The Encyclopedia of Psychoactive Plants: Ethnopharmacology and Its Applications

Ipomoea violacea Linnaeus


Morning Glory Vine




Convolvulaceae (Morning Glory Family); Sub-family Convolvuloideae, Ipomoeae Tribe

Forms and Subspecies


At least two varieties have been described:


Ipomoea violacea var. rubrocaerulea Hook.

Ipomoea violacea var. tricolor Cav.185


The following sorts (cultivars), which are grown throughout the world as ornamentals, are known under their own names: ‘Blaustern’ ‘Blue morning glory’, ‘Crimson rambler’, ‘Darling’, ‘Heavenly Blue’ (= ‘Kaiserwinde’, ‘Blaue Trichterwinde’), ‘Klimmende blauwe winde’, (Dutch) ‘Morning glory’, ‘Pearly Gates’, ‘Summer Skies’, ‘Blue Star’, ‘Flying Saucers’, and ‘Wedding Bells’.


The purple- or violet-flowered vine known in Aztec as mecapatli, “cord medicine,” can be interpreted as Ipomoea violacea L. or Ipomoea purpurea (L.) Lam. (From Hernández, 1942/46 [Orig. pub. 1615]*)




Ipomoea tricolor Cav.

Ipomoea rubrocaerulea Hook.

Ipomoea violacea Lunan et auct. mult., non L.

Pharbitis rubrocaerulea (Hook.) Planch.

Folk Names


Badoh negro (Zapotec, “black badoh”), badolngás (“black badoh”), badungás (“black badoh”), bejucillo (Spanish, “little tendril”), blaue trichterwinde, coatlxoxouhqui, dreifarbige prunkwinde, ipomée, kaiserwinde, la’aja shnash (Zapotec, “seeds of the Virgin”), mantos de cielo (“coat of heaven”), ma:sung pahk (Mixe, “bones of the children”), mehen tu’xikin (Lacandon, “little stink ear”), michdoh, morning glory, morning glory vine, pih pu’ucte:sh (Mixe, “flower of the broken plates”), pihyupu’’ctesy (Mixe, “flower of the broken plate”), prachtwinde, prunkwinde, purpurwinde, quiebraplato (Mexico, “breaker of plates”), tlitliltzin (Aztec, “black divine”), trichterwinde, xha’il (Mayan, “that from the water”), ya’axhe’bil, yaxce’lil

The seeds, which are used primarily in ritual contexts, are known among the Chinantec and Mazatec as piule, the same name given to the seeds of Turbina corymbosa. The Zapotec call them badoh negro, the same name they give to the plant itself (cf. Rhynchosia pyramidalis). The Aztecs are said to have called them tlililtzin or tlitliltzin, “the very black” (Schultes and Hoffmann 1992, 46*). In both the pharmaceutical and the ethnobotanical literature, and in other sources, the seeds of Ipomoea violacea are confusingly referred to by the name ololiuqui.



It has not yet been possible to confirm with certainty whether Ipomoea violacea is identical to the Aztec entheogenic plant known as tlitliltzin, but it is very likely. The psychoactive use of this plant in divinations and healing rituals has been documented since the late colonial period.

This vine was first botanically described by Linnaeus. Since his time, it has been repeatedly described anew under other names. At the same time, this beautiful plant has been changed through cultivation and breeding to such an extent that many of the new sorts must sometimes appear to be new, previously undescribed species. Closet shamans, gardeners, and breeders often confuse this plant with ololiuqui (Turbina corymbosa).



The plant is originally from the tropical regions of Mexico but is now found as a garden ornamental (with numerous sorts) in tropical and subtropical areas around the world. In temperate zones, the plant occurs only as an ornamental annual.



This fast-growing Ipomoea species does well in topsoil, although it prefers slightly alkaline soils. It can be grown in protected locations in the open, e.g., in a flower box on a balcony facing south. It requires copious amounts of water but can survive for several days without watering. Even plants that appear to have dried out can recover if they are watered well.

To grow the plant, place four or five seeds in a flowerpot during March or April. If the seeds are kept at a temperature between 18 and 20°C, germination will take place in ten to twenty days (or sooner). The plant can be placed in the open or transplanted after mid-May.



