COMMON NAMES: Ain-va-i (Kofan), Danta Borrachera, Floripondio, Guando, Hayapa, Jayapa, Ku-wa-oo (Inga, ‘pink angel’s trumpet’), Magnificent Angel’s Trumpet, Pehi (Secoya), Pimpinella, Saaro (Matsigenka), Tree-Datura, Ts’ak Tsimin (Lacandon, ‘tapir medicine’), Wandu (Quechua), Xayapa (Mashco)
Brugmansia x insignis looks very similar to other species of Brugmansia, but may be recognized by its flowers which are convex, reddish-yellow, and hang almost straight down. In the tropics, B. insignis can grow in to a tree of up to 16 feet. It blossoms between November and April, and the flowers give off a potent perfume in the evening. This species almost never develops fruit. There is another form of B. insignis, which blooms with glowing yellow blossoms. This variety is easily confused with B. aurea (Califano & Fernández Distel 1982).
Brugmansia x insignis is a hybrid of B. suaveolens and B. versicolor, and was almost certainly created through cultivation. Many indigenous peoples in South America plant these beautiful trees in home gardens. It hails from the West Amazon, but has spread to other tropical areas, including Mexico. B. insignis is cultivated through cuttings. A piece of stem or branch about 20 inches length may simply be placed in the moist ground and it will grow vigorously (Califano & Fernández Distel 1982).
TRADITIONAL USES: For the Mascho of Peru, B. insignias is the most important of all shamanic plants. From the stems, they prepare a beverage called xapaya. This beverage may only be taken at night, and, as it is important that the individual drink straight from the pot without touching it, she is helped by assistants, who do not speak to her during the process. Once the beverage is consumed, the individual lies on the ground outside somewhere where it is easy to see the stars. She spends the night alone, and when the sun rises she is dipped completely naked into the water of a stream or river to lessen the effects of the medicine. For some time after working with the medicine, the drinker must avoid consuming the flesh of certain fish and birds, as well as bananas and sugarcane for a certain period of time. If this diet is not followed, she will be afflicted with fever, stomach troubles, and similar conditions. Xapaya is usually taken to help one find lost objects, heal illnesses, and divine the future. The Mascho say that this beverage renews the entire body and extends the life span (Califano & Fernandez Distel 1982).
TRADITIONAL PREPARATION: To create xapaya, the Mascho cut stalks from a B. insignis tree, peel away the bark, and pound and boil the inner stalk for several hours. When the boiling is complete, a thick concentrate with potent visionary properties is created. The beverage may be ingested as an enema on occasion (Califano & Fernandez Distel 1982).
The Secoya of the Ecuadorian Amazon grate B. insignis stems and boil them for 24 hours. The plant matter is then removed, and the liquid is boiled further. No precise information regarding dosage is known, as only the most experienced shamans are granted the technique for preparing the medicine. The Secoya also add the plant to ayahuasca brews by burning the leaves to ash, powdering them, and adding the powder to the finished brew. This enhances the experience in a very potent way (Vickers & Plowman 1984, 29).
MEDICINAL EFFECTS: Fresh B. insignias leaves are attached to injured and inflamed areas to ease pain. The freshly pressed juice of the plant may be consumed for similar purposes. A tea prepared from the leaves is said to have sedative effects (Schultes and Raffauf 1990, 441 cited in Ratsch 1998, 102).
TRADITIONAL EFFECTS: B. insignis contains the tropane alkaloids atropine, scopolamine and hyoscine. The bark is particularly rich in alkaloids. Anthropologists Califano and Fernandez Distel were permitted by the Mascho to ingest a preparation of xapaya. They drank about a quarter of a liter each, and reported visions of family members coming to visit them, and a strong feeling of being in a different world. The effects lasted twelve hours and included intense visual and auditory hallucinations and severe dryness of the mouth. Periods of sleep lasting about an hour and containing prophetic dreams occurred, as well as discomfort, anxiety, and euphoria at various times during the experience (Califano & Fernandez Distel 1982).
The effects of B. insignis are similar to those of other species of Brugmansia, and include strong states of delirium and confusion. Overdose can cause serious physical effects, and even death. Therefore, inexperienced individuals should never consider working with B. insignis or other species of angel’s trumpets. The consequences can be deadly, and very few people report even mildly manageable or pleasant results.
Califano, M., and A. Fernandez Distel. “The Use of a Hallucinogenous Plant Among the Mascho (southwestern Amazonia, Peru).” Zetschrift Fur Ethnologie 107 (1982): 129–143.
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.
Vickers, W.T., and T. Plowman. “Useful Plants of the Siona and Secoya Indians of Eastern Ecuador.” Fieldiana (Botany) (1984): 15.a
Voogelbreinder, Snu, Garden of Eden: The Shamanic Use of Psychoactive Flora and Fauna, and the Study of Consciousness. Snu Voogelbreinder, 2009.