The Encyclopedia of Psychoactive Plants: Ethnopharmacology and Its Applications

Nicotiana rustica Linnaeus

 

Turkish Tobacco, Wild Tobacco

 

Family

 

Solanaceae (Nightshade Family); Subfamily Cestroideae, Nicotianeae Tribe, Rubiflorae Subtribe

Forms and Subspecies

 

A number of varieties have been named that are distinguishable from one another primarily on the basis of their phytogeography (Hartwich 1911, 29*):

 

Nicotiana rustica L. var. rustica (indigenous to Texas and Mexico, also occurs in Brazil)

Nicotiana rustica L. var. texana Comes (indigenous to northern Mexico, Sonora, and Texas)

Nicotiana rustica L. var. jamaicensis Comes (Mexico, Guatemala, Jamaica)

Nicotiana rustica L. var. brasilia Schrank (indigenous to Brazil, cultivated in Hungary)

Nicotiana rustica L. var. asiatica Schrank (cultivated in Syria, Arabia, Persia, and Abyssinia)

Nicotiana rustica L. var. humilis Schrank (cultivated in Peru)

 

There are apparently also several cultivars, as well as a hybridogenic cultivated race known as Machorka.

Synonyms

 

Hyoscyamus luteus nom. nud.

Folk Names

 

Andumucua (Tarascan), Aztec tobacco, bauerntabak, cathérinaire, ch’aque khuri (Quechua), c’jama saire (Aymara), gelbbilsenkraut, herba legati, herba medicea, herba prioris, herba reginae, herbe divine, herbe sacrée, herbe sainte, huaña, indianisch bilsenkraut, Indian tobacco, klein nicotianskraut, kraut der ambassadoren, k’ta tobaco (Quechua), k’uru (Aymara), latakia, machene, macuche, mahorka, makucho (Huichol), nicotiana media, nicotiane, noholki’k’uuts (Mayan, “south tobacco”), nohol xi k’uts (modern Mayan, “southern tobacco”), panacea (Latin, “cure-all”), pesietl, petum, petún, piciete, picietl (Nahuatl), piciétl, piciyetl (“little tobacco”), pycielt, qonta saire (Aymara), sana sancta indorum, San Pedro,250 sayre (Quechua), sero (Susu), tabaco blanco (Spanish, “white tobacco”), tabaco macuche, tabaco rupestris (Spanish, “rural tobacco”), tabaquillo (Spanish, “little tobacco”), tangoro, tawa, tenapete, teneshil (modern Nahuatl), tobaco cimarrón (Spanish, “wild tobacco”), toeback, tombac, tönbeki, toutoune estamboule, türkentabak, türkischer tabak, Turkish tobacco, turkomani tambaku (Afghani), tûtûn, um-wéh (Paez), upawoc, veilchentabak, warimba, wilder tabak, wild tobacco,251 ya, yé, yellow henbane, yetl, yétl

History

 

The genus Nicotiana is named after the French envoy Jean Nicot, who in 1560 sent seeds of Nicotiana rustica from Portugal, where he had grown the plant in his garden, to Paris, thereby promoting awareness of the plant (Schneider 1974, 2:359*).

It is very likely that wild tobacco was being cultivated in Mexico in pre-Columbian times (Dressler 1953, 138*). Apparently, it was not derived from a wild form but arose through hybridization and further cultivation—possibly from Nicotiana paniculata L. and Nicotiana undulata Ruíz et Pav. (Schultes and Raffauf 1991, 41*; Wilbert 1987, 6; cf. Nicotiana spp.).

Analyses of plant material left as grave goods have revealed that Nicotiana rustica was in use in ritual contexts in the Andes at the time of the flourishing of the Tiahuanaco culture (Bondeson 1972). This tobacco species was first described by Francisco Hernández (1651). In Europe, it initially was known under the name Hyoscyamus peru-vianus, or Peruvian henbane (cf. Hyoscyamus spp.) (Schneider 1974, 2:360*). Sahagun (11.7) documented the plant’s psychoactive powers. However, as an agent of pleasure, wild tobacco never achieved the same significance as Nicotiana tabacum.

Many Egyptian mummies have been found to contain nicotine, but it is not known how the nicotine got into the bodies. The simplest answer would be through smoking. But what might the ancient Egyptians have been smoking? It is generally accepted that the genus Nicotiana originated in the New World. Does this mean that the Egyptians had established trade relationships with pre-Columbian peoples there? The chemist Svetlana Balabanova, who took part in the investigations of the mummies, has hypothesized that wild tobacco, which is also widely known under the name yellow henbane, is an Old World plant that the Egyptians used as an incense and which was used even later as the European “strong tobacco”252 (Pahl 1996). But there is no evidence to suggest that the nicotine might not have come from another source or have been the product of thousands of years of deposition and storage. Nicotine is also present in some species of the genus Datura. Investigating whether the mummies also contain tropane alkaloids may yield interesting insights into these questions.

 

This illustration may be the earliest non-Indian representation of the nicotine-rich wild tobacco (Nicotiana rustica). (From Francisco Hernández, Rerum Medicarum Novae Hispaniae thesaurus, Rome, 1651)

 

 

The yellow flowers of wild tobacco (Nicotiana rustica).

 

Distribution

 

Today, wild tobacco is found throughout the world. It originated in either Mexico or northern South America. It grows wild in Nayarit, Jalisco (Mexico), and the Andes, where it is found even at altitudes above 3,400 meters (Bastien 1987, 153*). In pre-Columbian times, it is said to have occurred as far north as Canada (Hartwich 1911, 32*).

Cultivation

 

The plant is propagated from seeds. It usually is sufficient simply to scatter the seeds over loose soil. Like the seeds of Nicotiana tabacum, they also can be pregerminated. In temperate zones (central Europe), the seeds should be sown between March and May. The plant does well in normal soil. The Huichol prefer to cultivate the plant in soil that has been fertilized with the ashes of burned trees.

In pre-Columbian times, wild tobacco was grown in the Andes, Mexico, and what is now the southwestern and eastern United States. It is now cultivated on a large scale as a source of nicotine for the manufacture of insecticides (Rehm and Espig 1996, 252*).

Appearance

 

This annual herbaceous plant grows to a height of 60 to 80 cm. Its leaves are smaller and more rounded than those of Nicotiana tabacum, and its yellow flowers are somewhat shorter and smaller. The flowering period is in June and July. The fruits are round capsules that contain numerous tiny, reddish brown seeds.

Wild tobacco can be confused with other Nicotiana species (e.g., with Nicotiana langsdorffii Weinm.; see Nicotiana spp.).

Psychoactive Material

 

—Leaves

Preparation and Dosage

 

The leaves are dried in the sun in a well-aired location. They are then usually powdered and mixed with other substances (lime or Tagetes lucida; cf. Tagetes spp.). This method of preparation was recorded in the early colonial period:

 

Those who sell piciete crush it with lime and then powder both between the hands. Some do this with the incense of the earth, then take it in their hands and their mouth to soothe headaches or induce drunkenness. (Sahagun 11)

 

The Aztecs mixed the leaves with various unidentified plants and the gum (used as an incense) of the American storax, Liquidambar styraciflua L. (Emboden 1979, 4*). The Warao (Venezuela) mixed tobacco leaves with the resin of Protium heptaphyllum (Aubl.) March., known as carañacurucay, or tacamahaca, which normally was used as an incense in ayahuasca rituals (Wilbert 1991, 183). The Huichol use the powdered leaves as a ritual incense. The Mazatec use the powder they call San Pedro (cf. Trichocereus pachanoi) in all of their rituals. They also ingest it.

The juice pressed from the fresh leaves is used for shamanic purposes. The fresh or dried leaves can be prepared as a cold-water extract, infusion, or decoction. Such extracts can be drunk or administered as an enema.

In North America, the leaves are added to kinnikinnick and other smoking blends (Hartwich 1911, 32*). The Warao roll cigarettes up to 90 cm in length for shamanic initiations.

In Iran and Iraq, the leaves are made into sniffing tobacco (cf. snuffs). The leaves are placed in arrak (palm sugar/palm alcohol; cf. alcoholpalm wine), dried, and then mixed with the ashes of Ephedra pachyclada Boiss (cf. Ephedra spp.), known locally as huma, or they are perfumed with jasmine oil (cf. Jasminum spp.) (Hooper 1937, 143f.*).

In the Himalayan region, a smoking blend known as khamera is made from leaves of wild tobacco that have been perfumed with keora (Pandanus tectorius Parkins. ex Du Roi [syn. Pandanus odoratissimusL. f.]; cf. Pandanusspp.), leaves of the moschatel Delphinium brunonianum Royle (cf. Delphinium consolida), powdered sandalwood (Santalum album L.), rose petals (known as gúl-kand), the fruits of Zizyphus jujuba Mill. [syn. Zizyphus vulgarisLam.], cardamom, and the wilted leaves of the betel palm (Areca catechu). The tobacco dealers do not reveal the relative amounts of the different ingredients they use (Atkinson 1989, 756f.*).

