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5-0H-DMT, mappin, N,N-dimethylserotonin, 3[
Substance type: tryptamine (indole alkaloid)
Bufotenine was first isolated in 1893 from secretions
of the common toad (Bufo vulgaris 1.)
(Shulgin 1981). In 1954, it was found in Anadenanthera
peregrina. Bufotenine also occurs in the
false death cap (Amanita citrina [Schaeff.] S.P.
Gray) (Keup 1995, 11; Wieland and Motzell953)
and in other members of the genus (cf. Amanita
pantherina). Indeed, the symbolic relationship
between toads and mushrooms is very interesting
in this context (see Amanita muscaria). Bufotenine
has also been found in Anandenanthera
colubrina (Piptadenia spp.), Arundo donax, Banisteriopsis
spp., Mucuna pruriens, and Phragmites
australis. Bufotenine is a tryptamine derivative
and is closely related to N,N-DMT, 5-MeO-DMT,
and psilocybin and psilocin. Chemically, it is
almost identical to melatonin (for more on
melatonin, see Reiter and Robinson 1996).
Bufotenine has been detected in human urine
on numerous occasions (Raisanen 1985) and thus
we know that it is a natural substance that is
metabolized in the human body. The molecule is
very stable. Approximately 16 mg is considered to
be an effective dosage. The pharmacology of the
substance has been little studied.
The first report of the hallucinogenic effects of
bufotenine was published by Fabing and Hawkins
(1956), who tested the substance on prison
inmates (probably against their will). This was
followed by additional research with humans,
including some studies in which the substance was
tested under highly unethical conditions by being
injected into patients in a closed psychiatric
institution without their permission, or even
against their will. The patients were administered
overly high doses and also subjected to
electroshocks and other procedures. In this
setting, no visions were reported. It was concluded
that bufotenine does not produce visions but has
only toxic effects (Turner and Merlin 1959).
Subsequent studies strengthened the theory that
bufotenine should not be classified as a
hallucinogen (Mandell and Morgan 1971). A more
recent study using only one subject found no
hallucinogenic effects, although changes in the
emotional domain were observed (McLeod and Sitram 185). Almost all of the reports have noted
that the faces of the test subjects turned red or
even purple (Fabing and Hawkins 1956). The
belief that bufotenine is not a true psychedelic
drug has persisted into the present day (e.g., Lyttle
et al. 1996; this study, however, is not based on any
personal experiments). In its pure form,
bufotenine has never acquired any cultural
significance as a psychoactive substance.
Bufotenine and Bufo marinus
Since ancient times, there have been numerous
reports of toads being used to prepare love drinks
and other witches' brews, and even witches'
ointments (Degraaff 1991; Hirschberg 1988).
Researchers (prematurely) dismissed such reports
as fantasy. In China and Mesoamerica, there is
good evidence for the use of toads in magical
brews. Chinese toad secretions (ch'an su) contain
large amounts of bufotenine (Chen and Jensen
1929). In China and Japan, preparations containing
bufotenine are sold as aphrodisiacs (Lewis 1989,
In Mesoamerica, the toad was regarded as a
manifestation of the Earth Mother, for example, in
the form of the Aztec earth goddess Tlatecuhtli
(Furst 1972; 1974, 88*). In the region, toads (and
frogs) are associated with the rain gods (chac) and
rainmaking. The Tarahumara refer to toads as
"powerful rainmakers." The Olmecs-whose culture
is thought to have been the first Mesoamerican
civilization-depicted toads in their
sacred art and probably used them as hallucinogens.
An Olmec object made of green jade and
shaped like a toad has been interpreted as a tray
for snuff powder (Peterson 1990,46*). In general,
the toad was probably the most important Olmec
deity (Furst 1981; Furst 1996*; Kennedy 1982;
A cylindrical ceramic container (late Classic
period) containing a Bufo marinus (cane toad)
skeleton was found in Seibal, a Mayan ceremonial center. It may have been used as a vessel for
drinking balche'. Hundreds of ritually interred
cane toad skeletons were discovered in postClassic
Mayan ritual depots on the Caribbean
island of Cozumel (Hamblin 1981; 1984,53 ff.). A
report from the colonial period indicates that
toads were an ingredient in balche' or chicha. Bufo
marinus is also an ingredient in zombie poison.
In Mesoamerica, Bufo marinus is known
variously as henhen (Tzeltal; cf. Hunn 1977, 247),
bab (Mayan), ah bab (Lacandon), and tamazolin
(Aztec). Numerous stone sculptures of toads as
well as some toad bones were discovered in the
main temple (Templo Mayor) of the Aztecs
(Ofrenda 23; Alvarez and Ocana 1991, 117, 128).
All of the finds suggest that Bufo marinus was used
in rituals or had a cosmological significance.