This vine branches early and can grow as long as 3 meters. The leaves are cordate. The first two leaves that develop from the young shoots exhibit a characteristic fissuring (a sure way to identify the seedlings).

In the Mexican tropics, Ipomoea can flower throughout the year. It is very frequently seen in full bloom in February and March. In temperate zones, where it grows only as an annual, the flowering period is between June and October (depending upon the cultivar or sort). The flowers of the wild form are usually up to 8 cm wide and luminously violet; the flowers of the cultivated sorts can grow as large as 10 cm and may have a blue, pink, or white color. The flowers unfurl in the morning and close before the onset of twilight (often around four o’clock in the afternoon). The stigma is mono- to tricephalous. The seeds are black, elongate-triangular, some 7 to 8 mm long, and approximately 4 mm wide.

Ipomoea violacea is very frequently confused with Ipomoea purpurea (even in the specialized literature) as well as with other Ipomoea species.

Psychoactive Material


—Seeds (semen ipomoeae violaceae, ipomoeae violaceae semen)

Preparation and Dosage


Among the Mixe, a dosage consists of twenty-six seeds. The seeds should be ground by a ten- to fifteen-year-old virgin and mixed with water; otherwise, the seeds will not “speak” (Lipp 1991, 190*). The methods of preparing and administering the seeds are more or less the same for all the peoples of Oaxaca.

According to Schuldes, a low dosage consists of 20 to 50 seeds, a moderate dosage of 50 to 150, and a high dosage of 300 seeds or more; only with moderate to high dosages was he able to observe LSD-like effects (Schuldes 1993, 86 f.*). Other sources suggest chewing and swallowing 5 to 19 g of seeds or grinding them and allowing them to sit in water for thirty minutes (Gottlieb 1973, 37*).

A cold-water extract of three hundred crushed or ground seeds is said to correspond to approximately 200 to 300 μg of LSD (Rob Montgomery, pers. comm.; Veit 1993, 548). The LD50 of the isolated alkaloids is said to lie between 164 and 214 mg/kg in rats and between 1 and 2 g for humans.

Ritual Use


It is very likely that the Nahua-speaking peoples (e.g., the Aztecs) were ritually using the seeds of Ipomoea violacea during pre-Hispanic times. Evidence of the ritual use of tlitliltzin in the colonial period is contained in the report of Pedro Ponce (Breve Relacíon de los Dioses y Ritos de la Gentilidad, par. 46):


On the ways in which one finds lost objects and other things that people want to know: They drink ololiuhque [sic; cf. Turbina corymbosa], peyote [cf. Lophophora williamsii], and a seed which they call tlitlitzin. These are so strong that they sedate the senses [of the natives] and that—so they say—little black men appear before them which tell them what they want to know about. Others say that Our Lord appears to them, while still others [say] that it is angels. And when they do this, they enter a room, close themselves in, and have someone watch so that they can hear what they say. And it is not allowed for people to speak to them before they have reawakened from their delirium, lest they go insane. And then they ask what they have said, and that is so. (Cf. Andrews and Hassig 1984, 218*)


The Zapotec use Ipomoea seeds in the same manner as Turbina seeds (MacDougall 1960). The black Ipomoea seeds are often referred to as macho, “male,” while the light-colored Turbina seeds are hembra, “female” (Wasson 1971, 340). The Mixe regard Turbina corymbosa and Ipomoea violacea as siblings. Mixe shamans, however, consider Ipomoea to be more effective as well as more powerful (Lipp 1991, 187*). And indeed, the alkaloid content of Ipomoea seeds is considerably higher than that of Turbina seeds (Hofmann 1971, 354).


The wild form of the morning glory (Ipomoea violacea) is indigenous to tropical Mexico. (Photographed in Naha’, Chiapas, Mexico)



The most commonly sold cultivar: Ipomoea violacea cv. Heavenly Blue.



The species Ipomoea violacea is rather easily identified by its first set of leaves. The Indians equate these with snake tongues.



Mexican shamans ingest the seeds of Ipomoea violacea, known as badoh negro, during healing rituals.


The mamas (shaman priests) of the Kogi of the Colombian Sierra Madre are said to use Ipomoea violacea in ritual contexts (Baumgartner 1994; Reichel-Dolmatoff 1987):


“In the name of God and the holy Virgin,

be merciful and grant the remedy,

and tell us, beloved Virgin,

what ails the afflicted person!”



