The Most Important Hallucinogenic Plants

Of the ninety-seven hallucinogens in the lexicon, the most important are discussed in detail in the ensuing chapters. Several reasons underlie our selection. Most of these plants are or have been so culturally and materially important in aboriginal societies that they cannot be overlooked. A few are of special botanical or chemic*J interest. Others are of great antiquity Still others have recently been discovered or identified. And the use of one has spread throughout the modern world and is now of vital importance.

Amanita muscana (Fly Agaric), one of the oldest hallux cogens, is employed in both hemispheres and is biochemically significant, since its active principle is atypically excreted unmetabo-iized.

The use of Peyote (Lophophora wil-Hamsn), of great antiquity, has now spread from its original Mexican homeland to Texas in the United States, where it is the basis of a new Indian religion. Its main psychoactive alkaloid, mescaline, is utilized in psychiatry.

The religious use of mushrooms— known as Teonanacatl—in Mexico and Guatemala is ancient and was firmly established among the Aztec Indians at the time of the Conquest. Their psychoactive constituents are novel structures not known in any other plants.

Of similar importance, and as ancient, are the seeds of several Morning Glories. Their use has persisted until the present in southern Mexico. Of great chemo-taxonomic interest, their psychoactive constituents are found only in an unrelated group of fungi, containing Ergot, which may have been hallucinogenically important in ancient Greece

Deadly Nightshade, Henbane, and Mandrake were the main ingredients of the witches' brews of medieval Europe, where they long exerted a great cultural and historical influence.

In both hemispheres, Datura played highly significant roles in native cultures. The related Brugmansia is still employed as one of the principal hallucinogens in South America.

Archaeology indicates that the South American cactus Trichocereus pachanoi has a long history, although it has only recently been identified as a principal hallucinogen of the central Andes.

The most significant African hallucinogen is Iboga, employed in initiation rituals and to communicate with ancestors. Spreading today in Gabon and the Congo, it is a unifying culture trait deterring the intrusion of foreign customs from Western society

The intoxicating drink prepared from Banisteriopsis holds a place of cultural primacy throughout the western Amazon. Known in Peru as Ayahuasca ("vine of the soul"), it allows the soul to leave the body and wander freely, communicating with the spirit world. Its psychoactive p rinciples are (3-carbolines and tryptamines.

Three snuffs are of importance in certain South American cultures. One, in the western Amazon, is prepared from a resin like liquid produced in the bark of several species of Virola. The others, made from the beans of a species of Anadenanthera and used in the Orinoco, adjacent Amazon, and Argentina, was formerly also valued in the West Indies. Both snuffs play significant roles in the life of many Indian groups and are of chemical interest, since their active principles are tryptamines.

Pituri is the most important psychoactive substance in Australia. Cannabis„ an ancient Asiatic hallucinogen, is now used in nearly all parts of the world. An understanding of its roles in primitive societies may help elucidate its popularity in Western culture. Some of the fifty chemical structures found in Cannabis are medically promising.

A long chapter could well be written about any of the more than ninety species which have been enumerated in the plant lexicon. But in the interest of space, the following have been treated in greater detail for the reasons outlined.

The Greek lecythus is a sacramental vessel filled with fragrant oils and placed next to a death bed or grave On this lecythus (450-425 b. c.), a crowned Triptolemus holds the Eleusinian grain, a grass probably infected with Ergot; while Demeter or Persephone pours a sacred libation, orepared presumably from the infected grain. The two figures are separated by the staff of Triptolemus and united into one field by the grain and poured libation.

The Greek lecythus is a sacramental vessel filled with fragrant oils and placed next to a death bed or grave On this lecythus (450-425 b. c.), a crowned Triptolemus holds the Eleusinian grain, a grass probably infected with Ergot; while Demeter or Persephone pours a sacred libation, orepared presumably from the infected grain. The two figures are separated by the staff of Triptolemus and united into one field by the grain and poured libation.

Page 80: Mandrake (Mandragora offici-narum), "the man-like plant," has a complex history of usage In Eurcpe, it was employed as a stupefacient in addition to being one of the strongest ingredients added to the brews con cocted by witches of the Middle Ages. The root of the Mandrake was likened to the form of a man or woman, and according to superstition, if the plant were pulled from the earth, its shrieks could drive the collectors mad. This image ot Mandragora was engraved by the well-known artist Matthäus Merian in the early eighteenth century.

O AMANITA Fly Agaric

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