COMMON NAMES: Petunia, Shanin
Most types of cultivated Petunia are hybrids of Petunia violacea, which has a purple flower, and Petunia axillaris, which has a white flower. P. violacea is a perrenial herb in the wild (cultivated Petunias are annuals) that branches from the base and grows up to 60 cm tall. The leaves are ovate and alternate. The plant is very heat tolerant, low spreading, and blooms with a profusion of purple flowers (Voogelbreinder 2009, 271).
Some forty species of petunias grow in South America and in warmer parts of North America. Members of the nightshade family, Solanaceae, they are closely allied to the genus Nicotiana (tobacco). Petunia violacea, as well as other species, are horticulturally important. Cultivated varieties, with their attractive, funnel-shaped blooms, are popular garden flowers that bloom profusely throughout the summer months (Voogelbreinder 2009, 271).
TRADITIONAL USES: The natives of the highlands of Ecuador are said to smoke Petunia violacea, which they call shanin, as part of shamanic practices and in order to induce a feeling of flying (Hofmann et al. 1992, 53).
TRADITIONAL PREPARATION: The plant is generally dried and then smoked. Resins have also recently become available, and are said to create a very spiritual and uplifting experience.
MEDICINAL USES: No medicinal uses of this plant are known at this time. If you have any information on the subject, please do let us know.
TRADITIONAL EFFECTS: The effects of smoking Petunia violacea are said to be similar to those of Coriaria thymifolia. Both plants are said to cause a feeling of flying into the air or floating away from the earth. This type of psychotropic experience is often attributed to tropane alkaloids. However, so far, studies have not been able to identify the presence of any alkaloids in any part of P. violacea (Butler et al. 1981). This species has been found to strongly inhibit human plasma AChE (Voogelbreinder 2009, 271).
In the related Petunia patagonica, new diterpenes have been found, and it may be possible that these are present in P. violacea as well. Diterpenes are not alkaloids, but are rather non-nitrogenous substances made up of four isoprene groups. They often regulate plant growth or provide a sweet taste. Some are psychoactive, a prime example being salvinorin A. Ketones have also been found in various species of Petunia (Guerreiro 1984).
Butler, E.G., T. Robinson, and R.E. Schultes. “Petunia Violacea: Hallucinogen or Not?” Journal of Ethnopharmacology 4, no. 1 (1981): 111–114.
Guerreiro, E., J. de Fernandez, and O.S. Giordano. “Beyerene Derivatives and Other Constituents from Petunia Patagonica.” Phytochemistry 23, no. 12 (1984): 2871–2873.
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.