First formulated in 1886, Coca-Cola, "The pause that refreshes" and "Always the Real Thing" originally contained an uncertain amount of cocaine. This was reduced over time (falling to 1/400th of a grain, or 0.16 milligrams, per ounce of syrup by 1902) and completely eliminated around 1906 as health regulations were tightened.
So although Coke began as "the real thing" it is no longer so.
Nonetheless, the rather "inappropriate" name, based on the product's original formula of coca leaves and kola nuts remained and has become one of the world's most recognizable brands and icons of American culture.
Few of us today consider the irony that an icon of such extraordinary global status celebrates internationally notorious, defamed and generally illegal cocaine.
But now that Peru, Bolivia and Colombia in particular have decriminalized the coca plant and allowed the indigenous coca traditions to once again flourish, Coca-Cola is not happy. A small entrepreneurial Colombian company is now battling the global corporate giant for the right to produce and market it's own coca-based soft drink, Coca-Sek, an energy drink that is fast developing an international reputation and selling out as quickly as it can be produced and bottled.
The owner of Coca-Sek (which means "Coca of the sun") explains, "We've been charged with violating Coca-Cola's rights to the name of its product. We're not allowed to use the word 'Coca' in the name of our soft drink -- a word that is more than 5,000 years old and of indigenous origin, and which refers to a sacred plant. We're going to defend ourselves," he says.
Coca-Cola can't possibly win this fight. With the decriminalization of coca, coca-based products are quickly taking over the Colombian market with teas, soaps, shampoos, toothpaste, pain ointments, beauty products, cakes and cookies.
Coca provides many nutritional benefits including calcium, iron, phosphate, magnesium and many vitamins. It's also widely used, not surprisingly to treat many types of pain such as arthritis and muscle injuries.
Decriminalization has also allowed the indigenous people of Peru, Bolivia and Colombia to openly enjoy the ancient traditional custom of mambeo, the chewing of coca leaves which lifts the spirits and provides energy.
In the meantime, Coca-Sek has a very promising future and-- Coca-Cola-threatening name aside--could begin to rival Pepsi's Gatorade. Coca provides Coca-Sek with more calcium than one liter (0.26 gallons) of milk and more phosphorus than a serving of fish --and the iron content tops that of a plate of spinach. And, of course, one shot boosts energy, elevates mood and eliminates many of your aches and pains.
Dr. John Styth Pemberton, the American druggist who invented Coca-Cola was clearly on to something. Of course, he also died a drug addict, believing that cocaine was a cure for morphine addiction.