Monday, September 8, 2008

Double Purple Frill!!! Ohhh-la-la

Mon dieu, what a beautiful flower this morning! Datura, of the Nightshade family, was given to me by my Master Gardener friend Randy Case. Ohhh, she's happy here. For years I've heard stories about Datura, that it's poisonous, hallucinogenic, medicinal etc. so I went on line to see what I could find. BADS the Brugmansia and Datura Society has a huge site with photos of every stage of development and I was able to ascertain that I have a Datura Metel, which I later found out is used by the Chumash Indians of southern California as an anesthesia and is given to teenagers to help them find their animal totem . The site is strictly for collectors and research but didn't contain the juicy information I was after. I did learn some useful and interesting stuff like that botanists believe that the plant originated in the Caspian Sea and was spread by gypsies to Africa, Asia and the New World. It's believed that explorers brought it back to Europe.

Datura is actually a Sanskrit word, according to the vamana purana it grew out of Shiva's chest and is supposed to be presented as a ritual to Shiva on the 13th day of the waxing moon in January...sorry yogi's, it's not blooming in Austin then... and it's been used in other religious ceremonies world wide to induce sleep and guiding dreams, it's in the Belladonna Alkaloids that you find the tropane that cause this state.

According to Zuni legend, a brother and sister who lived deep in the earth would come to the surface to explore and marvel at the beauty of the earth. Twin boys who were the children of the sun asked them one day what they were doing? The two explained and upon further questioning shared that they loved to help the people who lived there find lost objects and discover the deeper meaning of life, so when the people were sleeping they would lay a flower on their head. The twins decided that the two knew to much and "made them disappear" back into the earth...the story goes that the Datura and Brugmansia flowers grew in their place. There are stories like this from all over the world...literally, I liked this one because it was closes to home...Mexico. I also found stories about similar experiences of thinking you had something in your hand, looking for it only to realize that you never had it to begin with. Zuni priests today still use the root to communicate with the rain Gods and locate lost objects.

I decided to call my friend Eugene, a native Moldovan who happens to be a local shaman and healer. I explained what I had found along with lots of warnings and after watching a few you tube videos of youth "tripping," which as I told him...couldn't be more boring, asked what he knew. He referred me to a website called and the research opened up. According to him (and the site) it's the scopolamine and DMT which is located in all parts of the plant that induce the "dark visions." The youth that die yearly from ingesting the seeds do so because they take a long time to take effect and the kids think that it's not working so they take more and more, never waking to know that it worked. According to his tradition, shaman collect leaves and flowers from a small Tree Datura that is grown in Peru and it's those parts that are boiled into a concoction that is given to help the lost. (Casteneda fans may remember this from his divination ventures along with the warning from Don Juan not to mess with the "devils weed" as she will dement men.) The tree has white flowers 3x's larger than our local "ditch" variety and a mysterious intoxicatingly beautiful smell. You know you've got the right tree after you've watched it for a year and it doesn't produce a seed-pod or fruit. This tree is sometimes called Toe, pronounced toe-ay.

One of the Datura's, which may be the Toe, is called the Toloache and is probably related to one of our local D.innoxia was used by the Aztec as a pain killer and was believed to be given to the recipient of the sacrificial ritual prior as a narcotic. The approach was to wrap a leaf around your finger and use it as a suppository. Other varieties were also used by the Aztec for divination of future events by the shamanic class only and for various ailments from cracked soles, ulcers, pain, pustules and was made into a poultice for arthritis.

In Europe and China seeds were pounded and added to beer as is still done in South America today, corn beer referred to as Zea mays. In the Andes it's brewed into a tea for visions and in Peru is mixed with Ayahuasca, a local vine administered by Shamans to lead the seeker to meet the "Angry Mother." In Chili it's the leaves of the D. ferox that are brewed into a tea to treat "unruly children" believing that the powerful plant-spirit will teach them respect. The most interesting thing I found though was that in the Sibundoy regions of South America some tribes add it to dog food before a hunt believing that the canine will share in the vision and lead them to prey. Just yesterday my daughter was marveling at the cats frolicking on cat-nip and wondered aloud "what makes dog's happy Mom?" Hmmm.

The black magic practitioners of the Caribbean were said to induce in criminals a zombie-state which has lead to one of it's familiar names "Zombie-cucumber." Apparently criminals who were unable to be reformed were given a strong concoction for several days then buried alive. After 3 days they were dug up and given the serum daily to control their behavior. They were said to live in a stupor, void of emotion...sounds like a frontal lobotomy to me which, is one of the ancestral uses of Datura...trepanation, probably used for migraines.

