Hundred years ago synthetic drugs barely existed, psychedelic mushrooms were still undiscovered and the first Western report on peyote had just been written. In order to trip, psychonauts sometimes took huge risks. They consumed plants that are very toxic and that even may be fatal (in high doses).
Here you can read about the five most dangerous psychedelic plants that in the past were used by psychonauts, despite their high toxicity.
Ergot (Claviceps purpurea) is a fungus that grows on rye and other cereal plants. It contains LSA, the substance that forms the basis for LSD. LSA itself is very trippy. During the Eleusian mysteries, the ancient Greek drank a brew made of ergot in order to induce a state of trance.
However, one should be very careful with ergot: if the grains (that are used to bake bread as well) are infected, it’s highly toxic. Consuming it may lead to intestinal cramps, vomiting, seizures, convulsions, hallucinations and cramps in the arteries. In very severe cases, limbs can die and even death may follow.
In the past, it sometimes happened that complete cities were poisoned because the bread of the bakery was infected. The population not only suffered from severe hallucinations, part of it died as well.
2. Jimson weed
Jimson weed (Datura stramonium) or thornapple used to be one of the most well-known psychedelics in Europe. It was mainly used in witches’ flying ointment. The plant has beautiful white flowers, but don’t be mistaken by them! They are very poisonous. Especially in high doses, they can cause insanity, unconsciousness and even death.
It’s also possible to get stuck in a thornapple journey, which will leave you insane for a longer period of time. Most people experience a trip on Jimson weed as unpleasant. Often the effects are so intense you forget you took something and it takes you over completely. For this reason, it’s seldom used nowadays.
3. Deadly nightshade
Deadly nightshade (Atropa belladonna) also knows a long history of use. Women used to drop small amounts in their eyes to enlarge their pupils – which was considered sensual. Belladonna also is a strong psychedelic with lots of side-effects, like headaches, convulsions and loss of consciousness. Its high toxicity made it a useful aid to murder people.
4. Mescal beans
Mescal beans (Sophora secundiflora) contain cytisine. This substance causes hallucinations but is also very toxic. It was used by the indigenous people of Mexico. During a ceremony, they danced and drank a brew made of mescal beans. Fortunately, they no longer follow this tradition, as regularly people died. Currently, they use the much safer peyote.
Henbane (Hyoscyamus niger) contains alkaloids that are reminiscent of those in Jimson weed. Henbane contains hyoscyamine, which is similar to atropine (one of the alkaloids in Jimson weed), but two times as strong. The dangers of this plant are similar to those of Jimson weed. Henbane may cause lasting insanity. That’s why the plant is not much used anymore.
Fortunately, the modern psychonaut doesn’t have to embark on these kind of hazardous journeys anymore, as many less dangerous alternatives are available.
Written by: Sofie