Solanaceae (Nightshade Family); Subfamily Solanoideae,

Solandreae Tribe (formerly Datureae


Forms and Subspecies

Ten to twelve species are currently botanically

recognized as belonging to the genus Solandra

(D'Arcy 1991, 79*; Bartels 1993, 207*; Schultes

and Farnsworth 1982, 166*). However, the taxonomy

of the genus is rather confusing or, as

Schultes (1979b, 150*) expressed it, "very poorly


The species of ethnopharmacological significance


Solandra brevicalyx Standl.-kieli, kieri, kieri

Solandra guerrerensis Martinez-huipatli,

hueypahtli, tecomaxochitl291

Solandra guttata D. Don ex Lindley (possibly

identical to Solandra brevicalyx; Furst 1995,


Solandra nitida Zucco [syn. Solandra maxima P.S.

Green, Solandra hartwegii N.B. Brown,

Swartzia nitida Zucc.]-cutaquatzitziqui, copa

de oro

To nonbotanists, these four species are difficult

if not impossible to distinguish (Morton 1995,

20*). The Indians regard them as equivalent.

The following species, which occur in Mexico

and are rich in alkaloids (Evans et al. 1972), have

not been ethnobotanically described or investigated

to date:

Solandra grandiflora Sw.

Solandra hirsuta Dun.

Solandra macrantha Dun.


Datura maxima Sesse et Mocifia (= Solandra sp.)

Datura sarmentosa Lam. (= Solandra grandiflora


Datura scandens Velloso (= Solandra sp.)

Solandra herbacea Mordant de Launay is a

synonym for Datura ceratocaula (see Datura


Folk Names

In Mexico, these folk names are used for all of the

species in the genus (cf. Martinez 1966): arbol del

viento, bolsa de Judas (Spanish, "bag of Judas"),

bolute, chalice vine, copa de oro (Spanish, "cup of

gold"), cup of gold, cutacua (Tarascan), cutaquatzitziqui,

floripondio del monte (Spanish,

"angel's trumpet of the forest"), goldkelch,

hueipatl, hueypatli, hueytlaca, itzucuatziqui, k'ani

bak'el (Lacandon, "yellow bone/scent"), kieli, kieli,

kieri, kieri (Huichol, "tree of the wind"), lipa-catu-

hue (Chontal), ndari (Zapotec), perilla,

tecomaxochitl (Aztec, "offering drink plant"),

tetona, tima' wits (Huastec, "jicara decorated

gourd flower"), tree of the wind, windbaum, wind

tree, xochitec6matl (Nahuatl).


It is not known how ancient the ritual use of the

potently hallucinogenic cup of gold in Mexico is,

but it may have originated in prehistoric times.

The Aztec plant tecomaxochitl, which is very likely

to be interpreted as a Solandra species, was first

described by Hernandez in the early colonial

period. Maximino Martinez was the first to

discuss the psychoactive use of Solandra species

(1966). It is possible that the Solandra shamanism

(also known as kieli shamanism) of central Mexico

may be older than the peyote cult, which arose in

northern Mexico (cf. Lophophora williamsii)

(Furst 1995).

The genus was named for the Swede D. C.

Solander (1736-1786), a student of Linnaeus and

a companion on the journeys of Captain Cook. To

date, the ethnobotany of the genus has been only

poorly studied, as the plants are often associated

with witchcraft and harmful magic and their uses

are consequently kept secret and suppressed. The

plant (and its associated uses) was earlier often confused with Datura innoxia. The Huichol refer

to Solandra brevicalyx as the "true" kieli, and to

Datura innoxia as kielitsha, "bad kielt (Knab



The genus Solandra is indigenous to Mexico

(Schultes and Farnsworth 1982, 166*). Most of the

species occur in central Mexico. The genus is

represented to the south as far as the rain forests of

Chiapas (Martinez 1966). Several species have

spread into the Caribbean and to South America

(Peru) (Furst 1995,51).


Propagation is easily performed with cuttings. A

piece of the stem (if possible from the end of the

branch) approximately 20 cm long is placed in

water. The plant can be placed in the ground as

soon as its roots have started to develop. Solandra

must be well watered and does not tolerate frost.

In the rain forest, often all that is needed is to place

a piece of the stem in the ground. Shoots will then

quickly appear.

Solanda grandiflora and Solandra nitida are the

most commonly cultivated species for garden and

ornamental use (Bartels 1993,207*).


The perennial, heavily branching, fast-growing

climber develops oblong-elliptic leaves that are up

to 15 cm in length and tapered at the end. The

solitary, terminal, chalice-shaped yellow flowers

exude a sweet scent, usually in the evening, that is

intoxicating, delicious, and very fine. This scent is

comparable to the perfume of Brugmansia suaveolens

or Brugmansia x insignis. Because almost

all of the plants are the product of cultivation, they

only very rarely form fruits (spherical berries

enclosed by the calyx). The flower of Solandra

nitida can attain a length of 20 cm. Its fruits,

known as papaturra, can weigh as much as 1 kg

(Bartels 1993,207*).

