There are hundreds of natural psychoactive plants that are found world-wide. A large proportion of these are found in South America and South Africa, which are both rich and diverse in flora, fish and animal life. There is limited scientific evidence behind the folk-lore which has been established by stories repeated since ancient times. While many of these are still in use today, we do not have much research to establish the exact degree of psychoactivity produced, nor the safety of these agents.
There is no doubt that hallucinogens are a bizarre class of drugs that often provoke visions of hippies. They are a source of great fascination, and are frequently categorised as illegal. The fact that the experiences are subjective makes it difficult to ascertain what exactly happens when an individual ingests the substances.
A hallucinogen is a psychoactive agent, so named as they may cause hallucinations in individuals who ingest them via various methods. Colours, patterns, objects and events may appear, when they do not really exist in reality. Synethesia is another potential occurrence, where the senses become combined and indivisuals feel that they can smell colour and see sound for example. Anomalies in perception and unusual deviations in thoughts, emotion and consciousness are also reported side effects.
The experiences described here can be felt as either positive or negative by the individual undergoing the hallucinations. This is largely linked to the fear of being out-of-control, as well as the physical effects of the stimulated nervous system which include dilated pupils, constricted arteries and raised blood pressure.
There are varying opinions when in comes to classifying drugs as hallucinogens, although we can say that any substances which disrupt the interaction of nerve cells and the neurotransmitter receptor sites are considered psychoactive.
L. E. Hollister’s criteria for establishing that a drug is hallucinogenic are as follows:
- in proportion to other effects, changes in thought, perception, and mood should predominate;
- intellectual or memory impairment should be minimal;
- stupor, narcosis, or excessive stimulation should not be an integral effect;
- autonomic nervous system side effects should be minimal;
- addictive craving should be absent.
This article aims to bring a complete list of naturally occurring hallucinogenic substances that can be found on Earth, some may surprise you! Some are well known and have been used as entheogenics (“generating the divine within”) since history began. An entheogenic is a psychoactive substance used in a spiritual, religious or shamanic ritual. This is usually to evoke spirits or to enable communication with ancestors. Entheogenics are also included in some divination and faith healing ceremonies.
The fact that many hallucinogens are found in plants and fungi means that animals are also known to ingest them, although we cannot say if they experience hallucinations. The following clip shows reindeer actively seeking Magic Mushrooms. Some think that this could be the source of the modern myth where they are said to fly, pulling Santa in his sleigh.
So without further ado, here is a complete list of the natural hallucinogens that Earth has provided. We have given a brief description of each, and will discuss some of the more interesting ones in future posts.
Commonly found in Australia, Acacia is a family of shrubs and small trees, some of which produce DMT (described below under Ayahuasca) or other alkaloids in their leaves and bark.
African Dream Root
Also known as Silene Capensis, this plant is Native to South Africa where it is used by the Xhosa people to induce vivid and prophetic dreams.
The Amanitas mushroom should be treated with caution. It is distinguished by its red top with white spots. However, some varieties can be deadly, and on certain types contain psychoactive chemicals, ibotenic acid and muscimol. They are found in Siberia, and also known by the names Fly Agaric and Beni Tengutake.
Brugmansia, known as Angel’s Trumpet due to the large, fragrant white flowers can produce visual and auditory hallucinations when ingested, which are described as “terrifying rather than pleasurable” by author Christina Pratt, in An Encyclopedia of Shamanism.
Ayahuasca is found in the Amazon Basin, and is widely known to contain a powerful hallucinogenic drug known as DMT, or the Spirit Molecule.
It is used in shamanic cultures to induce trances where individuals report that they can communicate with their ancestors.
This one has been added simply to dispel the myth that is touted across the web. It seems that the source of the rumour (that one could get a high from smoking banana skins, or a chemical known as bananadine) was actually a hoax. There is no evidence that we could find to suggest any truth in this one.
This berry found across Europe and the Middle East is also known as Deadly Nightshade, or Death Cherries. The red-black berries contain atropine, scopolomine and hyoscyamine. While this plant has ancient connections to medieval witchcraft and shamanic ceremonies, it is extremely toxic and poisonous to humans.
These are actually seeds from the Areca catechu palm tree, which are found across the United States. The seeds are are wrapped in the leaf of a Betel pepper plant. When chewed, Betel nuts act as a stimulant, and are said to heighten awareness. Side effects are stained teeth and increased risk of mouth cancer.
This beautiful flower, also known as the Sacred Lily of The Nile is found in Egypt. Blue Lily is most commonly brewed as a tea or added to wines and spirits. It’s affects as a hallucinogenic is often compared to MDMA, with a less intense, more calming trip. It is used by some to alleviate depression.
