Food sources: Bissy nut, chocolate, cocoa, coffee, gotu kola, guarana, mate, soft drinks, tea
(excluding many herbal teas), some stimulant drugs sold by mail or over-the-counter, and many overthe-
Effects: Caffeine is one of the most powerful legal stimulants; it gives a mental boost by releasing adrenaline and noradrenaline into the bloodstream. It interferes on a cellular level with the compound adenosine, in effect flatlining the body’s state of arousal, allowing the body to shift into high gear. It may also affect dopamine, acetylcholine, and other neurotransmitters. All coffee, including decaffeinated, contains at least three compounds that act like opiates, or heroin, on the brain. It improves typing skills, mental alertness, energy, reaction time, concentration, and accuracy in performing tasks, and relieves fatigue, mainly by causing the release of norepinephrine in the brain. It improves physical endurance by stimulating the skeletal muscles, increases the production of stomach acid and urine, causes bowel movements, and dilates the bronchial tubes (making it easier to breathe). According to studies, it has no effect on memory or clarity of thought. In addition, the presence of polyphenols in coffee and tea may prevent cancer by inhibiting the conversion of highly carcinogenic nitrosamines in the body. A few cups of coffee a day can help prevent gallstones in men, and four to
five cups a day can reduce colorectal cancer by 24 percent.
Precautions: It should not be taken by anyone who is allergic to stimulants, has heart disease or irregular heartbeats, who suffers from insomnia, anxiety, or panic disorders, or has a peptic ulcer of the stomach or duodenum. A physician should be consulted first if any of the following conditions are present: hypoglycemia, epilepsy, or high blood pressure. To discontinue use, gradually decrease the amount over a month or more, or headaches, irritability, and drowsiness may result.
Not all researchers are convinced of its mental benefits. Some studies show no improvement in recall or response time, and others show that high doses can impair a person’s ability to work with numbers. And it may have a negative effect on a person’s ability to quickly process ambiguous or confusing stimuli. Any improvements in mental functioning may peak at a certain dosage, then decline with increasing consumption. Overall, caffeine may benefit the performance of simple tasks but have no effect on more complex ones such as reading comprehension or advanced mathematics.
Though it is readily absorbed into the bloodstream, researchers still do not understand its full effects upon the human body. Caffeine can lead to a condition in coffee drinkers called coffee intoxication, in which more than four or five cups a day results in irritability, muscle twitches, rambling speech and thought, and trouble sleeping. It can also worsen existing health problems, and may contribute to birth defects, bladder and colon cancer, kidney disease, osteoporosis, hypertension, abnormal heart rhythms, stomach ulcers, and heart disease, though more recent studies refute these findings. When combined with sugar, as in many cola drinks, it can be particularly addictive or habit-forming. It does not replenish a person’s noradrenaline once it is used up, and either depletes or limits the absorption of many vitamins and minerals. Withdrawal symptoms can begin 12 to 36 hours after the last dose, and can include lethargy, irritability, severe throbbing headaches, anxiety, depression, fatigue, and possibly even nausea and vomiting; symptoms can last from one and one-half to seven days.
Other adverse effects include heart palpitations, high blood pressure, muscle twitches, rapid heartbeat, low blood sugar, nervousness, insomnia, increased urination, anxiety, indigestion, increased production of gastrointestinal acid, rectal itching, constipation, impaired concentration, a weakened immune system, bladder irritation and urinary problems (especially in women), and interference with DNA replication. It has been shown to trigger panic attacks in susceptible people —which it does by lowering the body’s production of DHEA and increasing its production of cortisol —and interfere with the ability to sleep in most coffee drinkers. Decaffeinated coffee still contains some caffeine and can also cause these symptoms. More severe and infrequent symptoms include confusion, nausea, stomach ulcers, indigestion, and a burning feeling in the stomach. Overdose symptoms include excitement, insomnia, rapid heartbeat, confusion, fever, hallucinations, convulsions, and coma.
