Psychedelic plants and herbs have been used for centuries by shamanic and religious leaders
This is a list of psychedelic plants which in the strictest sense are entheogens. An entheogen is any psychedelic substance that induces a spiritual experience and is aimed at spiritual development. In recent times many have been taken up by the “casual drug user” as a cheap alternative to chemical-based drugs. For recreational use, they may be classified as hallucinogens. However, don’t underestimate the potency of these plants.
Active Ingredients: THC (tetrahydrocannabinol)
The cannabis plant has an ancient history of psychedelic usage as a trance-inducing drug and is found in pharmacological cults around the world. In India, it has been engaged by itinerant sadhus (ascetics) for centuries, and in modern times the Rastafarian movement has embraced it. Some historians and etymologists have claimed that cannabis was used as a religious sacrament by ancient Jews, early Christians, and Muslims of the Sufi order. Elders of the modern religious movement known as the Ethiopian Zion Coptic Church consider cannabis to be the Eucharist, claiming it as an oral tradition from Ethiopia dating back to the time of Christ. Cannabis plants produce a group of chemicals called cannabinoids which produce mental and physical effects when consumed. As a drug, it usually comes in the form of dried buds or flowers (marijuana), resin (hashish), or various extracts collectively known as hashish oil. The psychoactive effects of cannabis, are subjective and can vary based on the individual. Some effects may include a general change in consciousness (altered perception), mild euphoria, feelings of well-being, relaxation or stress reduction, lethargy, joviality, an enhanced recollection of episodic memory, increased sensuality, increased awareness of sensation, and occasionally paranoia, agitation or anxiety.
Ayahuasca, or Yage
Active Ingredients: Beta-carboline harmala alkaloids, MAOIs and DMT (dimethyltryptamine)
There are two plants used in shamanic psychedelic rituals, Ayahuasca Vine (Banisteriopsis Caapi) and Chacruna Shrub (Psychotria Viridis). The word “Ayahuasca”, means “vine of the souls” and refers to a medicinal drink using both of the above plants. When brewed together, and consumed in a ceremonial setting, these plants are capable of producing profound mental, physical and spiritual effects. Ayahuasca is mentioned in the writings of some of the earliest missionaries to South America. It is considered to be a particular shamanic medicinal brew but is also an entire medicinal tradition specific to the Amazonas.
Jimson Weed (Datura Stramonium)
Active Ingredients: Atropine, hyoscyamine and scopolamine
Found in India and Central America, it was used as a mystical sacrament in both places. The Native Americans use this plant in sacred ceremonies. The sadhus of Hinduism also use it as a spiritual tool, they smoke it with cannabis in traditional pipes. In the United States, it is called Jimson Weed or Jamestown Weed. The effects have been described as a living dream: consciousness falls in and out, people who don’t exist or are miles away are conversed with, etc, and the effects can last for days. It may be described as a real psychedelic trance when a user under the effect can be awake but completely disconnected from his immediate environment.
Wormwood (Artemisia absinthium)
Active Ingredients: Thujone
Native to temperate regions of Europe, Asia and northern Africa. The shamanic, religious association with this plant began with its strong association with the Ancient Greek moon goddess Artemis. In Hellenistic culture, Artemis was a goddess of the hunt and protector of the forest and children. It is perhaps more famously known as the key ingredient in Absinthe, the favourite drink of 19th Century Bohemian artists. The most commonly reported experience is a clear-headed feeling of inebriation, a form of lucid drunkenness.
Kava (Piper Methysticum)
Active Ingredients: Kavalactones
An ancient crop of the western Pacific. The word ‘kava’ is used to refer both to the plant and the beverage produced from it. Kava is used for medicinal, religious, political, cultural and social purposes throughout the Pacific. These cultures have great respect for the plant and place high importance on it. The drink is used to this day at social gatherings to relax after work and is used to obtain inspiration. Though it can be chewed it is mostly used as a drink. The effects of the drink are slight numbing of the tongue and lip, becoming socially talkative, clear thinking, calming and a very euphoric sense of well-being.