Bolivian Torch Cactus
The Bolivian Torch Cactus is one of a group of mescaline cacti. These are a family which produce and contain mescaline, a hallucinogenic substance. The best known of these are the Peyote and San Pedro described below. The Bolivian Torch is found in the mountains of Bolivia, and is known locally as Achuma or Wachuma.
See Angel’s Trumpet above.
This Amazonian plant grows delicate purple and white flowers, which when ingested are thought to have aphrodisiac qualities. It has also been reportedly added to ayahuasca brews due to enhance the hallucinogenic experience.
So called because of the excruciating pain felt by those bitten by it, the bullet ant is said to cause a more the most painful sting than any other insect in it’s class of size. Bullet ants are found in rain-forests of Nicaragua, and are used in a very unexpected, and unpleasant way by the Satere-Mawe people of Brazil in their warrior initiation rituals.
Hundreds of ants are sedated before being woven in a glove of leaves with their stingers facing inward. When they regain consciousness, the boy in question places the glove on his hand, and is required to keep it on for a full ten minutes.
The venom causes paralysis of the arm as well as uncontrollable shaking of the body and changes in consciousness.
Also known as the Desmanthus illinoensis, this plant is found in North America. The root bark has been found to contain the compound DMT, which is a powerful hallucinogen described above under ayahuasca.
Found in the Amazon, the Caapi is a tropical vine which contains harmala alkaloids in its stems. It is classed as an MAOI (Monoamine oxidase inhibitor) which means that it allows other substances to have a more potent effect. For this reason it is typically used in South American ayahuasca brews.
Before you panic, cacao can only act as a hallucinogenic in very high doses, somewhere in the region of 40 raw cacao beans. It seems that there is evidence to suggest it has been used in ancient rituals, and is more effective when combined with a MAOI (Monoamine oxidase inhibitor), such as Caapi described above. The effects of doing so are reported to be similar to LSD. Cacao grow in Central and South America.
Found in Mexico and Central America, Calea Zacatechichi is a flowering plant that has been used in traditional medicine and rituals. It is thought to promote lucid dreaming.
Originally from India and the Middle East, cannabis is typically known to be a depressant. However, it is also classed as an intoxicant, stimulant and psychedelic. It is a bushy plant with dense, fast growing flowers which produce THC, the psychoactive component. It is widely used across the world despite being classed as illegal.
This one may come as a surprise. The Capsicum genus includes bell peppers, and paprika, and are commonly used as spices and medicines. However, some plants in the family contain the chemical capsaicin, which has been found to be a psychoactive substance when consumed in high doses.
Grown in Central and South America, this pretty green plant baring grape-like fruits and red flowers reported to be a potent hallucinogenic and is used by Shamans of the Krahós tribe in Brazil in divination.
Also known as the Diplopterys cabrerana, this is a vine found in Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador and Peru. They contain DMT and are frequently brewed in mixtures consumed during rituals.
Chacruna is another ingredient used in the ayahuasca brew, it is claimed that this plant also has hallucinogenic properties.
Very similar to Morning Glory Seeds and Hawaiian Baby Woodrose, these beautiful plants have bell shaped flowers and heart shaped leaves. Some of the seeds of this plant contain a tryptamine called lysergic acid amide or LSA.
LSA can have a mild psychedelic effect when consumed, but tends to make the recipient feel nauseous.
Cohoba has been ‘snuffed’ since ancient times by various tribes. In particular in India it is used in a ceremony, where the ground seeds of the cojóbana tree are inhaled in a twin-nasal, Y-shaped pipe to induce a psychedelic effect.
Also known as the flame nettle, this plant is found in Indonesia and Africa. It has been used by the Mazatec Indians to produce hallucinogenic effects, although the research on this particular plant it scarce.
Colorado River Reed
This reed-like grass can grow up to 8 meters tall and is found alongside lakes and rivers. It is known to contain DMT, the well-known hallucinogenic agent.
Colorado River Toad
Staying with the same theme of the Colorado River, this toad, also known as Sonoran Desert toad is known to be psychoactive. This amphibian contains both 5-MeO-DMT and bufotenin in it’s poison glands, which are milked to extract the hallucination inducing chemicals. Milking does not harm the toad, stroking underneath it’s chin will cause the defence reaction.
Drinking five or more cups of coffee in a day can result in auditory hallucinations, literally hearing things that are not there. White noise in particular has been reported.
Also known as Jimson Weed or Devil’s Snare, this plant is found in Central and South America as well as India. It has long been used in traditional medicines, and in addition it is a deliriant and hallucinogenic. It is used to produce intense visions as a part of spiritual rituals.
Originally found in South America, this small shrub has leaves and fruit which are brewed into a hallucinogenic tea. There is little research to provide specifics about the psychoactive agents.
