[top]Introduction to Chacruna
Chacruna, like coffee
, family of the Rubiaceae, is also known in different varieties, such as cabocla and chacroninha. It is a tropical bush that grows in the Amazon lowlands and through cultivation in Colombia, Bolivia and eastern Brazil. This evergreen can grow into a little tree, though most cultivated plants are between 2 and 3 meters in height. The long, narrow, ovate leaves are light green to dark green in color and the side facing the sky is glossy.
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 tar-like 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,N DMT
[top]Ways of administration:
[top]Effects of Chacruna
The Kofán Indians say that by mixing Psychotria viridis leaves into their yagé (= 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).
[top]Combinations with Chacruna
In ayahuasca botany 3 groups of plants can be distinguished: MAO inhibitors, DMT carriers and additives. Without the MAOI
, the visionary properties of DMT are not present, as it would be broken down in the body before reaching the DMT sensitive parts in the brain. In other words, a DMT-only brew would be inactive. An additive can be any kind of plant, some of the more well known ones being tobacco
, san pedro
Ayahuasca can be made from any combination of an MAOI plant and a DMT plant, although strictly speaking there has to be the Banisteriopsis caapi vine (pic. 1) in it, an MAOI plant which is also called ayahuasca.
Although many plants produce DMT, traditional ayahuasca is made from the leaves of either Psychotria viridis (chacruna) or Diplopterys cabrerana (chagropanga or chaliponga) (pic. 3). The first is used in the Amazon basin and the second in the foothills of the regions where ayahuasca is used. Once you’re not using using the B. caapi
vine as the MAOI or you're employing plants other than chacruna or chagropanga for the DMT, we speak of an ayahuasca analogue, or anahuasca.
[top]Different Uses for Chacruna
The Machiguenga use juice that has been freshly pressed from the leaves of Psychotria viridis or another Psychotria 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).
[top]The dangers of Chacruna
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.
[top]Forms of Chacruna
[top]Legal status of Chacruna
[top]History of Chacruna
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 ethno-botanist Homer Pinkley (a student of Schultes) first observed and described the psychoactive
use of the plant among the Kofán Indians of Colombia, who use it as an ayahuasca additive. Linnaeus, who provided the first botanical description of the genus Psychotria, derived the name of the genus from Psychotrophum , 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” .
The plant has been used by shamans and medicine men in the Amazon region for healing rituals and shamanic experiences since pre-Columbian times. Such use is probably as ancient as South American civilization itself and apparently was first discovered in the western regions of the Amazon basin (now Ecuador). In the coastal regions of Ecuador, so-called witches’ pots, used for brewing ayahuasca, have been discovered in archaeological excavations. These pots are estimated to be about 3500 years old.
How the beverage was first discovered is still a mystery. But it certainly was more than just an accidental discovery made by primitive Indians: A long time ago, a skilled hunter lived in the rain forest. One day, when he was far from him home, he heard a liana speaking to him. The hunter, who knew many things about making arrow poison from roots, barks, and seeds for hunting, understood the power of plants. He returned to his house with his new find. During the following night, he had a dream in which the spirit of the liana explained to him how to prepare it into a brew that one could use to heal many diseases.
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