Psychotropic Use of Brugmansia Plants - Brugmansia sanguinea (Red Angel's Trumpet) Plant with Flowers
Brugmansia sanguinea (Red Angel's Trumpet) Plant with Flowers

Ethnobotany - Psychotropic Use of Brugmansia Plants

The article Ethnobotany – Psychotropic Use of Brugmansia Plants attempts to present the species and cultivars of the genus in terms of psychoactive properties and their traditional use by the Native American peoples of the southern continent.

Such use and utilization of plants is lost in the depths of the centuries, but they paid dearly for that, because – as we wrote elsewhere – the ancestral species of Brugmansia have disappeared, and what remains of them are their cultivated forms, and those of they escaped the garden and went into the wild.

Even so, the preservation and survival of plants, even through cultivation, may clearly show that their ethnobotanical use by indigenous peoples is not limited to the psychotropic field, since almost the same psychoactive substances have a number of therapeutic applications.

But with this in mind, the editorial team of "Kalliergeia" is bounded – with unbreakable bonds – to deal with that plants side in an upcoming special tribute.

For now calls on the always patient and understanding, psychonaut or other reader of the present article, to cross it with due composure and sobriety:

Riding on the Witch Broom …

Salvador Chindoy, a renowned Kamentsá shaman in the Valley of Sibundoy – Western Colombia.

The Famous Kamentsá Shaman Salvador Chindoy
The Famous Kamentsá Shaman Salvador Chindoy
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Prehistory, History & Archaeological Records

During the Late Paleolithic (Old Stone Age) as well as the Mesolithic Period (Middle Stone Age), tribes of Mongolian descent colonized the American continent. They consisted of hunter-gatherers, who, among other things, brought with them their Shamanistic religious beliefs.

The study of testing plants with nutritional characteristics to broaden their diet was combined with the exploration of plant species to discover any of their psychotropic properties – and through them, of any therapeutic – in the context of Shamanistic practice. 

Datura (Datura), Brugmansia, & Tobacco

The Shamans identified and introduced in the practice of their magical-healing art the psychotropic species of the genera Datura and Brugmansia, as well as species of the psychostimulant Tobacco.

And if there is any doubt as to the geographical origin of the knowledge of the use of certain species of Datura – since until recently it was believed to have originated from both the Old and the New World – for a species of (genera Nicotiana) Tobacco, the Nicotiana tabacum, modern cultivated Tobacco, as for the Brugmansias there is no problem: both trace their origin from the American continent.

Testimonies

For their use, oral tradition largely confirms the hypothesis that Brugmansia plant species were exploited centuries before the discovery of the New World by Europeans (… and China by Columbus).

After the discovery, there are few written references to their use, such as that of the important French geographer, mathematician and explorer Charles Marie de La Condamine (January 28, 1701 – February 4, 1774), as well as the German naturalist and explorer Alexandre von Humboldt (Friedrich Wilhelm Heinrich Alexander von Humboldt / 14 September 1769 – 6 May 1859), along with that of fellow French explorer and botanist Aimé Jacques Alexandre Bonpland (August 1773 – May 1858).

La Condamine recorded the use of a species of Brugmansia by the native Omagua, who lived around the Río Marañón, the largest tributary of the Amazon River.

Von Humboldt and Bonpland are more specific, citing a reddish-flowered Angel’s Trumpet secret plant (Brugmansia sanguinea) as a key ingredient in the psychoactive drink Tonga. Tonga was drunk by the priests of the Temple of the Sun, located in Sogamozo or Sogamosa (north of Bogota, Colombia), in various rituals.

Archaeological Records

Two great civilizations that flourished in the Pre-Columbian period in South America, come to document the most ancient knowledge of the use of Brugmansia plants, through their artistic representation in ceramic creations.

These are the cultures of Chavín (900-200 BCE) and Nazca (Nasca/ 200 BCE-600 CE). Both flourished in Peru; the former in the northern Andean highlands, and the latter on the arid south coast, in the Rio Grande de Nazca and the Ica Valley – also known for their the famous, large-scale, geoglyph designs.

Ethnobotany – Psychotropic Use of Brugmansia Plants

Plants & their Psychotropic Use

It is a given that the species of Brugmansia were also used therapeutically in a wide range of diseases (with remarkable effectiveness, among other things against rheumatic pains). However, here only reference will be made to the duration of their psychotropic use.

