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~ Trees of the Evil Eagle ~ Floripondio ~Borrachero ~ Toé ~ Tree Datura ~ Angel Trumpet
Brugmansia sp. Family Solanaceae Brugmansia (Datura) suaveolens, B. candida, B. aurea, B. insignis, B. sanguinea, B. arborea, B. dolichocarpa, B. vulcanicola and other cultivated varieties. All living forms of Brugmansia are considered to be cultivars or mutated clones indicating its great antiquity in human knowledge and use. Brugmansia is not known from the wild.
variations of Brugmansia suaveolens in Amazonian Perú
Common Names in Perú
Toé; Floripondio; Misha; Maricahua; Campana; Borachero; Toa; Maikoa (Jivaro); Chuchupanda (Amahuaca); Aiipa (Amarakaeri); Haiiapa (Huachipaeri); Saaro (Machiquenga); Gayapa y Kanachijero (Piro-Yine); Kanachiari (Shipibo-Conibo).
Principal active biochemicals are the primary tropane alkaloids hyoscyamine, atropine, and scopolamine. The seeds and flowers of Brugmansia contain the highest concentration of alkaloids but all parts of the plant are active.
General Comments: Uses and Preparation
The leaves, seeds and flowers of Toé are most often used but in some cultures the root is also used.Preparations include leaves rolled up into cigarettes, mixing seeds with Cannabis and/or tobacco for smoking, mixing ground seeds with wine or beer, teas made with the leaves and flowers, cold water extracts of the root, enemas prepared with an infusion made from the leaves, and suppositories made from rolled up leaves.Its confirmed medicinal qualities are spasmolytic, anti-asthmatic, anticholinergic, narcotic and anesthetic.The leaves are smoked to relieve asthma. A steambath is prepared from the leaves for bad coughs and bronchitis. The juice is boiled and mixed with lard as an external application for burns, scalds, inflammations and hemorrhoids.Poultices made of the leaves are applied to arthritic or rheumatic pains, swellings and badly healing wounds . It is used as an antispasmodic to control Parkinson’s disease.
In the Amazon, Brugmansia is used in magical practices for visionary journeys, shape-shifting, divination, clairvoyance, love magic, aphrodisiac, amulets, and incense. Scopolamine is responsible for the visionary effects and is the alkaloid occurring in highest concentration. The use of Toé for magical purposes is the province of master curanderos (healers) and brujos (witches). Curanderos respect it as very powerful plant and use it cautiously and sparingly. On the other hand, Brujos, individuals engaged in the practice of black magic, may use Toé frequently with little discrimination or integrity in its applications.
Brugmansia, Datura and other tropane-bearing plants are potential very dangerous and can cause serious mental and physical reactions or death. Permanent mental damage can result from frequent or excessive use. These plants are best avoided entirely and should never be consumed carelessly.
Ethnobotany and History of Brugmansia
In South America, the indigenous arborescent Brugmansia have been and still are of great significance to many tribes and, in certain ancient Andean civilizations, they assumed roles of inestimable importance.
Handsome trees with large, showy flowers and now highly valued in horticulture, they are probably all chromosomally aberrant cultigens unknown in the truly wild state as, probably because of their medicinal and narcotic properties, they have been associated with man from earliest times. There are only a few species : Brugmansia arborea, B. aurea, B. candida, B. dolichocarpa, B. sanguinea and B. vulcanicola in the Andean highlands from Chile to Colombia; and B. suaveolens in the warmer lowlands.
A recent taxonomic study has suggested that Brugmansia be treated as comprising three species – B. candida, B. sanguinea and B. suaveolens – and numerous cultivars of these species. They are known by many local names, amongst the most frequently encountered being borrachero, huacacachu, huanto, chamico, campanilla, fioripondio, maicoa, tonga and in the Amazon regions, toé.
While Brugmansia suaveolens is recognized as toxic and employed to some extent medicinally in the Amazon, the hallucinogenic use of Brugmansia is concentrated mainly in the west: in the Andes and along the northern Pacific coast of South America. Although they are employed widely, the literature is very deficient and has reported only a few tribes as using Brugmansia: the Chibchas, Chocos, Inganos, Kamsas, Sionas, Kofans of Colombia; the Quechuas of Bolivia, Ecuador and Perú: the Mapuche-Huilliches of Chile; and the Canelos, Piojes, Omaguas, Jivaros and Zaparos of eastern Ecuador and Perú. In some of the western Amazonian tribes of Ecuador – as with the Mapuche-Huilliches of Chile – Brugmansia, probably B. candida and B. sanguinea, is valued as a correctional measure for unruly children. The Jivaro expect the spirits of their ancestors to speak to and admonish the children in their intoxication-dreams and hallucinations. The Chibchas of pre-conquest Bogota gave chicha with Brugmansia – probably D. candida, D. aurea or D. sanguinea – to wives and slaves of dead warriors or chieftains to induce a state of stupor before being buried alive with their husbands and masters.