This tropical vine produces DMT in its leaves, and is added to ayahuasca brews in South America.
Strictly speaking, this shrub is used as a stimulant. It is found in China, and is a source of ephedrine alkaloids, which have a psychoactive effect.
Ergot is a fungus, found across Europe which grows on the grows rye grains. When consumed it produces an LSD type effect. There is some speculation that this was behind much of the behaviour exhibited by women accused of witch craft in the witch-trials.
See Amanitas Mushroom above.
Fermented honey, or mead was an early form of wine consumed in Mediterranean areas. It is reported that hallucinogenic effects were experienced by those who consumed large quantities.
Found in the Amazon, Guarana used as a stimulant. It contained very high levels of caffeine and xanthines.
Hawaiian Baby Woodrose Seeds
See above, Christmas Vine.
There are a few species of fish that are claimed to cause hallucinations in humans. Among them are Sarpa Salpa, found along the coast of Spain and Africa. If eaten they can cause psychoactive effects that can last for a number of days.
Also known as The Devil’s Eyes, this deceptively delicate looking plant, with yellow flowers, is found in Europe and the Middle East. All parts of the plant contain scopolamine, atropine, and hyoscyamine which have a psychoactive effect, but can also be poisonous.
The fruits of the Iboga, found in the Congo look like fat yellow chillies. It is the roots however that produce a hallucinogenic agent – ibogaine. This is a strong long-lasting hallucinogen, traditionally in West African coming of age rituals. Interestingly, extracts of Iboga are sometimes used in treating opiate addiction.
This small shrub has contains agents in it’s branches that are antispasmodic, haemostatic, hallucinogenic, hypotensive and sedative. It is made into a tea, and is thought to treat allergies and skin disorders.
See Datura above.
Dried Jurema root bark, from Mexico has been shown to contain DMT. It is brewed in ayahuasca blends, but has been found to have a hallucinogenic effect when taken orally without a MAOI present. More research is required to understand how this occurs.
Often used as a Virola snuff admixture, Justicia Pectoralis does not contain alkaloids. Certain agents within the plant have been found to relax smooth muscle, so the effects are very mild when taken alone.
Found in South Africa, Kanna is a plant that is dried to prepare it to be chewed, smoked, or used as a snuff. There is a large amount of anecdotal evidence to suggest that it is psychoactive, but there is little research to support this,
This plant has thick roots, which are mashed and used to produce a cold beverage. It has a long been used in rituals across Pacific Polynesia.
This small Ethiopian shrub has been found to contain cathinone and cathine in it’s leaves. These are chewed to release the stimulating effect that has been reported by users.
Found in Thailand, this plant is used as a substitute for opiates thanks to its stimulating effects.
This plant secretes a milky fluid, Lactucarium, from the stems. It is called lettuce opium, because it’s effect is sedative and analgesic, with reports of feelings of euphoria.
Lion’s Tail / Dagga
Found in South Africa, this is a form of Cannibis, see above.
This is a potent form of tobacco – see below.
The mescal beans found on this South American shrub are extremely toxic but there is evidence that they have been used in divinatory rituals. Mescal beans do not contain mescaline.
Not to be confused with Mescal (above), this is a distilled alcoholic beverage made from the maguey plant found in Mexico.
Also known as the Velvet bean, the mecuna has been found to contain the compounds L-dopa and hallucinogenic tryptamines. This plant found in South America, Africa and Asia is widely used to treat erectile dysfunction, and is being analysed as a treatment for Parkinson’s disease, some skin conditions and diabetes.
These fabled plants are found across Europe and the Middle East. Their roots can often resemble the human figure, and contain hallucinogenic tropane alkaloids. This is why they have been used in many rituals, including pagan ceremonies.
Also known as Jurema, they produce DMT in their bark, see above.
Morning Glory Seeds
See Christmas Vine above.
There are more than 6,000 types of mushroom. Some are edible, some are poisonous and a few are psychoactive.
Poisonous mushrooms can cause stomach pains, vomiting and diarrhoea. However, some can cause permanent liver damage, respiratory failure, unconsciousness and even death. It is vital to be cautious when picking wild mushrooms for this very reason.
The hallucinogenic chemical found in some kinds of mushrooms is Psilocybin, which is similar in structure to LSD. Psychoactive mushrooms can be found across the world, but there are several powerful species that are native to Mexico.
This well known spice, grown in New Guinea and the East Indies can act as a deliriant if consumed in large enough quantities. Its psychoactive impact can be long-lasting and is generally reported to be extremely unpleasant by most who experience them.
This is a species of Morning Glory, see above.
Typically used to induce sleep, the passionflower can produce mild hallucinogenic effects when consumed in large quantities.
