The Encyclopedia of Psychoactive Plants: Ethnopharmacology and Its Applications

Argyreia nervosa (Burman f.) Bojer


Baby Hawaiian Wood Rose, Silver Morning Glory




Convolvulaceae (Morning Glory Family)

Forms and Subspecies


There may be an African variety.



Argyreia speciosa (L. f.) Sweet Convolvulus speciosus L. f.

Folk Names


Baby Hawaiian woodrose, bastantri (Sanskrit), chamang-pins-dansaw, elefantenwinde, elephant creeper, Hawaiian baby woodrose, hawaiianische holzrose, Hawaiian woodrose, holzrose, jamangpi-danok, jatapmasi, marikkunni, marututari, mile-a-minute, miniature wood-rose, monkey rose, samandar-ka-pat (Hindi), samudrappacca, samudrasos, samuttirappaccai (Tamil), samuttirappalai, silberkraut, silver morning glory, soh-ring-kang, vrddhadarukah (Sanskrit), woodrose, woolly morning glory

Argyreia nervosa is often confused with Ipomoea, tuberosa L.42 [= Merremia tuberosa (L.) Rendle; syn. Operculina tuberosa (L.) Meissn.], which is also known and sold under the name “Hawaiian wood rose.” Its Hawaiian name is pili-kai.



The plant is originally from India, where it has been used medicinally since ancient times. It must have been introduced into Hawaii at a very early date, for its “home” now lies in the Pacific Islands. We know of no traditional use as an entheogen. The discovery that the wood rose is a potent psychedelic is a result of phytochemical research (Shawcross 1983).



The baby Hawaiian wood rose is found throughout India and on Sri Lanka at altitudes of up to 900 meters. It is common in Uttar Pradesh (India), both in the wild and in cultivation. The plant is part of the indigenous flora of Australia and also occurs in Africa. It is now planted in all tropical regions as an ornamental or an inebriant (Bärtels 1993, 214*).



The plant is easily grown from seed. These are either planted after having been germinated or placed in germinating pots. The baby wood rose requires a great deal of water and a warm, preferably tropical climate. Unfortunately, when grown as an indoor plant, it almost never develops flowers (and therewith no seeds). It can also be propagated through cuttings (Grubber 1991, 33*).



This vigorous perennial vine, which can climb as high as 10 meters, produces a latexlike sap in its cells. The opposite petiolate leaves are cordate and can grow up to 27 cm in length. Their undersides are covered with hairs and have a silvery appearance (hence the name silver morning glory). The violet- or lavender-colored flowers are funnel shaped and attached to cymes. The sepals are also covered with hairs. The roundish fruits are berry shaped and contain smooth brown seeds. Each seed capsule contains from one to four seeds (one dosage).

The genus Argyreia consists of some ninety species (Bärtels 1993, 214*), many of which are easily confused with Argyreia nervosa. It is also easily mistaken for the vine Calystegia sepium (L.) Brown. It is sometimes even confused with the Hawaiian wood rose Merremia tuberosa.

“It struck me that I had remained in the real world during the wood rose session [14 seeds], whereby I understood it much better. As a result, while many of the interesting aspects of a regular trip had remained out of reach (strange worlds, adventures . . . ), the thing had not been nearly as strenuous. If you do not leave the real world, then you will not have any difficulties integrating yourself back into it.”






Psychoactive Material




Preparation and Dosage


Four to 5 g represent a good starting dosage (Ott 1993, 140*). Generally, four to eight seeds (corresponding to approximately 2 g) are considered sufficient to produce an LSD-like experience (Gottlieb 1973, 17*). Thirteen or fourteen seeds are given as a maximum dose. The seeds should be ground before use (Ott 1979, 58*) and can be washed down with water. The seeds can also be chewed thoroughly (Jackes 1992, 13*). The highest dosage that has been reported in the literature is fifteen seeds (Smith 1985).

The seeds are also used in a preparation known as Utopian bliss balls. These consist of five Argyreia seeds, damiana herbage (Turnera diffusa), ginseng root (Panax ginseng), fo-ti-tieng (Centella asiatica; cf. herbal ecstasy), and bee pollen.

The dosage for Merremia tuberosa is also given as four to eight seeds (Gottlieb 1973, 18*); the psychoactivity of this plant, however, is uncertain (Schuldes 1995; cf. Grierson 1996, 88).

Ritual Use


To date, we know of no traditional use of this psychoactive plant (Brown and Malone 1978, 14*). The baby Hawaiian wood rose is a possible candidate for the soma plant, which was described as a vine.

It is unknown whether the shamanic Huna religion used the seeds as enthogenic, magical, or medicinal agents, although this is possible. In Hawaii, poor individuals who were unwilling or unable to pay the exaggerated black market prices for Hawaiian marijuana (Cannabis indica) used and still use the seeds as an inebriant (Brown and Malone 1978, 15*; Emboden 1972*). In contrast, the plant does not appear in the traditional ethnobotany of Hawaii (cf. Krauss 1993).

