The Indian Thorn Apple – Datura metel – was first documented in Sanskrit literature. The Arabic physician Avicenna touted the importance of its medicinal applications as well as prescribed the exact amount of dosage to the Arabs, who categorized the plant as “mokederrat narcotica.” Ingesting too much Datura metel can be dangerous.
Damiana is a small shrub with aromatic leaves found throughout Mexico, Central and South America and the West Indies. The botanical name of the plant describes its use as an aphrodisiac. For more than 100 years, Damiana’s use has been associated with improving sexual function in both males and females.
Syrian rue is one of the plants that has been suggested to be the original haoma plant of Persia. It may have also been used as an entheogen by the mystery religion that surrounded the god Mithras. In the Koran, it is stated that “every root, every leaf of harmel, is watched over by an angel who waits for a person to come in search of healing.” Therefore, dervishes in Buchara are said to worship and use harmala for its inebriating effects.
Genista (Cytisus canariensis) is employed as an entheogen in the magic practices of Yaqui medicine men in northern Mexico where it was introduced from the Canary Islands. There it may have been used by the indigenous Guancha people in their rituals worshiping the Goddess Tara. It is rare for a non-indigenous plant to find its way into the religious and magic customs of a people. Known also by the scientific name Genista canariensis, this species is the “genista” of florists.
Many aboriginal tribes that live in the Amazonian tropical rainforests believe that Piri Piri grass has magical qualities and have used it to cure disease, heal wounds, relieve pain, and for many other folk remedies. The Sharanahua Indians, from the Amazon river basin, have used Cyperus articulatus to help pregnant women induce labor, or even force an early term abortion.
The Aztecs were known to drip the sap of C. anomala in to the nose to induce hypnotic sleep. The root was chewed or peeled, ground and mixed with water and honey in order to treat coughs. In modern Mexican folk medicine, the root is still used to treat fevers, diarrhea and malaria. The plant is also becoming increasingly important in treating diabetes.
Over four thousand years ago, the cacao tree was first cultivated in Central America where it was held in high esteem as a food of Divinity. Consumed during rituals, the fruits of the cacao tree were be offered as sacraments to the gods. Its botanical name, Theobroma cacao, refers directly to the cacao tree’s relationship to the divine.
Entheogenic and ethnographic research conducted in 1918 by Newbould found that the Tanganyika tribe shaman and witch doctors use this plant to induce vivid dreams and foretell the future. The medicine men in the tribe are known to use this grass to produce elevated states of intoxication, in which they are able to visualize the ailments of patients and prescribe an appropriate remedy.
C. compacta is believed to be the Tarahumara híkuri known as “bakánawa.” Bakánawa, like most híkuri, is both respected and feared as a god, and considered to have a soul and human emotions. It has been recorded as both more powerful, and as only second in power, to L. williamsii. To some populations of Tarahumara, particularly those of Guadalupe, it is (was) their primary híkuri, being valued instead of L. williamsii.
The common name for C. siligineoides is Ya’nte, or Ta’a’ya. The Mazatec use the mushroom as an entheogen. Recently, a cult centering around Tamu, or ‘Mushroom of Awareness’, a species of Conocybe, has been discovered in the Ivory Coast region. The Aztecs called sacred mushrooms Teonanacatl, or ‘food of the gods’ and used it ritual and for divination and healing.
El Ahijado was first studied by Gordon Wasson while he was searching Southern Mexico for the mythical psychoactive plant used by the Aztecs known as Pipiltzintzintli. During Wasson’s expedition through the Sierra Madre Mazateca region, not only did he discover the ritual use of Salvia Divinorum as a hallucinogen, but he also learned of the use of Coleus Blumei as a potent substitute for Salvia. When Salvia Divinorum, La Hembra (the Woman) was unavailable, the native shaman would use the leaves and flowers of El Ahijado (the Godson) in its place.
In 1943 chemist Albert Hofmann was studying ergot fungus in search of alkaloids that might be beneficial to the burgeoning field of modern medicine. While working with the alkaloid ergine, he synthesised LSD-25 (d-lysergic acid diethylamide). The substance was initially considered unremarkable, but several years after the initial synthesis, Hofmann worked with the compound again and absorbed some of it through his fingers. He then became aware of the potent psychoactive nature of the compound, and its fame spread rapidly, first among the medical community, and then among the youth of the hippie movement of the 1960’s and ’70’s.