Wild tobacco has an extremely high nicotine content and is considerably more potent than Nicotiana tabacum and all other Nicotiana species. For this reason, it should be used with great care. Dosages can vary so greatly from one individual to the next that it is not possible to provide any specific guidelines (cf. nicotine).

Ritual Use

 

Wild tobacco (picietl) was sacred to the Aztecs, who used it like peyote (Lophophora williamsii) or ololiuqui (Turbina corymbosa) for magical healing with incantations and in divination (Ruiz de Alarcón 1984):

 

The tobacco gourds of the Huichol are used to store and transport the powder they produce from Nicotiana rustica. (From Lumholtz, Symbolism of the Huichol Indians, 1900)

 

 

Clay figure of the Aztec goddess Cihuacoatl, the “soul of wild tobacco.” (From Krickeberg)

 

 

Preparation of wild tobacco for a singando.

 

 

Folk healers (curanderos) drinking a wild tobacco extract through their noses (a practice known as singando). (Photographed at the Laguna Shimbe, Las Huaringas, northern Peru)

 

When they smoked it and became inebriated from it, they called to the demons to find out about future events and to ask for advice for the requests of others who had retained them for this purpose. (Fuentes y Guzmán, in Maurer 1981, 347)

 

The colonial chronicler Jéronimo Mendieta wrote in his Historia eclesiástica indiana:

 

Others say that some see the plant called picietl, which the Spanish call tobacco, as the body of the goddess Ciuacoatl. And that for this reason it has several medicinal effects. It must be smoked with great care, for it is very dangerous, as it takes away the minds of those who partake of it and makes them behave crazy and insane. (In Maurer 1981, 347 f.)

 

Among the Aztec, Ciuacoatl or Cihuacoatl, “woman-snake,” was a mother and earth goddess. She was the patroness of midwives and watched over the sweat bath. She—the soul of wild tobacco—was described in the following manner:

 

In this garb does she allow herself to be seen by people—adorned with lime, like a lady from the palace—: she wears ear pegs of obsidian, she appears in a white garment, she is dressed in a white costume, is completely white; she wears her woman’s coiffure put up. During the night, she cries, she screams, she is also a portent of war. Her image is adorned in the following manner: her face is half red [and] half black, she wears a crown of eagle feathers, she wears a golden ear peg, she wears a collarlike outer garment, she carries a blue weaver’s knife. (Sahagun 1.6)

 

The fact that the goddess is adorned with lime may be an indication of wild tobacco being prepared with lime.

The Huichol regard this tobacco species as a manifestation of the fire god Tatewari, who was originally a falcon but was transformed into a plant (Siegel et al. 1977, 16). Wild tobacco is sacred to the Huichol and is a part of all of their ceremonial activities (peyote rituals, drinking festivals, peyote pilgrimages; cf. Lophophora williamsii). It sometimes is smoked in combination with Tagetes lucida (see Tagetes spp.).

The Mazatec refer to wild tobacco as San Pedro (St. Peter253), thereby associating the plant with the saint that holds the key to heaven (cf. Trichocereus pachanoi). Tobacco, powdered and mixed with lime, is exchanged or offered both as an agent of pleasure for establishing social structures and in magico-religious contexts at all ceremonies (shamanic healings, divinations, mushroom circles; cf. Psilocybe spp.). The Mazatec regard the smoke as a magical protection against rattlesnakes, scorpions, and giant centipedes.

In South America (Tiahuanaco culture), powdered wild tobacco was used as a ritual snuff (Bondeson 1972). Unfortunately, no details are known about such use. This use could still be observed during the colonial period, with the note that the Indians used sayre, as they called wild tobacco, for many things and would also sniff the powder “to cleanse their heads” (Bastien 1987, 153*).

The Warao of Venezuela have developed an extremely complex mythology and cosmology on the basis of their tobacco experiences. The anthropologist Johannes Wilbert has been working for decades to decipher and comprehend this complex structure. The Warao use the leaves to make cigars some 90 cm in length that can be smoked only by shamans and initiates. A man must fast and may drink only water during the seven days that precede the use of one of these cigars. Only a few inhalations are taken from the cigar, as most people fall to the ground after their first deep inhalation and enter an extremely altered state of consciousness (Wilbert 1996).

Many shamans acquire their abilities to travel into other realities through the help of tobacco. They learn to enter the house of tobacco, to use the tobacco smoke to ascend into the heavens, and to communicate with the plant spirits of tobacco, which often appear in the form of snakes. When performing healings, shamans often blow tobacco smoke onto the ill person to free him or her of disease spirits or to protect the patient from them. For the initiated shamans, tobacco smoke is a door into another world, the world of visions, the world beyond space and time.

The Cariña Indians use a mixture of wild tobacco and ginger (Zingiber officinale) to promote the ability to see at night among those who are being trained to become shamans. The juice of both plants is dripped into the eyes of the candidates so that they later will be able to see and recognize both good and evil spirits (Wilbert 1987, 166).

Peruvian folk healers practice an extreme form of ingesting wild tobacco during their San Pedro rituals (cf. Trichocereus pachanoi). The process, which is known as singando, consists of the ritual drinking of a decoction of tabaco blanco (wild tobacco) through the nostrils. Today, singando is still frequently practiced by the curanderos of northwestern Peru. The healers consecrate themselves to the mountain gods and fall into a trance-like altered state of consciousness as a result of the potent effects of the nicotineSingando is an important part of the mesa rituals, during which San Pedro or, less frequently, floripondio (Brugmansia sanguineaBrugmansia spp.) is drunk. The tobacco decoction is produced by macerating the tobacco leaves, sometimes mixed with other plants, in water, alcohol, and scented waters (e.g., eau de cologne, agua florida). The drinking vessels are usually made from the shells of ocean mollusks. Shells of the pearl oyster (Pteria sterna [Gould, 1851] [syn. Pteria peruviana (Reeve, 1857)]) are preferred, as they are pointed at the ends.

Artifacts

 

The Huichol Indians make tobacco bottles (yékwe) from tree gourds (Crescentia cujete L.) for ceremonial purposes. Some of these bottles are decorated with visionary elements or images from peyote experiences (see Lophophora williamsii). They also are used as offerings to Solandra spp., the magical “tree of the wind.” The Tzeltal Indians (Chiapas, Mexico) sometimes make a tobacco pouch for smoking blends (bankilal) containing wild tobacco from the penis (called yat kohtom) and/or scrotum of the coati (Nasua nasuaN. narica).

Many archaeological objects from the Mesoamerican region are related to tobacco, although it cannot be determined which tobacco species they are associated with (see Nicotiana tabacum). In South America, a variety of types of tobacco pipes and forked cigar holders are carved from wood (Wilbert 1987).

Medicinal Use

 

The Callawaya wandering healers of South America recommend wild tobacco as a treatment for swollen muscles. The fresh leaves are warmed in the sun for a half hour and then massaged into the painful areas (Bastien 1987, 153*). In Peru, a decoction of the leaves is drunk to treat dysentery.

In Aztec medicine, wild tobacco was placed on the lower abdomen to treat swollen stomachs, smoked for asthma, and used to treat uterine ailments, sleeplessness, headaches, inflammations of the spleen, toothaches, syphilis, snakebites, and arrow wounds (Hernández 1959, 81f., 376*; Sahagun 11.7).

In modern Mexico, wild tobacco is smoked together with Ephedra nevadensis (see Ephedra spp.) as a treatment for headaches.

Constituents

 

Nicotiana rustica is very rich in nicotine (3.9 to 8.6%) and other pyrrolidine alkaloids (nornicotine, anabasine). It also contains traces of harmala alkaloids and tobacco camphor (Bastein 1987, 153*; Díaz 1979, 85*). The dried leaves may contain as much as 16% nicotine. Tobacco smoke has been found to contain more than nine hundred substances (Siegel et al. 1977, 18).

Effects

 

The Italian Girolamo Benzoni described the potent psychoactive effects of Nicotiana rustica in his early colonial work Historia del Mondo Nuovo (1568):

 

They light one end of the cigar, place the other end in the mouth, breathe through this, and fill themselves up with the dreadful smoke, so that they lose their minds. Some take so much of it that they fall over as if they were dead and remain unconscious for the greater part of the day or night. (In Maurer 1981, 348)

 

Wild tobacco can induce hallucinations that shamans are able to utilize. Wilbert (1996) has distinguished the hallucinations wild tobacco produces among the Warao Indians on the basis of their phenomenological effects:

 

—dreamlike and chromatic

—multisensory perceptions

—brilliant occurrences of light

—intuitive knowledge and spontaneous insights

—soul-escort by a psychopomp

—tunnel experiences

 

However, such phenomena appear only among initiated shamans. Nonshamans who consume the same amounts as shamans do may experience toxic effects that can be life-threatening (cf. Wilbert 1991).