Traditional Use by Indigenous Peoples

The psychoactive use of the species and cultivars of Brugmansia did not in the past and is not widespread today. It is mainly confined to the peoples living in or near the plant centers of origin, who generally live between the Pacific coast and the Andean plateaus, from Colombia to southern Peru and about the middle of Chile, while being extremely probably also used in the past by the indigenous tribes of Southeastern Brazil, in the lower Amazon.

Among the indigenous peoples who exploit the Brugmansis psychotropically are:

  • The Muisca (or Chibcha) and the Chocó of Colombia
  • The Quechua of Ecuador, Peru and Bolivia
  • The Huilliche-Mapuche of Chile
  • The Sápara (Zápara or Zaparo), the Jivaroan, the Canelos and the Inga of the Upper Amazon
  • And the Siona (Sioni or Pioje) and Omagua (Umana or Cambeba) of the Andean highlands

Purposes of Use

Insightful

Chocó: Children are given the Chicha drink to which Brugmansia seeds have been added. It is believed that the consequent excitement of children leads to the discovery of gold.

Indigenous Peru: Brugmansia sanguinea is called Huaca or Huacachaca, meaning something like a "plant of the tomb". They believe that it reveals to Huaca users treasures, which are buried in ancient tombs.

Pedagogical

Jivaroan and Huilliche-Mapuche: Disobedient and unruly children are given a drink (Tonga) with plant parts from Brugmansia sanguinea (and Brugmansia x candida from the latter). It is believed that they see the spirits of their ancestors, who instruct them to change behavior.

Rituals

Jivaroan: The administration of Brugmansia is observed in initiation-passage adolescence ceremonies.

Worshipers

Inga: Priests dedicated to the pre-Columbian worship of the Sun god used the psychotropic drink Tonga in various worship ceremonies.

Ecstasy

The indigenous peoples of the origins of Brugmansia traditionally use the plants, through the shamans or with their guidance, to enter a state of ecstasy.

Ethnobotany – Psychotropic Use of Brugmansia Plants

“La India de los Floripondios” (Indian Girl with Trumpet Flowers) Painted by Mexican Artist Alfredo Ramos Martinez
“La India de los Floripondios” (Indian Girl with Trumpet Flowers) Painted by Mexican Artist Alfredo Ramos Martinez

Methods of Use & Dosage per Plant Species

The most common ways of taking the psychoactive substances contained in various plant parts of the most widely used species and cultivars of Brugmansia are by drinking or smoking. But more specifically for them, as well as for the quantities administered by each plant separately, reference is made immediately below.

Brugmansia arborea (Linnaeus) Lagerheim

Methods of Use

Drinking, smoking.

Preparation

Leaves: Extracts in cold water or infusions in hot. Drying.

Flowers: Infusions.

Seeds: Powder.

Indicative Dosage

4 leaves for a cold drink or 1 flower in tea.

Remarks

The dried leaves are smoked alone or in mixtures, in which similar or different, also dried, psychoactive parts of other plants participate.

They are also added to the preparation of the psychoactive drink Cimora or San Pedro, which has as its main ingredient mescaline, extracted from the San Pedro cactus (Trichocereus pachanoi – syn. Echinopsis pachanoi).

The seed powder is poured into the Chicha alcoholic beverage, which is usually made from corn.

Brugmansia aurea Laerheim

Methods of Use

Drinking, smoking.

Preparation

Leaves: Drying.

Flowers: Drying.

Stems: Juicing & Dilution.

Indicative Dosage

Stem 5 cm long and 1 to 1.5 cm thick.

Remarks

The dried leaves and flowers are smoked alone or in mixtures, in which similar or different, also dried, psychoactive parts of other plants participate.

The stems are pressed to produce juice, the produced juice is diluted in a little water and drunk.

Brugmansia x candida Persoon

Methods of Use

Drinking, smoking.

Preparation

Leaves: Extracts in cold water, infusions in hot or decoctions. Drying.

Flowers: Drying.

Indicative Dosage

From 2 to multiples of 2 leaves up to 24.

Remarks

Indigenous Kamëntsá (Camsá, Kamsa or Sibundoy) of Colombia use the form of Angel’s Trumpet f. Culebra (Brugmansia x candida f. Culebra). When the moon is lost, the leaves are cut off from the plant – about 1 hour before drinking. Then crush them and immerse them in cold water for about 1/2 hour. Just before drinking, heat the extract slightly (without boiling), and then drain it. The drinking process begins with small amounts, until all the contents are consumed by the Saman, within 3 hours.