Diviner’s Sage (Salvia divinorum)
Active Ingredients: Diterpenoid known as Salvinorin A
Salvia divinorum is native to certain areas in the Sierra Mazateca of Oaxaca, Mexico. Where it is still used by the Mazatec Indians, primarily to facilitate shamanic visions for curing or divination. Shaman’s crush the leaves to extract leaf juices. They usually mix these juices with water to create an infusion or tea which they drink to induce psychedelic visions in ritual healing ceremonies. Salvia can be chewed, smoked, or taken as a tincture to produce experiences ranging from uncontrollable laughter to much more intense and profoundly altered states. The duration, when smoked, is much shorter and typically it lasts for only a few minutes. The most commonly reported after-effects to include an increased feeling of insight and improved mood, and a sense of calmness and an increased sense of connection with nature.
Magic Mushrooms (Psilocybin Mushrooms)
Active Ingredients: Psilocybin and psilocin
Psilocybin mushrooms have been part of the human shamanic culture as far back as the earliest recorded history. Ancient paintings of mushroomed humanoids dating to 5,000 B.C. have been found in caves of Northern Algeria. Central and Southern American cultures built temples to mushroom gods and carved mushroom stones, dated to 1000-500 B.C. Psilocybian mushrooms were used in shamanic ritual and ceremony among the Aztecs, served with honey or chocolate at some of their holiest events. The effects of ingestion are typically inwardly oriented, with strong visual and auditory components. Psychedelic visions and revelations may be experienced, and the effect can range from exhilarating to distressing.
Peyote (Lophophora Williamsii)
Active Ingredients: Phenylethylamine alkaloids, principally Mescaline
From early records, peyote has been used by shamanic indigenous peoples, such as the Huichol of northern Mexico and by various Native American tribal groups. Peyote and its associated religion, however, are fairly recent in terms of usage and practice among tribes in the Southwestern United States; Their acquisition of the peyote religion and use of peyote can be firmly dated to the early 20th Century. Typically consumed as a tea, the effects last about 10 to 12 hours. When combined with the appropriate setting, peyote is reported to trigger states of deep introspection and insight, described as being of a metaphysical or spiritual nature. At times, these can be accompanied by rich visual or auditory effects.
Fly Agaric Mushrooms (Amanita Muscaria)
Active Ingredients: Ibotenic acid
The quintessential image of a hallucinogenic ‘toadstool’, with its red cap and white spots. This shamanic fungus is native to birch, pine, spruce, fir and cedar woodlands throughout the Northern Hemisphere. These mushrooms were widely used as a psychedelic drug by many of the indigenous peoples of Siberia. In western Siberia, the use of A. muscaria was restricted to shamans, who used it as an alternate method of achieving a trance state. In the east, A. muscaria was used by both shamans and common people alike, recreationally as well as for shamanic and religious rituals. Effects can range from nausea and twitching to drowsiness, auditory and visual distortions, mood changes and euphoria. Amnesia frequently results in recovery.
Heavenly Blue, Morning Glory (Ipomoea tricolour)
Active Ingredients: Ergoline alkaloids
This is a species of morning glory native to the New World tropics and widely cultivated and naturalized elsewhere. The seeds have been used for centuries by many Mexican Native American cultures as a hallucinogen. Their traditional use by Mexican Native Americans was first discovered in 1941, brought to light in a report documenting use going back to Aztec times. It was reported in 1960 that the seeds of Ipomoea tricolour were used as sacraments by certain Zapotecs. Hallucinations are the predominant effect after ingesting morning glory seeds. Vivid visual and tactile hallucinations, as well as increased awareness of colours, have been described.
Dagga Flower, Wild Cannabis, Lions Tail (Leonotis leonurus)
Active Ingredients: Leonurine
While it is native to southern Africa, Dagga also has a long shamanic history with the indigenous people of China and Vietnam. Today, Dagga has been naturalised in a variety of other places, such as California, Australia, Mexico, and the Caribbean. Currently, Dagga is globally legal and can be ordered through a variety of different website outlets. When smoked, Dagga is said to have a euphoric, calming, uplifting highness. This is said to also provide a sense of mental clarity and warmth of visual perception. Much akin to cannabis, because of a similar delivery of alkaloids also found in cannabis, it has been a favourite recreational and shamanic medicinal plant since people have known of it.
Some further reading on Psychedelic plants
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