COMMON NAMES: Canary Island Broom, Cytisus Genista, Kanarischer Ginster, Kytisos, Spanish Broom, Spartion, Spartium
Cytisus canariensis is an evergreen bush that can grow up to 2 meters in height. The leaves are small and green, and the flowers are light yellow, and very aromatic. The fruits are small pods containing a few bean-like seeds (Ratsch 1998, 190).
About 80 species of Cytisus, belonging to the bean family Leguminosae, are known in the Atlantic islands, Europe, and the Mediterranean area, as well as all of the Americas. Some species are highly ornamental; some are poisonous (Ratsch 1998, 190)..
TRADITIONAL USES: 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 worship of the Goddess Tara. It is rare for a non-indigenous plant to find its way into the religious and magic customs of a local people (Fadiman 1965). The knowledge of Genista as an entheogen may have been transported from the Canary Islands along with the plant, although the Yaqui say that one of their shamans consumed another entheogen, probably peyote, and was shown in a vision that the flowers of Genista were to be smoked (Ratsch 1998, 191).
TRADITIONAL PREPARATION: The flowers may be dried, chopped, and rolled into cigarettes or smoked in pipes alone or with other herbs. The flowers may also be used to prepare an aphrodisiac beverage by drying them, and brewing them in water. This preparation is said to cause calm, quiet, increased perception, and increased sexual arousal. One dose consists of one to three standard cigarettes worth of leaves (Fadiman 1965).
The Yaqui prepare C. canariensis flowers for smoking by aging them in sealed glass jars for ten days before drying and smoking them. It is important that the flowers not ferment or mold during this time. Yaqui shamans also make a drink from the seeds to assist in divination, astral travel, and healing (Voogelbreinder 2009, 149).
MEDICINAL USES: Cytisus species have been used by various peoples over time as an aphrodisiac, to treat kidney, heart and bladder issues, and to treat rheumatism (Voogelbreinder 2009, 149).
TRADITIONAL EFFECTS: Plants of the genus Cytisus are rich in cytisine, an alkaloid of the lupine group.The alkaloid has never been pharmacologically demonstrated to have psychotropic activity, but it is known to be toxic and to cause nausea, convulsions, and death through failure of respiration (Ott 1993).
Smoking dried Canary Island Broom leaves is said to produce mild psychedelic effects with no negative side effects. One cigarette’s worth of leaves produces two hours worth of positive feelings. Higher doses provided greater mental ability and increased alertness lasting up to five hours (Fadiman 1965).
Fadmian, J. “Genista Canariensis: A Minor Psychedelic.” Economic Botany 19 (1965): 383–384.
Ott, J. Pharmacotheon: Entheogenic Drugs, Their Plant Sources And History. Natural Products Company, 1993.
Ratsch, Christian., The Encyclopedia of Psychoactive Plants: Ethnopharmacology and its Applications. Rochester: Park Street Press, 1998.
Voogelbreinder, Snu, Garden of Eden: The Shamanic Use of Psychoactive Flora and Fauna, and the Study of Consciousness. Snu Voogelbreinder, 2009.