All this astronomical imagery is related to certain present-day rituals in which a high-ranking priest, wearing a jaguar mask impersonating Sun, cohabits in the main temple with his sister-wife who wears a mask made from the wide gaping maw of a black jaguar, impersonating Moon. The ritual takes place during the dark of the moon, and under the influence of a hallucinogen, probably Morning Glory (Ipomea violacea).186 Black jaguars (nébbi abáxsë) are said to be fairly frequent in Colombia and can interbreed with normally colored jaguars; both jaguars, also the black one, have dark pelt markings which, in Kogi terms, are sun-spots and moon-spots and which, according to the priests, are the marks of incest. We would call them maculae. The gaping gullet of Moon’s mask might be interpreted as another representation of the devouring womb of the Great Mother. . . . In any event, the ritual here described is one of recreation, as stated clearly by the Kogi; it is the conquest of darkness. . . .

The principal mythical jaguar priest was Kasindúkua, a lord or máma with very ambivalent attributes. He was an expert curer of human illness, and his principal power objects were a jaguar mask and a bluish pebble or seed called nebbis kwái/jaguar’s testicle; the Great Mother herself had given him these objects, and from a number of texts it appears that they suggest the use of hallucinogenic drugs. But putting on the mask and, simultaneously, swallowing the “testicle,” ordinary reality began to change; illnesses became visible to the eye in the form of black beetles and thus could be destroyed; women turned into luscious pineapples, and maize stalks were transformed into armed men. (Reichel-Dolmatoff 1987, 101, 105)


The plant in question may be Ipomoea carnea Jacq. (see Ipomoea spp.). The plant is not described in any more detail in another source:


The Kogi compare the brilliant reflection on the water with certain luminous sensations a person might perceive under the influence of a drug. A priest or any other devout believer who tries to establish contact with the supernatural sphere by fasting, meditation, and the use of hallucinogenic drugs such as morning glory (Convolvulaceae) will sometimes perceive quite suddenly a brilliant light which he believes to be a direct manifestation of a divine being. Since these trance states are often accompanied by horrifying visions, these sudden flashes of light are greatly feared by the common people who will associate them with a ghostly and dangerous dimension. (Reichel-Dolmatoff 1978, 24–25)




A watercolor of a morning glory appeared in Types of Floral Mechanism, by Arthur Harry Church (1865–1937). Flowering vines also appear as floral elements in American art deco windows (cf. Turbina corymbosa).

Medicinal Use


The Lacandon know Ipomoea violacea as äh tu’xikin, literally “the feces/rot of the ear.”187 In the Selva Lacandona, this violet-blooming vine thrives along paths, in clearings, and around ancient ruins and overgrown milpas (pakche’kol). The Lacandon view it as a relative of äh mehen tu’xikin, “little feces/rot of the ear” (Aristolochia foetida H.B.K.; Aristolochiaceae), and of nukuch tu’xikin, “big feces/rot of the ear” (Aristolochia grandiflora Swartz [syn. Aristolochia gigas]). This Ipomoea is a remedy for a disease that the plant itself causes: “If you play with the flowers of the purple vine, you get earaches, your ear rots. The purple vine has a disease. If you pick the flower or play with the purple vine, your ear rots. But I mean that it is a different ear [scrotum, genital labia]. It is the same whether women or men play with it, their ear will rot.” According to information provided by several of the Lacandon, this “ear disease” can be healed by roasting an Ipomoea flower and placing it (for how long?) into the diseased “ear” (Rätsch 1994c, 77*). I believe that this Lacandon statement is a rudiment from the time in which the psychedelic use of the vine was restricted to religious specialists. The warnings not to play with the flowers, i.e., not to be careless with them or not respect them, is evidence of a protective attitude toward the plant.188



The leaves contain the ergot alkaloids (ergoline derivatives) ergometrine, isolysergic acid amide, and lysergic acid amide (LSA). The biosynthesis of these indole alkaloids occurs in the leaves, while the subsequent translocalization leads to an accumulation of the alkaloids in the seeds. The seeds contain a variety of lysergic acid derivatives: (+)-lysergic acid amide, (+)-isolysergic acid amide, lysergic acid hydroxyethylamide, chanoclavine, elymoclavine, and ergometrine. The concentrations of these active compounds can vary considerably, depending upon the location of the plant and the sort (Gröger 1963a; Roth et al. 1994, 428*189). In young seeds, the chanoclavine content is very high, but it declines as they mature and the lysergic acid amide levels increase (Gröger 1963b).


