When most people hear the words Coca leaf, they think of the negative side of the leaf. However, in Peru, the Coca leaf is sold openly in markets, supermarkets, on the street, and for many centuries, the Coca leaf has been helping the highland people of Peru cope with the altitude. The local people use these leaves to help them work and get through the day. Normally they roll it into a ball and keep it in their mouth for most of the day. Coca tea for altitude sickness has proven to help when you are feeling the effects. Thus, one of our Peru travel tips is always carrying some coca leaves with you.
Coca leaf tea – not a drug, but a unique elixir
In Inca times, the Coca leaves were sacred and it was believed that they held many healing powers using the Coca for headache, sore throat, and stomach problems. When walking the streets of Cusco, you will often see the locals chewing the leaves and many of them drink the tea for breakfast as a way to kick start the day.
Coca leaf tea is best used for the treatment of altitude sickness, something that many visitors to Cusco experience. The properties are considered a miracle medicine and are very effective in treating the symptoms of altitude sickness. Remember that the coca leaf is the principal ingredient in cocaine but the leaves themselves are not addictive and they will not have any negative consequences on you. You can drink up to three or four cups of Coca leaf tea per day without a problem. Most hotels in Cusco provide the tea free of charge to help you acclimatize.
Altitude sickness, a problem for some visitors in the Peruvian highlands
You may ask what is altitude sickness when thinking about holidays to Peru. When one goes from sea level to high altitude, the body reacts differently to the changes in the oxygen levels. The higher you go the air gets thinner so there will be less oxygen for your body on every breath you take. Eventually, your body will adapt and produce more red blood cells, this takes a day or two so if you go from low altitude to high quickly you will most likely feel the effects.
If you get a mild case of altitude sickness this will not interfere with your normal activity. If you still feel unwell after several days then you may need to visit a doctor in Cusco. Some of the symptoms of altitude sickness are headache, nausea, vomiting, fatigue, poor appetite, dizziness, disturbed sleep, and difficulty climbing stairs.
Top tips for preventing altitude sickness
Here are some tips to avoid altitude sickness:
- Take it easy for the first day and limit the amount of physical activity. Do not arrive in Cusco and start a trek, the next day you might suffer.
- For the first few days take it easy on the alcohol, drinking will make the symptoms worse, drink water instead.
- If you are feeling the effects of the altitude, then you may have to go to a lower altitude until the symptoms pass.
- As mentioned before, drink Coca tea. This will help, without a doubt, with the altitude, if you do not like the taste you can add some sugar. But don’t drink too much as it might cause palpitations. Everything in excess is harmful. If you have a heart condition, high blood pressure, or suffer from diabetes, it’s better to exclude it.
- Most hotels have a supply of oxygen so if you need air then ask the reception of your hotel. Some of the more luxury hotels in Cusco have oxygen pumped into the rooms so if you can afford a five-star hotel then you will have oxygen on tap.
- Before you leave home, visit your doctor and ask for medication for the altitude, it is better to have it than not to have it and need it.
Nothing stops you to visit Cusco, altitude sickness – not an impediment
You might be wondering why visit Cusco city if there are so many problems with altitude? The reason is that the city and the surrounding valleys were home to the mighty Inca Empire. Cusco is full of wonderful temples and plazas. The mark the Incas left on the city can still be seen today and makes the city a must-see.
There is a free walking tour Cusco Peru that leaves one of the plazas every morning and takes you to most of the important sites. Travel to the Sacred Valley of the Incas and discover some of the best examples of Inca architecture in existence. Further on from the Sacred Valley, you will find located what would be the most famous Inca site, Machu Picchu. Here, you will be able to discover the magic and genius of the Inca, this magnificent site is featured on most people’s bucket list and should be seen once in a lifetime.
There are many ways to arrive in Cusco, flying is the fastest way to get to the Inca city. You can also take a Lima to Cusco bus, to see the countryside. Whatever way you decide, a trip to Peru will be a memory that will last.
Do not forget to plan your tour to lessen the effects of the altitude and drink the necessary Coca tea for altitude sickness.