“The great magician, who as physician, spirit conjurer, and preserver of the old tribal messages is the most important personage of a Taulipáng community, knows how to enter a trance state by means of excessive smoking and drinking a strong tobacco brew. In this state, visions come to him that he feels he has truly experienced when he awakes. . . . The magic physician must drink a great deal of tobacco juice when curing the ill so that he can send his soul to the mountain spirits, the Mauarí. He searches among them for those Mauarí who know how the sick person can be helped.”

 

JOSEFINE HUPPERTZ

 

IN GEISTER AM RORAIMA [SPIRITS ON THE RORAIMA] (KOCH-GRÜNBERG 1956, 14f.*)

 

“South American Indians consider tobacco as food that can be eaten or drunk, and in many societies shamans are referred to as ‘tobacco eaters.’ ”

 

JOHANNES WILBERT

 

“DOES PHARMACOLOGY CORROBORATE THE NICOTINE THERAPY AND PRACTICES OF SOUTH AMERICAN SHAMANISM?”

 

(1991, 182)

 

 

Nicotine

 

 

Nornicotine

 

 

Anabasine

 

Commercial Forms and Regulations

 

None

Literature

 

See also the entries for Nicotiana tabacumNicotiana spp., and nicotine.

 

Bondeson, Wolmar E. 1972. Tobacco from a Tiahuanacoid culture period. Etnologiska Studier 32:177–84.

 

Maurer, Ingeborg. 1981. Die Rauchenden Götter—Tabak in Kunst, Geschichte und Religion der Maya. In Rausch und Realität, ed. G. Völger, 1:346–50. Cologne: Rautenstrauch-Joest-Museum für Völkerkunde.

 

Pahl, Carola. 1996. Schon die alten Ägypter frönten der Drogensucht. Frankfurter Rundschau 20 (July).

 

Siegel, Ron K., P. R. Collings, and José L. Diaz. 1977. On the use of Tagetes lucida and Nicotiana rustica as a Huichol smoking mixture. Economic Botany 31:16–23.

 

Wilbert, Johannes. 1972. Tobacco and shamanistic ecstasy among the Warao Indians of Venezuela. In Flesh of the gods, ed. Peter Furst, 55–83. New York: Praeger.

 

———. 1975. Magico-religious use of tobacco among South American Indians. In Cannabis and culture, ed. Vera Rubin, 439–61. The Hague: Mouton.

 

———. 1979. Magico-religious use of tobacco among South American Indians. In Spirits, shamans, and stars, ed. David Browman and Ronald A. Schwarz, 13–38. The Hague: Mouton.

 

———. 1987. Tobacco and shamanism in South America. New Haven and London: Yale University Press. (Excellent bibliography.)

 

———. 1991. Does pharmacology corroborate the nicotine therapy and practices of South American shamanism? Journal of Ethnopharmacology 32:179–86.

 

———. 1996. Illuminative serpents: Tobacco hallucinations of the Warao. Lecture presented at the Entheobotany Conference, San Francisco, October 18–20.

 

Nicotiana tabacum Linnaeus

 

True Tobacco

 

Family

 

Solanaceae (Nightshade Family); Subfamily Cestroideae, Nicotianeae Tribe

Forms and Subspecies

 

Numerous varieties have been described, most of which can be distinguished on the basis of their phytogeography (Hartwich 1911, 27f.*):

 

Nicotiana tabacum L. var. brasiliensis Comes (indigenous to Brazil and northern South America)

Nicotiana tabacum L. var. fruticosa Hook. f. (indigenous to Mexico and Brazil; the most commonly cultivated variety)

Nicotiana tabacum L. var. havanensis Comes (indigenous to Mexico, and introduced from there to Cuba and Manila)

Nicotiana tabacum L. var. lancifolia Comes (indigenous to Ecuador and Central America)

Nicotiana tabacum L. var. macrophylla Schrank (Maryland tobacco; indigenous to Mexico)

Nicotiana tabacum L. var. virginica Comes (indigenous to the Orinoco, and introduced from there to Virginia)

 

All of these varieties have been used to produce numerous hybrids, cultivars, and sorts. The most important market forms are Virgin and Burley.

Synonyms

 

Nicotiana chinensis Fisch.

Nicotiana fruticosa L.

Nicotiana lancifolia Willd. ex Lehm.

Nicotiana latissima Mill.

Nicotiana loxensis H.B.K.

Nicotiana macrophylla Lehm.

Nicotiana mexicana Schlechtend.

Nicotiana nepalensis Lk. et Otto

Nicotiana pilosa Dun.

Nicotiana ybarrensis H.B.K.

Nicotiana tabacum L. var. subcordata Sendtner

Nicotiana tabacum L. var. macrophyllum Dun.

Folk Names

 

Ægte tobaksplante, alee (Bara), a’-li, anjel, apagu (Cuicatleca), ascut, a’xcu’t (Totonac), ayic (Popoluca), bujjerbhang (Arabic), bunco (Malabar), buncus, chimó, ch’ul winik (“human piss”), cocorote, cuauhyetl, cultivated tobacco, cutz, deoo-we (Witoto), dê’-oo-wê, dhum-kola, dhuumrapatra (Sanskrit), doonkola, duma, dumkola (Singhalese), dunkala, echter rauchtabak, echter tabak, elee (Baniwa), e’-li, finak, gemeiner tabak, guácharo, guexa (Zapotec), gueza, hach k’uts (Lacandon), hapis copxot (Seri), hepeaca (Tara-humara), herba sancta, herbe petum, huepaca, huipá (Tarahumara), indianisch wundkraut, iyatl, jaari, jacha, jakhon, jakhu, ju’uikill (Mixe), kapada, kherm’-ba (Kofán), kuanmat, kulturtabak, kuts, k’uts (Maya), k’úts, kutz, kuutz, ku’utz, lixcule, lixculi, lu-kux-ree (Yucuna), lukuxrí, maay (Huastec), majoris peti, may (Tzeltal), may wamal, me-e (Chontal), mitó (Siona), mooloo (Desana), moy (Tzotzil), mulú (Tukano), mulu’, nát’oohlijiníh, nát’oohntl’ízíkíih (Navajo), nát’oohxiit’aalíh, nicotiana maior, nicotiane, nicotianskraut, otzi (Zoque), pa-ga-ree-moo-le (Desana), pagári-mulé (Desana), pahu’’ky (Mixe), pëtrem (Mapuche, “that which is smoked”), petum, petun, piciete, picietl, poga, poghako, poghéi elley (Tamil), pop siwa, poyile, püchrem (Mapuche), puthem, quahyetl, quaryetl, quauyétl (Nahuatl), rauchtabak, ro-hú (Chinantec), rome (Shipibo-Conibo), salóm, sana sancta, sang-yen (Chinese), sayri, sidí, suma, symphytum indicum, tabac, tabacco, tabacco vero, tabaci, taback, tabaco, tabaco cimarrón, tabaco de la montaña, tabaco huitl, tabaku, tägyi (Comanche), takap, tamaku, tambaku (Hindi), tambracoo, tamer, tenejiete, tenexiet, thnam, thuok, tobacco, toback, tobak, tombeki, tosu, toutoune kordestani, tranco corto, true tobacco, tsaank (Shuar), tsank, tuma, tumak, tumbaku, uar (Cuna), uipa (Guarigia), uxkut (Tepehuano), vesciakola (Veddah, “cola leaf”), virgineischer tabak, Virginian tobacco, virginiatabak, ya, yaná (Cora), ye’-ma (Tariana), yen (Chinese), yerba santa (Spanish, “sacred herb”),254 yetl (Aztec), yinheu, youly, ysé, yuyi (Otomí)

“In many ways, the history of tobacco is as gripping as any novel. The detectives of science had to make use of all of their acumen to illuminate all of the botanical, national economic, and even linguistic problems that surround this mystical plant, which has completed its triumphant march across the entire globe in the course of the past four centuries.”

 

ØVRE RICHTER FRICH

 

VITAMIN DER SEELE [VITAMIN OF THE SOUL]

 

(1936, 9)

 

History

 

True tobacco was first cultivated in either Mexico or Peru. Whichever is correct, it spread into the other region at a very early date (Dressler 1953, 138f.*). It apparently was not derived from a wild form but was produced by hybridization (Schultes and Raffauf 1991, 41*). Nicotiana sylvestris Spegazz. et Comes may have been a precursor form. In Central and South America, tobacco is the most important and most commonly used shamanic plant.

