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 exhibits

some 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.

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