The Encyclopedia of Psychoactive Plants: Ethnopharmacology and Its Applications

Anadenanthera colubrina (Vellozo) Brennan


Cebíl, Villca




Leguminosae (Legume Family); Mimosoideae Section: Eumimoseae

Forms and Subspecies


There are two geographically isolated varieties or subspecies (von Reis Altschul 1964):

Anadenanthera colubrina var. colubrina Altschul: only in eastern Brazil28

Anadenanthera colubrina var. cebil (Grisebach) Altschul: in the southern Andes region and neighboring areas (Argentina, Bolivia, Paraguay, Peru, southeastern Brazil)



Acacia cebil Grisebach

Anadenanthera excelsa Grisebach29

Anadenanthera macrocarpa (Benth.) Spegazzini

Piptadenia cebil Grisebach

Piptadenia colubrina Benth.

Piptadenia grata (Willd.) Macbr.

Piptadenia macrocarpa Bentham = A. colubrina var. cébil

Folk Names


Aimpä, aimpä-kid, algarobo, angico, angico do cerrado, cabuim, cebil, cébil, cebíl, cebil blanco, cebil colorado, cebilo, cevil, cevil blanco, cevil colorado, cibil, curubu’y, curupai, curupai-curú, curupaí, curupaù blanca, curupaú barcino, curupay,30 curupáy, curupaytí, guayacán,31 hataj (Wichi name for the snuff), hatax, huilca, huillca, jataj, kurupá, kurupaî, kurupaîraî, kurupayara, quebracho,32 sebil, sébil, sevil, tara huillca, tèék, tek (Wichi), uataj, uillca, uña de gato (Spanish, “cat claw”),33 vilca, vilcas, villca, wilka, wil’ka, willca,34 willka, xatax

The names used for the tree are usually the same as the names given to the snuff that is prepared from it.



The seeds of the variety known as cebíl were being smoked in pipes over 4,500 years ago in the Puna region of northwestern Argentina (Fernández Distel 1980).35 Its use appears to have had a particularly profound effect upon the culture of Tiahuanaco (literally, “dwelling of the god”).

Cebíl’s usage as a snuff in the southern Andes is first mentioned in the Relación of Cristobal de Albornoz. Use as an additive to maize beer (chicha) was first described by Polo de Ondegardo in 1571. The Mataco Indians are said to have brewed a vino de cebil (cebíl wine) even during the twentieth century.

It is uncertain whether the reports about the use of villca seeds that have come to us from the colonial period actually do refer to the seeds of Anadenanthera colubrina. Even today, other trees are also referred to as vilca (Acacia visco Lorentz ex Griseb., Aspidosperma quebracho-blanco).



See “Forms and Subspecies” (above). In the region of Salta (northwestern Argentina), entire forests of cebíl trees stretch across the mountains and slopes.



The dried seeds can be germinated and then planted. The tree is relatively fast growing and can be cultivated in both tropical and subtropical climate zones.



The tree, which grows to a height of only 3 to 18 meters, has a bark that is almost black and often features conical thorns or knotty constrictions. The leaves are finely pinnate and up to 30 cm in length. The whitish yellow flowers are globose. The leathery, dark brown seedpods can grow as long as 35 cm; they contain reddish brown seeds that are 1 to 2 cm wide, very flat, and roundish to rectangular. The tree is very difficult to distinguish from the closely related Anadenanthera peregrina (von Reis Altschul 1964).

In the twilight of evening, the tree “goes to sleep,” i.e., the pinnate leaves fold together, opening again the following morning. The stems of the leaves contain small glands that exude a sweet liquid. Certain types of ants are attracted to this and consume the nectar. At the same time, the ants destroy other pests that might pose a threat to the tree.

The tree is often confused with other species from the same family. For example, according to an oral communication from C. M. Torres, even professional botanists have incorrectly identified one tree found in the San Pedro de Atacama (northern Chile) that is also known as vilcaAcacia visco Lorentz ex Griseb. [syn. Acacia visite Griseb., A. platensis A. Manganaro, Manganaroa platensis (Mang.) Speg.], as A. colubrina.

The botanical identification is not always easy, as the species can exhibit considerable variation. The variety colubrina, for example, can form seedpods that are exactly like those of the genus Prosopis (von Reis Altschul 1964, 11).

