Workshop on spiritual mushrooms, roots, cactus, herbs, flowers as food for the soul and Consciouness enhancers.
For millinia, shamans have used native plants to induce altered states of consciousne in order to “generate the Divine within”, thanks to which a higher level of healing and awakening has been accomplished. Most of the sacred plants require intricate preparation on the part of a well-practiced shaman. Self-medication in this sphere is not recommended. In this workshop, we will explore the healing and toxic properties of some of these plants, a partial list of which can be viewed below.
1. African dream root. Silene undulata, meaning “white ways/paths” is a plant native to South Africa, long used by the Xhosa people as a sacred plant. Its fragrant flowers open at night and close in the day, but it’s the root that’s used; it can be harvested after the second year, dried, and taken as a tea. African dream root is traditionally used to induce prophetic lucid dreams during the initiation process of shamans.
2. Peyote, from the Nahuatl word peyōtl, meaning “glistening,” is a small, spineless cactus with psychoactive alkaloids, particularly mescaline. It’s been used by Native Americans for spiritual purposes for at least 5,500 years. Native to southwestern Texas and Mexico, it’s found primarily in the Chihuahuan Desert and in the states of Coahuila, Nuevo León, Tamaulipas, and San Luis Potosí. When used for its psychoactive properties, an average dose of roughly 10 to 20g of dried peyote buttons is usually ingested, and intense effects can last about 10 to 12 hours.
Peyote triggers states of deep introspection and insight, often of a metaphysical or spiritual nature. At times, these can be accompanied by rich visual or auditory effects.
3. San Pedro is a fast-growing cactus native to the Andes Mountains at 6,600–9,800ft in Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Ecuador, and Peru. It has a long history of being used in Andean traditional medicine — archeological studies have found evidence of the Moche culture using it over 2,000 years ago. Although Roman Catholic Church authorities attempted to suppress its use, they failed, and ironically, a Christian element remains in its common name. San Pedro means Saint Peter — reflecting the belief that just as St. Peter holds the keys to heaven, the effects of the cactus allow users to reach heaven while still on Earth.
The highest concentration of active substances is found in a layer of green tissue just beneath the thick skin, and the cactus is boiled down to create a liquid that contains extracted mescaline — like what’s in peyote. Approximately one to two hours after consuming this liquid, effects can come on and last eight to 15 hours. You might have extreme sensitivity to light — being able to see and feel every ray of light and see people and things “radiate.” Forgotten memories can return; you can hear and see sounds and voices from far away. Emotions will surface, and you may uninhibitedly laugh, cry, scream, feeling love for everything and everyone.
While often compared to peyote because of its mescaline content, San Pedro can be more gentle and kind. The initial nausea of peyote is less likely to present, and the psychedelic experience in general can be less overwhelming, more chilled out.
4. Hyoscyamus niger (commonly known as henbane), was originally used in continental Europe, Asia, and the Arab world, and spread to England in the Middle Ages. It was used to yield oracles by the priestesses of Apollo.
Extreme caution should be used with this one. Documentation back in the 1700s records some of the effects felt by people who ate the roots. They all suffered convulsions and contortions of the limbs and face, and those who were not rendered speechless could only howl. All eventually recovered, but for two to three days after they reported everything appeared to be scarlet in color. Another old case reported people who made a broth with the leaves. They all suffered delirium and hallucinations, which led them to think everything around them was in danger of falling. Many temporarily lost the ability to recognize their friends. This plant is so powerful that just the smell of the flowers is enough to produce giddiness.
5. Mushrooms. Often referred to as “shrooms,” specific mushrooms used for spiritual use contain psilocybin and psilocin. It’s estimated that there are around 140 species just within the genus Psilocybe. The majority of these species are found in Mexico with the remainder distributed in the US and Canada, Europe, Asia, Africa, and Australia and nearby islands.
Mushrooms have been used since prehistoric times in religious rites. Several mesolithic rock paintings from Tassili n’Ajjer, a prehistoric North African site of the Capsian culture, depicted the shamanic use of mushrooms. Mushroom motifs have been found in Mayan temple ruins in Guatemala, and there’s a long history of use among the native peoples of Mesoamerica for religious communion, divination, and healing. Shrooms were known to the Aztecs as teonanácatl (“divine mushroom” — from teó, “god, sacred,” and nanácatl, “mushroom” in Náhuatl).
After ingesting mushrooms by eating them or drinking a tea infused with them, the mind-altering effects typically last from three to eight hours depending on dosage, preparation method, and your metabolism. However, psilocybin has the ability to alter time perception — so the effects might feel like they last longer. Shifts in perception visually can include the enhancement and contrast of colors; strange light phenomena (think auras or “halos” around light sources); surfaces that appear to ripple, shimmer, or breathe; objects that morph; a sense of melting into the environment and becoming one with everything; and trails that seem to follow moving objects. Sounds seem to be heard with increased clarity, and some users even experience synesthesia, wherein they mesh senses — for example, hearing a particular sound could trigger the visualization of a certain color.