The Lacandon regard one Aristolochia species as a “sibling” of the morning glory (Ipomoea violacea). Whether this plant is psychoactive is a subject for future research. (Photographed in the Yucatán, Mexico)


The cultivars ‘Heavenly Blue’, ‘Pearly Gates’, ‘Summer Skies’, ‘Blue Star’, ‘Flying Saucers’, and ‘Wedding Bells’ all contain psychoactive alkaloids (Der Marderosian and Youngken 1966).



Eating the seeds can induce profound side effects (nausea, vomiting, indisposition, lassitude), which probably result from non-water-soluble alkaloids and other substances. The fewest side effects result from ingesting a cold-water extract of the ground or crushed seeds. Cold-water extracts have distinct hallucinogenic effects that are, however, not exactly the same as those of LSD. Visions of “small people” are typical (Turner and Szczawinski 1992, 178*). The effects have narcotic and hypnotic components that Indian shamans utilize for their soul journeys. Most Westerners who have experimented with morning glory seeds typically have little desire to repeat the initial experiment.

The seeds also have a stimulating effect upon the uterus, probably because of the presence of ergonovine (Der Marderosian et al. 1964).

Commercial Forms and Regulations


In nurseries and flower shops, the seeds are usually sold under the name Ipomoea tricolor. The plant is not subject to any legal restrictions.


Perhaps inspired by a good dosage of seeds from Ipomoea violacea, one American wave band took its name, Morning Glories, from that of the psychedelic vine (CD cover 1994, Cargo Records). The British band Oasis recently raised some eyebrows with its album (What’s the Story) Morning Glory?(1995).






Lysergic acid amide







See also the entries for Ipomoea spp., Turbina corymbosa, indole alkaloids, and ergot alkaloids.


Baumgartner, Daniela. 1994. Das Priesterwesen der Kogi. In Yearbook for ethnomedicine and the study of consciousness, 1994 (3):171–98. Berlin: VWB.


Der Marderosian, Ara H. 1965. Nomenclatural history of the morning glory, Ipomoea violoceaTaxon 14:234–40.


———. 1967. Psychotomimetic indole compounds from higher plants. Lloydia 30:23–38.


Der Marderosian, Ara H., Anthony M. Guarino, John J. DeFeo, and Heber W. Youngken, Jr. 1964. A uterine stimulant effect of extracts of morning glory seeds. The Psychedelic Review 1 (3): 317–23.


Der Marderosian, Ara, and Heber W. Youngken, Jr. 1966. The distribution of indole alkaloids among certain species and varieties of IpomoeaRivea and Convolvulus (Convolvulaceae). Lloydia 29 (1): 35–42.


Gröger, D. 1963a. Über das Vorkommen von Ergolinderivaten in Ipomoea-Arten. Flora 153:373–82.


———. 1963b. Über die Umwandlung von Elymoclavin in Ipomoea-Blättern. Planta Medica 4:444–49.


Hofmann, Albert. 1963. The active principles of the seeds of Rivea corymbosa and Ipomoea violaceaBotanical Museum Leaflets, Harvard University 20:194–212.


———. 1971. The active principles of the seeds of Rivea corymbosa (L.) Hall f. (ololiuhqui, badoh) and Ipomoea tricolor Cav. (badoh negro). In Homenaje a Roberto J. Weitlaner, 349–57. Mexico City: UNAM.


MacDougall, Thomas. 1960. Ipomoea tricolor: A hallucinogenic plant of the Zapotecs. Boletín del Centro de Investigaciones Antropológicas de México 6:61–65.


Reichel-Dolmatoff, Gerardo. 1978. The loom of life: A Kogi principle of integration. Journal of Latin American Lore 4 (1): 5–27.


———. 1987. The Great Mother and the Kogi universe: A concise overview. Journal of Latin American Lore 13:73–113.


Veit, Markus. 1993. Ipomoea. In Hagers Handbuch der pharmazeutischen Praxis, 5th ed., 5:534–50. Berlin: Springer.