Psychoactive Material


—Seeds (semen anadenanthera colubrina)

Preparation and Dosage


The ripe seeds are dried and may be lightly roasted, after which they are ground as fine as possible. As little as 150 mg to 0.5 g of this powder is effective when ingested nasally. One gram (which roughly corresponds to the weight of a large seed) represents a potent visionary dosage.

For smoking, the ripe, dried seeds are lightly roasted and then coarsely crushed. Some five to eight seeds are mixed with cut tobacco (Nicotiana tabacum) and occasionally with the leaves of aromo (Amaranthus spp., Acacia caven(Mol.) Molina, or Acacia farnesiana; cf. Acacia spp.) and rolled into a cigarette. An effective dosage is said to be half a cigarette per person.

When intended for oral ingestion, the seeds or the juice that is pressed from them is mixed with chicha and drunk. Two or three seeds can be boiled in water with the root of Polypodium spp. and drunk. Boiled, the seeds can also be mixed with honey and eaten. Another recipe calls for ingesting six ground seeds with some liquid (von Reis Altschul 1972, 38).

Ritual Use


Before the arrival of the Spanish, villca seeds must have had great ritual and religious importance in Peru, as high-ranking Andean priests and certain soothsayers (umu) were also known as villca or vilca camayo (Cobo 1990, 267*; Salomon and Urioste 1991, 256*; villac [sic] in Arriaga 1992, 31*; von Reis Altschul 1967). One Indian shrine (huaca) was also referred to as villcavilcacona, or vilcabamba, “place of the villca trees” or “villca forest,” and an especially sacred mountain is known as Villca Coto. The primeval survivors of a great flood retreated to the peak of this mountain (Ibid., 51*). There are numerous other examples of this kind (cf. von Reis Altschul 1972). Moreover, villca also appears to have been a name for enemas.

Villca seeds had great ritual significance as a beer additive in chicha intended for ceremonial consumption. Here, the “juice” of villca was trickled into the fermented beverage and consumed by soothsayers (umu) or “magicians” (= shamans) so that they could peer into the future (Cobo 1990*).

The ritual or shamanic use of snuffs made from this species of Anadenanthera has been documented for the following tribes: Quechua, Piro, Chiriguano, Yabuti, Atacama (Kunza), Come-chingón, Diaguita,Allentiac, Millcayac, Humahuaca (Omoguaca), Ocloya, Mataco (Mataguayo, Nocten), Vilela, and Guaraní (von Reis Altschul 1972).

The oldest archaeological evidence for a ritual or shamanic use of cebíl seeds comes from the Puna region of northwestern Argentina (Fernandez Distel 1980).

The shamans of the Wichi (= Mataco), who live in northwestern Argentina, still use a snuff they call hataj (Califano 1975). The Mataco shamans prefer smoking the dried and roasted seeds in pipes or cigarettes over sniffing the powder. They believe that it is only through hataj that they can penetrate into the other reality and have an effect upon it (Arenas 1992; Califano 1975; Domínguez and Pardal 1938). In recent years, some of the Mataco have become converts to Christianity. When this occurred, they immediately equated the biblical tree of knowledge with cebíl (Arenas 1992). The Mataco, however, regard this not as a “forbidden fruit” but as the fruit of a sacred tree that the shamans use to perform healings. The shaman Fortunato Ruíz has described cebíl seeds as a “door into the other world.” He smokes the seeds with tobacco and aromo—just as his ancestors did five thousand years before. Northwestern Argentina is thus the site of the longest uninterrupted tradition of ritual/shamanic use of a psychoactive or psychedelic substance on the planet.


The cebíl tree (Anadenanthera colubrina var. cebil) develops long seedpods that open in August and cover the ground with cebíl seeds. (Photographed in the cebíl forests of Salta, northwestern Argentina)



An opened seedpod of Anadenanthera colubrina var. cebil, showing the bufotenine-rich seeds.



The seeds of the southern Brazilian Anadenanthera colubrina var. colubrina.




Numerous pre-Columbian objects associated with snuff use (snuff trays, snuff tubes) have been found in northwestern Argentina (Puna) and northern Chile (Atacama Desert). The icon-ography of these objects was influenced by the visions produced by the cebíl seeds (see snuffs). A number of pipes made of clay have also been recovered from the region; the heads of some still contained cebíl seeds.

The petroglyphs and geoglyphs in the Atacama Desert as well as the images depicted on the ceramics of the Argentinian Puna region are clearly reminiscent of cebíl visions.

