|Several species of this South American member of
the Heath Family are reputed to be psychoactive.
The fruits of macha-macha (see macha), an
Andean species (Pernettya prostrata [Cav.] Sleumer
var. pentlandii [DC.] Sleumer) from Cochabamba
(Bolivia), are said to cause dizziness when eaten in
excess: "The fruit has a soporific property. A tame
monkey who ate the berries of plants I had set
aside to preserve became totally drunken"
(Steinbach in Schultes 1967,279; von Reis Altschul
1975, 215*) Some species and varieties are
considered toxic (Pernettya prostrata var. purpurea
[D. Don] Sleumer, Pernettya mucronata [1. f.]
Gaudich. ex Spreng.). Pernettya prostrata (Cav.)
DC. may be known as macha or macha-macha, "drunk;' in Quechua. This information, however,
is questionable (Franquemont et al. 1990,66*).
In Chile, Pernettya furens (Hook. ex DC.)
Klotzch is known as huedhued or hierba loca,
"crazy herb;' and is said to cause mental confusion
and possession (Schultes and Hofmann 1992,
53*). The fruits of Pernettya parvifolia Benth.,
known as taglli, are reputed to have toxic and
hallucinogenic properties (Alvear 1971, 23*;
Schultes and Farnsworth 1982, 179*). Andromedotoxins
(= grayanotoxins) have been detected
(Ott 1993,417*). Pernettya mucronata, which is
sometimes grown in Europe as an ornamental,
also contains acetylandromedole (= andromedotoxin)
(Roth et al. 1994, 549*). Sesquiterpenes
have been demonstrated in Pernettya furens
(Hosozawa et al. 1985).
Whether the fruits have psychoactive effects
and were or are used culturally for psychoactive
purposes is questionable. It is likely that the ripe
fruits were used solely as a material for brewing
chicha. Other species are used in Chile to prepare
chicha (Mosbach 1992, 100*). In northern Peru,
folk healers (curanderos) use a Pernettya species
known as toro-maique as an inebriating additive to
the San Pedro drink (cf. Trichocereus pachanoi).
The addition of this plant is said to give the drink
"more power"; the spirit of the plant appears to
the healer in the form of a bull (Giese 1989,228*).
In Venezuela, various species of the genus (perhaps
including P. prostrata) are called borracherita,
borrachero, borrachera, borracherito, or chivacu
(Blohm 1962, 74*; von Reis and Lipp 1982,228*).
In South America, all plants with psychoactive or
inebriating effects are typically subsumed under
the name borrachero. For this reason, it is entirely
possible that the Venezuelan peat myrtle exhibitssome type of psychoactivity.
Hosozawa, S., I. Miura, M. Kido, O. Munoz, and M.
Castillo. 1985. Sesquiterpenes from Pernettya
furens. Phytochemistry 24 (10): 2317-23.
Schultes, Richard Evans. 1967. De Plantis Toxicariis e
Mundo Novo Tropicale Commentationes I.Botanical Museum Leaflets 21 (9): 265-84.