It roughly has the same effects as the ayahuasca vine Banisteriopsis caapi, but it’s from a completely different part of the world. Where the ‘vine of the soul’ thrives in the Amazonian rainforest, Syrian rue is at home in the desert and other arid regions throughout the Middle East, North-Africa and India.
The principal alkaloids in B. caapi (at first coined ‘telepathine’) are the same as those in Peganum harmala. The harmala alkaloids have a MAO-inhibiting effect. Because of the liana the DMT in ayahuasca becomes orally active. Syrian rue is nowadays combined with Mimosa hostilis for the same purpose.
With its slender stalks and leaves it appears fragile, but it’s not what it seems: even though the herbage dies during frost or drought, the roots survive and the plant will come back every year. It’s actually very hard to get rid of as the roots are almost impossible to dig out.
It’s the seeds that contain harmala alkaloids. And it’s the seeds that since ancient times have been used for a wide variety of purposes. Most importantly they were burned as an incense to ward off the evil eye. A custom that can still be observed today in countries like Morocco, Iran and Pakistan.
Some suggested it was the ancient Haoma: the sacred drink of Zoroastrian religion. And maybe even Soma... Although this is not likely, the plant has been used ritually before: the Hunza shamans from the Pakistani part of the Himalaya inhale its smoke to get into a clairvoyant trance. And the dervishes from Buchara have been described to do the same.
To combine the rue with DMT or other tryptamines seems to be a fairly new idea. Invented by western psychonauts that gather DMT-containing herbs and MAO-inhibiting plants from all over the world to create so called ‘ayahuasca analogues’ or shortly ‘anahuasca’.
Every plant in the anahuasca world has its own spirit and character. In my experience Peganum harmala can be described as a plant that helps you to go deeper into a healing process. It’s not so much visions that it gives, but it creates an open space of acceptance in which it’s easier to look deep within. Like the ayahuasca vine Syrian rue can induce nausea and vomiting. You probably want to lie down during the trip, which is best enjoyed in a quiet environment with a minimum of stimuli.
Read all about this miraculous plant in our new Encyclopedia article.