Wasson, R. Gordon. 1966. Ololiuqui and the other hallucinogens of Mexico. In Summa Antropologica en Homenaje a Roberto J. Weitlaner, 329–48. Mexico City: UNAM.


Ipomoea spp.


Ipomoea Species




Convolvulaceae (Morning Glory Family); Sub-family Convolvuloideae, Ipomoeae Tribe

A variety of both wild and cultivated vines in the Family Convolvulaceae can be found in all the vegetation zones of Mexico. One very common plant in the Indian areas is the sweet potato (Ipomoea batatas L.), which is grown for food. Today, many species of these vines are grown throughout the world as ornamentals for their colorful, funnel-shaped flowers. The number of species has been estimated to exceed five hundred (Schultes and Farnsworth 1982, 151*). Some species are esteemed for their medicinal properties, e.g., jalap bindweed (Exogonium purga (Wender.) Benth. [syn. Ipomoea purga (Wender.) Hayne, Convolvulus jalapa Schiede non L.]; cf. Veit 1993, 543 ff.). But of all the species of Mexican vines, only two have been ritually ingested in shamanic contexts: Turbina corymbosa and Ipomoea violacea, in all known variations.


“The nomenclature of the some 400 species encompassed by the genus Ipomoea is rather confusing. Some specialists also include within it species that other scientists assign to the genera Pharbitis and Quamoclit.”




(1985, 128)


Ipomoea batatas (L.) Poir.—sweet potato, batate


This commonly grown Ipomoea species has small pink flowers and develops thick tubers containing starches and sugars that many Indians use for food. Although it has sometimes been suggested that the seeds may contain alkaloids (cf. Schultes and Hofmann 1980, 367*), there is no evidence to support this assertion. In the culture of inebriants, the sweet potato has played a role solely as a fermenting agent for making beer and as an additive to coca quids (cf. Erythroxylum coca). It likely originated in Mexico but had already spread far into South America and even to Polynesia in pre-Columbian times. Ipomoea tiliacea (Willd.) Choisy [syn. Ipomoea fastigata (Roxb.) Sweet] is presumably the wild form from which the sweet potato was cultivated (Dressler 1953, 135*). Tubers infected with Ceratocystis fimbriatacontain sesquiterpenes (Inoue et al. 1977).


Ipomoea sp. aff. calobra—weir vine

This vine, found in only a limited area of southern Queensland (Australia), apparently contains LSD-like indole alkaloids. In addition to their psychoactive effects, these alkaloids also have potent toxic properties (at least on sheep and cattle) (Dowling and McKenzie 1993, 117 f.*).


Ipomoea carnea Jacq. [syn. Ipomoea fistulosa Mart. ex Choisy, Ipomoea carnea ssp. fistulosa (Mart. ex Choisy) D. Austin; cf. Hubinger T. et al. 1979, 33*]—manjorana, canudo, toé

This vine species produces flesh-colored flowers. It is found throughout the entire Amazon basin as well as in adjacent regions (Almeida Falcão 1971). In Ecuador, it is known as florón and borrachera, “inebriator” (Patzelt 1996, 178*), the same names used for many Brugmansia species, and as matacabra (“goat killer”). The concentrations of ergot alkaloids appear to be very high. To date, the ergoline alkaloids agroclavine and α-dihydrolysergol have been detected in the plant (Asolkar et al. 1992, 371*; Schultes and Farnsworth 1982, 151*). This makes the seeds of this vine, the effects of which are often stronger than those of Ipomoea violacea, a potent precursor substance. In Ecuador, the seeds (which contain ergot alkaloids) are said to be still used as a shamanic inebriant (Lascano et al. 1967; Ott 1993, 127*). In the Ucayali region of Peru, the vine is known as toé (“inebriant”). In the Pucallpa area, it is used as an additional inebriating ingredient in ayahuasca (Mellington Curichimba Marín, pers. comm.). In Amazonia, where the plant is feared as a poison, it is known by the names manjoranacanudo, and algodão bravo.

The plant is known as chok’obkat in Yucatec Mayan. There, the flowers are considered a source of honey (Téllez V. et al. 1989, 67*; cf. honey).

