Common Name: Sinicuiche, Sinicuilche, Sinicuil, yerbas de las animales (herb of the spirits)
Range: Argentina, Mexico, Oaxaca
Comments: There seems to be a bevy of misinformation on the internet regarding Sinicuichi, and my hope with this brief article is to dispel some of that with solid, personally researched information. First, because of the preponderance of low quality, poorly-harvested Sinicuichi leaves, many who try to work with this plant immediately assume that this entheogen is a scam. The truth is that it’s not, and it can be a powerful Teaching Plant when used in a way that honors the traditional use of this medicine.
First of all, the distinct flowers of the Herb of the Spirits have been etched into history due to representations on statues of the Aztec diety called “Xochipilli”. When I was in Veracruz, Mexico doing research on a number of plants, I was told that this plant was made into a magical beverage by indigenous peoples. The key is that for the magical beverage to be potent, the drink must be made with the crushed leaves of fresh Heimia plants. In a pinch, dried leaves can be used, but it takes far more of them than the fresh leaves.
10G of the leaves are left soaking in water for a day. After 24 hours, the leaves are pressed out (cheesecloth works just fine) and thrown away (Gottlieb 1973). All of these materials are available online in various places. The confusion comes in during the next step. And truly, this step is open to personal Shamanic experimentation. The Shaman I was with in Veracruz said that although he mixes the brew with alcohol, it is not always. He also said that if it’s a weak harvest of Sinicuiche, it will be left in the sun for an additional day to ferment. But many Westerners are only familiar with factory-fermentation, and may find this naturally-fermented drink a bit difficult to handle.
According to the shaman in Veracruz, this entheogen is most-often used to help one remember events in the distant past, well beyond present family and life. And yes, just like the reports (and from personal experience), sounds take on a very curious dimension, as if they’re coming from a distant source (perhaps an explanation as to why this plant is used to recall events from the distant past as well?). This shaman stated that Sinicuilche gives a mild intoxication and a giddiness, accompanied by a drowsiness that helps to enter the trance state. From other reports, the effects can also include “skeletal muscle relaxation, slowing of heartbeat, dilation of coronary vessels, inhibition of acetylcholine, enhancement of epinephrine, slight reduction of blood pressure, cooling of body, mild intoxication and giddiness, darkening of vision, and increased memory function” (Erowid 2003).
Furthermore, although the plant is never smoked by the shaman I spoke to, I know of several who have tried smoking a resin of this plant. After an inhalations of a 15x extract, there were effects that were far from “placebo” effects, lasting about 60 minutes or so. No reported hangover or undesirable side effects were reported. Overindulgence causes golden-yellow tinge to vision on the following day. Continued immoderate use may eventually hamper memory.
Preparation: To prepare, 14G (1/2 ounce) the dried leaves or a “large handful” of the plucked leaves are allowed to wilt slightly. They’re then liquefied in a blender, permitted to ferment for 1 day in the sun, and drunk after straining out the leaves. If fresh material is not available, it’s recommended that the dried herb is first be steeped in hot water for about 20 minutes, and then allowed to sit in sun for 1 day before drinking. Again, fourteen grams of the dried herb or equivalent of fresh leaves is suggested as starting dose.