More than five cups a day can increase the heart attack risk to three times that of a non-coffee drinker. Long-term high-dose caffeine intake can promote calcium loss due to its diuretic effect, weakening bones. The lethal dosage has been estimated to be about 10 grams. If caffeine must be consumed, it should be derived from plant sources, as the synthetic form does not have the fatburning properties the natural form does. As for the natural forms, kola nut and yerba mate are the best caffeine sources, guarana is adequate, and tea and coffee rank lowest. Boiled or percolated coffee can increase serum cholesterol levels and the risk of heart disease; drip coffee does not, as the paper niters absorb the harmful oils in the coffee grounds.
Food and drug interactions are also a cause for concern. Grapefruit juice can increase the level of caffeine and extend its effects by up to one-third. Certain antibiotics such as Cipro (ciprofloxacin) and Penetrex (enoxacin) can significantly intensify and prolong the effects of caffeine. Consuming it with other caffeine-containing drugs, central nervous system stimulants, or sympathomimetics can result in overstimulation; with Cimetidine (Tagamet), oral contraceptives, or Isoniazid, increased sensitivity to the effects of the caffeine (Tagamet can increase caffeine levels by as much as 70 percent); with sedatives, sleep inducers, or tranquilizers, increased sensitivity to the sedative or tranquilizer; with MAO inhibitors, dangerously high blood pressure; and with thyroid hormones, an increase in the thyroid effect. Combined with caffeinated beverages, caffeine is likely to be more stimulating. Taken with alcohol, caffeine can slow a person’s reaction time and intensify the effects of alcohol; with cocaine, it can lead to convulsions or extreme nervousness; with marijuana, it can lead to an increased effect of both substances along with a rapid heartbeat; and with tobacco, it can lead to an accelerated heartbeat and a decreased caffeine effect.
Some mail-order “look-alike” drugs that mimic amphetamines have reportedly triggered strokes and irregular heartbeats that ultimately led to death, but this may be blamed more on the stimulant phenylprolanolamine (PPA) than on the caffeine and ephedrine found in these drugs. Still, the healthproblems associated with ephedrine and caffeine have led the FDA to ban drugs and diet aids that contain these two ingredients.
Dosage: The majority of the research shows that healthy people can consume up to two cups of coffee (200 mg) a day without suffering any ill effects; more than 300 mg of caffeine a day, however, is not recommended. Green tea, in addition to containing about 100 mg of caffeine per serving, contains polyphenols, or strong antioxidant nutrients (which protect against arterial damage that can eventually result in heart attacks or stroke), making it preferable to black tea. Adding milk ties up some of the beneficial chemicals, rendering them useless.
Piperaceae (Pepper Family); Pipereae Tribe
The genus Piper includes some 1,000 to 1,200
species, many of which are ethnobotanically
significant (Halzl et al. 1993, 191; Schultes and
Raffauf 1990, 364*). Half of all Piper species occur
in the American tropics. These include epiphytic
plants, climbers, half-shrubs, and small trees. A
large number of essential oils occur in the genus,
so many leaves, inflorescences, and fruits are
highly aromatic and have therefore attracted
cultural attention. Some Piper species are said to
have psychoactive, and others aphrodisiac, effects.
Safrole and asarone have been identified in various
species (such as Piper divaricatum Meyer, P.
manassausense, P. futokadsura, and P. sarmentosum)
(Avella et al. 1994). Piper abutiloides Kunth,
Piper cincinnatoris Yuncker, and Piper lindbergii C.
DC., which are used in Brazilian folk medicine as
analgesics, are pharmacologically active (Costa et
al. 1989). It has even been suggested that the
common black pepper (Piper nigrum 1.) is capable
of inducing hallucinogenic effects (Schultes and
The so-called red pepper comes not from a
Piper species but from the Peruvian pepper tree
(Schinus moUe 1.; cf. Norman 1991,53*). In South
America, it is used to aid in the fermentation of
chicha and also as a beer additive.
Piper amalago L. [syn. Piper medium Jacq.]amalago
The leaves of this bush, which is indigenous to
Central America (southern Mexico, Belize), are
smaller and narrower than those of Piper auritum,
but the plant is otherwise quite similar in appearance.
