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Uses. Morning glory is a familiar flower. Many varieties exist, and some have drug properties. Although morning glory is an uncontrolled substance, the hallucinogenic varieties contain lysergic acid amide, a Schedule III depressant.

Seeds and roots of the Ipomoea hederacea morning glory are used medicinally. The natural product works as a laxative and as a treatment against intestinal worms. Traditional applications include combating flatulence, easing excessive feelings of fullness after a meal, and treating scabies (a skin disease caused by a parasite).

Albert Hofmann, the discoverer of LSD, became intrigued by accounts of seed called ololiuqui by the Aztecs. Folk medicine used its ointments or potions to treat flatulence, tumors, and venereal disease. Ingesting the seeds allowed Aztecs to commune with their gods, and native peoples still used ololiuqui for that purpose during the twentieth century. Hofmann found that the ololiuqui seeds of Mexico came from two kinds of morning glory: from Ipomoea sidaefolia (also called Rivea corymbosa) and from Ipomoea violacea (also called Ipomoea tricolor, whose seeds are also known as badoh negro). Seeds from both plants contained ergot chemicals resembling LSD.

Although Ipomoea violacea is often viewed in a drug context, the plant has agricultural usage as a natural means of weed control. Ipomoea purpurea is sensitive enough to airborne chemicals that researchers use it to measure air pollution.

Drawbacks. Morning glory seeds have been publicized as a substitute for LSD, but no less an authority than Hofmann himself found LSD and morning glory to have different effects. In particular he noted that morning glory emp tied thoughts from the mind and made the world seem meaningless, while promoting unease, depression, and a weariness that transformed into sleep. In addition to being a hallucinogen, LSD has powerful stimulant actions, but when morning glory seed was tested on rats, they became less active than normal and, contrary to what would be expected with a hallucinogen, they showed no change in perceptual abilities. A team of researchers who studied reactions of volunteers described morning glory's active chemicals as unlike LSD. Those volunteers nonetheless felt some euphoria; they also had a distorted sense of time and a crossover of senses (in which colors might be smelled or sounds might be seen), but hallucinations or alteration of consciousness did not seem to develop. The research team likened morning glory to the drug ibogalin (which lacks significant psychological effect despite its close relation to ibogaine) and to the drug scopolamine found in belladonna. A case report about a person being treated for morning glory seed overdose said no hallucinations were present.

Those kinds of observations seem to differ from the effects experienced by the Aztecs and modern native peoples. Indeed, some recreational users (and their medical caregivers) report morning glory experiences quite similar to those of LSD, from hallucinations to philosophical insights—although one short series of case reports about such reactions argued that every instance involved a psychologically abnormal person. Some users describe cold extremities, a possible sign of ergot poisoning. A case report noted other physical reactions: red face and abdominal discomfort eased by "explosive diarrheic bowel movements." The patient also had lowered blood pressure and heart rate, opposite to accounts about LSD.

Morning glory seeds purchased from garden stores are not intended for human consumption and may contain fungicides that could harm a person who ingests them, although one investigator doubts a human stomach can hold enough morning glory seeds to cause fatal poisoning from the fungicide coating. Experimenters have fed uncontaminated seed to rats as various percentages of their diet, from less than 1% up to 8%. After 90 days animals receiving the greatest amount showed a higher death rate than normal, with males more affected than females. Although the animals had less weight gain than would be expected on an ordinary diet, various internal organs enlarged. In addition, liver damage occurred, and blood abnormalities appeared.

Abuse factors. In the 1960s the British government concluded that morning glory seeds were harmless, but American researchers did not reach a consensus about whether danger existed. Some authorities state that Ipomoea purpurea morning glory seeds lack psychedelic properties, but other authorities say otherwise.

Drug interactions. Not enough scientific information to report.

Cancer. The Ames test, a laboratory screen used to test substances for cancer-causing potential, reveals that morning glory seeds have that potential.

Pregnancy. Lysergic acid amide has damaged embryo development in mice. Pregnant women are advised to avoid Ipomoea hederacea because it is suspected of causing birth defects.

Additional scientific information may be found in:

Morning Glory

Blum, O., et al. "Ambient Tropospheric Ozone in the Ukrainian Carpathian Mountains and Kiev Region: Detection with Passive Samplers and Bioindicator Plants." Environmental Pollution 98 (1997): 299-304.

Dungan, G.M., and M.R. Gumbmann. "Toxicological Evaluation of Morning Glory Seed: Subchronic 90-Day Feeding Study." Food and Chemical Toxicology 28 (1990): 553-60.

Fink, P.J., M.J. Goldman, and I. Lyons. "Morning Glory Seed Psychosis." Archives of General Psychiatry 15 (1966): 209-13.

Heim, E., H. Heimann, and G. Lukacs. "Psychotomimetic Effects of the Mexican Drug 'Ololiuqui.' " Psychopharmacologia 13 (1968): 35-48.

Hofmann, A. "Teonanacatl and Ololiuqui, Two Ancient Magic Drugs of Mexico." Bulletin on Narcotics 23, no. 1 (1971): 3-14.

Ingram, A.L., Jr. "Morning Glory Seed Reaction." Journal of the American Medical Association 190 (1964): 1133-34.

"Morning Glory and Hallucinosis." South African Medical Journal 40 (1966): 1015-16.

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