The dried leaves and flowers are smoked alone or in mixtures, in which similar or different, also dried, psychoactive parts of other plants participate.

Brugmansia x insignis (Barbosa Rodrigues) Lockwood ex Schultes

Methods of Use

Drinking, smoking.

Preparation

Leaves: Powder. Extracts in cold water or decoctions.

Stems: Decoctions or concentrates.

Indicative Dosage

6 leaves per 200 ml of water.

Remarks

Indigenous Angotero (Secoya, Encabellado or Huajoya) of Colombia, Peru and Ecuador grate the stems of the plant and let them boil for a whole day. Then they remove the decoction and boil it a little more, at which time it is ready for consumption. Dosages are not known.

The Angotero and Pioje (Siona, Sioni, or Pioche-Sioni) of Ecuador burn the leaves and turn the ash into a powder, which they add as a booster additive to the psychoactive drink Ayahuasca.

The small Mashco-Piro (Cujarero People or Nomole) tribe of the Peruvian Amazon, with the plant’s stems, prepares the psychotropic drink Xayápa.

Brugmansia sanguinea (Ruνz et Pav.) D. Don

Methods of Use

Drinking, smoking.

Preparation

Leaves: Drying.

Fruits: Decoctions.

Seeds: Decoctions or powder.

Indicative Dosage

Remarks

The dried leaves are smoked alone or in mixtures, in which similar or different, also dried, psychoactive parts of other plants participate.

The fruits and seeds are boiled, and from them the psychotropic drink Tonga is prepared.

The seeds, leaves and flowers are added to the psychotropic drink Cimora or San Pedro.

The seed powder is poured into the Chicha alcoholic beverage.

Brugmansia suaveolens (Humb. & Bonpl. ex Willd.) Bercht. & J.Presl

Methods of Use

Drinking, smoking.

Preparation

Leaves: Direct consumption. Extracts in cold water, infusions in hot or decoctions. Drying.

Flowers: Direct consumption, extracts.

Seeds: Direct consumption, powder.

Indicative Dosage

4 leaves for a cold drink or 1 flower in tea.

Remarks

The dried leaves are smoked alone or in mixtures, in which similar or different, also dried, psychoactive parts of other plants participate.

They can also be used as decoctions or added to the psychoactive drink Ayahuasca.

The flowers are mixed with the milk.

Brugmansia versicolor Lagerheim

Methods of Use

Drinking, smoking.

Preparation

Leaves: Drying.

Flowers: Drying.

Stems: Juicing.

Indicative Dosage

1 to 2 ml of juice of fresh stems.

Remarks

The dried leaves and flowers are smoked alone or in mixtures, in which similar or different, also dried, psychoactive parts of other plants participate.

Important Reminder

The indicative dosages are given for informational purposes only and in no case is the use of the plant parts to which they refer implied, encouraged or urged.

Chemical Composition

The main psychotropic substances in Brugmansia plants are the alkaloids of tropane, namely atropine, scopolamine (hyoscine) and hyoscyamine.

And while their presence is a given in all plants of Angel’s Trumpets, their tropane alkaloids content differs both between the phenotypic groups of the same species, cultivar or variety and in individual plants of a specific geographical area.

However, it could be said that the total alkaloid content of Brugmansia plants is between 0.3 and 0.55% of the dry plant mass, with hyoscine being detected in percentages ranging between 31 and 60% of the above.

Indicative Recording of Alkaloids of Brugmansia x candida

Immediately below are the alkaloids contained in the various plant parts of Brugmansia x candida.

Aerial Parts
  • Scopolamine
  • Norscopolamine
  • Atropine
  • Meteloidine
  • Oscine
  • Nor-atropine
Subsurface Parts (Roots)
  • 3α,6β-Ditigloyloxytropan-7β-ol
  • 3α-Tigloyloxytropane
  • Scopolamine
  • Norscopolamine
  • Atropine
  • Meteloidine
  • Oscine
  • Nor-atropine
  • Tropine

Ethnobotany – Psychotropic Use of Brugmansia Plants

Psychotropic Use of Brugmansia Plants - Illustration of Brugmansia sanguinea (Red Angel's Trumpet) by Unknown Artist
Illustration of Brugmansia sanguinea (Red Angel's Trumpet) by Unknown Artist

References

The Peruvian band Los Destellos presents the References to the article with the satisfying entheogenic title Ethnobotany – Psychotropic Use of Brugmansia Plants with the psychedelic song Volando Con los Destellos.

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