It’s a funny old world as the saying goes, and nowhere is that saying more true than in the world of hallucinogenic substances. You’ve got a wide range of plants that produce hallucinogens, including fungi, cactuses, and weeds, but you’ve also got various animals that excrete a wide range of poisons that can be used for shamanistic effects. There are three main classes of hallucinogen: psychedelics, dissociatives, and deliriants and they appear in a wide range of forms. Let’s take a look at some of the oddest ones.
Some plants produce these chemicals to ward off pests and larger animals. After all, a tripping cow is unlikely to want to eat the leaves of a plant again. In addition, these chemicals can act as insecticides, killing off bugs that eat the leaves or fruit.
Nutmeg is perhaps one of the stranger ones that we don’t think of being hallucinogenic. This common spice is roasted before it is sold, which gets rid of most of the active ingredient inside it: myristicin. Oddly enough, this chemical is also present in dill and parsley, although you can forget about getting high off them; you’d need to eat half your bodyweight in parsley to feel an effect.
Tobacco is cured before it is delivered-and for good reason. While the nicotine concentration in some raw tobacco is fairly high, it’s certainly not enough to induce hallucinations. However, like many plants of the nightshade family, it contains harmala alkaloids, which can cause hallucinations. Raw tobacco still has these alkaloids, and Native Americans and South American tribes still put these to use in shamanistic rituals.
Tabernanthe iboga is a pretty plant that grows in parts of Africa. It is often harvested for the root, which contains a psychedelic. It’s often used in initiation rituals and is common in the Bwiti religion, and it’s also used as a stimulant in lower doses. The active ingredient, ibogaine, has been used in the treatment of opiate addiction, although clinical trials are still pending.
Animals might produce toxins to defend themselves or to paralyze prey. Either way, it’s not always good news for the recipient of such toxins. Carefully dosed, some do have hallucinogenic properties.
Sarpa salpa is a fish that was well known for its psychoactive effects by the Roman Empire. People would consume small amounts of this costal bream and spend a day enjoying the effects. This had been largely forgotten until two men consumed the fish at a restaurant in the South of France. It’s only certain parts of the fish that are hallucinogenic, though, such as the head and liver.
Toads have long been associated with witchcraft and hallucinations since the first millennia AD, so it’s odd to think that the first actual psychoactive toads are found on the American continent. The Colorado River toad contains venom that can kill a dog or raccoon but when smoked produce a hallucinogenic effect. In some states, it’s legal to catch these creatures as long as there is no intent to milk them for their venom. Of course, they taste foul, so why else would you catch them?
Bread has been linked to outbreaks of delirium and hallucinations, and the common explanation is that it’s linked to ergots in the grain. Ergots are natural (and more unpleasant) versions of LSD, and they cause severe hallucinations. They grow in place of the grain and are blackish-brown. Fortunately, they float, unlike grain, and they have been largely eliminated from the food supply. However one outbreak in France in 1951 has been linked to Aspergillus fumigatus, a nasty bacteria that also produces gangrene as well as psychotic and delirious episodes.
Other substances include gases and raw chemicals. While some are fairly obvious, like LSD, others are less so.
Whipped cream aerosols contain nitrous oxide, and this is classed as a dissociative hallucinogenic. Its effects are pretty short lasting, and the amounts in the whipped cream are not high enough to cause problems. Get 50 cans together, however, and it might be possible to get high, albeit somewhat hard to explain if you are caught.
While there are a number of things that make you hallucinate, there are also many things that are supposed to that don’t. Absinthe was the victim of a smear campaign-you’ll only see the green fairy if you drink it while watching Disney’s Tinkerbell. The vast majority of toads will merely croak at you, not make you see pink elephants. And most mushrooms will make you feel like arse, not make you hallucinate.