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2 Feb, 2010 02:34

Business booms for Bolivian coca-based miracle remedies

In many countries it would land anybody behind bars, but for one Bolivian man, an old family recipe of making medicine from coca leaves is rapidly turning into a successful enterprise.

The medical community has already raised concern over the product's safety as they have never undergone any serious research.

The products are not run-of-the-mill medications that one can buy in the local store or pharmacy. They are coca-based and therefore illegal in many countries. However, Prudencio Ticona claims his medicines fight against ulcers, diabetes and many more health issues.

“We process different pharmaceutical products such as tonics, ointments, and others for different illnesses,” said Prudencio Ticona, President of Ingacoca.

All the ointments, remedies, creams are produced according to protected recipes passed from one generation to the other in the Ticona family.

“My grandmother used to ‘cook’ all these ingredients, and she would give us the drinks when we were sick. My father, uncles and all the family were kept in good health with these coca-based formulas,” told Prudencio Ticona. “Eventually, I felt that as though these formulas were so effective, there must be a way of making them publicly available, manufacturing them using the recipes traditional in my family.”

Employee and family member Juan Carlos Ticona says that he is proud to be part of the company.

“I love this job, what can I say? I am always looking for ways to improve our products by using my ideas and telling my boss how we can go forward in our company,” he shared.

On the other hand, according to competent studies, not everything is gold in the green leaves of coca. In fact, there is no research on whether they are helpful or not to those who take them as alternative to medications.

“In order to make a medicine, you must undertake many years of studies and experiments,” stated pharmacist Dr. Carlos Davila. “The first step is to extract the active ingredients of the substance and study their interactions with organic cells. We do know that coca contains morphine–like chemicals that can be used against chronic pain. But in our country and Latin America, there has been no serious research.”

For Prudencio Ticona, however, this does not matter. His business is dedicated to the wellbeing of body and mind, and the effectiveness of his products is clear on his clients’ smiles.

“Sometimes I cannot keep up with demand. Family and friends try the products then tell other people and they call us and order more and more,” said Prudencio Ticona. “Six, seven people at once ask for entire shipments. That’s how we can see our effectiveness. When somebody gets sick and uses our product, they get better and our reputation instantly grows.”