When rubbed, its leaves smell strongly of the
essential oil safrole. It may be possible to use this
pepper species for psychoactive purposes. The
Maya, who call the plant yaaxpehelche’, regard it as
the “younger sibling” or “female” counterpart of
Piper angustifolium Ruiz et Pavon-matico
Piper cubeba L. [syn. Cubeba officinalis Miq. (or
Piper elongatum Vahl [syn. Artanthe elongata
|Piper interitum Trelease-tetsi pepper
The Kulina Indians of Peru use the leaves and
roots of Piper interitum, which they call tetsi, to
produce a snuff used as a substitute for tobacco
snuff (cf. Nicotiana tabacum) that is alleged to
have psychoactive properties (Schultes 1978b,
227*; Schultes and Raffauf 1990, 365 f.*).
Piper longum 1. [syn. Chavica roxbhurgii Miq.,
Piper plantagineum Schlecht.
Rubiaceae (Coffee Family)
Most of the approximately 1,200 to 1,400
Psychotria species that have been described are
found in the tropical zones of Central and South
America, although a few species occur in the rain
forests of Malaysia and in New Caledonia
(Standley 1930). In the Caribbean, the seeds of
some species, e.g. Psychotria nervosa, are referred
to as wild coffee and drunk as a coffee substitute
(cf. Coffea arabica). The fruits of many Psychotria
species (P. involucrata Swartz, P. nudiceps Standley)
are regarded as poisonous (Schultes 1969, 158;
1985). N,N-DMT has been demonstrated to be
present in several species. Some contain the
alkaloid psychotridine, and others indoles (Lajis et
a1. 1993). Some species (Psychotria poeppigiana
Muel1. Arg., Psychotria ulviformes Sterm.) appear
to contain opium-like constituents (Elisabetskyet
a1. 1995, 78). The Yucatec Maya regard the Central
American species Psychotria acuminata Benth. (ixanal)
and Psychotria tenuifolia Sw. (x’anal) as
«male” and «female” counterparts and use them to
treat nervousness and sleeplessness (Arvigo and
Balick 1994, 45, 105*). In Europe, Psychotria
emetica (1. fi1.) Mutis, the Peruvian vomit plant,
was known in particular as a counterfeit for ipecac
(Cephaelis ipecacuanha [Brot.] Tussac [syn.
Psychotria ipecacuanha (Brot.) Stokes]) (Ratsch
1991a, 136f.*; Schneider 1974, 3:135f.*). The
vomit-inducing substance emetine is said to occur
in numerous Psychotria species (Fisher 1973, 231).
Psychotria brachypoda (Muell. Arg.) Britton
This Psychotria is used traditionally as a pain
medicine. The species contains active constituents
with opium-like, analgesic effects (Elisabetsky et
Psychotria carthaginensis Jacquin-sameruca
According to information provided by the
Colombian Makuna Indians, eating the fruit of
this bush will induce perceptual alterations that
can persist for days, nausea, weakness, and fever
(Schultes 1969, 158). The leaves, which contain
some N,N-DMT, are used as an ayahuasca additive
(Schultes 1985, 118).
Psychotria colorata (Willd. ex R. et S.) Muell. Arg.
This bush is known as perpetua do mato in the
Brazilian Amazon, where it is used in folk medicine
to treat ear and lower abdominal pain. The
Caboclos produce eardrops by heating the flowers
in banana leaves on hot ashes. A decoction of the
roots and fruits is drunk to treat abdominal pains.
The leaves and flowers have been found to
contain alkaloids with opium-like effects whose
structures have not yet been determined
(Elisabetsky et a1. 1995).
|Psychotria poeppigiana Muel!. Arg.-oreja del
diablo (Spanish, “clevil’s ear”)
In Amazonia (Ecuador), the nectar of this species
is used as a traditional ear medicine. The leaves are
rich in N,N-DMT and are evidently well suited for
use as an ayahuasca additive (ayahuasca analogs)
(Rob Montgomery, pers. comm.). In the Putumayo
region of Colombia, the roots are used to treat
lung ailments (Schultes 1985, 119; Schultes and
Raffauf 1990, 395*).