The hallucinations cebíl can induce appear to have exerted a considerable influence upon the iconography of the so-called Tiahuanaco style. The iconography of Chavín de Huantar is interwoven with similar motifs. The intertwined and entangled snakes that come out of the head of the oracle god can, for example, be interpreted as cebíl-induced hallucinations.

A two-thousand-year-old shamanic textile from the Chavín culture features depictions of seedpods that can easily be interpreted as those of Anadenanthera colubrina (Cordy-Collins 1982*).36 In fact, a variety of iconographic elements in the Chavín culture have been interpreted as representations of Anadenanthera spp. (Mulvany de Peñaloza 1984*).

Several paintings on ceramics from the pre-Columbian Moche or Chimu include depictions of trees. The iconographic contexts and the botanical representations of these trees indicate that they may very well be construed as Anadenanthera colubrina (archaeologists typically interpret these as “algarrobo trees”37 [Kutschner 1977, 14*; Lieske 1992, 155]).

In 1996, the German artist Nana Nauwald produced a painting about an experience with cebíl seeds. Entitled Nothing Is Separate from Me, the painting depicts the typical “wormlike” visions.

The novel The Inca includes a number of descriptions of psychoactive villca use (Peters 1991*).

The Mataco make bags, nets, et cetera, from agave fibers, some of which are dyed using extracts of cebíl bark. The seeds were also formerly used to make armbands.

Medicinal Use


A tea made from cebíl seeds and the root of Polypodium spp. is consumed for digestive problems. The seeds are drunk in chicha as a remedy for fever, melancholy, and other mysterious afflictions. In honey,they are used as a diuretic or to promote female fertility (von Reis Altschul 1972, 38). At the same time, cebíl is also regarded as an abortifacient (78). The resin of the variety colubrina is used like gum arabic (see Acacia spp.) and is said to be effective in the treatment of coughs. Sundried seeds of the variety colubrina are ingested in snuff form to treat constipation, chronic influenza, and headaches (78).

The Mataco use a decoction of the fresh (i.e., still green) cebíl pods as a wash for the head to treat headaches.



The seeds contain tryptamines, primarily bufotenine. Some varieties contain only bufotenine (Pachter et al. 1959*). One species described for Argentina, so-called Piptadenia macrocarpa (= cebíl), contains bufotenine (Fish and Horning 1956). Other analyses found that samples of seeds from Piptadenia macrocarpa contained 5-MeOMMT, DMT, DMT-N-oxide, bufotenine, and 5-OH-DMT-N-oxide; seeds from “Piptadenia excelsa” contained DMT, bufotenine, and bufotenine-N-oxide, while seeds from “Piptadenia colubrina” contained only bufotenine (Farnsworth 1968, 1088*). Old samples of seeds were found to contain only 15 mg/g of bufotenine (de Smet and Rivier 1987).

According to an as yet unpublished analysis by Dave Repke, freshly harvested and quickly dried seeds from trees in northeastern Argentina (Salta) contain primarily bufotenine (over 4%) and an additional alkaloid (perhaps serotonin), but no other tryptamines or alkaloids. The same chemist found 12% bufotenine (!) in one of the samples (per oral communication from C. M. Torres).

Whether the seedpods or root cortex contains tryptamines has not yet been investigated. The ripe seedpods do contain some bufotenine.



The effects of cebíl snuff last for some twenty minutes and consist of profound hallucinations that are often in black and white, less frequently in color. These are not, or are only rarely, geometrical but are, rather, very flowing and decentralized. They are clearly reminiscent of the depictions of the Tiahuanaco culture.

When smoked, cebíl seeds also produce hallucinogenic effects that are very pronounced for approximately thirty minutes and that disappear completely within two hours. Because of the short duration of these effects, cebíl is an ideal drug for shamanic diagnoses. The effects begin with a sensation of bodily heaviness. After some five to ten minutes, visual hallucinations begin to appear when the eyes are closed. These either appear as phosphenes (entoptic or endogenous images of light that the “inner eye” sees in the form of characteristic patterns) or flow together in worm- and snakelike manners. Symmetrical and crystallographic hallucinations are less common. In rare cases, there may be strong visions having the character of reality (experiences of flying, journeys into other worlds, transformations into animals).