In the older literature, this South American plant can be found under the synonym Ipomoea fistulosa, which is now regarded as the subspecies Ipomoea carnea ssp. fistulosa (Mart. ex Choisy) D. Austin (Austin 1977; Hubinger T. et al 1979, 33*). In Argentina, the Pilagá Indians use the ashes of this subspecies (known locally as we’daGaik’gel’ta) to treat burns and boils (Filipov 1994, 186*).


Ipomoea carnea (= Ipomoea fistulosa) is regarded as one of the most potent morning glories.



The botanical identity of many morning glories (Ipomoea spp.) is difficult to ascertain. (Photographed in the Kathmandu Valley, Nepal)



The flower of the sweet potato (Ipomoea batatas).


Ipomoea crassicaulis Robinson [syn. Ipomoea fistulosa Mart.]

This plant, which develops large white flowers, is known in Mexico as palo santo de castilla, “sacred tree of castilla” (Martínez 1987, 1137*). This name may indicate a former use for psychoactive purposes. The seeds contain ergot alkaloids (Ott 1993, 127*).


Ipomoea hederacea Jacquin [syn. Convolvulus hederaceus var. beta L., C. trilobus Mach., Ipomoea barbigera Sweet, I. coerulea Roxb., I. desertorum House, I. punctata Pers., I. scabra Gmel., I. trilobaThunb., Pharbitis hederacea (L.) Choisy]—Japanese morning glory

This annual vine, which can grow as long as 2 to 3 meters, is known as asagau, “morning flower,”190 in Japanese. It is regarded as an aphrodisiac in Asia and for this reason is sometimes seen in Japanese erotic art (Marhenke and May 1995, 49*). The beautiful, blue-flowered plant can be found in the Himalayas at altitudes of up to 2,000 meters and has also gone wild in the American tropics. It even occurs (introduced) in the Selva Lacandona, where it is easily mistaken for Ipomoea violacea. In Mexico, it is known by the name manto de la virgen, “coat of the Virgin” (Martínez 1987, 1137*). The seeds are regarded as poisonous in Iran (Hooper 1937, 130*).

Ipomoea hederacea possesses pubescent seminal leaves and forms capsules with four to six seeds. The seeds have a certain importance as a pharmaceutical raw drug (pharbitidis semen, kaladana) for kalana resin. Ergot alkaloidshave been detected in the seeds (Abou-Char 1970; Veit 1993, 535). Seeds from Pakistan have been found to contain the alkaloids lysergol, chanoclavine, penniclavine, isopenniclavine, and elymoclavine (Asolka et al. 1992, 372*).


Ipomoea involucrata P. Beauv.

Among the Central African Fang, this African vine is known as nguenga. The medicine men of the Fang (cf. Tabernanthe iboga) use the fresh, whole plant to make a magical medicine with stimulating effects that is used to treated victims of magic (Akendengué 1992*). Whether this medicine does in fact have psychoactive properties is a subject for future research.


Ipomoea muricata (L.) Jacq. [syn. Calonyction muricatum (L.) G. Don]—lakshmana

In India, this white-blossomed vine with heart-shaped leaves is known as lakshmana191 and is associated with Lakshmi, the goddess of good fortune. It is said that the root provides nourishment for the immaterial kundalini serpent (cf. Cannabis indica), which rests in the pelvic region of the lower abdomen and represents the creative sexual energy. In Ayurvedic medicine, lakshmana is one of the most important vajikarana (aphrodisiacs). According to one tantric recipe, the plant is mixed with bezoars and ground to produce an ointment that is applied to the forehead. This ointment is said to make love magic and mystical experiences possible. The root is attributed with healing powers for snakebites. Snake charmers use the root as a magical protection against cobras (Kumaraswamy 1985; Rätsch 1990, 51*). It has even been suggested that this climber is identical to the Vedic soma.

All parts of the plant contain up to 3.7% behenic acid, which has stimulating effects upon the central nervous system and also appears to have psychoactive and aphrodisiac effects. The seeds have been found to contain ergot alkaloids (Veit 1993, 535) as well as the alkaloid ipomine (Asolkar et al. 1992, 372*). In the pharmaceutical trade, the seeds are available under the name kaladana.


