Solanaceae (Nightshade Family); Subfamily Solanoideae, Solaneae Tribe
Forms and Subspecies
Twelve to fifteen species are currently accepted in the genus Iochroma (D’Arcy 1991, 79*; Schultes and Raffauf 1991, 37*). To date, no subspecies or varieties have been described for the species Iochroma fuchsioides.
“How delicious is the scent of the long, bell-shaped flowers of the yas plant, when one inhales it in the afternoon and follows the country roads.
“But the tree has a spirit in the form of an eagle which has been seen as it flew through the air and then disappeared. It disappears completely in the leaves, between the branches, between the flowers.”
FRANCISCO TIMUÑA PILLIMUE IN “A NATIVE DRAWING OF AN HALLUCINOGENIC PLANT FROM COLOMBIA”
(SCHULTES AND BRIGHT 1977, 155)
Iochroma fuchsioides (Humb. et Bonpl.) Miers Lycium fuchsioides H.B.K.
Árbol de campanilla, borrachera, borrachera andoke,181 borrachero, campanitas (Spanish, “little bell”), dotajuanseshe (Kamsá), flor de quinde (Spanish, “flower of the hummingbird”),182 gua tillo, hacadero, hummingbird’s flower, iochroma, isug yas gyeta, paguando, paguano, tatujansuche, tetajuanse, totubjansush, totubjansushe, totufjansush, totujanshve, yas
The Kamsá Indians (Colombia) also call the closely related species Iochroma gesnerioides (H.B.K.) Miers borrachera. It is not known whether this plant has psychoactive effects or was ever used for such purposes (Schultes and Raffauf 1991, 38*). Iochroma umbrosa Miers has been listed as an inebriating plant, but this information appears to be incorrect (Bristol 1965:290 f.*).
To date, we know of no pre-Columbian use of the yas bush. Richard Evans Schultes discovered the psychoactive use of this beautiful and rare plant in 1941 in the Sibundoy Valley of Colombia (Davis 1996, 173*). Detailed ethnobotanical and ethnopharmacological studies are lacking.
The yas bush is found in the high Andes mountains of Colombia and Ecuador at altitudes around 2,200 meters.
Propagation occurs with seeds or cuttings. The cuttings are best taken in February or early March and placed in water. They require considerable time to develop roots (Grubber 1991, 41*).
In subtropical regions, yas is cultivated as an ornamental (Bristol 1965, 290*). The plant has been successfully grown in northern California,183 e.g., in the botanical gardens of Berkeley and San Francisco (Strybing Arboretum). The plant does not tolerate any frost.
This perennial bush can attain a height of 3 to 4 meters. It has woody stems and reddish brown branches and develops lanceolate, light green leaves that are up to 10 cm in length. The deep red, trumpet-shaped flowers are 2.5 to 4 cm long and hang in umbelliform clusters. The berries are fruits with a diameter of approximately 2 cm that remain partially enclosed by the wilted calyxes.
Yas is very similar to the Colombian species Iochroma cyaneum (Lindl.) M.L. Green [syn. Iochroma lanceolatum (Miers) Miers, Iochroma tubulosum Benth.], which is commonly cultivated as an ornamental in tropical and subtropical regions. The bush is also easily confused with the related Central American species Iochroma coccineum Scheid. (Bärtels 1993, 155*). In addition, the plant is astonishingly similar to the Mexican Fuchsia fulgens Moç. et Sessé ex DC. (Onagraceae).
The red-flowered yas bush, Iochroma fuchsioides.
The Ecuadoran species Iochroma grandiflorum bears large flowers.
Iochroma grandiflorum, photographed in Salala near Las Huaringas, in northern Peru.
Preparation and Dosage
The leaves can be harvested and dried at any time of the year except the winter months. The flowers are collected as soon as they exhibit the first signs of wilting (Grubber 1991, 41*). The dried leaves are smoked or brewed into a tea. No precise information concerning dosages is available (Gottlieb 1973, 21*). It is likely that the leaves and flowers can be used in smoking blends, in combination with other plants.