6. Salvia divinorum is a psychoactive plant that can induce “visions” and other hallucinatory experiences. Its intensity can hit hard and fast, leaving users questioning everything they ever thought they knew about time or space.
Its native habitat is in cloud forest in the isolated Sierra Mazateca of Oaxaca, Mexico. Mazatec shamans have a long and continuous tradition of religious use of Salvia divinorum, using it to facilitate visionary states of consciousness during spiritual healing sessions. Mazatec belief is that the plant is an incarnation of the Virgin Mary.
There are a few ways to consume Salvia divinorum. In traditional Mazatec ritual, shamans crush 20-80 fresh leaves to extract leaf juices, which they mix with water to create a tea. Oral consumption of the leaf makes the effects come on slowly, over a period of 10-20 minutes, and can last from about 30 minutes up to one and a half hours. Dry leaves can be smoked in a pipe or a bong, but the temperature required to release the salvinorin is quite high (about 240°C), so a more intense flame, like that of a torch lighter, is necessary. If salvia is smoked, the main effects are experienced rather quickly, shall we say. The most intense “peak” can be reached in less than a minute and can last for one to five minutes, followed by a gentle tapering off. Everything should be fairly back to normal, assuming you still have a concept of what “normal” is, after about 20 minutes.
Effects one might experience include uncontrollable laughter, revisiting past places and memories, strong sensations of being pulled or twisted by forces, merging with or becoming objects, overlapping realities such as the perception of being in several locations, dimensions, or time frames at once, and synesthetic experiences. Speaking in tongues has also occurred in some users.
7. Nymphaea caerulea, aka blue Egyptian water lily or sacred blue lily, was originally found along the Nile and other locations in East Africa. It has since spread to other places, such as the Indian subcontinent and Thailand. Its flower is the symbol of the Egyptian deity Nefertem, so is very often depicted in Egyptian art, including in carvings and paintings in the famous temple of Karnak. It’s frequently associated with dancing or in significant spiritual / magical rites such as the rite of passage into the afterlife. This flower has mild psychoactive properties, and eating or smoking it can act as a mild sedative. It takes ingesting three to six flowers before feeling anything. The nicely sedating effects make it a possible candidate (among several) for the true identity of the lotus plant eaten by the mythical Lotophagi in Homer’s Odyssey.
The main effects of blue lily are a pleasant feeling of warmth around the head, mixed with a very comfortable dreamy feeling. Some people compare the effects to MDMA or ecstasy (because it’s been known to sexually arouse users), but some will say it’s more along the lines of cannabis or codeine. It has a much more hypnotic effect than a hallucinatory effect. Part of its “magic” is said to come from its aroma. It’s said to have a “divine” essence, bringing increased awareness and tranquility to any who work with the flower.
8. Ayahuasca, also called yagé, is a psychedelic brew of various plant infusions prepared along with the Banisteriopsis caapi vine, fast-growing in international popularity. It’s either mixed with the leaves of DMT-containing species of shrubs from the genus Psychotria or with the leaves of the Justicia pectoralis plant (which does not contain DMT). How indigenous peoples discovered the synergistic properties of the plants remains unclear — many indigenous Amazonian people claim they received the instructions directly from the plant spirits, and who the hell are we to say they didn’t? Tripping on ayahuasca now seems to be the “hip” thing to do for many travelers meandering through the Amazon.
People who have experimented with ayahuasca report having spiritual revelations regarding their purpose on Earth, the true nature of the universe, and profound insight into how to grow, evolve, and better themselves. This awakening is often described as a rebirth. It’s also reported that some individuals feel they gain access to higher spiritual dimensions; they make contact with various spiritual beings or animal spirits who can act as guides or healers. Vomiting often accompanies ayahuasca ingestion; this purging is considered by many to be a critical part of the experience, as it represents the release of negative energy and emotions accumulated over the course of one’s life.
In the 16th century, Christian missionaries from Spain and Portugal first encountered indigenous South Americans using ayahuasca and did not hesitate to describe it as the work of the devil.
9. Syrian rue or Peganum harmala. It has a long history of medicinal use in North Africa and the Middle East, from Persia to India. It’s one of the plants speculated to be the “soma” of ancient Persia. It’s been used to ward off the evil eye, in case you happen to need that sort of thing. It’s the seeds that are ingested (and they contain uterotonic alkaloids, so should definitely be avoided at all costs by pregnant women). In Western culture, the seeds are sometimes used as an MAOI in combination with other psychoactive substances, and less commonly as a psychoactive in their own right. For use as an MAOI, 3-5g of seeds is sufficient to activate oral DMT; dosages from 3 to 28g are taken to produce psychoactive effects. The effects have been described as “sedative, narcotic, mildly to moderately visual,” and depending on the dosage some other common effects are nausea, dizziness, ringing in the ears, hypertension, visual trails, and closed-eye visuals. Effects usually begin within 30-60 minutes and last for a few hours.
