COMMON NAMES: Almizclillo, Biangan, Borrachero (Spanish, ‘inebriator’), Cacao Sabanero, Campana (Spanish, ‘bell’), Culebraborrachero (Spanish, ‘snake inebraint’), Danta (‘tapir’), Flor de Campana (Spanish, ‘bell flower’), Floripondio, Goon’-ssi-an Borrachero (Kamsa), Kampaana Wits (Huastec, ‘bell of the mountain’), Lengua de Tigre (‘tongue of the jaguar’), Mets-kwai Borrachero (Masa, ‘jaguar inebriant’), Nitkwai Boracero (Kamsa), Po-bpihy (Mixe), Queen of the Night, Sta. Maria Wits (Huastec, ‘St. Mary’s flower’), Tecomaxochit (Nahuatl), Trombita (Spanish, ‘little trumpet’), Ts’ak Tsimin (Lacandon, ‘horse medicine’), White Angel’s Trumpet
Brugmansia candida is a treelike shrub which grows up to 26 feet tall. The plant produces many flowers, but very few fruits. The fruits are smooth, slender and pointed at the end, somewhat more so than the fruits of Brugmansia aurea. The flowers are snow-white, often double, and hang almost straight down. In southern Mexico, the flowers of B. candida occasionally have a pink margin (Ratsch 1998, 99).
Brugmansia candida is originally from Colombia and Ecuador, and is very common in these areas. It is usually found at altitudes between 1500 and 2500 meters. It was most likely introduced to Mexico in pre-Columbian times. B. candida can only be propagated through cuttings, but propagation is simple – just place the cutting in the ground and water it. Soils that are rich in nitrogen increase alkaloid production in the plant (Bristol 1965).
TRADITIONAL USES: In Colombia, leaf extracts are taken for ceremonial divination, prophecy, and healing. The Kamsa people associate B. candida with the jaguar, the strongest shamanic animal, and thus hold the plant as an extremely potent shamanic tool. They only use B. candida for divinations in very serious cases, as it causes the shaman who works with it to go into a coma for around three days. During this time, he is able to channel and provide information, which is taken down by an assistant who watches over the shaman during the journey (Schultes 1955).
In Mexico, B. candida is used in similar ways to thorn apple for divination and the diagnosis of illness. Three flowers are macerated in hot water, then pressed with a cloth. The Huastec of the Gulf of Mexico say that consuming B. candida leaves will allow one to see reality. The Tzeltal smoke the dried leaves blended with tobacco or other herbs for divination purposes. Dried leaves and flowers may also be given to hunting dogs to improve their abilities (Schultes 1955).
TRADITIONAL PREPARATION: Shamans in Colombia use cold-water extracts of B. candida leaves in even numbers of pairs for their psychoactive properties. The Sibundoy Indians use doses of 2 to 24 leaves, but it is essential to keep in mind that such doses would most likely cause extreme dissociative reactions, toxic symptoms, and even death in most individuals, and therefore it is best to avoid consumption of the plant altogether (Ratsch 1998, 99).
The Kamsa tribe uses B. candida to prepare ‘jaguar inebriant’ during the waning moon periods. The leaves are picked no more than an hour before they are to be taken, and are crushed and soaked in cold water for thirty minutes. The mixture is warmed (but never boiled) and stirred, and the liquid is then strained off. The shaman drinks the liquid a small amount at a time over a period of about three hours, which allows her to determine the appropriate dosage with some accuracy. If the shaman does not enter a trance state after three hours, another extract is prepared and consumed until the desired effects are experienced (Schultes 1955).
In Peru, folk healers drink B. candida leaf juice to enter trance for divination. The leaves and flowers are pressed and the juice mixed with alcohol and sugar. The leaves and flowers are also used to prepare cimora, a potent psychoactive beverage, and are added to San Pedro teas. Dried leaves and flowers may be smoked alone or along with other plants such as tobacco and marijuana in smoking blends (Ratsch 1998, 99).
MEDICINAL USES: In Colombia, B. candida is prepared in to a plaster for tumors, swelling, swollen joints, muscle cramps, inflammation, and colds. Patients suffering from fevers may be bathed in warm decoctions of the leaves and flowers (Schultes 1955).
TRADITIONAL EFFECTS: B. candida contains tropane alkaloids, primarily scopolamine. Meteloidine and hyoscyamine are also present. The leaves have the highest alkaloid content. The Sibundoy say that they see visions of many huge, oftentimes aggressive snakes in the visions created by B. candida (Bristol 1965). Other than that, the effects of B. candida are similar to those of other angel’s trumpets and include dry mouth, difficulty breathing, extreme delirium, vivid visual hallucinations, and distortions of time and space. These plants bring on strong states of delirium and confusion, and overdose can cause serious physical effects, and even death. Therefore, inexperienced individuals should never consider working with B. candida or other species of angel’s trumpets.
Bristol, M.L. “Sibundoy Ethnobotany”. Harvard University, 1965.
Griffin, W.J., Agronomic Evaluation of Datura candida: A New Source of Hyoscine in Economic Botany, Vol. 30, No. 4, 1976, pp. 351-369
Ratsch, Christian., The Encyclopedia of Psychoactive Plants: Ethnopharmacology and its Applications. Rochester: Park Street Press, 1998.
Schultes, R.E. “A New Narcotic Genus from the Amazon Slopes of the Colombian Andes.” Botanical Museum Leaflets 17 (1955): 1–11.
Voogelbreinder, Snu, Garden of Eden: The Shamanic Use of Psychoactive Flora and Fauna, and the Study of Consciousness. Snu Voogelbreinder, 2009.