Sadhus and Yogi's smoked the leaves mixed with ganga, also sacred to Shiva which is supposed to lead you to understand the duality of God. Datura representing the male polarity while Ganga the female. According to ritual, you light the "chilum" with two sticks and this is supposed to awaken the Kundalini asleep deep in your spine's an aphrodisiac. The Chinese also used it with Ganga as an aphrodisiac and believed that the person hunting the flower would pass on their mood to it's users, if you smiled the happiness would become infectious...etc.

In pagan religion it is believed to be the drug that enabled witches to fly...or believe they were flying and dancing with the devil. In Europe, until recently Datura cigarettes were prescribed to Asthma sufferer's for their calming effect on the lungs as an anti-spasmodic which helps reduce the amount of mucus created, some believe this is the best treatment for asthma. It's the Catholic Church of Europe that eventually turned the name on Datura forcing Mexico to renounce it's patron saint of Datura, Santo Toloache who one would pray to induce unrequited love, the seeker would drink a tea of Datura as a sacrament and present the trumpet shaped flower for the alter.

Twice in my studies I came across the "Jamestown Weed" story of 1676 about a group of officers who ate the seeds and tripped for 11 days. Accounts of their doings were documented
by locals and apparently when they "woke up" they didn't remember a thing.

So, what exactly happens to your body? Well, the main ingredients are scopolamine, hyoscyamine and atropine and they all stimulate the nervous system temporarily shutting down your urinary tract and depressing the peripheral nerves. The onset is said to be pleasant followed by nervous or even violent outbreaks, hallucination and delirious illusions followed by deep sleep filled with vivid, often sexual dreams. Upon waking, often your are still amid the trip and most likely won't remember huge portions of what went on. It's particularly dangerous for people with weak hearts.

If you suspect someone is suffering an overdose the person should induce vomiting and bowl evacuation, Willow charcoal powder can be used as a detoxicant.

To enthusiastic youth...sacred plants are to be used with a Shaman, not for entertainment. Most
of the rituals I read about involve a journey to someplace natural, a period of cleansing and then the presence of several Shaman with fresh flower parts.

Be careful...let's just enjoy the bloom:) Today is time to garden and the flower has laid down to rest.

Happy Gardening!

For more Information:

American Botanical Society


Anonymous said...

what an amazing and informative post! I really enjoyed the depth of knowledge and history you went into to formulate this study, it must have taken you quite some time!
I recently scratched the "trippy" surface of this plant in a post and found your more detailed study facinating.
Fantastic work.

Wicked Gardener said...

One of the most informative gardening posts I've read! I've been interested in these because they were pretty. Who knew they had such history? Treatment of unruly children? That some serious parenting . . .

garden girl said...

Wonderful, informative post! I have datura metal as well, overwintered from last year, although I understand it's a true annual. Mine languished all season until just a few weeks ago when it started growing like crazy. Now it's budding, and I can hardly wait to see those gorgeous blooms once again and sniff their lovely, albeit fleetingly sweet scent.

This year I'll try to harvest the seeds in case it decides to give up the ghost over the winter. I did start one from a cutting last year, but gave it away. Maybe I'll try that again this winter.

Lancashire rose said...

I took that very same ohoto this morning. I'm wondering if my plant is a sister or brother to yours. At the Master Gardener tour at our garden this year I had a number of these on sale. Maybe your master gardener friend bought it here! Or on the other hand maybe they are growing all over Austin. As you say here today--- I have a feeling they are going to come into greater glory in a few weeks.

ConsciousGardener said...

I think they are just so beautiful! I went to Zilker on Tuesday and took photos of all the ones blooming there...Randy says that they just showed up at his house, two years later they are everywhere! He lives on the East-side of Austin. I probably wouldn't have kept on doing research except it's been the most interesting flower that I've taken that kind of time to know:)

Mother Nature said...

Thanks for your visit and adding me to your sidebar.:)

I am fascinated with the beauty of Brugs. I have a couple of pink ones that survive in Zone 6. They had a particularly hard year with and late killing frost followed by drought last year, but they made it.

Your post is very informative.

ConsciousGardener said...

That's nice to know they can make it through the you're blog! Thanks for dropping by...

Pomona Belvedere said...

Thanks for this post on daturas and brugmansias. I've been studying them for years, but this has some info I haven't seen. The botany of datura/brugmansia seems to be in constant negotiation. And the flowers look sooo gorgeous in your photos.

Also nice to hear there are some brugmansias that go to zone 6. I garden in zone 8 and haven't been able to keep one (I don't have a big enough place to take it indoors for the winter.)