10. Jurema: This sacred plant is the only known plant that can be used for an orally ingested brew that, without the aid of another plant, induces visionary experiences along the lines of ayahuasca. Jurema is also a very common source for people who make anahuasca, which is any brew with close psychopharmacology (an MAO-inhibiting plant + a DMT source) to ayahuasca, albeit more gentle in intensity.
A psychoactive liquid can also be made from jurema alone. Between 10 and 35g of the powdered root bark can infuse in 125 to 175ml of cold water for an hour; squeeze and stir the powder a few times. Strain and keep the liquid, and use the remaining powder for a second run, repeating the process. The two liquid batches are combined and can be taken on an empty stomach.
To make anahuasca, M. hostilis is used primarily in combination with jurema. The effects can best be described as a physical and mental purge, combined with a few hours’ connection with the otherwise imperceptible. The purging is typically not as strong as with ayahuasca. Intensity is difficult to predict — when the effects are weak, most drinkers compare the experience to a low dose of psilocybin mushrooms or LSD, combined with stomach cramps in the first two hours, sometimes including diarrhea or vomiting.
In the case of strong effects, most people experience a drastic change in the interpretation of reality or even some kind of transport of all the senses to another dimension. When jurema is taken by itself and not combined with other plants, the effects are similar but of shorter duration (up to three hours), and there’s usually less nausea.
11. Jimson weed: Part of the nightshade family, its common name is “datura.” This plant has its roots in ancient India, where it’s considered particularly sacred — believed to be a favorite of the Hindu god Shiva Nataraja. It’s also been used among Native Americans (Algonquian, Cherokee, and Luiseño), and the Táltos of the Magyar (Hungary). In Ethiopia, some students and debtrawoch (lay priests) use jimson weed to “open the mind,” to be more receptive to learning and creative, imaginative thinking. It’s a powerful hallucinogen and deliriant, used spiritually for the profound and vivid visions it produces. However, the tropane alkaloids responsible for its hallucinogenic properties are fatally toxic in only slightly higher amounts than the medicinal dosage, and careless use often results in hospitalizations and deaths.
12. Kava, or kava-kava (Piper methysticum), grows in and is consumed throughout the Pacific Ocean cultures of Polynesia, including Hawaii, Vanuatu, Melanesia, and some parts of Micronesia. The roots of the plant are used to produce a drink with strong sedative and anesthetic properties. Traditionally, it’s prepared by chewing, grinding (with a block of dead coral), or pounding (with a stone against a log) the roots of the kava plant. The ground root is combined with only a bit of water, as the fresh root releases a lot of its own moisture. The product is then added to cold water and consumed as quickly as possible.
The effects of the drink vary widely with the particular plant used and the amount ingested. Low-dose kava will probably just chill you out a little or make your face numb, but high-quality, high-dose kava has the ability to fully suspend a person’s perpetual “mental chatter” for a long period of time, giving the mind a true rest, while relieving all held tension in the body. High doses can cause the drinker to sleep profoundly, creating a state of great rest and rejuvenation, and sleepiness can last throughout the following day. Besides being relaxing and stress-reducing, kava is also a euphoric. Traditionally, it’s been used for acquiring inner knowledge and wisdom, the ability to better “know oneself.”
Drinking kava is kind of like the Polynesian version of a peace pipe. It’s reported that you can’t feel hate after drinking kava, so it’s been used to help settle quarrels or begin treaty negotiations, political meetings, and business dealings. Fijian spiritual healers (called dauvagunu, “the expert in drinking kava”) got their power by strategically using kava to gain access to the Vu (spirit force). They credit kava for their greater powers of perception and insight.
13. Anadenanthera peregrina, aka yopo, jopo, cohoba, parica, or calcium tree, is a perennial tree native to the Caribbean and South America. Archaeological evidence shows that beans from the tree have been used as hallucinogens for over 4,000 years. The oldest clear evidence of use comes from smoking pipes made of puma bone found with the beans (which are ground up to make a powder that’s blown into the nose or snorted) in a cave in Jujuy Province, Argentina. The pipes were found to contain the hallucinogen DMT, one of the compounds in the beans.
Some indigenous peoples in Colombia, Venezuela, and the southern part of the Brazilian Amazon still make use of yopo snuff for spiritual healing. The snuff is usually blown into the user’s nostrils by another person through bamboo tubes or sometimes by the user via bird bone tubes (totally National Geographic-worthy, but said to be not that pleasant of a feeling). Blowing is more effective than snuffing, as it allows more powder to enter the nose and is said to be less irritating. Some tribes use yopo along with Banisteriopsis caapi to increase and prolong the visionary effects, creating an experience similar to that of ayahuasca.