The Aztecs knew one morning glory species (possibly Ipomoea heterophylla Ort.) as totoycxitl (“bird claw”). (From Hernández, 1942/46 [Orig. pub. 1615]*)






The deep violet flowers of Ipomoea hederacea. (Photographed in Kathmandu, Nepal)



Ipomoea nil is common throughout Asia and Oceania.



The beach morning glory Ipomoea pes-caprae. (Photographed in the Seychelles)



The purple morning glory, Ipomoea purpurea, is commonly found in cultivation.



A color variant of Ipomoea purpurea.



Behenic acid






In the Yucatán, the seeds of one Ipomoea species known locally as xtontikin are used for ethnogynecological purposes as a postpartum treatment. (Photographed in the Yucatán)


Ipomoea murucoides Roem. et Schult.

This white-blooming Ipomoea species grows as a shrub or tree. In Mexico, where it is known as palo bobo, “inebriating tree,” or arbol del muerto, “tree of the dead,” it is considered to be a poisonous plant and is said to cause paralysis (Jiu 1966, 252*). The Aztecs knew the plant as micacuahuitl. In Sonora, it is still known today as palo santo, “sacred tree” (Martínez 1987, 1137*). Whether the plant was or is used for psychoactive purposes is unknown.


Ipomoea nil (L.) Roth [syn. Convolvulus hederaceus L., C. hederaceus var. zeta L., C. nil L., C. tomentosus Velloso, Ipomoea cuspidata Ruíz et Pav., I. githaginea A. Richard, I. scabra Forssk., Pharbitis nil (L.) Choisy, Ipomoea hederacea auct. non. Jacq.]

This blue-blossomed vine (there are also violet-blue and purple-red forms) is almost indistinguishable from Ipomoea hederacea and is often confused with that species (both have pubescent seminal leaves). It is found in tropical regions throughout the world. In Japan, it has been cultivated as an ornamental (Ipomoea nil cv. Imperialis) since the fifteenth century. In Mayan, it is known as tsotsk’abil, “hairy arm,” and is probably one of the sources of nectar for producing a honey that is used ritually. The seeds, which are listed in the pharmaceutical literature under the name pharbitidis semen, contain glyco-sides and approximately 0.5% ergot alkaloids (consisting of lysergol, chanoclavine, penniclavine, isopennyclavine, and elymoclavine, but no ergometrine) (Veit 1993, 535 f.). The alkaloids lysergol, chanoclavine, penniclavine, isopenniclavine, and elymoclavine have been extracted from seeds of a Pakistani sort (Asolka 1992, 372*). Gebberellin is also present in the seeds (Koshioka et al. 1985). The seeds are the source of the pharmaceutically important kaladana resin.


Ipomoea pes-caprae (L.) Brown [Ipomoea pescaprae (L.) Brown var. brasiliensis Ooststroom; syn. Ipomoea biloba]—beach vine

This prostrate species grows on sandy beaches. In Mexico, it is known by many names, inluding hierba de la raya, “plant of the stingray” (Martínez 1987, 1138*). This is an interesting association, as stingray spines were used in the ancient Mayan culture for ritual bloodletting, a part of the vision quest (Furst 1976c*). The leaves of this vine find ethnomedicinal use throughout the world to treat ailments such as rheumatism. In Thailand, extracts of the leaves are used to treat inflammations and jellyfish stings. The leaves contain β-damascenone and E-phytol, both of which have antispasmodic effects very similar to those of papaverine (Pongprayoon et al. 1992). The seeds contain ergot alkaloids. Whether the seeds are suitable for psychoactive use is unknown, although they are used as an ingredient in the initiatory drink of the Afro-American Candomblé cult (see madzoka medicine).


Ipomoea purpurea (L.) Roth [syn. Pharbitis purpurea (L.) Voigt; Ipomoea purpurea var. diversifolia (Lindl.) O’Donell [syn. Ipomoea mexicana Gray]—early-blooming morning glory (numerous cultivars)

This climber, which can grow as long as 3 meters, is native to the American tropics but is now found as an ornamental around the world (Tykac and Severa 1985, 128). The plant as well as its seeds are very often confused with Ipomoea violacea and its seeds (Ott 1993, 162*). While it is often claimed in the literature that I. purpurea seeds contain ergo-line and other ergot alkaloids, most studies (except one: Wilkonson et al. 1986) have reported an absence of alkaloids. The flowers may be purplered, white, pink, light blue, or deep violet. The seeds are available in nurseries (usually under the name purple morning glory). The seeds are considerably smaller (3 mm by 4 mm) and rounder than those of Ipomoea violacea.