Today, the seeds are used in the white Australian drug scene as psychedelic agents. It is not known whether the Aborigines ever used them. In the Californian subculture, the seeds as well as preparations made with them are used in sexual magical rituals à la Crowley.




Medicinal Use


The plant has been used in Ayurvedic medicine since ancient times. The root is regarded as a tonic for the nerves and brain and is ingested as a rejuvenation tonic and aphrodisiac and to increase intelligence. It is also prescribed for bronchitis, cough, “seminal weakness,” nervousness, syphilis, diabetes, tuberculosis, arthritis, and general debility (Warrier et al. 1993, 1:173*). The baby Hawaiian wood rose is also used in the folk medicine of Assam (Jain and Dam 1979, 53*). Many Argyreia species, e.g., Argyreia pilosa Arn., also find use in Indian folk medicine as febrifuges (Bhandary et al. 1995, 153*).


The tropical climber Calystegia sepium is often mistaken for the wood rose (Argyreia); the seeds of Calystegia also appear to contain psychoactive substances. (Photographed in Palenque, Mexico)



The inflorescence of the baby Hawaiian wood rose (Argyreia nervosa). (Photographed on Oahu, Hawaii)



The effects of the Hawaiian wood rose (Meremmia tuberosa) are said to be similar to those of Argyreia nervosa. (Photographed on Oahu, Hawaii)



The seeds of Argyreia nervosa are rich in psychoactive ergot alkaloids. (Photograph: Karl-Christian Lyncker)




The seeds contain 0.3% ergot alkaloids and are thus the most potent of all vine drugs (Hylin and Watson 1965). The ergot alkaloids agroclavine, ergine, isoergine (= isolysergic acid amide), chanoclavine-I and -II, racemic chanoclavine-II, elymoclavine, festuclavine, lysergene, lysergol, isolysergol, molliclavine, penniclavine, stetoclavine, isosetoclavine, ergometrinine, lysergic acid-αhydroxyethylamide, isolysergic acid-α-hydroxyethylamide, and ergonovine (ergometrine) have been demonstrated to be present (Brown and Malone 1978, 15*; Chao and Der Marderosian 1973b, 2436f.). Chanoclavine-I is one of the principal constituents not just in Argyreia nervosa but also in most species of Argyreia as well as in other representatives of the Family Convolvulaceae. The overall alkaloid composition is reminiscent of that of Turbina corymbosa. The related vine Stictocardia tiliafolia (Desr.) Hallier f. from Panama also contains large quantities of ergot alkaloids (ergine, chanoclavine-I, chanoclavine-II, festuclavine, lysergol, ergometrinine, lysergic acid-α-hydroxy-ethylamide, and ergonovine [ergometrine]) (Chao and Der Marderosian 1973b, 2437).



Most psychonauts characterize the effects of four to eight seeds as very similar to those of LSD (Smith 1985), that is, entailing typical psychedelic patterns and sensations. Reports describe colorful visions of a mystical nature. The effects typically last for six to eight hours or even longer (Ott 1979, 58*). Argyreia is also regarded as an aphrodisiac: “Following ingestion, the user attains a euphoric state which is soon followed by a pleasant tingling throughout the body that can last for several hours” (Stark 1984, 28*). There may also be mild side effects, including nausea, exhaustion, and subsequent constipation (Jackes 1992, 13*). When taken in high doses, the trip will sometimes begin with intense nausea (Smith 1985).

Commercial Forms and Regulations


The seeds are available in nurseries and are not subject to any additional regulations.



See also the entries for Ipomoea violacea and Turbina corymbosa.


Chao, Jew-Ming, and Ara H. Der Marderosian. 1973a. Ergoline alkaloidal constituents of Hawaiian baby wood rose, Argyreia nervosa (Burm. f.) Bojer. Journal of Pharmaceutical Sciences 62 (4): 588–91.


———. 1973b. Identification of ergoline alkaloids in the genus Argyreia and related genera and their chemotaxonomic implications in the Convolvulaceae. Phytochemistry 12:2435–40.


Grierson, Mary, and Peter S. Green. 1996. A Hawaiian florilegium: Botanical portraits from paradise. Lawai, Kaui, Hawaii: National Tropical Botanical Garden.


Hylin, John W., and Donald P. Watson. 1965. Ergoline alkaloids in tropical wood roses. Science 148:499–500.


Shawcross, W. E. 1983. Recreational use of ergoline alkaloids from Argyreia nervosa. Journal of Psychoactive Drugs 15 (4): 251–59.


Smith, Elvin D. 1985. Notes on the proposed experiment with Argyreia nervosa. Psychedelic Monographs and Essays 1:30–37 (pagination lacking).


Z[ubke], A[chim]. 1997. Argyreia nervosa: Viel Wind um eine psychedelische Winde. HanfBlatt 4 (35): 18–21.
















Many species of Argyreia contain psychoactive constituents. The silvery leaf is typical of the genus. (Argyreia spp., photographed in Varanasi, India)



Argyreia Species Containing Significant Concentrations of Psychoactive Ergot Alkaloids (Ergolines)


(From Chao and Der Marderosian 1973b; Hylin and Watson 1965; Ott 1993, 158f.*)