The Encyclopedia of Psychoactive Plants: Ethnopharmacology and Its Applications

Cestrum nocturnum Linnaeus

 

Night-Blooming Jessamine

 

Family

 

Solanaceae (Nightshade Family); Subfamily Cestroideae, Cestreae Tribe

Forms and Subspecies

 

One variety has been described for Mexico: Cestrum nocturnum L. var. mexicanus.

Synonyms

 

Cestrum hirtellum Schlechtendal

Chiococca nocturna Moc. et Sessé

Folk Names

 

Akab-xiu (Mayan, “night plant”), ak’ab-yom, äk’a’yo’om (Lacandon, “night foam”), arum ndalu (Javanese), dama de noche, ejek tsabalte’, galán de noche, galán de tarde, hammerstrauch, hedeondilla, hedioncilla, hediondilla, hierba de zorillo,95 hierba hedionda, huele de noche, ijyocxibitl, iscahuico (Totonac), ishcahuico’ko, it’ib to’ol (Huastec), lady of the night,96 mach-choch, minoche, mocxus, nachtschaum, nachtschaumbaum, night-blooming jasmine, night-blooming jessamine, orquajuda negro, palo huele de noche, parqui, pipiloxihuitl, pipiloxohuitl (Náhuatl), putanoche (“whore’s night”), scauilojo (Totonac), tzisni sanat, tzisnutuwan, tzon tzko kindi t oan (Amuzgo), zitza kiwi (Totonac)

In Peru, one Cestrum species that has not been botanically identified is known locally as hierba santa, “sacred herb.”

History

 

Most Cestrum species are indigenous to the Amazon basin, and many occur in the Andes (Hunziker 1979, 70). It is unknown whether these psychoactive plants were used for ritual or medicinal purposes during pre-Spanish times, but it is possible. To date, no traditional psychoactive use has been documented. Overall, little ethno-botanical and ethnopharmacological research has been conducted into the genus Cestrum (cf. Cestrum parqui).

Distribution

 

The shrub is indigenous to the West Indies, Central America, and South America; in Mexico, it occurs in Coahuila, Guerrero, Oaxaca, Veracruz, and Chiapas (Martínez 1994, 437*). As a result of cultivation, it is also found in Southern California (Enari n.d., 22).

Cultivation

 

Propagation can occur with seeds or cuttings. The seeds are either pre-germinated or sowed in seedbeds. The cuttings (approximately 20 cm long) are separated from the branch tips and placed in water until roots develop. They can then be planted in soil. The plant does not tolerate frost or a cold climate and requires considerable water. In central Europe, it can be grown only as a houseplant or in a greenhouse. In tropical regions, the bush often is planted for the scent it produces at night (Morton 1995, 130*).

Appearance

 

This perennial bush can grow as tall as 4 meters. It bears shiny leaves. The 2 to 3 cm long, funnel-shaped flowers are greenish white and grow in clusters. At night, they open and exude a sweet, delicious scent that is very intense and penetrating. The white fruits are round but slightly oval and grow to 2 cm in length. The bush can bloom three or four times a year (Morton 1995, 130*). When rubbed, the fresh leaves release a scent similar to that of the fresh leaves of Datura innoxia and Datura stramonium.

Today, 175 to 250 species are recognized in the genus Cestrum (D’Arcy 1991, 78*; Hunziker 1979, 70). Many species are easily confused with one another. Cestrum nocturnum is easily mistaken for Cestrum diurnum L. (dama de noche, day jessa-mine), a species originally from the Antilles. It can also be confused with the Guatemalan species Cestrum aurantiacum Lindl., which develops magnificent yellow flowers.

Cestrum nocturnum is occasionally crossed with Cestrum diurnum L., as the hybrid (Cestrum nocturnum x diurnum) is more easily adaptable to nontropical climates. Cestrum nocturnum can be confused with many other yellow-blooming species of the genus (cf. Cestrum parqui).

 

Inflorescence of the tropical night-blooming jessamine Cestrum nocturnum, a typical night-scented plant.

 

 

Many Cestrum species are easily confused with one another. (Cestrum aurantiacum, from southern Mexico)

 

“In the beginning Hachäkyum, our true lord, created the night foam tree, for Hachäkyum was to create Kisin, the lord of death. He created Kisin.