In ancient Mesoamerica, tobacco was religiously venerated and was regarded as a plant of the gods. With its aid, priests induced an inebriation that opened contact to the world of the gods (Elferink 1983; Robicsek 1978). The “smoking god” of Palenque (= God K)—which the Lacandon know well and refer to as k’uh ku ts’uts’, “the god that smokes”—bears witness to this ritual. Tobacco played a significant role in the pre-Columbian culture of the Maya. In addition to its numerous social meanings, tobacco also is regarded by the Indians as a universal antidote for all types of animal bites and poisonings.

The earliest report about tobacco came from the feather of the monk Romano Pane, a companion of Christopher Columbus (1451–1506), who sent tobacco seeds to Charles V in 1518. The first botanical description is from Hernández (1525), who compared tobacco to henbane (Hyoscyamus nigerHyoscyamus spp.), which was well known in Europe (cf. Nicotiana rustica). In Europe, tobacco was received as a panacea and miracle agent and used in folk medicine in numerous ways (Kell 1965).

Tobacco appears to have been introduced to the South Pacific during pre-Columbian times (Feinhandler et al. 1979). The Portuguese brought it to India in the fifteenth or sixteenth century (Gupta 1991, 62*). By the sixteenth century, it was apparently well known in India and Nepal. Tobacco, and the practices of smoking and chewing it, was introduced to southern and Southeast Asia in the seventeenth century by the Dutch. Tobacco finally conquered all of Asia in the nineteenth century. Today, tobacco is one of the most frequently used psychoactive agents of pleasure in the world.

Distribution

 

True tobacco is a pure cultigen that was originally cultivated in either Central America or Amazonia and the neighboring regions. It is now grown throughout the world. Turkey has become renowned in the tobacco industry for its tobacco, and tobacco plants for commercial production are grown even in Germany. Although it is originally from the tropics, the tobacco plant has adapted very well to subtropical, dry/warm, and temperate climates.

Cultivation

 

Tobacco is propagated from seeds. In the tropics, the seeds need only be scattered over the earth, which is usually fertilized with ashes. In central Europe, the seeds must be sown between the middle and the end of March in greenhouses or in windowboxes in porous, sandy soil. The seeds should be gently pressed into the soil and will germinate in ten to twenty days when kept at 18 to 20°C. The young plants should then be transplanted into larger pots or beds. Tobacco requires much sun, a great deal of fertilizer, and copious amounts of water. It thrives best in sheltered areas.

If a tobacco plant develops flowers too quickly, they should be removed immediately so that the plant will continue to grow and develop more and larger leaves.

 

True tobacco (Nicotiana tabacum), with flowers and fruits.

 

 

When true tobacco (Nicotiana tabacum) was first introduced to Europe from the Americas, it was used as a medicinal plant and was listed in the early modern herbals under the name Indian beinwell. (Woodcut from Tabernaemontanus, Neu Vollkommen Kräuter-Buch, 1731)

 

“Many Amazonian Indians believe that there is a mighty life-giving and life-preserving power in tobacco. It is also believed that [tobacco] can strengthen the ability to resist harmful influences, purify, and enlighten. As a vehicle of the shaman, tobacco promotes contact with supernatural beings: the expelled smoke forms a kind of ladder to the heavens and [is] the medium through which religious authorities receive their energy. Few healing ceremonies occur in which tobacco smoke is not blown or tobacco leaves laid down. An ailing person must also ingest great quantities of tobacco so that the power of such an immunization can defend against the renewed attacks of disease demons.”

 

WOLFGANG MÜLLER

 

DIE INDIANER AMAZONIENS [THE INDIANS OF AMAZONIA]

 

(1995, 197*)

 

“Never has a plant that has entered into the circle of culture been laden with such curses or been persecuted with such severe laws as tobacco, and never has one passed so triumphantly across the entire earth—evidence as to how much humans have always been and still are inclined to pursue the enticements of pleasure more quickly than the demands of social welfare.”

 

JULIUS LIPPERT

 

DIE KULTURGESCHICHTE IN EINZELNEN HAUPTSTÜCKEN [THE HISTORY OF CULTURE IN INDIVIDUAL MAIN SECTIONS]

 

(1885, 127)

 

Appearance

 

This annual herbaceous plant can attain a height of 2 to 3 meters. Its large leaves (30 to 40 cm long) are oblong-elliptic. The campanulate, funnel-shaped, five-pointed flowers grow in panicles and have a light green calyx and pink petals. In North America and Europe, the plant flowers between July and September. The capsule-shaped fruits contain numerous tiny brown seeds.

True tobacco is occasionally confused with other Nicotiana species (Nicotiana spp.).

Psychoactive Material

 

—Leaves (dried and/or fermented; folia nicotianae, nicotianae folium, herba tabaci, herba nicotianae virginianae, tobacco leaves)

—Herbage (nicotianae virginianae herba)

Preparation and Dosage

 

The leaves can be dried in a variety of ways. For the smoking industry, tobacco leaves are “fermented” in a manner that varies depending upon their intended use. Cigarette tobacco is dried slowly in a moist environment. Cigar tobacco is air-dried, chewing tobacco is dried over a fire, and Turkish tobacco is dried in the sun (Macmillan 1991, 419*). Fruit juices are added to some pipe tobaccos. The drying process (“fermenting”) produces the special, preferred aroma. The leaves also can be laid on top of one another to ferment, a process that can require several months.

The Indians hang the leaves in the shade or, rarely, spread them out in the sun to dry.

Smoking tobacco should be yellowish or brown. The leaves are sometimes bleached with sulfur to give them a light yellow color. The taste is improved by adding sugar solutions, spices, salts, and coloring agents to the leaves. Chewing tobacco is produced from tobacco leaves that have been allowed to sit in a tobacco solution. Industrial tobacco snuffs may be aromatized with extracts of juniper berries (Juniperus communis L.; cf. Juniperus recurva), calamus root (Acorus calamus), sassafras wood (Sassafras albidum), and spices (Wagner 1985, 172*). In Burma (Myanmar), “the tobacco is doused with urine to improve the flavor” (Hartwich 1911, 113*).

 

The Lacandon still enjoy smoking cigars rolled from unfermented tobacco leaves.

 

Tobacco leaves are smoked by themselves or in smoking blends with other herbs (e.g., Cannabis indicaDatura innoxia) (cf. kinnikinnick). The Siona roll tobacco leaves in dried banana leaves (Musa x sapientum) for smoking (Vickers and Plowman 1984, 31*). In Mexico, tobacco is usually rolled in corn husks (Zea mays). The dry yet still elastic tobacco leaves also can be rolled into cigars by themselves, without any additions. Shamans of the Yucatán (Mexico) make cigars from one leaf of Nicotiana tabacum and one leaf of Datura innoxia. Birch bark is sometimes added to the tobacco to dilute the effects (Hartwich 1911, 91*).

In Siberia, smoking tobacco is mixed with spruce bark (Picea omorika [Panc.] Purkyne), scrapings of birch wood (Betula spp.), fir wood (Abies spp.), and moss (Polytrichum) (Hartwich 1911, 110*).

The men and women of Burma (Myanmar) roll different kinds of cigarettes. Men’s cigarettes consist of finely cut tobacco that is wrapped in the foliage leaves of Ficus spp., Cordia dichotoma Forst. f. [syn. Cordia myxa Roxb., Cordia obliqua Willd.] (Cordiaceae), Careya arborea Roxb. (Barring-toniaceae), or Tectona grandis L. f. (Verbenaceae). Women’s cigarettes are wrapped in the epidermis of the spathes ofAreca catechu, corn husks, or bamboo skin that has been flattened on a heated stone. The filling is a mixture of chopped tobacco leaves, stems, and roots; the roots of a Euphorbia species; the pith of a plant known as oh’ne (Streblus asper Lour.; Moraceae); sometimes palm sugar (cf. Cocos nuciferapalm wine); and finely chopped banana leaves (Hartwich 1911, 113*).

In Europe, tobacco is often rolled into joints together with hashish (see Cannabis indicaCannabis sativa). From a pharmacological perspective, however, this combination is rather pointless, as the combination of the two substances results in a negative synergy. The tobacco suppresses the effects of the hashish, and the hashish potentiates the effects of the nicotine.

The western Amazon region and Venezuela are home to a practice known as tobacco licking or sucking. Here, tobacco is boiled to produce a kind of syrup called ambíl or chimó (chimú). The syrup is collected on a stick that is then dipped in coca powder (Erythroxylum coca var. ipadú) or plant ashes (cf. Erythroxylum coca) and licked (Kamen-Kaye 1971, 1975). This method of preparation and use has its roots in the pre-Hispanic period. Varying the additives and the quality of the tobacco leaves yields a chimó manso (mild), chimó dulce (sweet), chimó bravo (courageous), or chimó fuerte (strong). The chimópaste is placed between the lip and the lower front teeth, where it slowly dissolves. The black saliva is spat out. Habitual chimó users (whether men, women, or children) use the paste from the morning until the evening (Kamen-Kaye 1971, 17). As with cigarette smoking, tobacco licking has no predetermined dosages.

