Chemical Structure Of Justicia Gendarussa A

Above: The seeds of Virola surinamen sis, called Ucuba, are used ethnome dlcinaily.

Beiow right: The most important species of Virola in hallucinogenic preparations is V. theiodora, of the northwestern Amazon. Virola is an American genus related to the Old World genus of the Nutmeg. The tiny flowers of Virola have a highly pungent fragrance.

At the be£ in; ig of time, Father Sun practiced incest with his daughter, who acquired Viho by scratching her father's penis. Thus the Tukano received this sacred snuff from the sun's semen, and since it is still hallowed, it is kept in containers called muhipu-nuri, or "penis of the sun." This hallucinogen enables the Tukano to consult the spirit world, especially Viho-mahse, the "snuff person," who, from his dwelling in the Milky Way, tends all human affairs. Shamans may not contact other spiritual forces directly but only through the good graces of Viho-mahse. Consequently, the snuff represents one of the most important tools of thepaye or shamans.

Although the sixty species of Virola are spread throughout tropical forests of the New World and psychoactive principles have been found in at least a dozen species, it is only in the western Amazon and adjacent parts of the Orinoco basin that this genus has been used as the source of a sacred inebriant.

The species most important as sources of the intoxicating snuff are V^ ca lophylla, V. calophyllo;Hea, V. elongata, and V. theiodora, the last being without doubt the most frequently employed. Yet locally, V. rufula, V^ cuspidata, and other species may supply the drug. There are Indians—the primitive noma die Maku of the Rio Piraparana of Colombia, for example—who ingest the red "bark-resin" directly, with no preparation, using V. elongata. Other tribes, especially the Bora and Witoto, swallow pellets made from the paste of the "resin," valuing for this purpose V^ peruviana, V. surinamensU. V. theiodora, and possibly V^ loretensia. There is vague evidence that shamans in Venezuela may smoke the bark of V. sebifera "at dances when curing fevers" or that they may boil the bark and drink the liquor "to drive away evil spirits."

"Sometimes when they travel or go hunting, they say:

'I must carry my Epena against those spirits, so that they do not persecute us.' They take Epena in the night if they hear the noises of those spirits of the forest

They inhale it to drive them away —Ectore Biocca

Although the mythological significance and magico-reli' ;ious use of Epena snuff is indicative of a great age, the drug was not known untiil very recently.

Perspicacious plant-explorer though he was, Spruce failed to discover this fundamental psychoaccive use of Virola, notwithstanding his special study of the group that resulted in the discovery of a number of species new to science. The earliest reference to this hallucinogen dates from the beginning of this century, when a German ethnologist reported on the Yekwana of the upper Orinoco area

It was not, however, until 1938 and 1939 that the botanical association of Virola with the snuff was made. The Brazilian botanist Ducke reported that the leaves of V. theiodora and V^ cuspidata represented the source. The leaves, of course, are never used, but this report first focused attention on Virola, which, until then, had never been suspected as a hallucinogen.

Ebena, Nyakwana, or some variant of these terms. In northwestern Brazil, this snuff and others are often generically known as Parica.

Unlike the Colombian Indians, among whom the use of the snuff is usually restricted to shamans, these tribes may of ten take the drug in daily life All male members of the group above the ages of thirteen or fourteen may participate. The hallucinogen is often snuffed in frighteningly excessive amounts and. in at least one annual ceremony, constantly over a two- or three-day period.

The powder is prepared in a variety of ways. Among the Colombian Indians, the bark is stripped from the trees in the early morning and the soft inner layers are scraped. Tht shavings are kneaded in cold water for twenty minutes The brownish liquid is then filtered and boiled down to a thick syrup that, when dried, is pulverized and mixed with ashes of the bark of a wild cacao tree

The various groups of Waika have several other methods of preparation. Those living in the Orinoco area frequently rasp the cambial layer of the bark and trunk and gently dry the shavings over a fire so that they may be stored for future use. When a supply of the drug is needed, the shavings are wetted and boiled for half an hour or more, the resulting liquid being reduced to a syrup that, after drying, is ground to a powder and finely sifted. This dust is then mixed with equal amounts of a powder prepared from the dried, aromatic leaves of

Above left: Leaf, flowers, and young fruit of the rain forest tree Virola calophylla

Above right: A branch of Virola theio-dora with flowers.