The false villca tree, often mistaken for Anadenanthera colubrina, is actually an acacia (Acacia visco). (Photographed in San Pedro de Atacama, northern Chile)




Representation of a shamanic or ritual hunt on a Mochican ceramic vessel (ca. 500 C.E.). The stag is “hanging” in a villca tree (Anadenanthera colubrina), which can be clearly recognized by its seedpods and pinnate leaves.





Experience has shown that before smoking or sniffing cebíl, it is useful to chew coca (Erythroxylum coca) (or sniff some cocaine). This helps the visions become clearer and also obviates possible side effects.

Commercial Forms and Regulations





See also the entries for Anadenanthera peregrinabufotenine, and snuff.


Altschul. See von Reis Altschul. Arenas, Pastor. 1992. El ‘cebil’ o el ‘árbol de la ciencia del bien y del mal.’ Parodiana 7 (1–2): 101–14.


Brazier, J. D. 1958. The anatomy of some timbers formerly included in Piptadenia. Tropical Woods 108:46–64.


Califano, Mario. 1975. El chamanismo Mataco. Scripta Ethnologica 3 (2): 7–60.


Dasso, María Cristina. 1985. El shamanismo de los Mataco de la margen derecha del Río Bermejo (Provincia del Chaco, Republica Argentina). Scripta Ethnologica suppl. (5): 9–35.


de Smet, Peter A. G. M., and Laurent Rivier. 1987. Intoxicating paricá seeds of the Brazilian Maué Indians. Economic Botany 41(1): 12–16.


Domínguez, J. A., and R. Pardal. 1938. El hataj, droga ritual de los indios Matako: Historia su empleo en América. Ministerio del Interior, Comisión Honoraria de Reducciones de Indios (Buenos Aires), Publicación no. 6:35–48.


Fernández Distel, Alicia A. 1980. Hallazgo de pipas en complejos precerámicos del borde de la Puna Jujeña (Republica Argentina) y el empleo de alucinógenos por parte de las mismas cultura.Universidad de Chile Estudios Arqueológicos 5:55–79.


Fish, M. S., and E. C. Horning. 1956. Studies on hallucinogenic snuffs. The Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease 124 (1): 33–37.


Flury, Lázaro. 1958. El Caá-pí y el Hataj, dos poderosos ilusiógenos indígenos. América Indígena 18 (4): 293–98.


Giesbrecht, A. M. 1960. Sobre a ocorrência de bufotenina em semente de Piptadenia falcata Benth. Anais da Associação Brasileira de Química 19:117–19.


Granier-Doyeux, Marcel. 1965. Native hallucinogenic drugs Piptadenias. Bulletin on Narcotics 17 (2): 29–38.


Lieske, Bärbel. 1992. Mythische Bilderzählungen in den Gefäßmalereien der altperuanischen Moche-Kultur. Bonn: Holos Verlag.


Rendon, P., and J. Willy. 1985. Isolation of bufotenine from seeds of the Piptadenia macrocarpa Benth. Revista Boliviana de Química 5:39–43.


Torres, Constantino Manuel, and David Repke. Anandenanthera (monograph in preparation).


———. 1998. The use of Anadenanthera colubrina var. cebil by Wichi (Mataco) shamans of the Chaco Central, Argentina. Yearbook for Ethnomedicine and the Study of Consciousness, 1996 (5): 41–58. Berlin: VWB.


von Reis Altschul, Siri. 1964. A taxonomic study of the genus Anadenanthera. Contributions from the Gray Herbarium of Harvard University 193:3–65.


———. 1967. Vilca and its uses. In Ethnopharmacologic search for psychoactive drugs, ed. Daniel H. Efron, 307–14. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Dept. of Health, Education, and Welfare.


———. 1972. The genus Anadenanthera in Amerindian cultures. Cambridge: Botanical Museum, Harvard University.


Wassén, S. Henry, and Bo Holmstedt. 1963. The use of paricá: An ethnological and pharmacological review. Ethnos 28 (1): 5–45.


An experience with cebíl: “We darkened the room of our bungalow in the rainforest. The powder was relatively simple and unproblematic to sniff into the nose. It does not burn like others (e.g., Anadenanthera peregrina). The slight prickling in the nose is tolerable.


“At first I noticed how my body, especially the arms and legs, became heavy like lead; but the body sensation was warm and very pleasant (it was somewhat reminiscent of the initial effects of ketamine). I closed my eyes and waited for the coming effects with anticipation. After about five minutes, dancing phosphenes swirled before my eyes. The hopping and jumping points of light joined together into flowing forms and structures. It was as if the floodgates of the universe had been opened: Flowing patterns crashed into my field of view. From every point flowed streams and rivers of threads of light that quickly intertwined in and throughout one another, always in and throughout one another. And all this with incredible speed.

“Flowing patterns, yes, exactly the patterns that shoot out of the head of the god of Tiahuanaco! I then knew that it must have been this exact same snuff that had provided the inspiration for the artists of Tiahuanaco.

“The quickly changing patterns turned into a chaotic river of spermatozoa. They twisted and darted and shot in every direction, as if they—almost aggressively—wanted to fertilize the entire universe. After this appeared geometric figures that came forth from the depths of space and fell tunnel-like into my field of view.

“Up until now, I had not seen any colors. But now I had visions in pale color. The speed of the visions decreased, and suddenly they were over.

“As I opened my eyes in the darkened room, the brightness around me suddenly changed. For a moment I felt a trace of nausea. I had to burp, and then everything was wonderful. It was a truly new visionary experience. The effects lasted for a total of about 25 minutes.”

Anadenanthera peregrina (Linnaeus) Spegazzini


Cohoba, Yopo




Leguminosae (Legume Family); Mimosoideae Section: Eumimoseae

Forms and Subspecies


There are two geographically isolated varieties: Anadenanthera peregrina var. peregrina Altschul: northern Brazil to the Antilles

Anadenanthera peregrina var. falcata (Benth.) Altschul: South America (in Brazil, only in the east)



Acacia angustiloba DC.

Acacia microphylla Willd.

Acacia niopa (Kunth) Humb.

Acacia niopo Humb. et Bonpl.

Acacia paniculata Willd.

Acacia peregrina Willd.

Inga niopa Willd.

Mimosa (?) acacioides Benth.

Mimosa acacioides Schombrugk

Mimosa niopo Poir.

Mimosa peregrina L.

Piptadenia falcata Spegazzini

Piptadenia niopo Spruce

Piptadenia peregrina (L.) Benth.

Folk Names


Acuja, ai’yuku, akúa, a’ku:duwha, algarroba de yupa, angíco, angico rosa, angico vermelho, anjico, black parica, bois écorce, bois rouge, cahoba, cajoba, candelón, caobo, cehobbâ, cogiba, cogioba, cohaba, cohiba, cohoba, cohobba, cohobbû coiba, cojiba, cojobilla, curuba, curupa, curupá, dópa, ebãnã, ebena, hakúdufha, hisioma, iopo, jop, khoba, kohobba, niopa, niopo, niupo, noopa, nopa, nopo, nupa, ñiopo, ñope, ñopo, ñupa, parica, paricá, paricachí, paricarama, parica rana, paricauva, savanna yoke, tabaco-rapé, tan bark, yacoana, yarupi, yarupio, yoco, yop, yopa, yopo, yópo, yoto, yu’a’, yu’ä, yupa, yuuba, zumaque



Archaeological remains of seeds that were definitely used in ritual contexts have been found in Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Peru, Haiti, the Dominican Republic, and Puerto Rico (Ott 1996).

The snuff known as cohoba, which is made from Anadenanthera peregrina, was mentioned several times in early colonial sources, e.g., by Fra Bartolomé de las Casas (Safford 1916). In the early sixteenth century, Gonzalo Fernández de Oviedo y Valdés was the first to note that the powder was obtained from the seeds of a tree belonging to the legume family (Torres 1988). The island of Cuba was apparently named after cohoba.

The first botanical description of the tree was provided by Linnaeus in 1753.



The tree thrives only in the tropics, where it prefers drier locations such as savanna-like regions (grasslands), open plains, and fallow lands. It grows best in sandy and/or clay soils. In South America, it occurs naturally in Brazil, Guyana, Colombia, and Venezuela. The tree had already been planted on some Caribbean islands prior to the arrival of the Spanish, and it now grows wild in these areas. The relatively rare variety falcata occurs only in southern Brazil and Paraguay.

It is possible that these Anadenanthera grow even in Belize, in Central America (per oral communication from Rob Montgomery).



The ripe, dried seeds are easy to germinate and plant. The tree requires poor and relatively dry soil. It can be started in the moist tropics but quickly dies.