Among the Ka’apor, Psychotria poeppigiana
Muel1. Arg. is called yawaru-ka’a, «black jaguar
plant;’ or tapi’i-ka’a, «tapir plant” (Balee 1994,
303*). These names suggest that the plant may
be used for shamanic purposes (animal
Psychotria psychotriaefolia (Seem.) Standley
In the Colombian Putumayo region, the leaves of
this species are used together with Banisteriopsis
caapi to produce ayahuasca. In Ecuador, both the leaves and the fruits are used for this purpose
(Schultes 1969, 158). The addition of this plant to
the mixture is said to deepen and prolong the
visions. The leaves contain N,N-DMT. The Kofan
Indians call the plant oprito. They use this same
name to refer to the “heavenly people” that they
contact while under the influence of ayahuasca
(164). This species may be synonymous with
Among the many members of the genus
Psychotria, there are certainly other species that
contain N,N-DMT and may be suitable for use as
ayahuasca additives. We already know of some as
yet undescribed members of the genus that are
used to make ayahuasca and are often called by
the name chacruna.
See also the entries for Psychotria viridis, ayahuasca,
Elisabetsky, Elaine, Tania A. Amador, Ruti R.
Albuquerque, Domingos S. Nunes, and Ana do
C. T. Carvalho. 1995. Analgesic activity of
Psychotria colorata (Willd. ex R. et S.) Muell. Arg.
alkaloids. Journal ofEthnopharmacology
Fisher, H. H. 1973. Origin and uses of ipecac.
Economic Botany 27:231-34.
Lajis, Nordin H., Zurinah Mahmud, and R. F. Toia.
1993. The alkaloids of Psychotria rostrata. Planta
Schultes, Richard Evans. 1969. De Plantis Toxicariis e
Mundo Novo Tropicale Commentationes IV.
Botanical Museum Leaflets 22 (4): 133-64.
—. 1985. De Plantis Toxicariis e Mundo Novo
Tropicale Commentationes XXXIV: Biodynamic
Rubiaceous plants of the Northwest Amazon.
Journal ofEthnopharmacology 14:105-24.
Small, John K. 1928. Psychotria sulzneri. Addisonia
Standley, Paul C. 1930. The Rubiaceae ofColombia.
Botanical Series, vol. 8, no. 1. Chicago: Field
Museum of Natural History.
Rubiaceae (Coffee Family)
Forms and Subspecies
It is possible for white thorns (domatia) to develop
along the central nerve on the underside of some
chacruna leaves. South American ayahuasqueros
distinguish different forms of the plant on the
basis of the number of these thorns. Plants with
three thorns per leaf are considered to be particulady
potent, medicinal, and well suited for the
production of ayahuasca. A form with nine thorns
is regarded as the highest quality.
Psychotria psychotriaefolia (Seem.) Standley may
be a synonym (cf. Psychotria spp.).
Amirucapanga, cahua (Shipibo-Conibo), chacrona,
chacruna, chagropanga, chalipanga, hor6va
(Campa), kawa (Cashinahua/Sharanahua), oprito
(Kofan, “heavenly people))), sami ruca
It is not known when the use of chacruna in
Amazonia first began. It is presumably as old as the
use of Banisteriopsis caapi and ayahuasca. But it
was only in the 1960s that the American ethnobotanist Homer Pinkley (a student of Schultes)
first observed and described the psychoactive use
of the plant among the Kofan Indians of Colombia,
who use it as an ayahuasca additive (Pinkley 1969).
Linnaeus, who provided the first botanical description
of the genus Psychotria, derived the name
of the genus from Psychotrophum (Patrick Browne),
a term that had already been circulating in the
literature. Unfortunately, he did not provide any
reason for this action. It is quite possible that the
genus name means that it “influences the psyche))
(cf. Pinkley 1969).
The tropical bush is at home primarily in the
undisturbed forests of the Amazon lowlands but
has spread from Colombia to Bolivia and into
eastern Brazil as a result of extensive cultivation. It
is said to occur also north of the Amazon region
and into Central America (Pinkley 1969, 535).
Today, there are also plantations in Hawaii and
The plant is difficult to propagate from seed. The
seeds can require sixty days to germinate. Sometimes,
only one seed in a hundred will germinate.