The first detailed description and specific identification of the drug, however, was published in 1954 when its preparation and use among medicine men of Colombian Indians was described. T i ken mainly by shamans among the Bar asana, Makuna, Tukano, Kabuyare, Kuripako, Puinave, and other tribes in eastern Colombia, the drug was employed ritualist.": ally for diagnosis and treatment of disease, prophecy, divination, and other magico-religious purposes. A.t that time, V. calophylla and V. calophylloidea were indicated as the species most valued, but later work in Brazil and elsewhere has established the primacy of V theiodora.

Recent field studies have shown that the psychoactive snuff is used among many Indian groups in Amazonian Colombia, the uppermost Orinoco basin of Colombia and Venezuela, the Rio Negro, and other areas of the western Amazon of Brazil. The southernmost locality of its known use is among the Paumare Indians of the Rio Purus in the southwestern Amazon of Brazil.

The snuff is apparently most highly prized and most deeply involved in aboriginal life among the sundry Indian tribes collectively called Waika in the upper Orinoco of Venezuela and the northern affluents of the Rio Negro of Brazil. These groups are variously named, but are most commonly known to anthropologists as the Kirishana, Shiriana, Karauetare, Karime, Parahure, Surara, Pakidai, and Yanomamo. They generally refer to the snuff as Epena,

Yanomamo Indians

Once a year, Waika Indians in northeastern Brazil come together from miles around for an endocannibalistic ceremony for which a huge quantity of Virola snuff is made and consumed. The ceremony held in typical round houses commemorates the dead of the previous year

a small plant, Justicia pectoralis var. ste-nophylla, cultivated for this purpose. Finally, a third ingrei m is added: the ashes of the bark o£inofma or Amasita, a beautiful and r|r®$p||iinous tree, Eli-zabetha princepl^DiieXgard outer bark, cut into small pieces, is faced in glowing embers, then removed and allowed to smolder to ashes

In more eastern areas of W~;ka country in Brazil, the preparation of the snuff takes place mainly in the forest. Trees are felled and long strips of bark are peeled from the trunk. A copious flow of liquid that rapidly turns a blood red accumulates on the inner surface of the bark. After gently heating the strips, the shaman gathers the "resin" into an earthenware pot that is set on the fire. When the pot of red liquid is reduced to a thick syrup, it is sun dried, crystal lizing into a beautiful amber-red-solid that is meticulously ground to an extre mely fine dustlike consistency. This powder- -Nyakwana snuff—may be employed directly, but usually the pulverized leaves of Justicia are added "to make it smell better."

The Bora Mundane, and Witoto Indians of Amazonian Colombia and ad jacent Peru use Virola not as a snuff, but by oral administration. They ingest small pellets or pills made from the resin to induce an intoxication during which the medicine men communicate with the "little people." These Indians utilize several species: V. theiodora, V. pavonis, and V elongata, as well as possibly V. sunnamensis and V. loreten-sis. The Bora of Peru indicate that they have used a related myristicaceous genus, Iryanthera macrophylla, as the source of a narcotic paste for making the pellets.

The Witoto of Colombia completely decorticate the trunk of a Virola tree. The shiny cambial layer on the inner surface of the bark and adhering to the bare trunk is rasped off with the back of a machete, and the raspi lgs are carefully collected in a gourd. This material gradually darkens to a brownish red The still moist rasp ngs are kneaded, squeezed repeatedly, and pressed over a wicker sieve. The liquid that oozes through, primarily of cambiai sap. has a light "coffee and milk" hue. Without further preparation, this liquid is quickly boiled, possibly to inactivate enzymes that might destroy the active

Waika Indians consume incredible amounts of Wro/a powder, using large snuffing tubes made of the stems of maranthaceous plants. The tubes are filled with three to six teaspoonfuls of snuff for each inhalation.

After a stage of hyperactivity and stimulation during w.iich the participants who have inhaled the snuff engage the hekula sprits, a period of disturbed somnolescence sets in during which night marish visual hallucinations continue (left).