Today, some Mexican Indians still eat skinned
toads, while their secretions are sold at Mexican
brujeria markets as a love powder. The toad itself is
invoked as a love magic in magical prayers
(oraci6n del sapo). The toad's mucus is rolled into
little balls that are then rubbed behind the ear as
an aphrodisiac. Many people in Mexico still wear
toad-shaped amulets today; they may, for
example, be made from amber or obsidian from
In the southern part of Veracruz, curanderos
("healers") or brujos ("sorcerers") still use a preparation
of Bufo marinus. To prepare it, they capture
and kill ten toads. The glands are removed and
crushed to produce a paste, to which lime (probably
slaked lime) and ashes from a botanically
unidentified plant called tamtwili are added. The
combination is then mixed in water and boiled
until· there is no more "bad smell" (usually all
night long). The solution is then mixed with
chicha (maize beer) and filtered. The remaining
fluid is kneaded into maize dough, lime brine, and
five kernels of sprouted maize, and the mixture is
laid out in the sun for a few days so that it can
ferment, after which it is dried over a fire. This
product (piedrecita, "little rocks") is then stored
far away from any human dwellings. In earlier
times, special huts were used to store this magical
substance. For consumption, a few pieces are cut
off, ground, and soaked in water. After the
insoluble ingredients have settled, the solution is
poured off and boiled for a considerable time until
it gives off a certain odor. Today, the drink is no
longer ingested collectively but is used by only one
person at a time under the supervision of a
curandero. The effects begin after approximately
thirty minutes and are first manifested as an
increase in the pulse rate and a shaking of the
muscles and limbs, followed by headaches and
delirium. This state lasts three to five hours. In
former times, the drinking of this brew was an
important part of the initiation of boys into
adulthood. Sacred songs were sung to the initiate while he was delirious. The initiate was told to
allow the visions he was going to experience to
impress themselves well upon him (Knab n.d.).
It appears that the hallucinogenic effects of
Bufo marinus were also known in Argentina, for it
is considered there to be one of the "temptations"
of Saint Anthony (see Claviceps purpurea)
Originally from the Americas, Bufo marinus
was .introduced to Australia, where it is now
known as the cane toad and its secretions are
allegedly used as a psychoactive drug. Under
Queensland's Drug Misuse Act, bufotenine is an
illegal substance in Australia (Ingram 1988,66). In
recent years, the press has been reporting
increasing cases of toad lickin' (Lyttle 1993), a
practice in which the secretions of Bufo marinus
are licked off the toad:
When licking the expressed secretions (abusers
reported that it is possible to "milk" twice a
day), a furry sensation on the lips and tongue
quickly becomes manifest. Five to ten (up to
30) minutes later, nausea is common, and only
20 to 30 minutes after ingestion, sometimes
earlier, hallucinations of various kinds set in,
beginning more rapidly and not lasting as
long as with LSD. (Keup 1995, 12)
The thickened juice of boiled animals is also
ingested in Australia (Keup 1995, 14). A decoction
of the dried skin (known as cane skin tea) is also
used (DerSpiegel32 : 92).
The secretions from Bufo marinus contain
catecholamines (dopamineA neurotransmitter associated with movement, attention, learning, and the brain’s pleasure and reward system., N-methyldopamine,
adrenaline, noradrenaline) and tryptamines (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.,
N-methyl-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., bufotenine, bufotenidine,
dehydrobufotenine), as well as glycoside-like
toad toxins (Deulofeu and Ruveda 1971; Lyttle
1993, 523 f.). The skin has been found to contain
morphine. The toad toxins (bufotoxine, bufogenine,
and bufadienolides) are cardiotoxic and
are similar to digitalis in their effects: nausea,
vomiting, increase in blood pressure, confusion,
and psychotic states (Keup 1995, 12). Smoking is
probably the safest method to ingest Bufo marinus
secretions, as the burning process apparently
destroys the toxic components while leaving the
bufotenine intact (Alexander Shulgin, pers.
comm.). The ethnobotanist Brett Blosser smoked
dried Bufo marinus secretions (approximately 1
mg every few minutes) and reported experiencing
tryptamine-like hallucinations similar to those
induced by the secretions of Bufo alvarius (cf.
5-MeO-DMT) (B. Blosser, pers. comm.).
The few reports of the effects of smoked toad
skin indicate that they are hallucinogenic. One
Australian user stated, "I am seeing the world
through the consciousness of a toad" (Lewis 1989,
The following species of toads contain significant
amounts of bufotenine: Bufo alvarius (cf. 5MeO-
DMT), B. americanus, B. arenarum, B. bufo
bufo, B. calamita, B. chilensis, B. crucifer, B. formosus,
B. fowleri, B. paracnemis, B. viridis (Deulofeuand Ruveda 1971, 483).
|Commercial Forms and Regulations
Bufotenine is marketed as bufotenine hydrogen
oxalate. In the United States, bufotenine is classified
as a Schedule I drug (Shulgin 1981). In contrast,
in Germany it is not considered a narcotic
and is not illegal (Korner 1994, 1572*).
