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Gramineae: Poaceae (Grass Family)

Forms and Subspecies

Several varieties and cultivars have been described,

including Phalaris arundinacea var. ~ picta 1.

(from North America), known as bent grass. The

widespread cultivar Phalaris arundinacea cv.

Turkey Red produces primarily 5-MeO-DMT

(Appleseed 1995,37).


Baldingera arundinacea (1.) Dumort.

Phalaroides arundinacea (1.) Rauschert

Typhoides arundinacea (1.) Moench


Folk Names

Bentgrass, canarygrass, canary grass, glanzgras,

militz, phalaridos, randgras, reed canarygrass, reed

canary grass, reed grass, rohrglanzgras


Reed canary grass was known even in ancient

times. It cannot be determined whether this or

another species (e.g., Phalaris aquatica 1. or

Phalaris canariensis 1.) is the phalaridos described

by Dioscorides. A number of grasses appear in

herbals from the early modern period. The fact

that Phalaris is psychoactive was discovered

during phytochemical studies of the grasses for

agricultural purposes. For several years, closet

shamans have been experimenting with possibilities

for using this and other grasses for

psychoactive purposes (cf. Arundo donax,

Phalaris spp., Phragmites australis).


The grass is found in Eurasia, North Africa, and

North America. Thick stands grow on the banks

of rivers and lakes and in wet meadows, often in

reed fields and large sedge swamps (so-called



The grass can be grown from seed or propagated

by root cuttings (Appleseed 1995). The seeds need

only be broadcast onto the ground. The grass

prefers nutrient-rich, acid soils and must be near

water or watered frequently.


The perennial grass develops gray-green stalks

that can grow up to 2 meters in height and can

branch. The long, wide leaves have rough edges

and are attached to the stalks. The panicle can take

on a light green or red-violet hue. The spikelets

bear a single flower. The flowering period is from

June to August (Christiansen and Hancke 1993,

74 f. *). Large specimens can be confused with

small forms of Phragmites australis.

Psychoactive Material

- Leaves

Preparation and Dosage

While the dried grass can be smoked, smoking

almost never yields any effects. An extract

obtained from the leaves is more suitable for

smoking. It can be produced in the following

manner: The dried leaves are finely chopped or

powdered and, preferably, freeze-dried (or frozen

and unfrozen several times). The material

prepared in this fashion is placed in a blender with

water and minced into a mush that is made acidic

by the addition of an acid (e.g., acetic acid) and

lightly simmered. The material is then boiled

down until a tarlike mass remains. This mass can

then be dissolved in alcohol (or a mixture of

ethanol and water). The resulting solution is then

impregnated into material suitable for smoking

(e.g., damiana herbage; cf. Turnera diffusa). After

being dried, the preparation should be quite

potent (cf. DeKorne 1994, 127ff.*).

Reed canary grass is increasingly being used to

produce ayahuasca analogs. To date, however,

there are very few detailed reports about optimal

dosages, and definitive information about the

races or strains of the grass to use is also lacking

(Appleseed 1993).

A combination of 125 mg of an extract of

Peganum harmala seeds and 50 mg of Phalaris

extract produced unequivocal psychedelic effects

"accompanied by strong waves of nausea"

(DeKorne 1994,98*). A combination of 60 g fresh

weight of Phalaris and 3 g of Peganum harmala

produced strong toxic effects (Festi and Samorini

Ritual Use

To date, we know of no traditional use of Phalaris

arundinacea as a psychoactive substance. However,

the Roman poet Ovid (43 B.c.E.-17 C.E.) described

a shamanic transformation that was induced by

(an unfortunately unidentified) "grass." In the

story of Glaucus, a fisher from Anthedon in

Boeotia, Glaucus himself described his wondrous

metamorphosis into a sea god:

I sought the cause if any God had brought

this same abowt,

Or else sum jewce of herb. And as I so did

musing stand,

What herb (quoth I) hath such a powre? And

gathering with my hand

The grasse, I bote it with my toothe. My

throte had scarcely yit

Well swallowed downe the uncouth jewce,

when like an agew fit

I felt myne inwards soodeinly to shake, and

with the same,

A love of other nature in my brest with

violence came.

And long I could it not resist, but sayd: Deere

land, adeew,

For never shall I haunt thee more. And with

that woord I threw

My bodye in the sea. The Goddes thereof

receyving mee,

Vouchsaved in theyr order mee installed for

too bee,

Desyring old Oceanus and Thetis for theyr


The rest ofmy mortalitie away from mee to


They hallowed mee, and having sayd nyne

tymes the holy ryme

That purgeth all prophanednesse, they

charged mee that tyme

To put my brestbulk underneathe a hunred

streames. Anon

The brookes from sundry coastes and all the

Seas did ryde uppon

My head. From whence as soone as I

returned, by and by

I felt my self farre otherwyse through all my

limbes, than I

Had beene before. And in my mynd I was

another man.

Thus farre of all that mee befell make just

report I can.

Thus farre I beare in mynd. The rest my

mynd perceyved not.

Then first of all this hory greene gray grisild

beard I got,

And this same bush of heare which all along

the seas I sweepe,

And theis same myghty shoulders, and theis

grayish armes, and feete

Confounded into finned fish.


1965, 348-49)

Perhaps the "grass" was Phalaris arundinacea,

and a preparation was known in ancient times that

would have been suitable in rituals for animal



Medicinal Use

Dioscorides noted that the "crushed plant, treated

with water or wine to make a juice, has the power

to have good effects on bladder disorders" (3.149).


The entire grass contains indole alkaloids, the

composition of which can vary greatly depending

upon race, strain, location, time of collection, et

cetera (Marten 1973; Ostrem 1987). N,N-DMT,

MMT, and 5-MeO-DMT are usually present

(Matum et al. 1979). The grass also can have high

concentrations of gramine, a very toxic alkaloid

(Appleseed 1995).


Smoking a suitable preparation can produce

effects like those produced by N,N-DMT. While

some of the ayahuasca analogs that have been

tested to date have indeed yielded ayahuasca-like

effects, many of the reports describe unpleasant

experiences (cf. Festi and Samorini 1994).

Commercial Forms and Regulations

The seeds are available through ethnobotanical

specialty sources.


See also the entries for Arundo donax, Phragmites

australis, ayahuasca analogs, N,N-DMT, and 5MeO-


Appleseed, Johnny. 1993. Ayahuasca analog plant

complexes of the temperate zone: Phalaris

arundinacea and the Desmanthus spec.

Integration 4:59-62.

---. 1995. Phalaris in groBen Mengen.

Entheogene 4:36-37.

Festi, Francesco, and Giorgio Samorini. 1994.

Alcaloidi indolici psicoattivi nei generi Phalaris e

Arundo (Graminaceae): Una rassegna. Annali dei

Musei Civici di Rovereto 9 (1993): 239-88. (Very

good bibliography.)

Marten, G. C. 1973. Alkaloids and palatability of

Phalaris arundinacea grown in diverse

environments. Agronomy]ournaI165:199-201.

Marum, P.,A. W. Hovin, and G. C. Marten. 1979.

Inheritance of three groups of indole alkaloids in

reed canarygrass. Crop Science 19:539-44.

Nims, John Frederick, ed. 1965. Ovid's

Metamorphoses, the Arthur Golding translation

1567. New York: Macmillan.

Ostrem,1. 1987. Studies on genetic variation in reed

canarygrass, Phalaris arundinacea I: Alkaloid

type and concentration. Hereditas 107:235-48.

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