In most of the Andean area except Chile, Brugmansia assumed an important role in shamanistic, magic and religious rituals. The preparations and uses differ widely in areas of South America, but the drug is taken usually in the form of pulverized seeds dropped into fermented chicha or as an infusion; or leaves and twigs may be utilized. Amongst some – such as the Sionas and Kofans of Colombia and Ecuador – leaves of Brugmansia suaveolens may be added to the yajé drink prepared from Banisteriopsis inebrians to fortify its hallucinogenic effects.
Intoxication from Brugmansia is marked usually by initial effects so furious that the partaker must be restrained pending the onset of a deep, disturbed sleep during which hallucinations, interpreted as spirit visitations, enabling the shaman to diagnose disease, discover thieves and prophesy the future of tribal affairs and aspirations, are experienced.
A writer in 1846 described this observation in Perú: “The native fell into a heavy stupor, his eyes vacantly fixed on the ground, his mouth convulsively closed, and his nostrils dilated. In the course of a quarter of an hour, his eyes began to roll, foam issued from his mouth, and his whole body was agitated by frightful convulsions. After these violent symptoms had passed, a profound sleep of several hours’ duration followed, and when the subject had recovered, he related the particulars of his visit with his forefathers.”
As in North America, information on the species used by South American tribes for special purposes is rarely available. The species involved in each instance must usually be guessed from phytogeographic or ecological reasoning, or, perhaps, from a vernacular name. Since most, if not all, species of Brugmansia, however, contain similar tropane alkaloids – hyoscyamine, scopolamine, atropine – varying only in relative concentrations, this does not pose the serious problem that it might with some other hallucinogens. The time is long overdue when comparative chemical analyses of all species against voucher specimens be undertaken, for if the taxonomy of this genus can be described still as uncertain – which is indeed the case – the chemistry is chaotic due primarily to careless or superficial plant identification and failure to file away an authenticating specimen for each analysis.
Not only is there a suspicion that all species of Brugmansia are cultigens, but these plants offer other fascinating but complex biological problems connected with their use by man. Bristol has stated: “Many writers have noticed the frequency with which Brugmansia is associated with human habitations, but the extent of this association and its implications have not been fully understood. I have seen no indication in herbaria nor during 13 months of field work in southern Colombia and northern Ecuador that any Brugmansia was not associated with human activity; and Schultes ( pers. comm.), in his many years of familiarity with northwestern South America, has never seen a Brugmansia that he could say was truly wild. The northern Andes, however, is the centre of variability and probable area of origin of this group.”
The Kamsa Indians of the Valley of Sibundoy in the Colombian Andes employ several species of Brugmansia – B. candida, B. dolichocarpa, B. sanguinea – and sundry named clones of B. candida. These clones which are vegetatively propagated simply by planting pieces of stem in the damp soil, are so highly atrophied that they may possibly represent incipient “varieties” as the result of mutations. Some of these clones or “races” are such monstrosities that their botanical identification to known species has, until recently, defied efforts, even though the Indians have very definite native names for them and recognize them easily. They are said by the natives to differ in their narcotic strength and, since they are stronger, weaker or in other ways different from “healthy” Brugmansia in their effects, they are employed for very specific uses by the witch-doctors and medicine-men.
There has been no satisfactory explanation of the concentration in this high, mountain-girt Valley of southern Colombia of so many atrophied “races” of Brugmansia. One suggestion attributed the condition to extreme viral infection, not at all uncommon in the Solanaceae, but here is an excellent and almost wholly untouched problem well worthy of investigation. In this connexion, furthermore, Bristol’s suggestion is pertinent: “The very extensive work of Blakeslee and his associates … with the herbaceous Daturas demonstrated a great range of variability and the spontaneous appearance of many unusual characteristics. Of the 541 gene mutations encountered, 72 appeared following heating, wounding and ageing, or spontaneously in nature. Recessive genes controlling leaf shape, flower size, shape and colour, and fruit form are amongst those uncovered. It is entirely possible that these single recessive genes affecting taxonomically significant characters are present also in Brugmansia.”
Schultes, R.E. and A. Hoffman. 1992. Plants of the Gods. Healing Arts Press, Rochester, Vermont. pp. 128-131. Schultes, R.E. 1970. The Plant Kingdom and Hallucinogens (part III) FROM: United Nations Office for Drug Control and Crime Prevention
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