COMMON NAMES: Alhuelahuen, Chilenischer Hammerstrauch, Duraznillo Negro, Green Cestrum, Hediondilla (‘stinking’), Paipalquen, Palqui, Willow-Leafed Jessamine, Yerba Santa
Cestrum parqui is a bush with narrow pale green leaves that grows up to five feet tall. The flowers are yellow, five pointed, and tubular and bloom in clusters at the ends of the branches. The flowers bloom in the fall in South America and give off a very strong, intoxicating scent. The plant produces small round berries that turn shiny black as they ripen (Ratsch 1998, 164).
Cestrum parqui is originally from central Chile, and appears to have spread to Peru, Argentina, and Brazil at a very early date. It may now also be found in the Mediterranean and California. Propagation is best done through seeds (Ratsch 1998, 164).
TRADITIONAL USES: In Chile, C. parqui is used by the Mapuche and other tribes in shamanic healing practices. It is said that the plant contains contra, a magical force capable of resisting black magic attacks. Thus, illnesses which are caused by attacks from other shamans may be healed using C. parqui. The stems of the bush are made in to wooden crosses, which are placed on walls to ward off evil forces. C. parqui tea is taken during rituals and purification ceremonies to ward off fear and the influence of the evil eye (Hofmann et al. 1992 cited in Ratsch 1998, 165).
We know that the Cholos people still use the wood and leaves of the plant as a tobacco substitute, suggesting that C. parqui was smoked prior to the introduction of tobacco to the continent (Lewin 1998, 411).
TRADITIONAL PREPARATION: C. parqui leaves are dried, chopped, and smoked alone or with herbs such as Cannabis sativa. An appropriate dose for an inexperienced user is said to be about 3-4 leaves. The leaves are also used as ingredients in shamanic incense blends, and the leaves and bark are boiled in hot water to make a medicinal tea (Ratsch 1998, 164).
MEDICINAL USE: The Mapuche drink C. parqui leaf tea for the treatment of smallpox, leprosy, tuberculosis, herpes, and fever. The tea may also be used as a wash for open wounds. A tea prepared from the bark is taken to induce sleep. Juice pressed from the plant may be applied to ant and other insect bites, and the leaves may be applied directly to wounds (Hofmann et al. 1992 cited in Ratsch 1998, 165).
TRADITIONAL EFFECTS: C. parqui contains solasonine and solasonidine, as well as an alkaloid known as parquine which produces effects similar to those of atropine and strychnine. Therefore, an extract of the plant has an atropine-like effect. Smoking C. parqui leaves produces clear psychoactive effects similar to those of smoking Brugmansia leaves. However, C. parqui smoking does not lead to the incredibly dry mouth and mucous membranes that Brugmansia smoking causes. The effects of smoking C. parqui are also fairly weak and feature mild euphoria and muscle relaxation (Ratsch 1998, 165).
C. parqui has poisoned animals in Australia, causing fever, bloody feces, excitement and death within a few hours after ingestion. The smoke of C. parqui leaves is very harsh, and overdose symptoms include stomach pain and convulsions. Children have been known to die from eating the fruit of the plant. The fruit is much more toxic than the leaves and bark and must not be consumed under any circumstances (Voogelbreinder 2009, 126).
Lewin, L. Phantastica. Rochester, VT: Park Street Press, 1998.
Ratsch, Christian., The Encyclopedia of Psychoactive Plants: Ethnopharmacology and its Applications. Rochester: Park Street Press, 1998.
Hofmann, Albert, Schultes, Richard Evans, and Ratsch, Christian. Plants Of The Gods. Healing Arts Press, 2001.
Voogelbreinder, Snu, Garden of Eden: The Shamanic Use of Psychoactive Flora and Fauna, and the Study of Consciousness. Snu Voogelbreinder, 2009.S