be grown in California or Mediterranean type climates.  Erthroxylum coca prefers wetter climates and has been grown not only in the tropical parts of South America

but also in certain parts of Africa such as Ghana, Cameroon, and the Ivory Coast.  Some Africans chew the leaves just as South Americans do, and it is used to treat toothaches and other pain in Southeast Asia. Erthroxylum coca could be grown in Florida and Hawaii outdoors where there is no danger of frost, or perhaps as a seasonal crop in the Southeast states in the United States where there is a long growing season before frost. States such as Louisiana or Georgia could likely plant coca cuttings in the spring and harvest in the late summer or fall and this would be applicable to relevant research. As research for coca for medical and industrial purposes proceeds, the US and Europe would not have to import coca.  The researchers in growing it themselves could control the quality of said coca. Chemicals in the coca thins the blood and can be potentially even be used in stroke prevention.  Strokes are a major cause of death and disability. Other potential medical uses are in weight management, digestive issues, cancer treatment, among others.

Coca cultivation is quite sustainable for a number of reasons that have to do with the coca shrubs themselves.  The plants will grow in poor soils and do not require much in the way of fertilizers. They will grow in very rocky soils and on steep slopes.  This means areas not suited for traditional farming can be used to grow coca plants. Few insects and animals eat the leaves. Cultivation is fairly simple. Growers often plant seeds, which will germinate in 20 or 30 days after being kept watered in large beds, and after the reach transplanting size in two months transplant them in permanent rows.  These plants are big enough to harvest the leaves in a year or two. For quicker production it’s increasingly common for growers to make cuttings that they soak in water for a day and then plant in soil they keep moist until the plant it rooted.  These plants are productive in as little as six months.  They are typically pruned and kept around 1m tall, though they can potentially reach 9m tall.  

Of course this is just outdoor cultivation, which of course needs to take place in the appropriate climates.  There was historical literature on indoor cultivation/greenhouses. Particularly for researchers in areas without the proper climate, greenhouse cultivation maybe appropriate.  Greenhouse cultivation may be an excellent idea for those wanting to experiment with breeding new coca varieties having various levels of different alkaloids, as coca has a number of additional alkaloids with medical properties besides cocaine.

In short the research done on medical cannabis has paved the way for research on medical coca, and research for both plants is not only for medical uses but on perfecting cultivation and researching areas and conditions that are appropriate for agriculture.  Just as cannabis has a number of medical and industry uses, so does coca. Certain uses like coca toothpaste are already on the market.  This research was made possible by sponsorship from Candid Chronicle.

One Response

  1. Marty January 13, 2020