The Encyclopedia of Psychoactive Plants: Ethnopharmacology and Its Applications

Convolvulus tricolor Linnaeus


Dwarf Morning Glory




Convolvulaceae (Morning Glory Family)

Forms and Subspecies


There are three subspecies, as well as cultivars that are distinguishable on the basis of the color of their flowers; ‘Royal Ensign’, for example, is characterized by a nonclimbing, bushy growth pattern and gentian blue flowers.




Folk Names


Bunte ackerwinde, dreifarbige winde, dwarf morning glory



Dioscorides may have known this vine by the name helxine; he states that “the juice of the leaves has, when drunk, power to loosen the stomach” (4.39).107 However, the taxonomic history of this vine is by no means clear (Schneider 1974, 1:362*). It has been suggested that the plant may have been an ingredient in the Eleusinian initiatory drink (see kykeon). Ethnopharmaco-logical research into the plant is needed.



The plant is from southern Europe (Italy or Portugal) and occurs throughout the entire Mediterranean region as well as North Africa (Festi and Alliota 1990*; Schönfelder 1994, 158*). It has become naturalized in Denmark. In Germany, it is usually found only in botanical gardens.



Sowing is best performed between April and June. The germinated seeds (time to germination is fourteen to twenty days at 15 to 18°C) should be planted directly outdoors. This vine is also suitable for growing on a balcony. The plant loves calciferous soils and thrives best in a sunny location. Flower production can be promoted by providing only a little fertilizer. The blooming period is from July to September.



This bushy, annual vine attains a height of only about 35 cm. The funnel-shaped, five-pointed, three-colored flowers (yellow inside, white in the middle, and blue on the margin) are solitary and long-stemmed (as are the leaves). The corolla is 1.5 to 4 cm in length. The stigma has two oblong lobes (this characteristic distinguishes the genus Convolvulus from Ipomoea).

Convolvulus tricolor is sometimes confused with Ipomoea violacea (even in the specialized literature), and especially its synonym Ipomoea tricolor (e.g., Bauerreuss 1995*; Roth et al. 1994*).

Psychoactive Material


—Seeds (semen convulvuli, vine seeds)

Preparation and Dosage


The crushed seeds are drunk in the form of a cold-water infusion. To date, dosages have not been reported.

Ritual Use


A traditional use of Convolvulus tricolor as a psychoactive substance is as yet unknown, although such a use is entirely possible. Some “closet shamans” believe that the seeds of this vine may have been an ingredient in kykeon, the initiatory drink of the Eleusinian mysteries.



None known

Medicinal Use


This vine may have been used in folk medicine as a laxative, similar to the use of scammony (Convolvulus scammonia L.) or greater bindweed (Calystegia sepium (L.) Br. [syn. Convolvulus sepium L.]) (Pahlow 1993, 353*). Scammony has been used as an aid in childbirth and to induce contractions in both ancient and modern times (Albert-Puleo 1979).



The seeds may contain ergot alkaloids, ergoline, and other lysergic acid derivatives. Trace amounts of these alkaloids (0.001% of fresh weight) have been detected in plants from Denmark (Genest and Sahasrabudhe 1966).


The dwarf morning glory (Convolvulus tricolor) is indigenous to the Mediterranean region. It is sometimes confused with the Mexican morning glory (Ipomoea violacea).




Two vines from the genus Convolvulus that may be identical to Convolvulus tricolor L. and Convolvulus scammonia L. Both species contain alkaloids. (Copperplate engraving from Dioscorides, 1610)


The closely related field convolvulus (Convolvulus arvensis L.) contains tropane alkaloids, including tropine, cuscohygrine, and hygrine (Todd et al. 1995).

Another relative, Convolvulus pseudocantabricus Schrenk., is said to contain alkaloids with analgesic effects, substances very similar to those found in Turbina corymbosaConvolvulus scammonia appears to contain ergot alkaloids (Albert-Puleo 1979).



The seeds may possibly have a hypnotic effect.

Commercial Forms and Regulations


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



See also the entries for Argyreia nervosaIpomoea violaceaIpomoea spp., Turbina corymbosa, and ergot alkaloids.


Albert-Puleo, Michael. 1979. The obstetrical use in ancient and early modern times of Convolvulus scammonia or scammony: Another non-fungal source of ergot alkaloids? Journal of Ethnopharmacology 1 (2): 193–95.


Genest, K., and M.R. Sahasrabudhe. 1966. Alkaloids and lipids of IpomoeaRivea and Convolvulus and their application to chemotaxonomy. Economic Botany 20 (4): 416–28.


Todd, Fred G., Frank R. Stermitz, Patricia Schultheis, Anthony P. Knight, and Josie Traub-Dargatz. 1995. Tropane alkaloids and toxicity of Convolvulus arvensisPhytochemistry 39 (2): 301–3.