What is coca leaves?

Coca leaf is sold in supermarkets, open-air markets, and on the streets in Cusco. It is commonly known for helping people both Cusco residents and foreigners who visit the country to cope with the altitude in this country.

Coca leaf works well when it comes to altitude sickness treatment. The properties in the leaf are believed to be a mystical medicine, which is very efficient in any symptoms resulting from altitude sickness. Though the leaf is a primary ingredient in making cocaine, the coca leaves do not make somebody feel high neither are they addictive.

Coca leaf and altitude sickness

Altitude sickness refers to the changes in body functioning when one moves to high altitude from the sea level. The body starts t reacts differently due to changes in levels of oxygen. As one move to a higher elevation, the air becomes thinner hence, each breath contains less oxygen.

The body responds by producing extra red blood cell. Since this takes more than a day, you may experience some abnormality. Some common symptoms of altitude sickness include:

  • Nausea
  • Headache
  • Fatigue
  • Poor appetite
  • Dizziness
  • Vomiting

Tips to avoid or overcome altitude sickness

When preparing for a holiday in Cusco, you need to carefully consider the issue of altitude sickness. Below are some tips that can help you to adapt with Cusco’s high altitude.

The first thing you need to do is to remain calm. Minimize physical activities like trekking during the first few days. Otherwise, you might suffer a lot.

Avoid taking alcohol during the first two to three days. Alcohol worsens altitude sickness symptoms. You should take a lot of water Instead of liquor.

When the effects of high altitude are so strong for you to bear, try moving to lower altitude regions to allow the symptoms subside.

Take a lot of coca tea which you can add sugar in case you dislike the taste though it is best when taken without adding any sugary thing. Drinking coca tea will help you cope with the change in altitude.

Most hotels in Cusco have oxygen supply so in case you need more air you can request from the hotel receptionist. The luxurious hotels have plenty of oxygen pumped inside the rooms. If you have money, it is advisable you go for a five-star resort where oxygen is readily available on tap.

Before leaving your home country, it is always good to ask for altitude medication from your doctor. You would rather have it and fail to use that need it when you don’t have.

The chemical composition of coca leaf

Coca leaves have alkaloids ranging from 0.7 to 1.5%. These alkaloids come from the following derivatives:

Ecgonine ( cocaine, alpha & beta truxilline, and cinnamylcocaine)
Tropine ( valerine and tropacocaine)
Hygrine ( cuscohygrine and hygroline)
Apart from the alkaloids, there is also an essential oil (0.06-0.13%) contained in coca leaves, methyl salicylate being the chief constituent.

Coca leaves chewing

Many visitors are interested in the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu (heights between 3680 masl to 4200 masl) and the problem of altitude is not indifferent to this walk, although the cooks offer every morning coca tea upon awakening, it is suggested to chew the coca leaf while walking, this helps mitigate tiredness, and cancel the effects of altitude.

The takeaway

Cusco is a great city, which together with the valleys around used to the home for the vast Inca Empire. The neighboring towns have amazing temples, and beautiful plazas and the imprint left by the Inca is still visible to date. It is, therefore, one of the most beautiful cities you can think of visiting during your holidays regardless of altitude sickness challenge.

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