COMMON NAMES: Arundo Cypria, Giant Reed, Brinari (Hindi), Calamus, Cana, Casab (Arabic), Donax, Guna Pipi (Siona, ‘rock reed’), Kalamos (Greek), Nalaka (Sanskrit), Rede of Spayne, Shaq (Chumash), Yuntu (Mapuche)
Arundo donax is a tall perennial reed that forms thickets of up to 23 feet in height rising from rough rhizomes. The leaves are 1-2 inches wide and up to 20 inches in length. The grass can grow up to 33 meters high in tropical areas. A. donax originated in the Mediterranean region, but has been spreading throughout the world since ancient times, and may even be found in the Americas at this time. The easiest way to cultivate the reed is to plant root segments which have been separated from the main root (Ratsch 1998, 78).
TRADITIONAL USES: Archaeological findings in Ancient Egypt show us that A. donax was used widely for many purposes, particularly in the making of flutes (Germer 1985 cited in Ratsch 1998, 77). The reeds have also been used to create arrows and other tools in many areas where the plant grows. Interestingly enough, the prayer flag poles used by the Huichol in their peyote ceremonies are made from A. donax reeds, as well as the shafts of the arrows used in the peyote hunt. However, it is only in recent times that the psychoactive properties of this giant reed have been discovered (Ratsch 1998, 78-79).
The ancient Greeks used the stalks of A. donax to make pipes, and thus associated the plant with the god Pan. It is not known whether the cult of Pan ever used the plant for its psychoactive properties, but it is interesting to note that the pipes of Pan, made from the reeds, are said both to produce magical melodies and to drive people in to a “panic terror”. This is perhaps a metaphor for the entheogenic experience engendered by this plant (Borgeaud 1988). It has been suggested that A. donax and Peganum harmala were used in combination as part of a sacred Sufi tradition of initiation, and it has also been hypothesised that this mixture is the sacred soma of the Aryans (DeKorne 1995).
TRADITIONAL PREPARATION: The root of A. donax is cleaned, cut into small pieces, and mashed with equal parts water and alcohol. The liquid is allowed to evaporate, and the resulting resin will be rich in psychoactive alkaloids and may be used in a similar manner to other ayahuasca analogs. The Shipibo of Peru use A. donax root as an ayahuasca additive, and when Peruvian curanderos prepare San Pedro tea, they often set up crosses made from the stalks of the plant in order to steer away bad luck and to prevent the brew from boiling over (Giese 1989 cited in Ratsch 1998, 78).
Since the psychoactive properties of A. donax were only recently discovered, little is known regarding dosages. One individual reported that 50 mg of rhizome extract combined with 3 g of syrian rue seeds did not produce psychedelic effects. It is also important to keep in mind that very little regarding toxic doses of A. donax is known. Therefore, great care must be taken when working with this plant (Ratsch 1998, 78).
MEDICINAL USE: A. donax rhizome is decocted in Ayurvedic medicine and used as an emollient, a diuretic, and to stimulate menstruation (Voogelbreinder 2009, 94). It has also been used as a diuretic in the folk medicine traditions of many parts of the world (Wassel & Ammar 1984).
TRADITIONAL EFFECTS: The rhizome of A. donax contains at least five tryptamines, including N,N-DMT, 5-MeO-DMT and bufotenine. Very little is known about the other alkaloids contained in the plant. At present, reports regarding using A. donax as part of an ayahuasca analog are not particulary encouraging. Several individuals have reported experiencing no psychoactive effects, but instead going through mild but long lasting allergic reactions, which include blurred vision, watery and swollen eyes, conjunctivitis, and hives (DeKorne 1994). One individual did report psychedelic effects from such a preparation, which included powerful open and closed eye visuals, but described the experience as very difficult, both mentally and physically (Voogelbreinder 2009, 94). It is highly recommended that individuals not experiment with plants that have no history of shamanic or entheogenic usage, as serious side effects and even death may result.
Borgeaud, P. The Cult of Pan in Ancient Greece. Chicago and London: The University of Chicago Press, 1988.
DeKorne, J. “Arundo Donax.” Entheogene 4 (1995): 27–28.
“Erowid Arundo Donax Vaults : Entheogen Review Mentions of Arundo Donax.” Erowid. 1992. Web. 11 Apr. 2011. <http://www.erowid.org/plants/arundo_donax/arundo_donax_info3.shtml>.
Hofmann, A., Ratsch, C., Schultes, R., Plants of the Gods: Their Sacred, Healing, and Hallucinogenic Powers. Rochester: Healing Arts Press, 1992.
Ratsch, Christian., The Encyclopedia of Psychoactive Plants: Ethnopharmacology and its Applications. Rochester: Park Street Press, 1998.
Wassel, G.M., and N.M. Ammar. “Isolation of the Alkaloids and Evaluation of the Diuretic Activity of Arundo Donax.” Fitoterapia 15, no. 6 (1984): 357–358.
Voogelbreinder, Snu, Garden of Eden: The Shamanic Use of Psychoactive Flora and Fauna, and the Study of Consciousness. Snu Voogelbreinder, 2009.