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.
Puffballs (Lycoperdon mixtecorum and L. marginotum) are used by the Mixtec Indicins Of Oaxaca, Mexico as auditory hallucinogens. After eating these fungi, the individuals hears voices and echoes. There is apparently no ceremony connected with puffballs, and they do not enjoy the place as divinatory agents that the mushrooms do in Oaxaca. L. mixtecorum is the stronger of the two. It is called gi-i-wa, meaning ”fungus of the first quality.” L. marginatum, which has a strong odor of excrement is known as gi-i-sa-wa, meaning ”fungus of the second quality”.
It is necessary to distinguish clearly the genus Nymphaea from Nelumbo as the term ‘lotus’ has been used in a general sense to denote both genera. The genus Nelumbo was unknown in ancient Egypt and was never found as a part of ancient monuments or of any art. Nelumbo was introduced by the Persians and was present only as a cultivated plant….The large flowers of Nelumbo are borne a meter above the water and at maturity the petals are shed revealing a large funnel-form seed pod. Likewise the leaves are often a meter across and are peltate. They are always held above the surface of the water. These characteristics are not found together in any of the water lilies.
Traditionally the flowers are used in devotional and offering rites, called pujas, of Hindus in Assam. No traditional or ritual psychoactive usage is documented. In Veracruz, Mexico, Marihuanilla is used in folk magic to make the “groom return” and in Chiapas, Mexico it is used as a marijuana substitute. In traditional Chinese medicine it is used as a remedy for female menstruation issues, helping circulation and preventing excessive clotting. It is considered pungent, bitter and cool in energy, and has an affinity for the heart and liver meridians.
In Africa, the Hottentot tribe and the Bushmen are known to smoke the buds and leaves of the wild dagga plant as inebriants, either alone or mixed with tobacco. The leaves and roots can also be used as a remedy for snakebites and stings. Similarly, in Mexico where wild dagga is known as flor de mundo (“flower of the world”) and mota (a colloquial name for marijuana), the plant is used as a cannabis substitute. In Caribbean folk medicine, the leaves and flowers of wild dagga have yielded bound oils, bitter principles, diterpenes, coumarins, and resins. The leaves of the plant can also be dried and brewed as a tea.
The opium poppy is one of the most significant plants in history, having had considerable impact on the human condition and quality of life; both for good and bad. Although it is often believed to have first been cultivated in Asia, the opium poppy’s home actually lies in northern Italy, southern Germany and Switzerland, dating back at least 4,000 years…
In Cameroon, the bark of the yohimbe tree is used in folk medicine to treat impotence resulting from black magic and witchcraft. Preparations containing yohimbe are used in modern phytotherapy and in Western medicine to treat frigidity and impotence. Yohimbe is also used in veterinary medicine. In homeopathic medicine, it is said to arouse the sexual organs and affect the central nervous and respiratory systems and to help with congestive conditions of the sexual organs, including hyperemia of the mammary glands, stimulating milk production.
Commonly known as Wild Lettuce, Lactuca virosa, also sometimes identified as opium lettuce, is believed to have been used for its psychoactive properties by ancient Egyptians based on its depiction in hieroglyphics. It often appears in Egyptian art associated with the god Min, the god of the desert, of lightening and sandstorms, in addition to being known as the god of procreation and fertility. Min was symbolically represented by the lettuce and the phallus.
Kaempferia galanga is used as an entheogen and aphrodisiac in New Guinea. There, it is taken as part of the final three stages of initiation rituals along with species of Boletus mushrooms, Heimiella sp., Russula sp. and psilocybe mushrooms (Voogelbreinder 2009, 207). Every species in the genus is prized for the highly aromatic rhizome, which is used to flavor rice, and as a medicine. In Malaysia, the plant was added to arrow poison prepared from Antians toxicaria. It is used to make incense in Japan. In Thailand, the root and leaves are put into curries as a flavoring, and the plant is used as a medicine, as well.
Knowledge of wormwood and its psychoactive properties can be traced back to ancient times. The plant’s scientific name, Artemisia absinthium, stems from its association with the virgin Greek goddess Artemis, who held it and other species of artesmia sacred.
Numerous claims tout Withania somnifera as a twin to the wondrous root jangida, whose praises were sung in the Vedic medical system – especially in the Arthava Veda – as having strong powers as a panacea, amulet, magical agent, and aphrodisiac. Sushruta, the Indian physician and co-founder of the Ayurvedic system, hailed the root as rasayana, an alchemical elixir, and as a vajikarana, an aphrodisiac, sometimes used in combination with Cannabis sativa. For this reason, ashwangandha was employed in sexual magic and Tantric rituals as an aid in sustaining the vital duration of erections. Folk healers known as vaidyas still prepare a love potion from the root. Its effects are said to attract the opposite sex and make one ready for love. It is mentioned frequently in the Atharva Veda, and is considered second in importance to soma.
The water lily is often found on ceramic vessels that appear to depict, for the most part, prophetic scenes from the underworld or other worlds. The main use for these containers is believed to be the delivery vessel for the magical, ceremonial concoction known as the balche’ drink of the priest or shaman. Balche’ is the potion which helps the holy man change into his transformation animal on his way to the other world.