January 3, 1986

Cocaine in Herbal Tea

Author Affiliations

UCLA School of Medicine Los Angeles
University of Mississippi University, Miss
Field Museum of Natural History Chicago
Harvard University Herbaria Cambridge, Mass
University of California, San Francisco

JAMA. 1986;255(1):40. doi:10.1001/jama.1986.03370010042021

To the Editor.—  South Americans have been drinking coca leaf tea for hundreds of years with no ill effects and some medical benefit. Since December 1983, coca leaf tea has been imported into the United States and sold in grocery and health food stores and through mail order. The tea, packaged in Peru and exported by the National Enterprise of Coca (an agency of the Peruvian Government), is sold as "Health Inca Tea" (HIT) and its ingredients are listed as "decocainized coca leaves." "Mate de Coca" is also available but the Spanish labels do not list ingredients. Both teas are promoted as natural stimulants without caffeine, and advertisements promise that "just one cup leaves you feeling up." Total sales have been estimated at 1.5 million tea bags, and at least one cocaine treatment center supplies patients with the tea as a diuretic and cocaine substitute. The patients report that the