 

Indians of the North American prairie make fresh tobacco leaves into braids that are later used as chewing tobacco. (Lakota tobacco braid, from South Dakota)

 

 

mapacho, a roll of tightly glued tobacco leaves from the Amazon.

 

The Siona make their ambíl from tobacco leaves that are boiled, pressed, and then boiled again together with the pressed juice until a dark brown syrup results. The ashes of the fruit husks of cacao colorado de monte (a Herraniaspecies, possibly Herrania breviligulata), banana peels (see Musa x sapientum), and the bark of Paullinia yoco are also added to the syrup. The thick mixture is stored in gourds and can be sucked or even swallowed for use (Kamen-Kaye 1971, 53). The Witoto add avocado seeds (Persea americana Mill.) to the boiling tobacco decoction and sweeten their ambíl with cane sugar. They usually add a salty plant ash from the wood of rain forest trees of the genus Lecythis or palm wood from the genera Bactris and Chamaedorea (Kamen-Kaye 1971, 36). They often store ambíl in the fruit shells of a wild cacao species (Theobroma glaucum Karsten; see Theobroma spp.); they believe that this improves the taste considerably. The Kogi use manioc flour (Manihot esculenta Crantz) or sagú (Maranta arundinacea L.) to thicken the tobacco decoction. Other Indians use sugii (Sorghum spp.), a type of millet (Kamen-Kaye 1971, 33; 1975, 58). In Venezuela, the ashes from the wood of an Erythrina species (Erythrina spp.) are used as well (Plotkin et al. 1980, 295).

Amazonian snuffs are made by mixing finely ground, dried green tobacco leaves in equal parts with the ashes of a wild cacao species (Theobroma subincanum Mart.; see Theobroma spp.). Sometimes, a pinch of chili (Capsicumspp.) or some coca powder (Erythroxylum coca var. ipadú) may also be added (Schultes and Raffauf 1991, 42*). In Europe, Schneeberger Schnupftabak, a type of sniffing tobacco, was made with Veratrum album as an additive.

In French Guiana and Suriname, tobacco leaves and an alkaline additive, the ashes of the stem wood of a tree known as mahot cochon or okro-oedoe (Sterculia excelsaS. pruriens [Aubl.] K. Schum.255), are used to produce a liquid that is sucked through the nose. The ashes are sprinkled over the fresh tobacco leaves, which are then moistened with water. After being allowed to sit for a period of time, the treated leaves are then pressed. The juice is sucked into the nose, immediately producing pronounced psychoactive effects characterized as an “overwhelming sensation of ecstasy.” The effects persist for some twenty to thirty minutes (Plotkin et al. 1980).

Peruvian shamans use fresh tobacco leaves to prepare cold-water extracts, often adding other plants, aromas, or alcohol (Vickers and Plowman 1984, 31*). This preparation usually is taken nasally before the ingestion of Trichocereus pachanoi or cimora.

An astonishingly similar use occurs (occurred?) in Africa:

 

Wherever they [the Wadchichi, Lake Tanganyika] go and stand, they carry a gourd of tobacco and wear a metal or wooden clamp that hangs from a rope around their necks. From time to time, they fill the gourd with water and press the juice of the moistened tobacco into the hollow of their hand. They sniff this from their hand into their nose, and then the clamp is carefully set in place so that nothing flows out. (Lippert 1885, 28)

 

 

In Amazonia, a popular pastime involves sprinkling a partially dried tobacco leaf with coca powder (Erythroxylum coca var. ipadú), rolling it up, and chewing it as a quid (Schultes and Raffauf 1991, 42*). Ingesting the tobacco orally together with slaked lime increases the effects noticably.258

The Jíbaro mix tobacco juice with Banisteriopsis caapi and piripiri (probably a Cyperus species; see Cyperus spp.). The mestizo ayahuasqueros of Iquitos mix tobacco juice with ayahuasca. Dried tobacco leaves are moistened with saliva and allowed to remain overnight in a hollow that has been cut into the trunk of a lupuna tree (Trichilia tocacheana C. DC.; Meliaceae). This makes them thoroughly wet, and the leaves also absorb the toxic juice of the tree (Schultes and Raffauf 1991, 42*).

In Mexico, a decoction of tobacco leaves, stems of capulín agarroso (Conostegia xalapensis [Bonpl.] Don), guava leaves (Psidium guajava), avocado leaves (Persea americana Mill.), muicle herbage (Justicia spicigeraSchlechtend. or Justicia mexicana Rose; cf. Justicia pectoralis), Dyssodia porophylla (Cav.) Cav., and garlic (Allium sativum L.) is prepared as an external remedy used to treat edema of the legs (Argueta V. et al. 1994, 1301*).

In India, fresh or dried green tobacco leaves are chewed or used as additives to betel quids (Jain and Borthakur 1986, 579*). Indian bidis are sometimes made from unfermented tobacco and thorn apple leaves (Datura metel). In the Near East, a smoking blend known as guracco is made primarily from hemp (Cannabis indica), sometimes opium (cf. Papaver somniferum), raw sugar, fruits, the leaves of aEugenia species, the leaves of Rhododendron campanulatum D. Don (cf. Rhododendron caucasicum), Marrubium candidissimum L., and tobacco. A mixture of tobacco and rhododendron leaves is used as snuff. In the Himalayan region, tobacco is added to homemade alcohol(Hartwich 1911, 92*).

Tobacco is added to numerous psychoactive products, including ayahuascabalche’beerbetel quidsenemasincensesmoking blendssnuffs, and witches’ ointments.

Forty to 60 mg of nicotine represents a lethal dosage for adults (Roth et al. 1994, 517*). Depending upon the type of tobacco and the manner of preparation, this dosage can correspond to very different amounts of tobacco leaves. It is possible for a person to die after consuming just one commercially manufactured cigarette (cf. Nicotiana rustica). One “normal” cigarette contains approximately 1 g of tobacco, which usually corresponds to a concentration of 5 to 10 mg of nicotine (calculated as a salt) (Wagner 1985, 172*).

Ritual Use

 

In Mesoamerica, tobacco has a long history as a plant of the gods. The plant not only was venerated but also was offered to the gods and was always smoked at rituals and ceremonies and during shamanic healings (cf. Nicotiana rustica).

Today, tobacco continues to play a central role in Mexican shamanism, although often it is only in the form of industrially manufactured, commercial cigarettes. The Nahuat offer tobacco leaves or cigarettes during shamanic rituals to treat soul loss (Knab 1995, 160*). Tobacco also is used as a fumigant for magical protection from evil sorcerers, spirits, and snakes. The Mayan shamans of the Yucatán smoke tobacco (usually in combination with Datura innoxia) to diagnose diseases and to dispel the spirits that cause them. The Lacandon smoke an especially large number of cigars during their communal balche’drinking rituals. They also use cigars as gifts when courting a bride. In general, tobacco and cigars are their most important traditional gifts for establishing or strengthening social relationships.

The priestly and shamanic use of tobacco has also been documented for pre-Columbian Central America and the Caribbean islands. There, tobacco often was mixed with other substances, including the balsam of Liquidambar styraciflua L., which was used an as incense (Elferink 1983). In Colombia, the Indian use of tobacco is widespread and has its roots in pre-Columbian times (Uscátegui M. 1956). Tobacco has great ritual, medicinal, and magical significance for almost every tribe in the Amazon region. It is smoked, chewed, sniffed (cf. snuffs), drunk in the form of pressed juice or brew (decoction, cold-water extract), administered rectally as an enema, or added to ayahuasca (Schultes and Raffauf 1990, 432ff.*).

Freshly pressed tobacco juice (from the leaves and stems) or an aqueous decoction of tobacco is often added to ayahuasca to potentiate its hallucinogenic effects. While under the influence of ayahuasca, most Amazonian Indians also smoke thick cigars or snuff tobacco practically without interruption (Schultes and Raffauf 1991, 42*).

In Amazonia, tobacco sniffing is usually hedonistic in nature, although it can also occur in ritual contexts. During ayahuasca ceremonies, many Indians in the western Amazon region sniff great quantities of tobacco powder mixed with the bark of a wild cacao species (Theobroma subincanum Mart.; cf. Theobroma spp.),259 sometimes even mixed with ground chili pods (Capsicum spp.) (Reichel-Dolmatoff 1971*; Schultes and Rffauf 1990, 433*).260

“Hachäkyum, our true lord, made tobacco. He planted it, he tried it out: ‘Ah, it is very delicious. That is very good for my creatures, for its smoke dispels the us flies, its juice kills the ticks and the flesh worms [Spanish: colmoyotes].’ Hachäkyum gave tobacco to the ancestors. But they did not need to die, for they did not inhale the smoke. When you inhale the smoke, your consciousness turns, the heart beats faster, the stomach aches. When you inhale the smoke, you quickly become inebriated, you must vomit, the muscles ache. Then you must drink a lot of water or pour it over the head, then you will become healthy once more.”

