It was originally used for medicinal purposes and sold at Jacob’s Pharmacy in Atlanta, GA. Coca leaves do indeed contain traces of cocaine, which was then believed to help control one’s dependence on opiates.
John Pemberton received a medical degree at 19 and worked as a
druggist in Columbus, Georgia, before joining the Confederate army
during the Civil War. He rose to the rank of lieutenant colonel with
the Third Georgia Cavalry and was severely wounded in battle.
To control the pain resulting from those wounds, he became addicted
After the war, he settled in Atlanta, where he began work on a
beverage combining coca leaves and cola nuts. His objective was to
create a pain reliever but when his lab assistant accidentally mixed
the concoction with carbonated water on May 8, 1886, the two men
tasted it, liked it, and decided it might make a profitable
alternative to ginger ale and root beer. Vernor's Ginger Ale,
created in 1866 by a Detroit pharmacist, preceded Coke and was
originally available only in Detroit.
Three years later, Dr. Pemberton he sold out for $2,300. He had no
idea what the still very classified, secret formula would be worth.
It is now used in a product that sells about 350 million cans and
bottles a day in nearly 200 countries. He died a few years after his
accidental invention and only a few months after the Coca Cola
Corporation was incorporated.
The original medicine was sold to make people feel better. Some say
it still does, minus the cocaine. Vernor's, especially with
Captain Morgan, still makes me feel better than Coke.