In contrast, cultivation from cuttings is much
easier and more successful. A small branch needs only to be set in the ground and watered thoroughly.
Plants can be grown even from a branch
piece having only two leaves, and it is possible for
individual leaves and leaf pieces to develop into
plants. It has been claimed that a young plant once
developed from a piece of leaf that was accidentally
covered with soil. The plant requires moist,
humus-rich soil. It can survive an occasional flooding
of its location, as occurs in Amazonia (Pinkley
The evergreen bush can grow into a small tree
with a very woody trunk, but in cultivation it is
usually maintained at a height of 2 to 3 meters. It
has long, narrow, ovate leaves that are light green
to dark green in color and whose upper side is
shiny. The flowers have greenish white petals and
are attached to long stalks. The red berry fruits
contain several small ovate-oval retuse seeds
(approximately 4 mm in length). The convex side
is streaked with three parallel grooves with
Psychotria viridis is easily confused with other
Psychotria species. Psychotria psychotriaefolia in
particular is very similar in appearance and may in
fact be a synonym (see Psychotria spp.).
- LeavesPreparation and Dosage
The leaves must be collected in the morning and
are used both fresh and dried to manufacture
ayahuasca and ayahuasca analogs. The dried leaves
are coffee brown in color. The leaves also can be
used to produce an extract that thickens to a
tarlike mass and can be smoked.
As little as 1 ml of the juice pressed from the
fresh leaves is said to contain some 100 mg of N,NDMT
(cf. Russo 1997,6).
See ayahuasca (“Ayahuasca Music-A Discography;’
on page 711).
The Machiguenga use juice that has been freshly
pressed from the leaves of Psych0 tria viridis or
another Psych0 tria species (Psychotria spp.) as
eyedrops for treating migraine headaches (Russo
1997, 5). While Psychotria viridis does have a
reputation as a medicinal plant, such use has been
little studied to date (see also ayahuasca).
The leaves contain 0.1 to 0.61% N,N-DMT along
with traces of MMT and MTHC (= 2-methyltetrahydro-~-
carboline). The DMT content is
typically around 0.3%. Psychotria leaves appear to
contain the highest concentrations of DMT in the
early morning, which is why they should be
collected at that time (Dennis McKenna, pers.
The Kofan Indians say that by mixing Psychotria
viridis leaves into their yage (= ayahuasca; cf.
Banisteriopsis caapi), they are able to see the
oprito, the small “heavenly people” that bear the
same name as the plant (Pinkley 1969, 535). When
used as an ayahuasca additive, the leaves manifest
typical DMT effects (see ayahuasca).
Commercial Forms and Regulations
The dried leaves are occasionally available from
sources specializing in ethnobotanical products.
The legal situation with respect to the raw plant
material has not been clarified.
See also the entries for Psychotria spp., ayahuasca,
and ayahuasca analogs.
Der Marderosian, Ara H., et al. 1970. The use and
hallucinatory principles of a psychoactive
beverage of the Cashinahua tribe (Amazonia
basin). Drug Dependence 5:7-14.
Pinkley, Homer V. 1969. Etymology of Psychotria in
view of a new use of the genus. Rhodora
Prance, G. T., and A. E. Prance. 1970. Hallucinations
in Amazonia. Garden Journal 20:102-7.
Russo, Ethan B. 1992. Headache treatments by native
peoples of the Ecuadorian Amazon: A
preliminary cross-disciplinary assessement.
Journal ofEthnopharmacology 36: 192-206.
—. 1997. An investigation of psychedelic plants
and compounds for activity in serotonin receptor
assays for headache treatment and prophylaxis.
MAPS 7 (1): 4-8.
Leguminosae: Papilionideae (Legume Family);
Forms and Subspecies
The genus consists of some three hundred species
that are found in the tropical and subtropical
regions of both hemispheres (Schultes and
Dolicholus phaseoloides Sw.
Rhynchosia phaseoloides (Sw.) DC.
Ah rna’ ak’ (Lacandon, “ara parrot vine”), antipusi,
atecuixtle, atecuxtli, bejuco culebra, bird’s eyes,
casanpulgas, chanate pusi, cha’pak’ (Mayan),
colorin chiquito, colorincito, colorines (cf.
