Leguminosae: Papilionideae (Legume Family);

Subfamily Fabodeae

Forms and Subspecies

The genus consists of some three hundred species

that are found in the tropical and subtropical

regions of both hemispheres (Schultes and

Hofmann 1980,338*).


Dolicholus phaseoloides Sw.

Rhynchosia phaseoloides (Sw.) DC.

Folk Names

Ah rna' ak' (Lacandon, "ara parrot vine"), antipusi,

atecuixtle, atecuxtli, bejuco culebra, bird's eyes,

casanpulgas, chanate pusi, cha'pak' (Mayan),

colorin chiquito, colorincito, colorines (cf.

Erythrina americana), coralito, frijol de chintlatlahua,

frijolillo, guarecitas, gun-ma-muy-tio-fia

(Chinantec), krebsaugenbohne, liucai-nofal (Chontal),

negritos, ojitos de picho (Spanish, "little eyes

of the dove"), ojo de cangrejo (Spanish, "crab's

eye"), ojo de chanate (Mexico, "eye of the thrush

[Cassidix mexicanus]"), ojo de culebra (Spanish,

"eye of the snake"), ojo de pajarito (Spanish, "eye

of the little bird"), ojo de zanate (Mexico, "eye of

the thrush [Cassidix mexicanus]") , pega palo,

peonia, perico, peyote (see Lophophora williamsii) ,

pipilzintli, piule, pulguitas, puren-sapicho, saltipus,

senecui1che (see Heimia salicifolia), shasham

wupu'ar (Pima), sinicuiche, xenecui1che

Plants and Fungi Known in Mexico as Piule

(from Martinez 1987, 757*; Ott 1993,419*; Santesson 1938; supplemented)

<tbody> </tbody>
Rhynchosia longeracemosa (Mart. et Gal.) Rose piule, peyote (cha'pak)
Rhynchosia minima (L.) DC. piule
Rhynchosia pyramidalis (Lam.) Urban piule
Rhynchosia spp. piule
Lophophora williamsii piule, peyote
Ipomoea violacea piule
Turbina corymbosa (L.) Raff. piule
Psathyrella sepulchralis Sing., Sm. et Guz. piule de barda
Psilocybe mexicana Heim piule de churis
Psilocybe zapotecorum Heim piule de barda


The Aztecs may have used the striking seeds of this

plant for ritual purposes (Schultes and Hofmann

1980,340*). The red-black seeds, which are known

by the name piule (Santesson 1938), were or are

used ritually in the village of San Pedro Nexapa,

on the slopes of Popocatepetl (Mexico) (Wasson

and Wasson 1957, 306 f.). In Mexico, the name

piule has been used as a catchall term for psychoactive

plants since the twentieth century

(Martinez 1987, 757*; cf. Psilocybe mexicana, Turbina

corymbosa). The word piule may have been

derived from the Nahuatl peyotl (= Lophophora

williamsii). Accordingly, piuleros are those people

who use a psychoactive substance (piule) to divine

and/or heal (Santesson 1937a, 1937b). Some

species, e.g., Rhynchosia longeracemosa Mart. et

Gal., are now also known by the name peyote

(Schultes 1966,296*).


This climber is found throughout the tropical and

warm regions of Mexico and on many islands of

the Caribbean (Cuba) (von Reis and Lipp 1982,

139*). It usually grows at the edge of forests and in

clearings. It is frequently found in fallow milpas

(slash-and-burn gardens).


The seeds are best pregerminated in a mixture of

soil and moss. The seedlings must be planted in

topsoil and watered well as soon as the seeds have

opened and the young shoots have become visible

(Grubber 1991, 56*). The plant requires a moist,

warm climate and in northern zones can thus be

grown only as a houseplant.


The vine, which can grow to a length of several

meters, has the typical leaves of the Legume

Family, in which three leaves sit upon each stalk.

The greenish flowers are arranged in long racemes.

The bean-shaped seedpods are constricted

between the two small, red-black, almost spherical

hard seeds (4 to 6 mm long).

The kidney-shaped seeds of the closely related

Rhynchosia longeracemosa are "mottled light-and

dark-brown" (Schultes and Hofmann 1992,55*).

Rhynchosia pyramidalis is often confused with

Abrus precatorius 1. (jequirity, rosary pea), which

is widely feared as a poisonous plant. It too

produces red-black seeds, although they are

somewhat larger (6 to 7 mm long). Jequirity can

be recognized by its smaller, pinnate leaves. The

seeds of Abrus precatorius contain abrin, a lectin mixture that is unstable when heated and one of

the most potent of all known toxins, along with

several alkaloids (Ghosal and Dutta 1971; Nwodo

1991; Nwodo and Alumanah 1991; Roth et al.

