SPECIES: Hostilis, Tenuiflora
COMMON NAMES: Jurema Tree, Tepescohuite, Cabrero (‘goatherd’), Carbon (‘charcoal’)
The Mimosa hostilis plant is a bushy tree that can grow up to 8 meters in height. It has short, sharp thorns on the branches and pinnate leaves. The flowers are white and grow in clusters, and the fruits are small, 2 to 4.5 mm wide, 5 to 7 mm long. The pods contain three or four fruits each (Sánchez León 1987 cited in Ratsch 1998, 362).
Mimosa hostilis is found growing wild in southern Mexico, Central America, Brazil, and Venezuela. It grows best in tropical lowlands, but may be found at altitudes of up to 1000 meters (Sánchez León 1987).
TRADITIONAL USES: The first Brazilian tribes to develop a ritualistic use of Jurema as a psychoactive brew are extinct. The descendants of these tribes slowly lost their ancestral homes, because they lost their legal identity as indigenous peoples. The current war for land in the interior of Bahia, Pernambuco and Paraiba, the so called Sertão, began over 80 years ago. In order to regain recognition as indigenous peoples and rightful ownership of their homeland, traditions had to be strengthened. The Jurema Cult (O Culto da Jurema) was revived to re-establish and sustain indigenous identity. This ageless wisdom was secretly preserved from father to son as the ritualistic use of their psychoactive brew brought severe prosecution from the white man (Ratsch 1998, 363).
There are very intriguing similarities between these Jurema rituals and the Ayahuasca rituals of the Amazon Forest. The Jurema rituals exhibit all the characteristics of psychoactive influence although alcohol is also consumed to induce an altered state of consciousness. Alcohol is the only available medium through which rituals can be enhanced and attendant spirits served. At the ritual’s end, many empty bottles of cachaça (aquardente from sugar cane, the strongest alcohol available in Brazil), are scattered around the altar. However, the participating mediums, through whom the spirits have been drinking, are sober. (This phenomenon has been registered in Umbanda, Cadomblé and other African traditions that are part of the Brazilian syncretism of religions) (Voogelbreinder 2009, 231).
TRADITIONAL PREPARATION: The preparation of the brew from fresh Jurema root bark for trance possession rituals, is, in itself, a complex ritual. The process begins at the bottom of the mountain Omã, home to a wild plantation of the sacred plant. O Paje, the spiritual leader, handles the Jurema. Only those roots that face the rising sun are picked. They are then beaten, rock against rock, until all dirt and outer bark is removed. Only the inner root is used for the brew. The remaining Jurema is placed in a plastic container filled with cold water and squeezed over and over again, until the water turns a very deep reddish brown colour. The foam that forms on the surface is discarded, along with the coarse residue, leaving only a liquid extraction. The Jurema brew is now ready to be taken during rituals that beckon the spirits of the caboclos called “Encantados de Luz” (Enchanted Beings of Light) to descend into the bodies of the mediums to promote healing while dancing the Toré. Viva a Jurema! (Long live the Jurema!)
In Brazil, a wine is sometimes made with Mimosa hostilis and passionfruit juice. An ayahusaca analog may be made by combining three grams of Peganum harmala with 9-12 g of dried Mimosa hostilis root cortex. It is recommended that one add honey to this concoction to counteract the unpleasant taste of the bark. This bark is said to cause more nausea than other popular DMT-containing ayahuasca ingredients (Hofmann et al. 1992, 139).
To prepare an infusion of root bark alone, about 25 g per person should be used. The bark is pounded and then left to soak twice in water for 30 minutes each. After each soaking, the resulting liquid is consumed. The psychoactivity of this concoction is though to be due to alkaloids other than the DMT contained in the bark (Voogelbreinder 2009, 230-231).
MEDICINAL USES: In Mexico, the powdered bark is used to treat burns and wounds with miraculous results. Mimosa hostilis bark was used to great effect in a 1982 natural gas explosion and a 1985 earthquake to treat victims. The use of the bark decreased the number of deaths of burn victims significantly. The bark is also taken in capsules for exhaustion and debility. In Brazil, women rub the fresh root cortex onto the soles of men they desire, as an aphrodisiac (Anton et al. 1993).
TRADITIONAL EFFECTS: According to older literature, the jurema drinks that were traditionally made in the eastern Amazon gave shamans amazing dreams and transported them to heaven. The bark of the trunk has been found to contain a number of constituents, including triterpene saponins and steroid saponins. The bark also contains large quantities of calcium, starch and tannins, and small quantities of alkaloids, including N,N-DMT, 5-hydroxytryptamine and B-carbolines are included. Recent studies of the root cortex of Mexican samples yielded 1% N,N-DMT, a phenomenal amount (Anton et al. 1993).
When spread on burns the powdered root bark creates analgesic effects that last for up to three hours. It also significantly shortens the regeneration time for the skin. The bark also seems to stimulate the immune system. According to the ethnographic literature, consuming a decoction of the root bark leads to psychedelic effects. It is not known whether the traditional beverage also contained an MAO inhibitor. However, since the root cortex contains B-carbolines, the tea could be orally effective on its own. In modern times, the addition of passion fruit juice would likely act as an MAOI (Anton et al. 1993). Smoking 1 gram of dried root cortex leads to very mild DMT effects. A bark extract would likely produce stronger effects (Voogelbreinder 2009, 231).
Anton, R.Y., B. Jiang, J.P. Weniger, J.P. Beck, and L. Rivier. “Pharmacognosy of Mimosa Tenuiflora (Willd.) Poiret.” Journal of Ethnopharmacology 38 (1993): 153–157.
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.
Voogelbreinder, Snu, Garden of Eden: The Shamanic Use of Psychoactive Flora and Fauna, and the Study of Consciousness. Snu Voogelbreinder, 2009.