 

“He planted the night foam tree, for when it was night, the flowers of the night foam tree were to open and Kisin was to blossom out of these. Kisin, the lord of death, was born there of the night foam tree.”

FROM THE LACANDON CREATION MYTH

 

(IN MA’AX AND RÄTSCH 1994, 41)

 

Psychoactive Material

 

—Leaves

—Flowers

Preparation and Dosage

 

When dried, the leaves may be smoked alone or in smoking blends (cf. Cestrum parqui). Fresh or dried leaves can be decocted into a tea (Argueta et al. 1994, 830*). No information concerning dosages is available.

Ritual Use

 

In the mythology of the Lacandon of Naha’, who have preserved the pre-Hispanic cosmology of the Maya (cf. balche’) into the present day, the lord of death (Kisin) was born from a flower of Cestrum nocturnum. It is possible that the ancient Maya may have used the plant in necromantic rituals. Apart from this, we do not yet know of any traditional use of the plant for psychoactive purposes.

Artifacts

 

None

Medicinal Use

 

The Yucatec Maya use decoctions of the plant as medicinal baths to treat cold sweats as well as a curious illness known as ak’ahkilka (“night sweats”) (Pulido S. and Serralta P. 1993, 61*).

In Mexican folk medicine, an extract of the leaves is used as an antispasmodic, especially in the treatment of epilepsy (Martínez 1994, 438*). It is frequently used to treat headaches and illnesses resulting from susto, “fright” (Argueta et al. 1994, 830*).

Constituents

 

The composition of the powerful scent is as little understood as are most of the constituents (Morton 1995, 130*). Chemical studies of Cestrum nocturnum are lacking (Aguilar Contreras and Zolla 1982, 56*). The sapogenin steroids tigogenine, smilagenine, and yuccagenine have been found only in the leaves (Arbain et al. 1989, 76; Argueta et al. 1994, 830*).

The characteristic constituents of the genus Cestrum, i.e., those that are chemotaxonomically relevant, are saponines (Schultes 1979b, 151*). Alkaloids, tanning agents, and glycosides are also present in the genus (Wong 1976, 137*). Many species contain alkaloids of the nicotine type (Schultes and Raffauf 1991, 36*). Cestrum diurnum contains a principle that behaves like atro-pine and produces the same effects (Morton 1995, 24*). The saponines yuccagenine (0.5%) and tigogenine (0.04%) are found in the entire plant (Frerichs, Arends, and Zörnig, Hagers Handbuch 1980, 821*).

Effects

 

Simply inhaling the scent of this plant deeply is said to be sufficient to induce psychoactive effects (Argueta et al. 1994, 830f.*). The berries as well as the leaves are also reputedly able to induce hallucinations (Aguilar Contreras and Zolla 1982, 56*; Enari n.d., 22).

One child reportedly experienced profound hallucinations after consuming several fruits of Cestrum diurnum (Morton 1995, 24*).

Commercial Forms and Regulations

 

In the tropical regions of the Americas, young bushes are sold in tree farms.

 

A Mexican species of the genus Cestrum is known in Aztec as iyacxihuitl, “stink tree.” The name refers not to the scent of the flowers but to the typical inebriating nightshade scent of its leaves. (From Hernández, 1942/46 [Orig. pub. 1615*]

 

Literature

 

See also the entry for Cestrum parqui.

 

Arbain, Dayar, Jack R. Cannon, Afriastini et al. 1989. Survey of some West Sumatran plants for alkaloids. Economic Botany 43 (1): 73–78.

 

Enari, Leonid. n.d. Poisonous plants of Southern California. Arcadia, Calif.: Dept. of Arboreta and Botanic Gardens.

 

Halim, A. F., R. P. Collins, and M. S. Berigare. 1971. Isolation and characterization of the alkaloids of Cestrum nocturnum and Cestrum diurnum. Analysis of the essential oil of Comptania peregrinaPlanta Medica 20:44.

 

Hunziker, Armando T. 1979. South American Solanaceae: A synoptic survey. In The biology and taxonomy of the Solanaceae, ed. J. G. Hawkes, R. N. Lester, and A. D. Skelding, 49–85. London: Academic Press.

 

Karawya, M. S., A. M. Rizk, et al. 1971. Phytochemical investigation of certain Cestrum species: General analysis, lipids, and triterpenoids. Planta Medica 20:363.