 

A LACANDON MYTH

 

IN “TS’AK

 

(RÄTSCH 1994B, 55*)

 

During shamanic initiations, the Tukanos frequently administer great quantities of tobacco juice to novices so that they will vomit and pass out. Only a person who has survived this “chemical torture”—the amounts administered would quickly kill a “normal” person—is able to become a proper shaman (Schultes and Raffauf 1990, 435*).

The Aguaruna (an Ecuadoran Jíbaro tribe) mix tobacco juice with ayahuasca and administer the result as a ritual enema. Before receiving the enema, they drink ayahuasca and tobacco water alternately until they have to vomit. The enema is given after this (Schultes and Raffauf 1991, 43*).

Children of the Shuar sometimes receive tobacco water in place of Brugmansia suaveolens so that they can find their dream soul (arutam) (Bennett 1992, 493*).

The Mapuche burn tobacco leaves to fumigate rooms (cf. incense) in which sick people are staying or have stayed in order to dispel the spirits and causes of disease (Houghton and Manby 1985, 100*). Mapuche shamans smoke a great deal of tobacco, often in combination with other plants and tobacco species (Nicotiana acuminata [Grah.] Hook., Nicotiana spp., Nicotiana rustica), to attain an ecstatic or trancelike state (Houghton and Manby 1985, 100*). They also blow tobacco smoke onto the ill (Mösbach 1992, 105*).

In former times, initiates among the Ayoreo Indians of the Paraguayan Chaco had to drink a cold-water extract (maceration) of tobacco leaves as part of the process of becoming a shaman (naijna). Each novice was required to fast for two days before receiving the drink. If he did not have to vomit after ingesting the drink, he could become a shaman. Afterward, he had to fast for another two days and then survive a drink of tobacco leaves and a caper plant known as najnur (Capparis speciosa Griseb.). Finally, he had to smoke the dried roots of Jatropha grossidentata and Manihot anomala (Schmeda-Hirschmann 1993, 109*).

True tobacco, although it did not originate in North America, was cultivated at an early date by many North America tribes, especially in Montana and Virginia (hence the name Virginia tobacco) (cf. Nicotiana spp.). The Crow Indians, a typical Plains tribe, even had a secret society that was dedicated to the growing, care, and use of tobacco (Lowie 1975). The modern peyote ceremony of the Native American Church is opened with tobacco smoking (Bull Durham sort) (see Lophophora williamsii). Today, Nicotiana tabacum is a common ingredient in ritual smoking blends and in kinnikinnick.

The shamanic use of tobacco has spread outside of the New World (Tschubinow 1914, 45*).“Tungus and Sojot shamans smoke imported tobacco to achieve ecstasy. Manchu shamans smoke tobacco and blow it onto sick persons. Tobacco is new to Asia, but inhaling the smoke of various plants in order to enter trance was an ancient practice of the local shamans” (Ruben 1952, 239*) (see Juniperus recurvaLedum palustre). In eighteenth-century Siberia, “priests who were to divine would rub tobacco leaves between their hands and scatter these in brandy, which they then drank so that they could attain the necessary rapture” (Hartwich 1911, 109*). In Nepal, tobacco is venerated as a sacred plant of Shiva and is used by the shamans of the country (cf. Aconitum feroxCannabis indica). Tobacco was also used as a snuff in Nepal.

In Papua New Guinea, shamanism and sorcery are closely linked to the smoking and chewing of both the indigenous and the introduced tobacco species (cf. Nicotiana spp.). Certain aspects of the mythology and the culture of the Papuas are reminiscent of characteristics of the Australian Aborigines (cf. pituri):

 

Among the Fore of the eastern highlands, the medicine men, who are also called dream men or smoke men, obtain their great knowledge from a knowing that is provided to them in dreams that are induced by psychotropic plants and the inhalation of tobacco smoke. (Michel 1981, 261)

 

According to the Eipo tribe (New Guinea), tobacco originated at the beginning of time from the excrement of birds (260).261

Around 1851, an article about witches’ flights (cf. witches’ ointments) appeared in the Rheinischen Antiquarius, in which a kind of “tobacco shamanism” was described:

 

 

The smoking god of Palenque demonstrates that the smoking of tobacco and other plants was of tremendous ritual and religious significance in pre-Hispanic times. (Relief, ca. eighth century)

 

But around midnight, when he had lit a tobacco pipe and had smoked a little, he would have fallen into a swoon or sleep as a result of constant tobacco drinking, after which he would have only just dreamed or fancied that he had crept over a deep well or a cistern, constantly in danger of falling into this deep well. But when he awoke before the sun rose, he found himself next to or among his comrades [who sat imprisoned twenty-seven German miles away], in great amazement, and had the tobacco pipe, half-full, in his hands, which he then relit and smoked to the end. He did not know whether he had driven there on a goat or a coat or a poker or in some other manner, but had only been always fancying or dreaming, as if he had dreamed while asleep, how he crept over a deep well. (Stramberg 1986, 50)

 

 

Many people see the psychoactive tobacco as a brain food, a “vitamin of the soul.” (Book cover, 1936)

 

In Europe, the rise of the smoking salon led to the development of ritual forms of communal smoking (smoking clubs), rudiments of which have been preserved in modern times. This includes the act of offering cigarettes in social gatherings.

Artifacts

 

Ancient Mexican art, especially the art of the Maya, is filled with references to tobacco (cf. Nicotiana rustica). There are frequent depictions of smoking gods. In particular, the Mayan god known in the literature as God K has cigars,262 cigarettes, or smoking tubes (chamal) as its attributes (Robicsek 1978, 59ff.).263 God K appears often in Mayan manuscripts and reliefs from the Classic Mayan period (300 to 900 C.E.).

The best-known image of God K is as the smoking god of Palenque. It is possible that tobacco visions provided the inspiration for some of the representations of other worlds (Robicsek 1978; cf. Dobkin de Rios 1974a*).

The use of tobacco has generated countless paraphernalia. The most important, of course, are the pipes, which have become objects of an almost cultic fixation among Western smokers in particular. The invention of the pipe is described in a whimsical story:

 

In South Africa, people once allowed tobacco to glow in a hole in the earth, and several people would suck the smoke from this hole using tubes. It was a small step to attach a small coal pot and portable smoking altar to the end of the tube itself—and so our tobacco pipe was born. (Lippert 1885, 127)

 

Containers for storing tobacco preparations (snuff boxes, cigar boxes, tobacco tins) also come in many forms. These objects are often decorated with iconographic elements of cultural significance. One cigar box, for example, featured depictions of mandrakes (Mandragora officinarum).

In Venezuela, traditional chimó containers (cajetacucachimoeracachita) are made from cow horns (cachocuerna de res), to which a spatula (paleticapajuela) of horn, wood, bone, or silver is usually attached (Kamen-Kaye 1971, 20ff.).

Medicinal Use

 

Tobacco is used throughout Central and South America as a remedy for snakebites (Schultes and Raffauf 1991, 42*). Today, the Tzeltal still use tobacco plasters as a treatment for this purpose (Berlin et al. 1974, 445*).

In Mexico, the use of tobacco (juice) as a pesticide is found among almost all Indians as well as the mestizos. Tobacco juice (u yits k’uts) is applied to insect stings and bites. The term u yits k’uts, “the juice of the tobacco,” is used for the tobacco condensate that can be seen in the saliva after a cigar has been smoked. The Lacandon believe that tobacco is poisonous, but that it is precisely for this reason that it is also a general antidote that has the power to neutralize even potent poisons. A ritual still exists in which snake venom is neutralized with tobacco.264 When a venomous snake such as a nauyaca (Bothrops atrox) or a rattlesnake (Crotalus terrificus) is found in a settlement or milpa, it must immediately be killed. A cigar stub is pushed into the throat of the dead snake to neutralize its venom. The snake is then buried. When spending the night in the jungle, making a circle around the camp with cigar ashes is said to keep away the poisonous snakes. It is possible that the Lacandon may also have once treated snakebites with tobacco (Rätsch 1994b, 55*).

In Venezuela, chimó is used in folk medicine as a remedy for scorpion stings, centipede bites, insect stings (wasps, bees, et cetera), and snake-bites. The flesh worms (Dermatobia hominis) that live under the skin are also treated and expelled with chimóChimó users believe that the preparation is good for the teeth, for warding off the “evil eye,” for dispelling hunger and exhaustion as well as evil spirits, and for healing a variety of illnesses (coughs, headaches, dysentery, toothaches, asthma, influenza, stomachaches) (Kamen-Kaye 1971, 23ff.).

