FAMILY: Solanaceae (Nightshade)
COMMON NAMES: Borrachero, Borrachero Tree, Floripondio, Golden Angel’s Trumpet, Golden Tree Datura, Goldene Baumdatura, Guantu, Huacacachu, Huanto, Maicoa, Toe, Tonga, Yellow Tree Datura
Brugmansia aurea is a perennial woody shrub-like tree, native to the highlands of South America. It can grow up to 30 feet (9 meters) tall, with long thin oval shaped leaves which can grow up to 16 inches (40 cm) long and 6 inches (15 cm) wide. The flowers are up to 9 inches (23 cm) long, narrow and trumpet shaped, and range in color from white to golden yellow. They are especially noted for their strong aromatic fragrance and large dark brown to black seeds (Ratsch 1998, 96).
Golden Angel’s Trumpet is native to the highland areas around the Andes mountain range in South America. It is very well known throughout southern Columbia, Ecuador and Peru. It has also been transplanted throughout Mexico and Central America, and it is frequently confused with Datura, as the plants contain similar alkaloids (Schultes et al. 2001).
TRADITIONAL USE: For millennia, shamans have used the Golden Angel’s Trumpet as a sacrament in their rituals and ceremonies. It was believed that by consuming a tea made from the flowers a shaman could communicate with the spirit world, to fight evil forces and forge a spiritual union with ancestors. Tribes such as the Canelo, Chibcha, Choco, Guambiano, Ingano, Jivaro, Kamsa, Mapuche and Muisca have used this plant to call on the dead, predict the future, and discipline unruly children. It was even given to children in the belief that during their intoxicated stupor they were more likely to find gold (Schultes et al. 2001).
In Ecuador, the juice of B. aurea is ingested to create prophetic dreams that are used for divination (Metzner 1992). The seeds are added to chicha (maize beer), and this beverage is consumed at village festivals and religious rituals. In Mexico, the Huichol use B. aurea in a way similar to Solandra species (Ratsch 1998, 97).
TRADITIONAL PREPARATION: There are several traditional ways in which the seeds, flowers, and leaves were prepared to produce various intoxicating drinks, teas and powders. The native Canelo Indians would scrape the pith from the stem and flowers and squeeze out the juices, which were then consumed straight away (Whitten 1985 cited in Ratsch 1998, 97). Other preparations include steeping the leaves and flowers in hot water to make delirium-inducing teas. In some areas the seeds would be dried and powered and then added to chicha, a fermented maize beer; there are also reports of Indians mixing the dried leaves with tobacco and smoking the resulting blend (Voogelbreinder 2009, 105-106).
MEDICINAL USES: It seems that almost every tribe in the region where B. aurea grows have a different medicinal use for this magical plant. Most prominently it was used to treat rheumatism and arthritis. It has also been used to treat sore throats, stomach pains caused by parasitic worms, to cleanse wounds of infected pus, and to help sooth irritated bowels and reduce flatulence. Due to many undesirable side effects and after effects there are no currently accepted medicinal uses for this plant, although there are pharmaceutical uses for pure scopolamine (Voogelbreinder 2009, 105-106).
TRADITIONAL EFFECTS: The plant’s stems, flowers, leaves, and seeds are known to contain large quantities of tropane alkaloids. Recent research has shown that the main active compound in this plant is scopolamine, it also contains aposcopolamine, atropine, hyoscyamine, meteloidine, and norscopolamine. All of these compounds may be illegal in most parts of the world when extracted from their naturally occurring sources (Plowman 1981 cited in Ratsch 1998, 97).
One of the earliest documented reports of the effects of Golden Angel’s Trumpet was written in 1846 by Johann Tschudi: the user “fell into a heavy stupor, his eyes vacantly fixed on the ground, his mouth convulsively closed, and his nostrils dilated. In the course of a quarter hour, his eyes began to roll, foam issued from his mouth, and his whole body was agitated by frightful convulsions. After these violent symptoms had passed, a profound sleep of several hours’ duration followed” (Hartwich 1911 cited in Ratsch 1998, 103). It is during this delirium that users reported hallucinations, visions, and communication with the animal spirits. Convulsions, seizures and painful hangovers are an unavoidable consequence of this powerful plant, and are one reason why it has never gained popularity. This is certainly a very powerful shamanic traveling plant and needs to be studied with great care. It is very toxic, and can easily cause death, so it is essential that modern explorers only work with this plant in external applications, and that cautiously.
Intentional ingestion of Brugmansia in the West is not uncommon, particularly by young people who are seeking quick and easy psychedelic experiences. Since the plants are often ornamental, they are easily available. These experiments often end in bizarre behavior, lack of control, and often in hospitalization. Many individuals report dry mouth, lack of coordination, and extreme disorientation and confusion lasting up to eight hours (Erowid 2009). This plant is very powerful, and it is more than sufficient to work with it externally, without actually consuming any part of the plant. If you are curious about this or another species of Brugmansia, it is recommended that you simply try sharing space with one of these beautiful plants – you may be amazed at how effective this can be!
Erowid. 2009. Brugmansia. Erowid.com
Metzner, R. “Divinatory Dreams Induced by Tree Datura.” In Yearbook for Ethnomedicine and the Study of Consciousness, 1:193–198. Berlin: VBW, 1992.
Ratsch, Christian. 2005. The Encyclopedia of Psychoactive Plants: Ethnopharmacology and Its Applications. Park Street Press; Rochester, VT.
Schultes, Richard E; Hofmann, Albert; Ratsch, Christian. 2001. Plants of the Gods: Their Sacred, Healing and Hallucinogenic Powers. Healing Arts Press; Rochester, VT.
Voogelbreinder, Snu. The Garden of Eden: The Shamanic Use of Psychoactive Flora and Fauna and the Study of Consciousness. Snu Voogelbreinder, 2009.