Erythrina americana), coralito, frijol de chintlatlahua,
frijolillo, guarecitas, gun-ma-muy-tio-fia
(Chinantec), krebsaugenbohne, liucai-nofal (Chontal),
negritos, ojitos de picho (Spanish, “little eyes
of the dove”), ojo de cangrejo (Spanish, “crab’s
eye”), ojo de chanate (Mexico, “eye of the thrush
[Cassidix mexicanus]“), ojo de culebra (Spanish,
“eye of the snake”), ojo de pajarito (Spanish, “eye
of the little bird”), ojo de zanate (Mexico, “eye of
the thrush [Cassidix mexicanus]“) , pega palo,
peonia, perico, peyote (see Lophophora williamsii) ,
pipilzintli, piule, pulguitas, puren-sapicho, saltipus,
senecui1che (see Heimia salicifolia), shasham
wupu’ar (Pima), sinicuiche, xenecui1che
Plants and Fungi Known in Mexico as Piule
(from Martinez 1987, 757*; Ott 1993,419*; Santesson 1938; supplemented)
The Aztecs may have used the striking seeds of this
plant for ritual purposes (Schultes and Hofmann
1980,340*). The red-black seeds, which are known
by the name piule (Santesson 1938), were or are
used ritually in the village of San Pedro Nexapa,
on the slopes of Popocatepetl (Mexico) (Wasson
and Wasson 1957, 306 f.). In Mexico, the name
piule has been used as a catchall term for psychoactive
plants since the twentieth century
(Martinez 1987, 757*; cf. Psilocybe mexicana, Turbina
corymbosa). The word piule may have been
derived from the Nahuatl peyotl (= Lophophora
williamsii). Accordingly, piuleros are those people
who use a psychoactive substance (piule) to divine
and/or heal (Santesson 1937a, 1937b). Some
species, e.g., Rhynchosia longeracemosa Mart. et
Gal., are now also known by the name peyote
This climber is found throughout the tropical and
warm regions of Mexico and on many islands of
the Caribbean (Cuba) (von Reis and Lipp 1982,
139*). It usually grows at the edge of forests and in
clearings. It is frequently found in fallow milpas
The seeds are best pregerminated in a mixture of
soil and moss. The seedlings must be planted in
topsoil and watered well as soon as the seeds have
opened and the young shoots have become visible
(Grubber 1991, 56*). The plant requires a moist,
warm climate and in northern zones can thus be
grown only as a houseplant.
The vine, which can grow to a length of several
meters, has the typical leaves of the Legume
Family, in which three leaves sit upon each stalk.
The greenish flowers are arranged in long racemes.
The bean-shaped seedpods are constricted
between the two small, red-black, almost spherical
hard seeds (4 to 6 mm long).
The kidney-shaped seeds of the closely related
Rhynchosia longeracemosa are “mottled light-and
dark-brown” (Schultes and Hofmann 1992,55*).
Rhynchosia pyramidalis is often confused with
Abrus precatorius 1. (jequirity, rosary pea), which
is widely feared as a poisonous plant. It too
produces red-black seeds, although they are
somewhat larger (6 to 7 mm long). Jequirity can
be recognized by its smaller, pinnate leaves. The
seeds of Abrus precatorius contain abrin, a lectin mixture that is unstable when heated and one of
the most potent of all known toxins, along with
several alkaloids (Ghosal and Dutta 1971; Nwodo
1991; Nwodo and Alumanah 1991; Roth et al.
1994, 83 f. *). In Mexico, the seeds of Abrus
precatorius are known as colorines (see Erythrina
spp.). They are associated with the mescal bean
cult (see Sophora secundiflora); ashes from the
leaves are used as a coca additive (see Erythroxylum
- Seeds (semina rhynchosiae phaseoloides, bird’s
- StalksPreparation and Dosage
In entheogenic rituals in the high valleys of
Mexico, twelve untreated seeds were ingested with
six pairs of Psilocybe aztecorum per person
(Wasson and Wasson 1957,306).