Inhaling yopo can cause considerable pain in the nostrils. However, this pain usually subsides within minutes. Physical effects include tingling and numbness throughout the body and an increased heart rate. Hallucinatory effects should follow; colors can become more vivid and shapes can appear to shift and alter. The effects of yopo intensify quickly but gradually taper off and are then replaced by nausea and general unease.
13. Cannabis: Depending on the person and the plant quality, some negative effects can include temporary impaired short-term memory, sperm declin, anxiety, paranoia and occasional panic attacks. But the most common effects are “happier”: a profound sense of well-being and connectedness with others, relaxation, the rapid flow of creative ideas, greatly increased appreciation of art, music, and food, heightened senses, drowsiness, and relief from pain and nausea and multiple other therapeutic effects, some of which are reviewed in the Cannabis Medicine Workshop.
14. And a few more.
BIBLE SACRED PLANTS
1. Aloes vera plant has been used for thousands of years to heal a variety of conditions, most notably burns, wounds, skin irritations, and constipation. Aloe was also used to embalm the dead, as well as for perfume. Today, aloe is used in many ways including treating burns, sunburns, healing bruises and rashes, moisturize skin, fight athletes foot, prevent scarring and stretch marks, speed up hair growth, and many more.
2. Anise: All parts of the anise plant were used during Biblical times. The seeds, leaves and stem were used to cool high temperatures, as well as for other medicinal purposes. Today, Anise can be used to help with digestion and can be used as an anti-flatulence agent, a relief aid for coughs and colds and also can help with insomnia. Usually taken by crushing the seeds into a tea.
3. Balm refers to an extremely fragrant substance that was extracted from the balsam tree. In Biblical times, balsam was considered extremely valuable. Its gum was used as incense, while the oil that came from the bark, the leaves and the berries worked well as medicine.
4. Bitter herbs are a collective term used for lettuce, horehound, tansy, horseradish, endive and coriander seeds. Bitter herbs were mostly used for food. In fact, the people of Israel were commanded to have bitter herbs with their Passover lamb. Today, they can be used to help with urinary tract infections, kidney stones, fluid retention, achy joints and gout.
5. Cassia oil was popularly used as anointing oil during Biblical times. Cassia has aromatic properties quite similar to cinnamon. Today, Cassia can be used as natural hair care, coloring and conditioning. The leaves are harvested, dried, and ground into a powder used for natural hair care.
6. Cinnamon, once considered more precious than gold, has some amazing medicinal benefits. The bark, where the oil comes from, was traditionally collected for anointing oil, as well as perfume. Today, cinnamon can be used for athlete’s foot, indigestion, improve brain function, helps lower blood glucose levels, among many others.
7. Cumin: The ancient Israelites took cumin seeds, dried them, and used them to flavor their food. Today, cumin can help with digestion, cardiovascular disease, urinary disorders, and fever.
8. Frankincense: Most popularly known for incense, Frankincense was used during ceremonial offerings and considered an article of luxury. Today, it can be used as an analgesic, antidepressant and sedative, in addition to being a powerful healing herb. Frankincense is also a primary ingredient in stress-reducing incenses.
9. Garlic has been used as both food and medicine in many cultures for thousands of years, dating back to when the Egyptian pyramids were built. Today, garlic is used to help prevent heart disease, including atherosclerosis or hardening of the arteries (plaque buildup in the arteries that can block the flow of blood and may lead to heart attack or stroke), high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and to boost the immune system. Garlic may also help protect against cancer.
10. Hyssop is a sweet smelling plant from the mint family. It was used in many ceremonial rituals of the Israelites, as burning hyssop typically meant an inner cleansing.
11. Mint has been used for thousands of years as a culinary herb and for medicine. Today, mint can help with stomach aches, poor digestion, fever, hiccups, ear aches and sinuses.
12. Myrrh:In Biblical times, it was sold as a spice or an ingredient of the anointing oil used in the Tabernacle, or as a salve for the purification of the dead. In the Roman world, it was considered a natural remedy for almost every human affliction, from earaches to hemorrhoids. Today, myrrh can be used as a cleansing agent, and to help with ulcerated throats and mouth sores.
13. Saffron: The most expensive spice in the world today was also precious during ancient times. Because of its distinct yellow color, saffron was used not only for flavoring but to make ancient dyes as well. Ancient peoples used saffron to treat stomach upsets, bubonic plague, and smallpox.Today, recent studies have indicated possible health benefits, including cancer-inhibiting properties, aiding in allergies, help combat depression, and promote a feeling of fullness (in terms of diet).
14. And more.