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Rubiaceae (Coffee Family)

Forms and Subspecies

It is possible for white thorns (domatia) to develop

along the central nerve on the underside of some

chacruna leaves. South American ayahuasqueros

distinguish different forms of the plant on the

basis of the number of these thorns. Plants with

three thorns per leaf are considered to be particulady

potent, medicinal, and well suited for the

production of ayahuasca. A form with nine thorns

is regarded as the highest quality.


Psychotria psychotriaefolia (Seem.) Standley may

be a synonym (cf. Psychotria spp.).

Folk Names

Amirucapanga, cahua (Shipibo-Conibo), chacrona,

chacruna, chagropanga, chalipanga, hor6va

(Campa), kawa (Cashinahua/Sharanahua), oprito

(Kofan, "heavenly people))), sami ruca


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 ethnobotanist Homer Pinkley (a student of Schultes)

first observed and described the psychoactive use

of the plant among the Kofan Indians of Colombia,

who use it as an ayahuasca additive (Pinkley 1969).

Linnaeus, who provided the first botanical description

of the genus Psychotria, derived the name

of the genus from Psychotrophum (Patrick Browne),

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))

(cf. Pinkley 1969).


The tropical bush is at home primarily in the

undisturbed forests of the Amazon lowlands but

has spread from Colombia to Bolivia and into

eastern Brazil as a result of extensive cultivation. It

is said to occur also north of the Amazon region

and into Central America (Pinkley 1969, 535).

Today, there are also plantations in Hawaii and

northern California.


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 (Pinkley



The evergreen bush can grow into a small tree

with a very woody trunk, but in cultivation it is

usually maintained at a height of 2 to 3 meters. It

has long, narrow, ovate leaves that are light green

to dark green in color and whose upper side is

shiny. The flowers have greenish white petals and

are attached to long stalks. The red berry fruits

contain several small ovate-oval retuse seeds

(approximately 4 mm in length). The convex side

is streaked with three parallel grooves with

irregular edges.

Psychotria viridis is easily confused with other

Psychotria species. Psychotria psychotriaefolia in

particular is very similar in appearance and may in

fact be a synonym (see Psychotria spp.).
Psychoactive Material

- LeavesPreparation and Dosage

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

tarlike 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,NDMT

(cf. Russo 1997,6).

Ritual Use

See ayahuasca.


See ayahuasca ("Ayahuasca Music-A Discography;'

on page 711).

Medicinal Use

The Machiguenga use juice that has been freshly

pressed from the leaves of Psych0 tria viridis or

another Psych0 tria 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).


The leaves contain 0.1 to 0.61% N,N-DMT along

with traces of MMT and MTHC (= 2-methyltetrahydro-~-

carboline). The DMT content is

typically around 0.3%. Psychotria leaves appear to

contain the highest concentrations of DMT in the

early morning, which is why they should be

collected at that time (Dennis McKenna, pers.



The Kofan Indians say that by mixing Psychotria

viridis leaves into their yage (= 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).

Commercial Forms and Regulations

The dried leaves are occasionally available from

sources specializing in ethnobotanical products.

The legal situation with respect to the raw plant

material has not been clarified.


See also the entries for Psychotria spp., ayahuasca,

and ayahuasca analogs.

Der Marderosian, Ara H., et al. 1970. The use and

hallucinatory principles of a psychoactive

beverage of the Cashinahua tribe (Amazonia

basin). Drug Dependence 5:7-14.

Pinkley, Homer V. 1969. Etymology of Psychotria in

view of a new use of the genus. Rhodora


Prance, G. T., and A. E. Prance. 1970. Hallucinations

in Amazonia. Garden Journal 20:102-7.

Russo, Ethan B. 1992. Headache treatments by native

peoples of the Ecuadorian Amazon: A

preliminary cross-disciplinary assessement.

Journal ofEthnopharmacology 36: 192-206.

---. 1997. An investigation of psychedelic plants

and compounds for activity in serotoninA monoamine neurotransmitter, biochemically derived from tryptophan, that is primarily found in the gastrointestinal (GI) tract, platelets, and central nervous system (CNS) of humans and animals. It is a well-known contributor to feelings of well-being. receptor

assays for headache treatment and prophylaxis.

MAPS 7 (1): 4-8.

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