To date, the only description that is available
pertains to the ritual use of the seeds in connection
with the ingestion of mushrooms. The
ingestion of the seeds is presumably more symbolic
in meaning, for the red-black seeds represent
bodiless, free-floating eyes, a symbol of psychedelic
and prophetic vision.
The Zapotec of Miahuatlan are said to have
used the seeds of the closely related species
Rhynchosia minima (1.) DC. [syn. Dolicholus
minimus] in magical rituals (Dfaz 1979,87*).
The small, durable seeds are made into amulets
and chains (cf. Erythrina americana, Erythrina
spp., Sophora secundiflora).
Wall paintings at Teopantitla (near Teotihuacan)
allegedly show the seeds falling out of the
hand of the rain god TIMoc (D. McKenna 1995,
102*). The red-black coloration is said to be an
indication of the seeds’ hallucinogenic use
(Schultes 1970c; Schultes and Hofmann 1980,
The seeds are regarded as a narcotic and poison in
Mexican folk medicine (Jiu 1996, 254*). The
Yucatec Maya use the root along with other herbs
to produce a medicine to treat pellagra284 (Pullido
S. and Serralta P. 1993,37*). The Pima of northern
Mexico grind the seeds on a mortar and strew the
powder into the eyes of those who are suffering
from the “evil eye” (Pennington 1973,223*).
In the Dominican Republic, the stalks are used
to prepare an aphrodisiac drink (Dlaz 1979,87*).
The chemistry of the constituents has not yet been
clarified. Reports about the alkaloids are
contradictory (Santesson 1937a). The seeds
apparently contain alkaloids similar to those in
Sophora secundiflora and Erythrina spp. (D.
McKenna 1995, 102*). The root may possibly
contain niacin or nicotine amide, for it is used in
the Yucatan as a folk medicine to treat pellagra
(maidism). Whether the flavonol rhynchosin
(Adinarayana et al. 1980) occurs in the plant is
In Mexico, it is commonly believed that the seeds
cause “imbecility” or “madness” (Diaz 1979, 87*;
Jiu 1996, 254*). There are as yet no reports of
actual psychoactive effects. An extract of the seeds
is said to have curare-like activity (Schultes and
Commercial Forms and Regulations
The seeds are sometimes available through the
international seed trade. Mexican Indians
sometimes sell necklaces with beads of Rhynchosia
See also the entries for Erythrina spp. and Sophora
Adinarayana, Dama, Duvvuru Gunasekar, Otto
Se1igmann, and Hildebert Wagner. 1980.
Rhynchosin, a new 5-deoxyflavonol from
Rhynchosia beddomei. Phytochemistry 19:483-84.
Ghosal, S., and S. K. Dutta. 1971. Alkaloids of Abrus
precatorius. Phytochemistry 10:195-98.
Grear, J. W. 1978. A revision of the New World
species of Rhynchosia (Leguminosae-Fabodeae).
Memoirs ofthe New York Botanical Garden 31
suppl. (1): 1-168.
Nwodo, O. F. C. 1991. Studies on Abrus precatorius
seeds. I: Uterotonic activity of seed oil. Journal of
Ethnopharmacology 31 (3): 391-94.
Nwodo, O. F. C., and E. O. Alumanah. 1991. Studies
on Abrus precatorius seeds. II: Antidiarrhoeal
activity. Journal ofEthnopharmacology 31 (3):
Ristic, S., and A. Thomas. 1962. Zur Kenntnis von
Rhynchosia pyramidalis (Pega Palo). Archiv fur
Santesson, C. G. 1937a. Notiz tiber piule, eine
mexikanische Rauschdroge. Etnologiska Studier
(Goteborg) 4: 1-11.
—. 1937b. Piule, eine mexikanische
Rauschdroge. Archiv fur Pharmazie: 532-37.
—. 1938. Noch eine mexikanische “Piule”Droge:
Semina Rynchosiae phaseoloidis DC.
[sic!]. Etnologiska Studier 6: 179-83.
Wasson, R. Gordon, and Valentina P. Wasson. 1957.
Mushrooms, Russia, and history. New York: