The Encyclopedia of Psychoactive Plants: Ethnopharmacology and Its Applications



Other Names


Ju, khamr (Arabic, “inebriating”), oinos, sdh, vin, vinho, vino, wein


The term wine is generally used to refer to alcoholic products that through the action of yeast are fermented from undiluted fruit juices or, less frequently, bleeding sap (palm wine). The alcohol content is between 8 and 14% by volume and is thus significantly higher than in other fermented drinks (balche’beerchicha). The term wine is often construed as the product made from pressed grapes (Vitis vinifera), while the products fermented from garden or wild fruit juices are usually referred to by the name fruit wines. Wines can also be distilled, thereby yielding a corresponding variety of spirits (cf. alcohol). Winemaking was invented in many places around the world. All wines are well suited for use as solvents for other psychoactive ingredients.

It is possible that the Egyptians knew of a winelike drink containing mandrake that was called sdh (cf. Mandragora officinarum). Apparently, vintners produced it not from grapes (Vitis vinifera) but from pomegranate juice (Punica granatum L.). The texts describe the sdh drink as more inebriating than wine. It was praised in love songs as an aphrodisiac and was a popular libation (Cranach 1981, 266*). Many Egyptian drinking vessels were patterned after the lotus flower. In the pyramid texts, the lotus is mentioned together with the sdh drink. The two most important symbolic plants in Egyptian art and iconography are the lotus (Nymphaea caeruleaNymphaea lotus) and the mandrake. In order to maintain the harmonic balance between the symbolic pair of lotus and mandrake, any drink that contained mandrake would theoretically need to be consumed from a lotus-shaped vessel.

In Scandinavia, bilberries (Empetrum nigrum L., Vaccinium uliginosum) were used to make inebriating wines. In northern Eurasia, birch sap (the bleeding sap that is produced when the bark is injured, usually from Betula albaL.) was fermented to produce alcoholic beverages (Hartwich 1911, 764 ff.*).

The stems of various rhubarb species can also be pressed to make wine. In fact, it has been speculated that soma was a kind of rhubarb wine.

Often, pressed fruit juices (e.g., from Berberis vulgaris L.) were mixed with honey to produce wines with a higher alcohol content. Honey was added to quince juice (Cydonia vulgaris L.; cf. Erythroxylum coca) in ancient times (Hartwich 1911, 760*).

In England, many people make fruit wine at home. Although wild fruits are preferred, almost any kind of fruit can be used for this purpose. A “counterculture” psychedelic wine is made from the fresh-pressed juice of forest berries (e.g., blackberries) and Psilocybe semilanceata.

In Chihuahua (Mexico), wines are made from the fruits of various yucca species (Havard 1896, 37*). Mexican Indians also ferment the juice of the fruits of Opuntia tuna Mill. and Opuntia ficusindica Haw. to produce a pink-colored wine known as colonche, the taste of which is similar to that of cider or apple wine (Havard 1986, 36 f.*). Because mescaline is present in Opuntia, it is possible that wines fermented from these fruits contain traces of the alkaloid. Pineapple juice (Ananas comosus [L.] Merr., Ananas nanus [L.B. Sm.] L.B. Sm.) can be made into a wine that is called matzaoctli in Nahuatl; it is produced and consumed primarily in Mazatlán, the “land of pineapples” (Bruman 1940, 148*).

In South America, a so-called vino de cebil (“cebil wine”) with presumably psychedelic activity was or is brewed from the seeds/fruits of Anadenanthera colubrina var. cebil. Unfortunately, no recipes are known. In Chile, the Indians used maqui fruits (Aristotelia maqui l’Herit.) to prepare a “pleasant-tasting wine” called tecu (Hartwich 1911, 762*).

Wine is pressed from many different palm fruits, for example, from the fruits of the betel nut palm (Areca catechu) and the fruits of the saw palmetto (Serenoa repens [Bartr.] Small [syn. Sabal serrulataMichx., Serenoa serrulata(Michx.) Nichols.]; cf. palm wine). Saw palmetto wine has aphrodisiac effects in addition to the inebriating effects of alcohol. In phytotherapy and homeopathy, saw palmetto fruits are considered to be aphrodisiacs (cf. Turnera diffusa). They also have beneficial effects on benign prostate hyperplasia (Metzker et al. 1996).

The Australian Aborigines make fruit wines from Pandanus spiralis R. Br. (cf. Pandanus spp.), Banksia species, Hakea species, and a Xanthorrhoea species that are known respectively as pandanus wine, banksia wine, hakea wine, and grass tree wine (Bock 1994, 147*). The banksia wine is actually a kind of beer (Low 1990, 189*). The sap of Eucalyptus gunnii (cider gum), which collects in hollows of the trunk when the tree is injured, ferments more or less on its own, yielding a potently inebriating wine (Low 1990, 189*).


A wine can be made simply by allowing the fruits of the prickly pear (Opuntia phaecantha) to ferment.


“This morning how grand is the space! Without bridle or spurs, in our haste Let us set out by horseback on wine, For the heavens—enchanted, divine!”








(1993, 225*)


“Drunkenness, however, is that state of ecstasy in which one can leave reality and open oneself up to the supernatural.”





The stems of rhubarb (Rheum officinale Baill., Rheum palmatum L.), a plant originally from Tibet, not only are eaten as a gruel but also can be fermented into wine. The roots (rhei radix) have medicinal qualities and are used in laxative and diet teas. (Woodcut from Tabernaemontanus, Neu Vollkommen Kräuter-Buch, 1731)



Brazilian Indians esteem the fruits of the cashew tree (Anacardium occidentale), especially for their role in the production of inebriating winelike drinks. (Copperplate engraving from Meister, Der Orientalisch-Indianische Kunst- und Lustgärtner, [The Oriental-Indian Art and Pleasure Gardener] 1677)



For many connoisseurs, wine is a presentiment of paradisiacal joys. And sometimes even more: this Swiss label portrays the grape vine as the tree of knowledge.




See also the entries for Vitis vinifera and palm wine.


Feest, Christian F. 1983. New wines and beers of Native North America. Journal of Ethnopharmacology 9:329–35.


Lorey, Elmar M. 1997. Die Wein-Apotheke. 2nd., suppl. ed. Bern, Stuttgart: Hallwag.


Metzker, H., M. Kieser, and U. Hölscher. 1996. Wirksamkeit eines Sabal-Urtica-Kombinationspräparats bei der Behandlung der benignen Prostatahyperplasie (BPH). Der Urologe B 36:292–300.