This tree grows only to a height of 3 to 18 meters. It has a gray to black bark that is often covered with conical thorns. The leaves are finely pinnate and up to 30 cm long. The flowers are small and globose. The leathery, dark brown seedpods, which can grow as long as 35 cm, contain very flat and roundish seeds that are reddish brown in color and 1 to 2 cm across.

The tree is easily confused with Anadenanthera colubrina.



A device for sniffing niopo powder from Anadenanthera peregrina, used by the Guajibo Indians of the Upper Orinoco, Venezuela. (From Hartwich, Die menschlichen Genußmittel, 1911)



The bark of Anadenanthera peregrina is often warty in nature. This provides an easy way to distinguish it from the closely related and very similar Anadenanthera colubrina.



The typical finely pinnate leaves of Anadenanthera peregrina.



Pods and seeds of Anadenanthera peregrina, collected in Guyana.


Psychoactive Material



—Seedpods (with seeds)

—Bark (used by the Yecuana; von Reis 1991)

Preparation and Dosage


The ripe, dry seeds are usually lightly roasted and then ground into a fine, grayish green powder that is often mixed with an alkaline plant ash or ground snail shells and other additives (e.g., tobacco). The addition of the alkaline substances liberates the alkaloids (Brenneisen n.d.).

The Otomac collect the seedpods, which they then break, moisten, and allow to ferment. These are then mixed with manioc flour (Manihot esculenta Crantz) and slaked lime from various species of land snails, kneaded to a paste, and heated over a fire. The dried product is ground into a fine powder before being used as a snuff.

The Maué produce their snuff, which they call paricá, from the seeds of the variety peregrina, the ashes of an unidentified vine, and the leaves of an Abuta (Abuta is an ayahuasca additive) or Cocculusspecies.

The dosage is usually determined by the sniffing instrument that is used.


The indigenous peoples of the Amazon region knew of the technique of caoutchouc production [from the latex of Hevea spp.] long before the arrival of the Conquistadors. The Omogua, for example, used vessels of caoutchouc that they would fill with an inebriating agent [Anadenanthera peregrina powder]. A hole was drilled in the bottom, through which they introduced a tube for removing the inebriant and blowing it in one another’s nostrils. (Pavia 1995, 137*)


The minimum dosage is approximately 1 g of seeds (when applied nasally). The snuff can be ingested in a series of dosages. The ground seeds are also administered in the form of an enema.

Ritual Use


Many tribes use the roasted seeds to manufacture snuffs that are used for shamanic purposes and that hunters also ingest to locate their prey. The Taino made great use of this powder during their healing rituals and tribal celebrations (Rouse 1992; Torres 1988). The shamanic use of both varieties of this species has been documented for the following tribes: Arawak, Guajibo, Cuiva-Guajibo, Maipure, Otomaco, Taino, Tukano, Yanomamö/Waika, Yecuana, Ciguayo, Igneri, Chibcha, Muisca, Guane, Lache, Morcote, Tecua, Tunebo (= Tama), Achagua, Caberre (Cabre), Cocaima, Piapoco, Arekana, Avane, Bainwa, Bare, Carutana, Catapolitani, Caua, Huhuteni, Ipeca, Maipure, Siusi, Tariana, Airico, Betoi, Jirara (Girara), Lucalia, Situfa (Citufa), Otomac, Pao, Saruro, Sáliva, Yaruro, Chiricoa, Puinave, Guaipunavo, Macú, Guaharibo, Shirianá, Yecuana, Omagua, Mura, Maué, Mundurucú, and various tribes in Paraguay.

“‘Piptadenia peregrina,’ he said in a monotone voice, ‘that is the key. ’. . .”




(1979, 205)




The Caribbean Taino carved figures of gods from the hard and durable wood of Anadenanthera (von Reis 1991). Numerous objects of snuff paraphernalia have been discovered in the Dominican Republic (Alcina Franch 1982). One of these is a sniffing tube in the form of a naked woman who is spreading her legs and wearing a death’s-head. In order to use this tube, you must place the skull against your nose. The other end, the opening of the vagina, is used to take in the snuff (Rouse 1992).

A recording of a snuff ritual with epená was published under the name Hekura—Yanomamö Shamanism from Southern Venezuela (London: Quartz Publications, !QUARTZ004, 1980).

Donna Torres has produced a painting of Anadenanthera peregrina (published on the book cover of Ott 1995*).

A science-fiction story by Reinmar Cunis (1979) entitled Zeitsturm [Time Storm] involves journeying between realities, made possible by tryptamine derivatives from “Piptadenia peregrina.