 

Ma’ax, K’ayum, and Christian Rätsch. 1994. Ein Kosmos im Regenwald. 2nd ed. Munich: Diederichs.

 

Cestrum parqui L’Héritier

 

Willow-Leafed Jessamine, Palqui

 

“The juice of hediondilla heals wounds. I saw how the natives used it to heal a boy’s dog bite. A heated solution is used to bathe the feet in order to free them of brackish slime and heal all kinds of inflammations and immoderate heat.”

 

BERNABÉ COBO

 

HISTORIA DEL NUEVO MUNDO (1653) (IN BASTIEN 1987, 117*)

 

“In Chile, it is said of a well-known personality: ‘He is as famous as palqui.’ ”

 

CARL HARTWICH

 

DIE MENSCHLICHEN GENUßMITTEL [THE HUMAN AGENTS OF PLEASURE] (1911, 523*)

 

Family

 

Solanaceae (Nightshade Family); Subfamily Cestroideae, Cestreae Tribe

Forms and Subspecies

 

None

Synonyms

 

Cestrum salicifolium H. et B.

Cestrum virgatum Ruíz et Pavón

Folk Names

 

Alhuelahuen, chilenischer hammerstrauch, duraznillo negro, green cestrum, hediondilla (“stinking”),97 paipalquen, paique, palguin, palki, palqui, palqui blanco, palquin, parqui, parquistrauch, willow-leafed jessamine, yerba santa

History

 

Since pre-Columbian times, the Mapuche of southern Chile have used this plant for medicinal and probably ritual purposes. The Spanish missionary Bernabé Cobo described the medicinal use of a plant known as hediondilla in his Historia del Nuevo Mundo (1653) (Bastien 1987, 117*). Louis Lewin provided an early description of the use of the wood and leaves as a tobacco substitute (cf. Nicotiana tabacum) among the Cholos Indians (Lewin 1980 [orig. pub. 1929], 411*). Palqui generally appears to have been smoked prior to the introduction of tobacco (Hartwich 1911, 48, 523*):

 

According to Ochsenius [1884], the Chonos (sic) Indians on the island of Chiloe smoke the herbage of another nightshade known as palguin (Cestrum parqui L’Hérit.) when tobacco is lacking. It is possible that this is a remnant of a smoking custom that is older than [that of] tobacco. (Hartwich 1911, 48f.*)

 

Distribution

 

The plant is from central Chile but had spread as far as Peru, Argentina, Uruguay, and Brazil at an early date (von Reis and Lipp 1982, 267*). In Chile, it occurs as far south as Osorno and Chiloé (Hartwich 1911, 523*; Montes and Wilkomirsky 1987, 164*). It has now been introduced into the Mediterranean region as well as California (Zander 1994, 179*).

Cultivation

 

Propagation is best achieved using seed. The plant is sometimes grown as an ornamental.

Appearance

 

The bush, which can grow as tall as 1.5 meters, has narrow, lanceolate, pale green leaves. The yellow, tubular, five-pointed flowers are located in panicles or clusters at the ends of the branches. In South America, the flowers bloom in October and November, and they exude a strong, inebriating scent. The plant produces small, oval-round berries (approximately 5 mm in length) that take on a shiny black color as they mature.

The palqui bush is easily confused with Cestrum aurantiacum Lindl. Other similar species include Cestrum elegans (Brongn. ex Neum.) Schlecht., Cestrum ochraceum, and Cestrum laevigatum Schlecht. (Roth et al. 1994, 209*).

Psychoactive Material

 

—Leaves

—Bark

—Wood

Preparation and Dosage

 

The leaves of Cestrum parqui are dried, chopped, and smoked alone or in smoking blends, e.g., with Cannabis sativa. Three or four leaves per person is a good starting dosage. The leaves are an ingredient in psychoactive fumigations using Latua pubiflora (cf. also incense).

A decoction of leaves and bark or a bark tea (infusion) is drunk for folk medicinal purposes.

In Brazil, the dried leaves of the closely related species Cestrum laevigatum Schlecht. are known as maconha and are smoked as a marijuana substitute (Schultes and Hofmann 1992, 38*).

 

The willow-leafed jessamine (Cestrum parqui) in blossom.