See also the entries for Anandenanthera colubrina
Allen, E. R., and W. T. Neill. 1956. Effects of marine
toad toxins on man. Herpetologica 12:150-5l.
Alvarez, Ticul, and Aurelio Ocana. 1991. Restos oseos
de vertebrados terrestres de las ofrendas del
Templo Mayor, ciudad de Mexico. In La fauna en
el Templo Mayor, ed. B. Quintanar, 105-46.
Mexico City: INAH.
Chen, K. K., and H. Jensen. 1929. A pharmacognostic
study of ch'an su, the dried venom of the Chinese
toad. Journal ofthe American Pharmaceutical
Davis, Wade. 1988. Bufo marinus: New perspectives
on an old enigma. Revista de la Academia
Columbiana de las Ciencies Exactas, Fisicas y
Naturales 14 (63): 151-56.
Degraaff, Robert M. 1991. The book ofthe toad.
Rochester, Vt.: Park Street Press.
Deulofeu, Venancio, and Edmundo A. Ruveda. 1971.
The basic constituents of toad venoms. In
Venomous animals and their venoms, ed.
Wolfgang Bucherl and Eleanor E. Buckley,
475-556. New York and London: Academic Press.
Fabing, Howard D., and J. Robert Hawkins. 1956.
Intravenous bufotenine injection in the human
being. Science 123:886-87.
Furst, Peter T. 1972. Symbolism and
psychopharmacology: The toad as earth mother
in Indian America. In Religion en Mesoamerica,
XII Mesa Redondo, 37-46. Mexico City: S.M.A.
---. 1981. Jaguar baby or toad mother: A new
look at an old problem in Olmec iconography. In
The Olmec and their neighbors, ed. E. Benson,
149-62. Washington, D.C.: Dumbarton Oaks.
Hamblin, Nancy 1. 1981. The magic toads of
Cozumel. Mexicon 3 (I): 10-13.
---. 1984. Animal use by the Cozumel Maya.
Tucson: The University of Arizona Press.
Hirschberg, Walter. 1988. Frosch und KrOte in Mythos
und Brauch. Vienna: Bohlau.
Hunn, Eugene S. 1977. Tzeltal folk zoology. New York:
Ingram, Glen. 1988. The Australian cane toad. In
Venoms and victims, ed. John Pearn and Jeanette
Covacevich, 59-66. Brisbane: The Queensland
Museum and Amphion Press.
Kennedy, Alison B. 1982. Ecce Bufo: The toad in
nature and Olmec iconography. Current
Anthropology 23 (2): 273-90.
Keup, Wolfram 1995. Die Aga-Krote und ihr Sekret:
Inhaltsstoffe und MiBbrauch. Pharmazeutische
Zeitung 140 (42): 9-14.
Knab, Tim. n.d. Narcotic use of toad toxins in
southern Veracruz. Unpublished manuscript.
(Ten typewritten pages.)
Lewis, Stephanie. 1989. Cane toads: An unnatural
history. New York: Dolphin/Doubleday.
Lyttle, Thomas. 1993. Misuse and legend in the "toad
licking" phenomenon. The International Journal
ofthe Addictions 28 (6): 521-38.
Lyttle, Thomas, David Goldstein, and Jochen Gartz.
1996. Bufo toads and bufotenine: Fact and fiction
surrounding an alleged psychedelic. Journal of
Psychoactive Drugs 28 (3): 267-90. (Contains an
Mandell, A. J., and M. Morgan. 1971.
Indole(ethyl)amine N-methyltransferase in
human brain. Nature 230:85-87.
McLeod, W. R, and B. R Sitram. 1985. Bufotenine
reconsidered. Psychiatria Scandinavia 72:447-50.
Raisanen, Martti. 1985. Studies on the synthesis and
excretion of bufotenine and N,Ndimethyltryptamine
in man. Academic
dissertation, Helsinki, University of Helsinki.
Reiter, Russel J., and Jo Robinson. 1996. Melatonin.
Munich: Droemer Knaur.
Rosenberg, Tobias. 1951. El sapo en el folklore y en la
medicina. Buenos Aires: Editorial Periplo.
Shulgin, Alexander T. 1981. Bufotenine. Journal of
Psychoactive Drugs 13 (4): 389.
Taylor, Michael. 1993. The use of the Bufo marinus
toad in ancient Mesoamerica. Crash Collusion 4:
Turner, W. J., and S. Merlis. 1959. Effects of some
indolalkylamines on man. Archives ofNeurology
and Psychiatry 81:121-29.
Verpoorte, R., Phan-Quoc-Kinh, and A. Baerheim
Svendsen. 1979. Chemical constituents of
Vietnamese toad venom collected from Bufo
melanostictus Schneider. Journal of
Wieland, Theodor, and Werner Motzel. 1953. Dber
das Vorkommen von Bufotenin im gelben
Knollenblatterpilz. Justus Liebigs Annalen derChemie 581:10-16.