Aconitum napellus – Monkshood
In ancient times, Aconitum napellus was a highly feared poison that was associated with the mythical witch Medea, known from the tale of Jason and the Argonauts. It was said to have first come from the saliva of Cerberus, along with henbane. Both plants were known as plants of Apollo. Another legend suggests that A. napellus sprung from the blood of Prometheus when he was disemboweled as part of his eternal punishment.
Brugmansia suaveolens – Angel’s Trumpet
B. suaveolens has been used in South America for rituals and medical treatment since pre-Columbian times. The species is still used in Mexico, where is is known as a plant that induces shamanic visions. Due to its beautiful scent and attractiveness, it is the most commonly cultivated species of Brugmansia.
Ephedra gerardiana – Somalata
E. gerardiana has been most likely used since the Vedic period as a substitute for soma. There came a time when the Aryans were no longer able to find the original psychoactive plant known as soma, perhaps because the identity of that plant was being kept secret or had been lost, and so the sacred soma beverage began to be prepared using substitute plants, including E. gerardiana. This is how the plant got its name, somalata, ‘plant of the moon’. The effects of the plant are more stimulating than visionary, however, meaning that this plant is certainly not the original soma of the Vedas.
Datura discolor – Sacred Datura
Datura discolor was one of the first plants ever created, according to the Seri tribe. Therefore, it is said that humans should avoid contact with the plant as it is extremely sacred. Only shamans use the plant, as inappropriate use can be very dangerous. Datura discolor is used in similar ways to Datura innoxia in the American Southwest, for purposes of divination, magical rituals and as an aphrodisiac. However, D. discolor is used more rarely, as it is significantly more potent and therefore more difficult to work with.
Coffea arabica – Coffee Bush
The berries of the coffee bush were chewed in Africa for their stimulating effects long before coffee as a beverage was ever developed. It is said that a goatherd in Ethiopia observed his goats getting very excited after eating some beans from a coffee bush. He gave some of the beans to a village priest, who experimented with them and experienced their stimulating power. The priest then began to use them so that he could pray for extended periods of time.
Ipomoea violacea – Morning Glory
The morning glory has a rich historical tradition in psychedelic and visionary practices across multiple cultures, including those of the Chontal Indians of Oaxaca, Mexico, the highly evolved Aztecs, and the Zapotec. These seeds, without question, have been utilized throughout time as a means of communicating with the gods. Interestingly, in some areas of Mexico where the seeds are still used, I. violacea seeds are used by men, and Turbina corymbosa seeds, which contain similar alkaloids, are used by women. I. violacea is said to be somewhat more potent, but both plants are used in rituals to assist in divination and healing disease.
Celastrus paniculatus – Celastrus Seeds
Celastrus paniculatus is a deciduous climbing shrub that can grow to a very large size. The base stem of this shrub will grow up to 10 inches (25 cm) in diameter and produce many woody branches that will cling to surrounding flora for support. The inner bark is light and cork like, with yellow sapwood.
Rhynchosia pyramidalis – Piule
In a Mexican Tepantitla fresco dating back to 300-400 AD, what appear to be the seeds of Rhynchosia phaseoloides are depicted falling from the hands of the Aztec rain god, Tlaloc. This has caused some individuals to suggest that these seeds may have entheogenic properties. The seeds are called ‘piule’, a word which is also used for Psilocybin containing mushrooms and certain species of morning glory. The seeds are also used as good luck charms and regarded as auspicious gifts.
Psychotria viridis – Chacruna
The classical principle admixtures of Ayahuasca and Yagè commonly employed throughout Amazonia in Peru, Ecuador and Brazil. Related to the coffee plant in a large genus of over 700 species, Psychotria viridis is a small glabrous tree or shrub reaching 14 foot. Its use has been documented by the Sharanahua and Culina Indian tribes of the southwestern Amazon basin.
Cocos nucifera – Coconut Palm
Coconut palms have been used in India for over three thousand years. It was considered to be the most useful of all trees, because it can be used as a source of food, fibers, inebriating beverages, and other raw materials. The coconut palm is one of the most important plants economically and culturally in the tropics, and provides 8% of the world’s oil and fat.
Cannabis sativa – Fiber Hemp
Today, the United Nations Council on Drugs and Crime lists Cannabis sativa as the most widely used illicit drug in the world. The popularity of Cannabis sativa may partly reflect its relative accessibility, versatility and ease of use, but is probably equally related to its long history of use as a food (seeds and oils), recreational and ritual herb, and as a medicine that has attained the status of cure-all in India and south Central Asia.
Verbena officinalis – Vervain
Verbena is much esteemed by European herbalist traditions. Priests in ancient Rome used bundles of vervain to sweep and purify altars to Jupiter. They also used it in rituals for purposes of promoting love and peace. Pliny writes that French druids used verbena for divination, and that the Zoroastrian Magi rubbed the plant all over the body to obtain their desires and to cure all ills.
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