1994, 83 f. *). In Mexico, the seeds of Abrus

precatorius are known as colorines (see Erythrina

spp.). They are associated with the mescal bean

cult (see Sophora secundiflora); ashes from the

leaves are used as a coca additive (see Erythroxylum

Psychoactive Material

- Seeds (semina rhynchosiae phaseoloides, bird's

eyes, colorines)

- StalksPreparation and Dosage

In entheogenic rituals in the high valleys of

Mexico, twelve untreated seeds were ingested with

six pairs of Psilocybe aztecorum per person

(Wasson and Wasson 1957,306).

Ritual Use

To date, the only description that is available

pertains to the ritual use of the seeds in connection

with the ingestion of mushrooms. The

ingestion of the seeds is presumably more symbolic

in meaning, for the red-black seeds represent

bodiless, free-floating eyes, a symbol of psychedelic

and prophetic vision.

The Zapotec of Miahuatlan are said to have

used the seeds of the closely related species

Rhynchosia minima (1.) DC. [syn. Dolicholus

minimus] in magical rituals (Dfaz 1979,87*).


The small, durable seeds are made into amulets

and chains (cf. Erythrina americana, Erythrina

spp., Sophora secundiflora).

Wall paintings at Teopantitla (near Teotihuacan)

allegedly show the seeds falling out of the

hand of the rain god TIMoc (D. McKenna 1995,

102*). The red-black coloration is said to be an

indication of the seeds' hallucinogenic use

(Schultes 1970c; Schultes and Hofmann 1980,


Medicinal Use

The seeds are regarded as a narcotic and poison in

Mexican folk medicine (Jiu 1996, 254*). The

Yucatec Maya use the root along with other herbs

to produce a medicine to treat pellagra284 (Pullido

S. and Serralta P. 1993,37*). The Pima of northern

Mexico grind the seeds on a mortar and strew the

powder into the eyes of those who are suffering

from the "evil eye" (Pennington 1973,223*).

In the Dominican Republic, the stalks are used

to prepare an aphrodisiac drink (Dlaz 1979,87*).


The chemistry of the constituents has not yet been

clarified. Reports about the alkaloids are

contradictory (Santesson 1937a). The seeds

apparently contain alkaloids similar to those in

Sophora secundiflora and Erythrina spp. (D.

McKenna 1995, 102*). The root may possibly

contain niacin or nicotine amide, for it is used in

the Yucatan as a folk medicine to treat pellagra

(maidism). Whether the flavonol rhynchosin

(Adinarayana et al. 1980) occurs in the plant is



In Mexico, it is commonly believed that the seeds

cause "imbecility" or "madness" (Diaz 1979, 87*;

Jiu 1996, 254*). There are as yet no reports of

actual psychoactive effects. An extract of the seeds

is said to have curare-like activity (Schultes and

Hofmann 1980,340*).

Commercial Forms and Regulations

The seeds are sometimes available through the

international seed trade. Mexican Indians

sometimes sell necklaces with beads of Rhynchosia



See also the entries for Erythrina spp. and Sophora


Adinarayana, Dama, Duvvuru Gunasekar, Otto

Se1igmann, and Hildebert Wagner. 1980.

Rhynchosin, a new 5-deoxyflavonol from

Rhynchosia beddomei. Phytochemistry 19:483-84.

Ghosal, S., and S. K. Dutta. 1971. Alkaloids of Abrus

precatorius. Phytochemistry 10:195-98.

Grear, J. W. 1978. A revision of the New World

species of Rhynchosia (Leguminosae-Fabodeae).

Memoirs ofthe New York Botanical Garden 31

suppl. (1): 1-168.

Nwodo, O. F. C. 1991. Studies on Abrus precatorius

seeds. I: Uterotonic activity of seed oil. Journal of

Ethnopharmacology 31 (3): 391-94.

Nwodo, O. F. C., and E. O. Alumanah. 1991. Studies

on Abrus precatorius seeds. II: Antidiarrhoeal

activity. Journal ofEthnopharmacology 31 (3):


Ristic, S., and A. Thomas. 1962. Zur Kenntnis von

Rhynchosia pyramidalis (Pega Palo). Archiv fur

Pharmakologie 295:510.

Santesson, C. G. 1937a. Notiz tiber piule, eine

mexikanische Rauschdroge. Etnologiska Studier

(Goteborg) 4: 1-11.

---. 1937b. Piule, eine mexikanische

Rauschdroge. Archiv fur Pharmazie: 532-37.

---. 1938. Noch eine mexikanische "Piule"Droge:

Semina Rynchosiae phaseoloidis DC.

[sic!]. Etnologiska Studier 6: 179-83.

Wasson, R. Gordon, and Valentina P. Wasson. 1957.

Mushrooms, Russia, and history. New York:

Pantheon Books.

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