Waika shamans frequently employ Virola snuff or Epena in ritual curing (below left). The intricate relationship between magico-religious and "medicinal" practices of these peoples makes it difficult to distinguish tne boundaries of the supernatural and the pragmatic. In fact, the Indian himself does not make a distinction between these two areas.

Application of the snuff is a vigorous process the powder being blown far into the nostrils and sinuses It causes an immediate lacrimation and excessive discharge of mucus from the nose lued. An unidentified tree of this family, known to the natives as Cha-pe-na, is used. The woody stump of a species of Carludovica or Sphaeradenia of the Cy-clanthaceae :s reduced to ashes for this purpose. The ieaves and fragrant inflorescence of the aroid Spathiphyllum can-naefolium give an ash that leaches out a high-quality "salt." The bark of a wild species of Tbeobroma, or several small palms, probably species of Geonoma and Bactris, are similarly used.

The Bora of Peru st/;p pieces of bark, only from the lower four to eightft (1.5-2.5m) of the trunk. The

A Mahekototen shaman (above) struggling against death, an ever-present threat. The Waika believe that communication with the spirit world occurring during Virola intoxication enables the shaman to stave off death, which they explain as the result of the activity of malevolent spirits.

The Chemistry of Epenâ

The chemical analysis of various Virola snuffs revealed about a half-dozen closely related indole alkaloids belonging to the simple, open-chi.ined or closed-ring tryptamine derivatives with a tetrahydro-|3-carboline system. The main constituents of these snuffs are 5-methoxy-/V,/V-dimethyltryptamine and Dimethyltryptamlne. 6-methoxy-/V,/V-dimethvltryptamine, monomethyi tryptamine, and 2 methyl- and 1,2-dimethyl-6-methoxy-tetrahydro-|3-carbo-line usually occur only in trace amounts. The alkaloid mixtures are almost identical to those isolated from the Anadenanthera snuff powders.

Application of the snuff is a vigorous process the powder being blown far into the nostrils and sinuses It causes an immediate lacrimation and excessive discharge of mucus from the nose principles, and is then illowed to sim mer, with frequent stirring, until its volume is reduced. When the liquid finally becomes pasty, the vessel ia taken from the fire, and the paste is rolled into pellets for immediate use. These pellets may keep their potency, according to the natives, for about two months.

When the pellets are not for immediate consumption, they are usually coated with a "salt," as the natives say, prepared from any of numerous plants. The "salt" is always made by the same process The plant material is first burned and the ashes are placed in a crude funnel made of leaves or bark. Water seeps slowly through the ashes, dripping out through a hole at the bottom to be collected beneath. The filtrate is then boiled down until a gray-wh'te residue or "salt" remains. The pellets of sticky resin are rolled in this powder. There is apparently a large assortment of plants employed for this "salt," which the Witoto call Le-sa. The le-cvtliidaceous Gustavia poeppigiana is a common source of the ashes for the filtration. In the same family, the bark of the huge tree Eschvedera itayensis is va

This is a magical snuff . . . prepared from the bark of a certain tree the sorccrer blows a little - through a reed . . . into the air. Next he snuffs, whilst ... he absorbs the powder into each nostril successively. . . immediately the witch doctor begins singing and yelling wildly all the while pitching the upper part of his body backwards and forwards." —Theodor Koch-Grunberg (1923)

Vr-^1"^ i ' ^ -p&ctorniis J~accju,-t- I ^ ' \ 1 + ------^-nopii^ia Mmmdt

hard, brittle outer layer of bark is chipped off, leaving only the softer inner phloem. This layer quickly turns brown from congealed oxidized "resin" and is vigorously pounded on a log with a mallet until it is shredded. These shredded sections are soaked in water with occasional kneading for half an hour or more, when the pot is brought to a vigorous boil for another half hour. The bark material, squeezed dry, is then removed, and the remaining liquid is boiled with constant stirring until only a thick paste remains. Small pellet! for ingestion are then made from this paste.

Fewer plants are used by the Bora for preparing the "salt" for coating the pellets: the leaves and stump of a species of Carludovica and of a palm of the genus Schcclea.