Solandra species can be confused with the

tropical dogbane Allamandra cathartica 1., a

potent laxative (Blohm 1962, 79 f.*).

Psychoactive Material

- Flowers

- Stalks

- Leaves

Preparation and Dosage

A tea can be made from the stalks (Schultes and

Farnsworth 1982, 166*). The fresh stalks can be

pressed to obtain a juice; "the shoot juice of

Solandra maxima [= S. nitida] is an inebriant of

the Mexican Indians" (Bremness 1995, 29*).

Unfortunately, no information is available concerning


The fresh leaves (of Solandra brevicalyx) can be

crushed and administered as an anal suppository

or given as a decoction in the form of an enema

(Knab 1977, 85). The dried flowers and leaves can

be smoked alone or as a part of smoking blends.

A medicinal dosage is regarded as the tea

prepared from one fresh flower (Yasumoto 1996,


In colonial Mexico, Indians used the cup of

gold to add zest to their cacao drinks (cf. Theobroma

cacao) (Heffern 1974, 101*).
Ritual Use

The cup of gold is only rarely used as a shamanic

trance drug, and the ethnographic reports are

correspondingly few. The Huastec are said to still

ingest the flowers of Solandra nitida ritually and to

place the scented flowers on altars as an offering

(Alcorn 1984, 320, 793*). The Mixtec also are

reported to traditionally ingest Solandra as a

hallucinogen for divination (Avila B. 1992*).

The most well-known use of the "plant of the

gods" known as kiili or kiiri occurs among the

Huichol Indians who now live in the Mexican

state of Jalisco. One of the plants they use has

been botanically identified as Solandra brevicalyx

(Knab 1977, 86). In the mythology of the

Huichol, the plant was originally a god: Kieli

Tewiali, the god of wind and of magic. At the

beginning of the world, he was born of the union

of the cosmic serpent and the rain. Later, for the

use and the blessing of humankind, he transformed

himself into the enchantingly scented

plant the "tree of the wind." An entire cycle of

myths relates to this theme (Furst and Myerhoff

1966).292 The Solandra is often identified with

Kieritawe, the "drunken Kieri" (Furst 1989;

Yasumoto 1996).

This divine plant is regarded as very powerful

and mighty and thus can be used for all types of

magic Ckieli shamanism"), including for dark

purposes (harmful magic, death magic).

Shamans-to-be must complete a five-year training

period before they are allowed to use this potent

magical plant. The leaves, which only experienced

shamans (mara'akame) may remove from the tree,

are later used as magical weapons for healing

illnesses caused by magic or foreign, perfidious

shamans (Knab 1977).

The divine plant must not be disturbed or

offended lest one be punished with madness or

death. The gifts offered to the plant are similar to

those offered to the peyote (Lophophora williamsii):

ceremonial pipes, tortillas, a homemade tequila

known as tuche (cf. Agave spp.), tobacco gourds

(cf. Nicotiana rustica) , coins, yarn paintings,

jewelry, bead necklaces, et cetera. The Huichol

sometimes approach the plant and offer it prayers,

e.g., before they undertake a journey or make a

pilgrimage to Wirikuta, the land of the peyote. They also ask it for fertility, improvements in

singing ability, and artistic creativity (Knab 1977,


Shamans are able to receive sacred knowledge

from the "tree of the wind." The Huichol artist Jose

Bautista Corrillo provided the following

explanation of such a ritual of knowledge

portrayed in one of his yarn paintings:

Kauyumari, the leader of the shamans in the

shape of a deer, eats Kieri, the tree of the wind,

to learn about the legends of the past and the

art of healing. He passes this knowledge on to

the shaman who asks Kieri to teach him

everything while he sings throughout the

entire night. The puma, who was once the fire,

and the wolf, who was once a shaman, help the

shaman to understand the teachings. (1996)

The plant is apparently used only extremely

rarely as a hallucinogen. The leaves seem to be

preferred for this purpose, although the fruits

(which develop only infrequently) and the roots

are thought to be more potent (Knab 1977,85). It

is said that the plant is able to help a person fly

(Furst 1995, 53). Sometimes the hallucinogenic

use of Solandra is regarded as a sure sign of

sorcery, witchcraft, and black magic (Knab 1977,

85; Furst 1995). On the other hand, some Huichol

say that this plant opens their mind for the

"highest levels of enlightenment."

Some Huichol say that people are not allowed

to ingest the plant but may only be exposed to its

scent. Even the scent is capable of inducing trance,

and the Huichol use it as a spiritual guide into

mystical domains (Valadez 1992, 103 f.). They

climb a steep mountain, upon which a kieli plant is

growing, for this purpose. They must fast (no food

or beverages, including water) both before and

while they are climbing, and they spend the night

near the scented plant, inhaling its perfume and

showing the bush their respect and attention

(Meier 1996). While they sleep, they hope to

receive meaningful visionary dreams in which

they will be able to find messages.Artifacts

Kieri is sometimes depicted in the visionary yarn

paintings of many Huichol artists (Valadez 1992).