The Peyote is the best known psychoactive cactus found in Mexico, and has been used since ancient times in circle rituals there, and it holds significant cultural importance. “It is used as medicine, inebriate plant, shamans plant, floral teacher, cultural pacemaker and more”.
Reports of the visionary properties of ingesting the flower which grows on top of the cacti are vast. It contains around 60 different alkaloids, namely beta-phenethylamines. Mescaline is the particular agent that causes it to be hallucinogenically effective.
This is a species of waist-high, blue-green, perennial grass which has been found to contain DMT.
This is an Australian shrub which contains nicotine, nor nicotine and scopolamine in its leaves and roots. It has been used in traditional Aboriginal culture as a medicine and hallucinogen.
The pod of the beautiful poppy produces a milkly latex called opium. This latex a mixture of opiates including codeine and morphine, it is used in the manufacture of the highly addictive heroin.
This a shrub grown in Ecuador, which has been found to contain DMT.
It’s name means ‘Sage of the Diviners’. This is part of the mint family, and originates from Mexico. Its leaves contain the a very potent psychoactive agent, Salvinorin A. It long been used as a divinatory hallucinogenic. Its effects are generally considered unpleasant.
Found in Southeast Asia, the leaves this plant are said to be used as a substitute for kratom (see above), although there is evidence to suggest its effects are not too similar to those of kratom.
The San Pedro is another form of psychoactive, mescaline cactus found in South America, similar to Peyote (see above). It grows in tall columns and is related to the Bolivian Torch (see above). Hallucinogenic effects vary greatly between plants, with the young, fresh green cacti being more potent. There is a long history of San Pedro being used as an entheogen in rituals.
See hallucinogenic fish above.
Ska María Pastora
Another names for the Salvia divinorum, see above.
Also known as the Heimia salicifolia, this is a perennial shrub with small leaves and yellow flowers. Sinicuichi is said to to be an auditory hallucinogen, but there is limited research into the facts behind this Mexican plant.
‘Sleepy grass’ is in fact Stipa robusta which is frequently infected with an fungus which containing LSA. It is reported to cause drowsiness and stupor in grazing horses across New Mexico.
‘The Wind Tree’ of Central Mexico is a species of vine containing alkaloids. The large golden flowers are associated with ancient rituals, where is is occasionally used as a shamanic trance drug.
Saint John’s Wort
Found in many areas across the Globe, St John’s Wort is considered to be a feel-good plant. It is widely used to alleviate mood disorders. Smoking the herb does not usually cause euphoria, but there are reports that it can induce ‘happy trance like’ states,
The Syrian Rue has small, brown seeds that contain harmine and other harmala alkaloids, and is both a mild psychoactive and a MAOI. It is one of the plants speculated to be the Soma or Haoma of ancient Persia – and has been used as an entheogen for centuries.
In the Koran, it is stated that “every root, every leaf of harmel, is watched over by an angel who waits for a person to come in search of healing”…so it is of little wonder that this plant is revered.
These are large shrubs found in Central and South America, Africa, and Australia. Indole alkaloids including ibogaine and voacangine have been found in some species.
This is a very potent form of tobacco, which is discussed below.
Found across the Americas, tobacco has a long shamanic history, where it has been used in rituals to enhance visions.
This Amazonian tree contains a red resin in which DMT is found.
The venom of many creatures, including snakes and bullet ants that we have seen above, have been used in the past to induce trance lie states in humans.
The bark and seeds of this African tree contain iboga alkaloids. It has been used as a poison, stimulant and aphrodisiac in addition to a psychedelic agent.
This South American tree has many names: Anadenanthera colubrina, huilco, huilca, wilco, willka, cebil, and angico…all of which contain DMT in their bark.
This plant, with large flat leaves is found in Europe and is ingested to produce a mild stimulating effect.
Found in Europe, Wormwood is a psychoactive plant that was originally used to produce the famed ‘green fairy’ alcoholic beverage, Absinthe.
Yerba Mate is brewed into a tea, bursting with caffeine, which is known to produce auditory hallucinations if taken in large quantities.
The seed pods of the Yopo Tree which grows in the Amazon have been found to contain DMT.
Found in Western Africa, the bark contains of this tree is used as a stimulant and aphrodisiac. It is frequently sold as an herbal treatment to heal erectile function.
This Mexican shrub is also known as the leaf of God. Its leaves are dried and used before sleep to promote lucid dreaming.
So there you have it! Please note that we do not encourage the use of these substances, this is simply given for information. There are more than a few on this list which are toxic poisons, and have caused fatalities.
Are there any we have missed?
Please let us know if you have tried any of these, or if any on the list surprised you. We would love to hear from you!