The hallucinogenic principles appear to be present mainly in the almost colorless exudate from the inner surface of the bark, which appears as soon as the baik is stripped from the tree. This resinlike substance quickly turns reddish in a typical oxidase-type reaction and then darkens, drying to a hard, glossy mass." in specimens dried for chemical study, it appears as a sticky, dark reddish brown gummy material. This material in many species contains tryptamines and other indolic hallucinogens. Observation of the process indicates that the reason for scraping the surface of the bark is to obtain all traces of the cambial laye; that adhere to it. The drug is prepared from the cambial sap, which is quickly boiled, causing coagulation of protein and possibly polysaccharides, and then simmered slowly to reduce the volume to near dryness.

The whole process resembles that

Page 180 middle and right: Justick leaves are highly aromatic when dried and are on occasion, added to Virola snuff. They may however, also be the source of a hallucinogenic snuff

Among the Waika, the invariable ashes mixed with Virola powder come from the burning of the bark of a beautiful but rare tree, Elizabetha princeps.

Above left: Indians under Virola intoxication characteristically have faraway dreamlike expressions that are, of course, due to the active principles of the drug, but which the natives believe are associated with the temporary absence of the shamans' souls as they travel to distant places. The chants during the incessant dancing performed by shamans may at times reflect conversations with spirit forces. This transportation of the soul to other realms represents to the Waika one of the most significant values of the effects of this hallucinogen.

Page 180 left, top to bottom: The Waika carefully pick over the leaves of Justlcia before drying them as an additive to the Virola snuff.

One method of preparing Virola snuff starts with the accumulation of the red. resinlike liquid on the inner bark and its solidification by heat (as shown in the photograph of a Waika Indian)

A Witoto Indian beats the syrup left after boiling down Virola resin.

Page 180 middle and right: Justick leaves are highly aromatic when dried and are on occasion, added to Virola snuff. They may however, also be the source of a hallucinogenic snuff

Among the Waika, the invariable ashes mixed with Virola powder come from the burning of the bark of a beautiful but rare tree, Elizabetha princeps.

used for isolation of natural products from the cambium of other trees, con-iferine from gymnosperms, for exam pie, except that ethyl alcohol or acetone is now used, rather than heat, to destroy enzyme activity, which might otherwise act adversely on the desired product.

The "resin" of Virola plays an impor tant role in everyday native medicine: several species are valued as antifungal medicines The resin is spread over infected areas of the skin to cure ringworm and similar dermatological problems of fungal origin that are so prevalent in the hurmd tropical rain forests. Only certain species are chosen for this therapeutic use—and the choice seems not to have any relationship to the hallucinogenic properties of the species.

Indians who are familiar with Virola trees from the point of view of their hallucinogenic potency exhibit uncanny knowledge of different "kinds"—which to a botanist appear to be indistinguishable as to species. Before stripping the bark from a trunk, they are able to predict how long the exudate will take to turn red, whether it will be mild or peppery to the tongue when tasted, how long it will retain its potency when made into snuff, and many other hidden characteristics. Whether these subtle differences are due to age of the tree, season of the year, ecological situations. conditions of flowering or fruiting, or other environmental or physiological factors it is at present impossible to say—but there is no doubt about the Indian's expertness in recog nizing these differences, for which he often has a terminology, so significant in his hallucinogenic and medicinal use of the trees.

Above left: Indians under Virola intoxication characteristically have faraway dreamlike expressions that are, of course, due to the active principles of the drug, but which the natives believe are associated with the temporary absence of the shamans' souls as they travel to distant places. The chants during the incessant dancing performed by shamans may at times reflect conversations with spirit forces. This transportation of the soul to other realms represents to the Waika one of the most significant values of the effects of this hallucinogen.

Above right: The leaves of Justicia pec-toralisvar. stenophylla are an important ingredient in the snuff that is made from the Virola.

DUBOISIA Pituri Bush

Was this article helpful?

0 0
Enneagram Essentials

Enneagram Essentials

Tap into your inner power today. Discover The Untold Secrets Used By Experts To Tap Into The Power Of Your Inner Personality Help You Unleash Your Full Potential. Finally You Can Fully Equip Yourself With These “Must Have” Personality Finding Tools For Creating Your Ideal Lifestyle.

Get My Free Ebook


Post a comment