Although the plant can appear in varying degrees

of abstraction, it usually is shown in a quite

realistic and botanically correct manner (yellow

flowers, leaf arrangement).

Many floral elements in the pre-Columbian

wall paintings at Teotihuacan may symbolize

Solandra vines (cf. Turbina corymbosa). Some of

the illustrations resemble the typical iconography

of the plant in modern Huichol yarn paintings (cf.

Lophophora williamsii).

Medicinal Use

In Mexico, the cup of gold is used in folk medicine

primarily as a love drink and aphrodisiac.

Warnings against overdoses are common: one can

dry out and die from an excessive sex drive. The

Huastec use the rainwater or dew that has

collected in the buds of Solandra nitida as eyedrops

to improve sight (Alcorn 1984, 793*). A tea

made from the flowers is drunk to treat coughing

(Yasumoto 1996, 247).


All of the Mexican species of Solandra contain

potently hallucinogenic tropane alkaloids. The

primary alkaloids are atropine, noratropine, and

(-)-hyoscyamine (originally described as "solandrine");

the secondary alkaloids are littorine,

hyoscine, norhyoscine, tigloidine, 3a-tigloyloxytropane,

3a-acetoxytropane, valtropine, norhyoscyamine,

tropine, nortropine, x-tropine, and

cuscohygrine (Evans et al. 1972; Schultes and

Farnsworth 1982, 166*). According to another

source, scopolamine is the primary alkaloid,

present at a concentration of 0.1 to 0.2% (Diaz

1979, 84*). The stalks of Solandra guttata have

been found to contain norhyoscine. Solandra is

chemotaxonomically closely related to the genera

Datura and Duboisia (Evans 1979,245*).

Most Solandra species contain approximately

0.15% alkaloids (Schultes 1979b, 150*). The

highest concentration of alkaloids (calculated as

atropine) was found in the roots of Solandra

grandiflora (0.64% ). The roots generally exhibit

the highest alkaloid concentrations (Evans et al.

1972). However, in Solandra nitida, the alkaloid

concentration is clearly highest in the fruits

(Morton 1995,20*).


The Huichol compare the visions produced by

Solandra brevicalyx with the effects of Lophophora

williamsii but warn against the former because

they may frighten a person "to death" (Knab


In Mexico, Solandra nitida Zucco (Perilla) is

regarded as poisonous (Jiu 1966, 256*). A tea

made from one flower induced a "toxic psychosis"

in an adult, who required thirty-six hours to make a complete recovery (Morton 1995,20*). Internal

administration of Solandra preparations can lead

to severe hallucinations, delirium, delusions, et

cetera. The spectrum of effects is very similar to

that of Brugmansia sanguinea.

Smoking the flowers and/or leaves produces

effects that are more subtle but still clearly psychoactive

and aphrodisiac and generally very similar

to the effects produced by smoking other nightshades

(Brugmansia, Datura, Latua pubiflora).

It has been said that merely inhaling the scent

can produce entheogenic states (Meier 1996). The

Lacandon say that the scent has erotic effects and

awakens sexual desire.

Commercial Forms and Regulations

Solandra species are not subject to any legal

restrictions. In North America, young plants are

occasionally available in nurseries.


See also the entries for scopolamine and tropane


Evans, W. C., A. Ghani, and Valerie A. Woolley. 1972.

Alkaloids of Solandra species. Phytochemistry


Furst, Peter T. 1989. The life and death of the crazy

kieri: Natural and cultural history of a Huichol myth. Journal ofLatin American Lore 15 (2):


---.1995. The drunkard kieri: New observations

of an old problem in Huichol psychotropic

ethnobotany. Integration 5:51-62.

---.1996. Introduction to chapter 8. In People of

the peyote, ed. Stacy Schaefer and Peter T. Furst,

232-34. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico


Furst, Peter T., and Barbara G. Myerhoff. 1966. Myth

as history: The jimson weed cycle of the Huichols

of Mexico. Antropol6gia 17:3-39.

Huysmans, Joris-Karl. 1994. Tief unten. Stuttgart:

Reclam. (Orig. pub. 1972.)

Knab, Tim. 1977. Notes concerning use of Solandra

among the Huichol. Economic Botany 31 :80-86.

Martinez, Maximino. 1966. Las solandras de Mexico

con una specie nueva. Anales del Instituto de

Biologia 37 (1/2): 97-106. Mexico City: UNAM.

Valadez, Mariano, and Susana Valadez. 1992. Huichol

Indian sacred rituals. Oakland, Calif.: Dharma


Yasumoto, Masaya. 1996. The psychotropic kieri in

Huichol culture. In People ofthe peyote, ed. Stacy

Schaefer and Peter T. Furst, 235-63. Albuquerque:

University of New Mexico Press.

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