 

 

This delicate jessamine (Cestrum elegans (Brongn. ex Neum.) Schlechtend. [syn. C. purpureum (Lindl.) Standl.]) is from Mexico. Like many other Cestrum species, it contains psychoactive and toxic constituents.

 

Ritual Use

 

In southern Chile, this sacred plant is used in shamanic healing activities. The plant possesses the virtue or power known as contra, which resists attacks by sorcerers or black shamans (tué-tué or chonchones). Since illnesses are often produced by other shamans, they can best be healed by a shaman with the aid of palqui. The stems are used to make wooden crosses that are attached to the windows or outer walls of houses as a magical protection against disease demons. A tea also protects from susto (“fright”) and mal de ojo (“evil eye”) and is drunk during purification ceremonies (limpia) (Hoffmann et al. 1992, 172*).

The shamans of the Kamsá (Sibundoy, Colombia) refer to one Cestrum species as borrachero andoke. They press the leaves of the plant in water and drink the resulting solution so that they can see things as if under the influence of ayahuasca (Schultes and Raffauf 1991, 36*).

Artifacts

 

The stems are made into wooden crosses and amulets.

Medicinal Use

 

The Mapuche of southern Chile drink an infusion of the leaves to treat smallpox, tuberculosis, and leprosy; to treat herpes, to wash out wounds (Houghton and Manby 1985, 99f.*); and also to treat fever (Montes and Wilkomirsky 1987, 164*; Schultes 1980, 114*). A tea or decoction of the bark is ingested as a powerful analgesic and sleeping agent (Hoffmann et al. 1992, 171f.*). The leaves and the freshly pressed juice of the plant are used especially in the treatment of ant bites. In Chile, it is said that “wherever the devil has put ants, there God has planted a palqui tree” (Mösbach 1992, 105*). In the Andes, the leaves are used primarily to treat wounds (Bastien 1987, 116f.*).

The Colombian Sibundoy Indians drink a tea prepared from the closely related species Cestrum ochraceum Francey [syn. Cestrum ochraceum var. macrophyllum Francey] to treat headaches, pain, swelling, fever, and rheumatism (Bristol 1965, 267*). It is said that the patient will fall into a mild state of delirium if he drinks (too much) of the tea (Schultes 1981, 34*; Schultes and Raffauf 1991, 36*). In Brazil, Cestrum laevigatum is used as a sedative (Frerichs, Arends, Zörnig, Hagers Handbuch 1980, 820*). On the Brazilian coast, the leaves are smoked as a marijuana substitute (cf. Cannabis indica) (Schultes 1979b, 151*).

Constituents

 

Cestrum parqui contains solasonine, a glycosidic steroidal alkaloid, and solasonidine (Montes and Wilkomirsky 1987, 164*; Schultes 1979b, 151*). The bitter alkaloid parquine has the empirical formula C21H39NO8 and produces effects like those of strychnine or atropine (Roth et al. 1994, 209*). A triterpene and fitoesterol are also present. The leaves and fruits contain tigogenin, digallogenin, digitogenin, and ursolic acid (Montes and Wilkomirsky 1987, 164*). The fruits contain at least three alkaloids. Solasonine is the primary active constituent (Hoffmann et al. 1992, 172*). The alkaloid is found in the leaves as well as the wood (Hartwich 1911, 523*).

Cestrum parqui and Cestrum laevigatum contain gitogenin and digitogenin.

Effects

 

Pharmacologically, the extract has an atropine-like effect (Montes and Wilkomirsky 1987, 164*; cf. atropine).

Smoking Cestrum parqui leaves produces effects that are clearly psychoactive and are reminiscent of the effects of smoking Brugmansia leaves. However, no dryness of the mouth occurs. The effects are relatively weak and are perceived as a mild euphoria and physical relaxation.

Commercial Forms and Regulations

 

In Chile, the dried leaves are available at most herb stands and in shops that sell natural medicines. Apart from this, the plant is not sold.

 

Solasonine

 

 

The dried leaves of Cestrum parqui can be smoked as a mild inebriant.

 

 

A cultivated variety of jessamine, known by the name Cestrum rubrum. It also contains psychoactive constituents.

 

 

The fruits of Cestrum rubrum.

 

Literature

 

See also the entry for Cestrum nocturnum.

 

Silva, M., and P. Mancinell. 1959. Chemical study of Cestrum parquiBoletin de la Sociedad Chilena de Química 9:49–50.