The following morning glory species contain ergot alkaloids and/or indole alkaloids and may possibly be used for psychoactive purposes (Ott 1993, 127*; Schultes and Farnsworth 1982, 187*):


Ipomoea argyrophylla Vatke

Ipomoea coccinea L.192 [Ipomoea coccinea L. var. hederifolia House; syn. Quamoclit coccinea Moench]

Ipomoea leptophylla Torr.

Ipomoea littoralis Blume

Ipomoea medium Choisy

Ipomoea muelleri Benth.


Further studies of the genus Ipomoea certainly represent a highly interesting field of ethno-pharmacology and will require extensive pharmacological studies with human subjects (Heffter technique!).

Two vines that are related to Ipomoea are sometimes claimed to be psychoactive or hallucinogenic: Merremia tuberosa (cf. Argyreia nervosa) and Stictocardia titiaefolia (Choisy) Hall f. (Schultes and Farnsworth 1982, 187*; Schultes and Hofmann 1980, 367*).



See also the entries for Ipomoea violaceaTurbina corymbosa, ergot alkaloids, and indole alkaloids.


Abou-Char, C. I. 1970. Alkaloids of an Ipomoea seed known as kaladana in Pakistan. Nature 225:663.


Almeida Falcão, Joaquim Inácio de. 1971. Convolvulaceae do Amazonas. Acta Amazônica 1 (1): 15–20.


Austin, Daniel F. 1977. Ipomoea carnea Jacq. vs. Ipomoea fistulosa Mart. ex. Choisy. Taxon 26 (2/3): 235–38.


———. 1991. Ipomoea littoralis (Convolvulaceae): Taxonomy, distribution, and ethnobotany. Economic Botany 45 (2): 251–56.


Der Marderosian, Ara, and Heber W. Youngken, Jr. 1966. The distribution of indole alkaloids among certain species and varieties of IpomoeaRivea and Convolvulus (Convolvulaceae). Lloydia 29 (1): 35–42.


Gröger, D. 1963. Über das Vorkommen von Ergolinderivaten in Ipomoea-Arten. Flora 153:373–82.


Inoue, Hiromasa, Natsuki Kato, and Ikuzo Uritani. 1977. 4-hydroxydehydromyopororone from infected Ipomoea batatas root tissue. Phytochemistry 16:1063–65.


Koshika, Masaji, Richard P. Pharis, Rod W. King, Noboru Murofushi, and Richard C. Durley. 1985. Metabolism of [3H]gebberellin A5 in developing Pharbitis nil seeds. Phytochemistry 24 (4): 663–71.


Kumaraswamy, R. 1985. Ethnopharmacognostical studies of the Vedic jangida and the Siddha kattuchooti as the Indian mandrake of the ancient past. In “Ethnobotanik,” special issue, Curare 3/85:109–20.


Lascano, C. et al. 1967. Estudio fitoquímico de la especie psicotomimética Ipomoea carneaCiencias Naturales 10:3–15.


Pongprayoon, U., P. Baeckström, U. Jacobsson, M. Lindström, and L. Bohlin. 1992. Antispasmodic activity of β-damascenone and E-phytol isolated from Ipomoea pes-capraePlanta Medica 58:19–21.


Tykac, Jan, and Frantisek Severa. 1985. Kletterpflanzen und rankende Pflanzen. Hanau, Germany: Dausien.


Veit, Markus. 1993. Ipomoea. In Hagers Handbuch der pharmazeutischen Praxis, 5th ed., 5:534–50. Berlin: Springer.


Wilkinson, R. E. et al. 1986. Ergot alkaloid contents of Ipomoea lacunosaI. hederaceaI. trichocarpa, and I. purpurea seeds. Canadian Journal of Plant Science 66:339–43.



Botanical illustration of a morning glory from the tropical genus Ipomoea. (Engraving from Pereira, De Beginselen der Materia Medica en der Therapie, 1849)



An early illustration of a morning glory (Ipomoea spp.) with cordate leaves. (Woodcut from Gerard, The Herball or General History of Plants, 1633)