Among the Maká Indians (Paraguay), only men and those women who are not nursing will smoke or chew tobacco (it is said that tobacco use will cause nursing women to have “bad milk”). The Maká used the resinous tars that remain in the pipe as a remedy for treating wounds (Arenas 1987, 291*).

The Shipibo use combinations of tobacco leaves and the pith of the stems of Brugmansia suaveolens as a plaster to threat aching wisdom teeth (Arévalo V. 1994, 259*).

In India, tobacco leaves are crushed together with the leaves of Erythrina stricta Roxb. (cf. Erythrina spp.) and Desmodium caudatum (cf. ayahuasca analogssoma) to make a paste that is applied to the skin to treat ulcers (Jain and Borthakur 1986, 579*).

In German folk medicine, tobacco was smoked, burned, or chewed to treat toothaches (cf. incense). Decoctions of the leaves were administered as enemas in the treatment of broken bones (Pabst 1887, 2:140*).

In homeopathy, Nicotiana or Tabacum is usually used in higher potencies in accordance with the medical description to treat such ailments as angina (Roth el al. 1994, 518*):

 

The symptomatics of Tabacum are extremely striking. The nausea, dizziness, deathly paleness, the vomiting, the icy cold and sweating with intermittent pulse, are all highly characteristic. (Boericke 1992, 741*)

 

Constituents

 

As of 1989, 2,549 different substances had been detected and described in tobacco! The entire plant contains nicotine (primary constituent) as well as nornicotine and other pyridine alkaloids (anabasine, nicotyrine). The alkaloid content can vary considerably, ranging from 0.05 to 4% (Roth et al. 1994, 516*). In addition to the alkaloids, amines, flavones, coumarins, pyrrolidine, and piperidine are also present. Fermented tobacco contains up to 0.4% free nicotinic acid (Wagner 1985, 173*).

Sun-dried leaves contain a mixture of aromatics consisting of hundreds of substances (primarily volatile acids) (Kimland et al. 1973). The substance known as tobacco camphor (= nicotianine) has been characterized as a volatile substance (cf. Cinnamomum camphora).

The smoke of commercial cigarettes has been found to contain myristicin (cf. Myristica fragransessential oils). The hallucinogenic effects of tobacco that are sometimes reported may perhaps be due (at least in part) to this component of the smoke (Schmeltz et al. 1966).

The study of the condensate of cigarette smoke for alkaloids has led to astonishing discoveries about its constituents. The principal alkaloid in the analyzed mass is the β-carboline harmane, followed by N-methylanabasine, nicotinamide, and anabasine. Lower concentrations of 2,2’-bipyridyl, β-nicotyrine, 2,6-dimethylquinoline, and myosmine have also been detected (Brown and Ahmad 1972, 3486; Janiger and Dobkin de Rios 1973, 1976; Poindexter and Carpenter 1962).

 

The spadixes of the cattail Typha latifolia are often smoked as substitutes for real cigars.

 

 

 

Dried coltsfoot leaves (Tussilago farfara) are a popular tobacco substitute.

 

“The religious leader of his group, who heals illnesses but primarily establishes the connection to the nonhuman persons and powers, also uses tobacco—often to a very considerable degree—the ingestion of which enables him to attain the state that the now almost endless literature refers to as ‘inebriation’ and ‘ecstasy’ but often calls ‘trance,’ ‘possession,’‘entrancement,’‘rapture,’ or ‘passion’ as well, in which he can directly contact the deities and spirits, have them manifest themselves in his hut or let them enter his body, or search out their location by sending out his spirit double or through an ecstatic journey that the body and the soul undertake together.”

 

GERHARD BAER

 

DER VON TABAK BERAUSCHTE [HE WHO IS INEBRIATED ON TOBACCO] (1986, 70*)

 

Effects

 

The effects of tobacco are primarily the result of the nicotine. Low dosages of tobacco produce invigorating and stimulating effects that suppress feelings of hunger. Moderate dosages can easily result in nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, anemia, and dizziness. High dosages can led to delirium with hallucinations (cf. Nicotiana rustica) and to death due to respiratory paralysis (Wagner 1985, 173*). Reactions to tobacco and to different dosages are greatly dependent upon familiarity with the drug. Chronic smokers can survive sublethal dosages without problem.

Chronic use of tobacco can lead to serious health problems (cancer, lung disorders, throat problems, smoker’s leg). In Mexico, “smoker’s cough” (bronchial catarrh) is treated with damiana tea (Turnera diffusa).

Combining tobacco with other substances, e.g., in betel quids, can have synergistic effects, about which very little pharmacological data is available.

Commercial Forms and Regulations

 

Today, tobacco is the only sacred plant of ancient times that is still legally available throughout the world (in the form of cigarettes or rolling tobacco)! In Germany, up to one hundred plants may be privately cultivated without taxation. Any person growing more than one hundred plants must report this to the customs authorities.

In Europe, any tobacco product intended for sale must include a warning about the potential for health problems. In Belgium, smoking has been prohibited in public buildings since 1987. In the United States, smoking in public is increasingly being restricted. The World Health Organization (WHO) has recently adopted an international framework for restricting tobacco advertising.

 

In Europe, tobacco (Nicotiana tabacum) was originally known as the henbane of Peru or Hyoscyamus peruvianus. (Woodcut from Gerard, The Herball or General History of Plants, 1633)

 

Literature

 

See also the entries for Nicotiana rusticaNicotiana spp., and nicotine.

 

There are numerous journals that are sponsored by the cigarette industry and that continually publish the most up-to-date chemical studies. The most important of these journals is Beiträge zur Tabakforschung International (since 1978).

 

Brown, E. V., and I. Ahmad. 1972. Alkaloids of cigarette smoke condensate. Phytochemistry 11:3485–90.

 

Califano, Mario, and Alicia Fernández Distel. 1978. L’emploi du tabac chez les Mashco de l’Amazonie sud-occidentale du Pérou. Bulletin de la Société Suisse des Américanistes 42:5–14.

 

Elferink, Jan G. R. 1983. The narcotic and hallucinogenic use of tobacco in pre-Columbian Central America. Journal of Ethnopharmacology 7:111–22.

 

Feinhandler, Sherwin J., Harold C. Fleming, and Joan M. Mohahon. 1979. Pre-Columbian tobaccos in the Pacific. Economic Botany 33 (2): 213–26.

 

Hartmann, Günther. 1981. Tabak bei den südamerikanischen Indianern. In Rausch und Realität, ed. G. Völger, 1:224–35. Cologne: Rautenstrauch-Joest-Museum für Völkerkunde.

 

Heimann, Robert K. 1960. Tobacco and Americans. New York, Toronto, and London: McGraw-Hill.

 

Janiger, Oscar, and Marlene Dobkin de Rios. 1973. Suggestive hallucinogenic properties of tobacco. Medical Anthropology Newsletter 4 (4): 6–10.

 

———. 1976. Nicotiana an hallucinogen? Economic Botany 30:295–97.

 

Kamen-Kaye, Dorothy. 1971. Chimó: An unusual form of tobacco in Venezuela. Botanical Museum Leaflets 23 (1): 1–59.

 

———. 1975. Chimó—why not? A primitive form of tobacco still in use in Venezuela. Economic Botany 29:47–68.

 

Kell, Katharine T. 1965. Tobacco in folk cures in Western society. Journal of American Folklore 78 (308): 99–114.

 

Kimland, B., A. J. Aasen, S.-O. Almqvist, P. Arpino, and C. R. Enzell. 1973. Volatile acids of sun-cured Greek Nicotiana tabacumPhytochemistry 12:835–47.

 

Lewis, Albert B. 1924. Use of tobacco in New Guinea and neighboring regions. Anthropology Leaflet 17. Chicago: Field Museum of Natural History.

 

Lippert, Julius. 1885. Die Kulturgeschichte in einzelnen Hauptstücken. Leipzig: G. Freytag.

 

Lowie, Robert H. 1975. The tobacco society of the Crow Indians. New York AMS Press. (Orig. pub. 1919.)

 

Michel, Thomas. 1981. Tabak in Neuguinea. In Rausch und Realität, ed. G. Völger, 1:258–62. Cologne: Rautenstrauch-Joest-Museum für Völkerkunde.

 

Plotkin, Mark J., Russell A. Mittermeier, and Isabel Constable. 1980. Psychotomimetic use of tobacco in Surinam and French Guiana. Journal of Ethnopharmacology 2:295–97.

 

Poindexter, E. H., and R. D. Carpenter. 1962. Isolation of harman and norharman from tobacco and cigarette smoke. Phytochemistry 1:215–21.

