During the late 19th century, Coca-Cola was one of many popular coca-based drinks with purported medicinal properties and benefits to health; early marketing materials claimed that Coca-Cola alleviated headaches and acted as a “brain and nerve tonic”. Coca leaves were used in Coca-Cola’s preparation; the small amount of cocaine they contained—along with caffeine—provided the drink’s “tonic” quality. In 1903, cocaine was removed, leaving caffeine as the sole stimulant ingredient, and all medicinal claims were dropped. According to some sources, coca leaf extract, with the cocaine chemically removed, remained part of the formula. By one account, the FDA still screens random samples of Coca-Cola syrup for the presence of cocaine. The company will not confirm or deny that the current version of Coca-Cola contains coca leaf extract, deferring to the secret nature of the formula.
In 1911 the United States Government sued the Coca-Cola Company for violations of the Pure Food and Drugs Act, claiming that the high concentration of caffeine in Coca-Cola syrup was harmful to health. The case was decided in favor of Coca-Cola, but a portion of the decision was set aside in 1916 by the Supreme Court. As part of a settlement, the company agreed to reduce the amount of caffeine in its syrup.