In Colombia, the (fresh) leaves are drunk in the form of an infusion or a decoction.
The lush inflorescence of the blue Iochroma cyaneum.
An unidentified Iochroma species.
Fuchsia fulgens is astonishingly similar to the redflowered yas bush (Iochroma fuchsioides).
The shamans of the Colombian Kamsá Indians ingest preparations of this nightshade when confronted with cases that are difficult to diagnose.
Iochroma fuchsioides is also used as an ayahuasca additive.
Despite what has been previously published, an old Indian drawing (A woman under a borrachero tree) by Francisco Tumiña Pillimue of Colombia portrays not Brugmansia sanguinea ssp. vulcanicola but, rather, Iochroma fuchsioides (Schultes and Raffauf 1977; Schultes and Raffauf 1991, 38*). Above the bush is a bird, most likely a transformed shaman or the vision-bringing spirit of the plant (Hernández de Alba 1949). The drawing, however, is much more reminiscent of the larger-flowered Iochroma grandiflorum Benth., which occurs in the Ecuadoran and Peruvian Andes.
Iochroma fuchsioides is used ethnomedicinally as a narcotic for difficult births and digestive disorders (Schultes and Hofmann 1995, 46*).
The folk healers (curanderos) of northern Peru use an Iochroma species known as contrahechizo (“anti-magic”) as an additive to the San Pedro drink (cf. Trichocereus pachanoi) and as a purgative remedy for treating diseases caused by harmful magic. The plant is said to induce vomiting and diarrhea, thereby cleansing the body of all poisons and negative influences (cf. Giese 1989, 229, 250*).
In northern Peru, Iochroma grandiflorum is regarded as a typical medicinal plant from the region of Las Huaringas. The curanderos believe that the plant is especially powerful in this area because it absorbs the water of the sacred lake. It is known in the area as campanitas (“little bells”)184 or yerba para mal hechizo (“herb against bad magic”). It is used primarily as a bath additive for removing magic. It is sometimes combined with Fuchsia spp. for this purpose. It is possible that the curanderos may also use the plant for psychoactive purposes.
To date, no alkaloids have been detected in Iochroma fuchsioides, although withanolides have been found (Raffauf et al. 1991).
The closely related Iochroma coccineum Scheid. has also been found to contain withanolides (Alfonso and Bernardinelli 1991; Alfonso et al. 1992).
The “inebriating” nightshade Iochroma fuchsioides is shown on this old Indian drawing (A woman under a borrachero tree) from Colombia. The bird shown hovering above the tree is likely a transformed shaman or the vision-inducing spirit of the plant.
(FROM GREGORIO HERNÁNDEZ DE ALBA, NUESTRA GENTE—NAMUY MISAG, 1949)
The inebriation produced by this plant is said to last for days or have aftereffects. No reports of self-experiments are available.
Commercial Forms and Regulations
See also the entry for withanolides.
Alfonso, D., and G. Bernardinelli. 1991. New withanolides from Iochroma coccineum. Planta Medica 57 suppl. (2): A67.
Alfonso, D., G. Bernardinelli, and I. Kapetanidis. 1992. Four new withanolides from Iochroma coccineum. Planta Medica 58 suppl. (1): A712–13.
Hernández de Alba, Gregorio. 1949. Nuestra gente—namuy misag. Popayán, Colombia: Editorial Universidad del Cauca.
Raffauf, Robert F., Melvin J. Shemluck, and Philip W. Le Quesne. 1991. The withanolides of Iochroma fuchsioides. Journal of Natural Products 54 (6): 1601–6.
Schultes, Richard Evans. 1977. A new hallucinogen from Andean Colombia: Iochroma fuchsioides. Journal of Psychedelic Drugs 9 (1): 45–49.
Schultes, Richard Evans, and Alec Bright. 1977. A native drawing of an hallucinogenic plant from Colombia. Botanical Museum Leaflets 25 (6): 151–59.