John Stith Pemberton was cut by a saber and had a nasty wound to his chest in April of 1865 at the Battle of Columbus while serving in the Confederate Army in the Civil War. He soon became addicted to morphine to help relieve the pain. Pemberton was a biochemist and he started mixing toxins and pain relievers that were morphine free to provide pain relief and that would get him off the morphine. It was from this formula where he experimented with coca and coca wines that he found provided a cure to anxiety and depression along with a peaceful feeling.

With the threat of alcoholism at a high rate following the Civil War, he focused more on the leaves than the coca wines, which were alcohol-based, now calling the alcohol-free concoction a new “brain toxin.”

From his research and development, Coca-Cola was invented by John Stith Pemberton who after “perfecting” his formula sold it for Coca-Cola in 1888. He sold the patent formula because he fell ill and was bankrupt. While Pemberton never wanted to sell the formula, his son wanted the money from the sale. While in Atlanta, Pemberton’s son sold the patent to the recipe to Asa Riggs Candler for $1,750, which in today’s economy is about the equivalent of $50,000. Pemberton died in August 1888 very shortly after giving up the patent.

Coca Cola
Justin Sullivan, Getty Images

Where does the coca come from? Stepan Laboratory in Maywood, New Jersey, is the nation’s only legal commercial importer of coca leaves, a proven ingredient in the legendary beverage Coca-Cola.

The process of the coca leaves is important. As you know, coca leaves contain cocaine and we know what that can do. Shortly after the turn of the century in around 1903, Coca-Cola removed the cocaine from the leaves, resulting in what they call “spent leaves,” which still provided Coca-Cola with the flavor of the important coca leaves without the cocaine. This was all done by the Stepan Company Laboratory here in Maywood, which is the only facility in the United States that is allowed by the Drug Enforcement Agency to import and process coca leaves.

The leaves mainly come from Peru with an estimated 100 metric tons of the leaves arriving to the Maywood plant each year. At the plant Stepan extracts the cocaine and gives extract from the spent leaves to Coca-Cola and the cocaine goes to Mallinckrodt Pharmacy, which uses the cocaine in medications.

Bottles of soda
Bottles of soda (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

So the next time you’re enjoying a refreshing Coke, know that you have a little bit of Jersey on your palate and thank John Stith Pemberton for talking a sword to his chest.

The post above reflects the thoughts and observations of New Jersey 101.5 weekend host Big Joe Henry. Any opinions expressed are Big Joe’s own.

Click here to contact an editor about feedback or a correction for this story.

New Jersey's license plate designs through the years

Most affordable places to live in New Jersey

SmartAsset released a study analyzing the most affordable places to live in New Jersey. The eighth annual study weighed several factors, including taxes, homeowners’ insurance, and home costs relative to the local median income.

More From New Jersey 101.5 FM