Medicinal Use


Both varieties produce a resin that resembles gum arabic (see Acacia spp.) in appearance and is used in the same manner. A decoction of the bark of the variety peregrina is used to treat dysentery and gonorrhea. The variety falcatais used to treat pneumonia.



The seeds of both varieties contain the tryptamines N,N-DMT5-MeO-DMT, and 5-OHDMT (= bufotenine) as well as their N-oxides. Traces of β-carbolines have also been detected (Ott 1996).

The presence of appreciable quantities of bufotenine is characteristic of this species (Stromberg 1954). Only bufotenine could be detected in old seed material (from Spruce’s collection) (Schultes et al. 1977). It is possible that bufotenine may accumulate through the hydrolysis of N,N-DMT and 5-MeO-DMT when the seeds are stored.









The cover of a German science-fiction novel, in which a drug obtained from Anadenanthera peregrina plays a central role.


The bark also contains N-methyltryptamine, 5-methoxy-N-methyltryptamine, and 5-methoxy-N,N-dimethyltryptamine (Legler and Tschesche 1963). Another analysis found that the bark contains MMT, 5-MeO-MMT, DMT, and 5-MeODMT (Farnsworth 1968, 1088*). The seedpods also contain DMT.



When ingested nasally, the snuff induces psychedelic effects and produces multidimensional visions. Experiences of ego dissolution, death and rebirth, transformations into animals, and flying are common. The effects of the snuff last for some ten to fifteen minutes, although aftereffects may be noticeable for up to an hour.

During medicinal and pharmacological experiments, it was difficult to recognize the psychoactive effects (Turner and Merlis 1959).

Commercial Forms and Regulations





See also the entries for Anadenanthera colubrina and snuff.


Alcina Franch, José. 1982. Religiosidad, alucinogenos y patrones artisticos tainos. Boletin de Museo del Hombre Dominicano 10 (17): 103–17.


Brenneisen, Rudolf. n.d. Anadenanthera. In Hagers Handbuch der pharmazeutischen Praxis, 5th ed. Suppl. vol. Berlin: Springer. (in press).


Coppens, Walter, and Jorge Cato-David. 1971. Aspectos etnograficos y farmacologicos el yopo entre los Cuiva-Guajibo. Antropología 28: 3–24.


Cunis, Reinmar. 1979. Zeitsturm. Munich: Heyne. Fish, M. S., N. M. Johnson, and E. C. Horning. 1955. Piptadenia alkaloids: Indole bases of P. peregrina (L.) Benth. and related species. Journal of the American Chemical Society 77:5892–95.


Legler, Günter, and Rudolf Tschesche. 1963. Die Isolierung von N-Methyltryptamin, 5-Methoxy-N-methyltryptamin und 5-Methoxyl-N,N-dimethyltryptamin aus der Rinde von Piptadenia peregrina Benth. Die Naturwissenschaften 50:94–95.


Ott, Jonathan. 1996. Anadenanthera peregrina (Linnaeus) Spagazzini. Unpublished file from electronic database. Jalapa, Veracruz. Cited 1998.


Rouse, Irving. 1992. The Taínos: Rise and Decline of the people who greeted Columbus. New Haven and London: Yale University Press.


Safford, William E. 1916. Identity of cohoba, the narcotic snuff of ancient Haiti. Journal of the Washington Academy of Sciences 6:547–62.


Schultes, Richard Evans, Bo Holmstedt, Jan-Erik Lindgren, and Laurent Rivier. 1977. De Plantis Toxicariis e Mundo Novo Tropicale Commentationes XVIII: Phytochemical examination of Spruce’s ethnobotanical collection of Anadenanthera peregrina. Botanical Museum Leaflets 25 (10): 273–87.


Stromberg, Verner L. 1954. The isolation of bufotenine from Piptadenia peregrina. Journal of the American Chemical Society 76:1707.


Torres, Constantino Manuel. 1988. El arte de los Taíno. In Taíno: Los descubridores de Colón, ed. C. M. Torres, 9–22. Santiago: Museo Chileno de Arte Precolombino.


Turner, William J., and Sidney Merlis. 1959. Effect of some indolealkylamines on man. A.M.A. Archives of Neurology and Psychiatry 81:121–29.


von Reis, Siri. 1991. Mimosa peregrina Linnaeus, species plantarum 520. 1753. Integration 1:7–9.