 

Redfield, Robert. 1950. A village that chose progress: Chan Kom revisited. Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press.

 

Richter, Elsie. 1926. Zigarre und andere Rauchwörter. In Congresso intern. degli Americanisti XXII (Rome): 2:296–306.

 

Richter Frich, Øvre. 1936. Vitamin der Seele: Eine unterhaltsame Kulturgeschichte um den Tabak. Hamburg: Paul Zsolnay Verlag.

 

Robicsek, Francis. 1978. The smoking gods: Tobacco in Maya art, history, and religion. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press.

 

Schivelbusch, Wolfgang. 1981. Die trockene Trunkenheit des Tabaks. In Rausch und Realität, ed. G. Völger, 1:216–23. Cologne: Rautenstrauch-Joest-Museum für Völkerkunde.

 

Schmeltz, Irwin, R. L. Stedman, J. S. Ard, and W. J. Chamberlain. 1966. Myristicin in cigarette smoke. Science 151:96–97.

 

Schopen, Armin. 1981. Tabak in Jemen. In Rausch und Realität, ed. G. Völger, 1:244–47. Cologne: Rautenstrauch-Joest-Museum für Völkerkunde.

 

Stramberg, Chr. von, et al. 1986. Hexenfahrten. In Spuk- und Hexengeschichten, ed. Hermann Hesse, 26–62. Frankfurt/M.: Insel. (Article orig. pub. ca. 1851 in Rheinischen Antiquarius 2 (4): 334–61.)

 

Tiedemann, Friedrich. 1854. Geschichte des Tabaks und anderer ähnlicher Genußmittel. Frankfurt/M.: H. L. Brönner.

 

Uscátegui M., Nestor. 1956. El tabaco entre las tribus indígenas de Colombia. Revista Colombiana de Antropología 5:12–52.

 

Volprecht, Klaus. 1981. Tabak und sein Gebrauch in Afrika. In Rausch und Realität, ed., G. Völger, 1:248–57. Cologne: Rautenstrauch-Joest-Museum für Völkerkunde.

 

Walther, Elisabeth. 1981. Kulturhistorischethnologischer Abriß über den Gebrauch von Tabak. In Rausch und Realität, ed. G. Völger, 1:208–15. Cologne: Rautenstrauch-Joest-Museum für Völkerkunde.

 

Wynder, E. L., and D. Hoffmann. 1967. Tobacco and tobacco smoke: Studies on experimental carcinogenesis. New York: Academic Press.

 

Nicotiana spp.

 

(Wild) Tobacco Species

 

Family

 

Solanaceae (Nightshade Family); Subfamily Cestroideae, Nicotianeae Tribe

Today, ninety-five species are botanically recognized in the genus Nicotiana (D’Arcy 1991, 78*). Schultes and Raffauf (1990, 432*), however, recognize only sixty-six species, albeit with numerous subspecies. Of these, some forty-five species are indigenous to the Andes region (Schultes and Raffauf 1991, 41*). Sixteen to twenty species are endemic to Australia.

Many Nicotiana species are called wild tobacco or Indian tobacco; Lobelia nicotianaefolia is also known as wild tobacco and Lobelia inflata as Indian tobacco, and Lobelia tupa is known as devil’s tobacco.

During prehistoric times, only wild tobacco was smoked in North America (Dixon 1921; Setchell 1921).

 

Nicotiana acuminata (Grah.) Hook.

This wild tobacco occurs in southern Chile as the varieties multiflora (Phil.) Reiche and acuminata. The Mapuche have been smoking the leaves of this plant, which they call pëtrem, since pre-Columbian times. Mapuche shamans (machi) smoke a great deal at their healing ceremonies (cf. Latua pubiflora); it is said to enable them to enter an ecstatic state (Mösbach 1992, 105f.*).

Nicotiana attenuata Torr. ex Wats.—coyote tobacco

This wild North American species was smoked by the tribes of the Pacific Northwest (Heizer 1940). The leaves usually were mixed with bearberry leaves (Arctostaphylos uva-ursi [L.] Spreng.; cf. kinnikinnick) or other unidentified native plants (French 1965, 380f.). The Blackfeet cultivated this tobacco, which they called pistacan or mah-watosis (“hard tobacco”), and developed a tobacco plant ceremony in its honor (Johnston 1970, 319*).

 

In Europe, many American tobacco species were once known as Peruvian henbane. (Woodcut from Tabernaemontanus, Neu Vollkommen Kräuter-Buch, 1731)

 

Remains of this tobacco species have been identified in 1,300-year-old layers (Basket Maker III period) in the American Southwest (Jones and Morris 1960). The Hopi Indians know this wild tobacco by the name pí-bû and use it in various manners in their rituals. Because of this, the plant is also known as Hopi tobacco. The Navajo call it tzilnát’ooh, “mountain tobacco,” and use it in many ceremonies and healing rituals, in which it is placed in their prayer sticks (see Phragmites australis).

The Coahuilla Indians of Southern California refer to this wild tobacco as pivat-isil, “coyote tobacco.” They would grind the leaves with a stone, mix it with some water, and chew the result (Barrows 1967, 75*). The neighboring Chumash mixed the powdered leaves with lime obtained by burning shells. The mixture, known as pespibata, could be either sucked on as a quid or steeped in water and drunk. The effects were described as profoundly euphoric. This use apparently was also related to the initiation with Datura wrightii.

“The old woman also tried to use plant leaves cured over a fire for smoking in a clay pipe. Everybody watched her as she became dizzy and collapsed, and they said: ‘This time she is dying; just let her die.’ But the woman came to again, and the first thing she did was have another smoke. It did her no harm and so everybody learned how to smoke.”

 

A MATACO INDIAN MYTH

 

IN FOLK LITERATURE OF THE MATACO INDIANS

 

(WILBERT AND SIMONEAU 1982, 116*)

 

“In Mexico, a very strong tobacco species whose leaves are smoked, Nicotiana glauca Grah. (Solanc.), is also known as marihuana. Of course, this marihuana (also called macuchi) does not do anything other than that which any other strong tobacco does.”

 

VICTOR A. REKO MAGISCHE GIFTE [MAGICAL POISONS]

 

(1936, 62*)

 

 

Blue tobacco (Nicotiana glauca), originally from northwestern Argentina, is now grown throughout the world as an ornamental. (Wild plant, photographed near Salta, northwest Argentina)

 

Nicotiana bigelovii (Torr.) Wats. [syn. Nicotiana plumbaginifolia var. bigelovii Torr.]—pespibata This tobacco species was sacred to the Southern Californian Chumash. It was used as an offering and was smoked by special tobacco shamans, known as smoke healers, for ritual healings or was mixed with lime and ingested (Timbrook 1990, 252*). Other Indians of the Southwest also smoked or smoke the leaves (Barrows 1967, 74*; Setchell 1921, 404).

The smoke of this plant is so potent that it can cause a person to lose consciousness or fall into a deep trance. The Indians of California made use of this effect in their initiations and healing rituals. Today, this sacred plant is considered to be very rare.

 

Nicotiana clevelandii (Gray)—Cleveland’s tobacco, pavivut

The Serí Indians of northern Mexico call this wild tobacco xeezej islítx, “the inner ear of the badger.” They dry and smoke the small, wide leaves in clay pipes, in the shell of a worm snail (Tripsycha tripsychain the literature; probably Serpulorbis spp.), or in pieces of the canes of Phragmites australis. The Serí appear to be the only people who still smoke this tobacco species today (Felger and Moser 1991, 369*). In earlier times, it was also used in Southern California (Setchell 1921, 412 f.).

 

 

Nicotiana langsdorffii Schrank, one of the many South American tobacco species from Brazil.

 

Nicotiana glauca Grah. [syn Nicotidendron glauca (Grah.) Griseb., Siphaulax glabra Raf.]—blue tobacco, macuchi

This shrublike plant, which has bluish leaves and yellow flowers, was first described for the province of Salta (northwestern Argentina), where it occurs at altitudes up to about 3,700 meters. It quickly spread throughout all of the Americas and is now found even in Europe and Asia, where it is grown as an ornamental and has also become wild. Remains of this plant have been found in archaeological layers of the Nazca culture (Bruhn et al. 1976, 45).

In the southern Andes region of Peru, the plant is known by the Quechuan name supay kayku (supay essentially means “devil”). The plant is made into a medicinal bath to treat diseases that are caused by suq’a (“evil spirits”). Traditional healers known as p’aqus rub the leaves and add them to chicha. They drink this secretly to induce an inebriated state and so that they can diagnose and heal diseases (Franquemont et al. 1990, 100*).266 The plant is known as belen-belen or huelen-huelen (“very left”) in the Andes and as palqui extranjero, “foreign palqui bush” (Cestrum parqui), in Chile (Mösbach 1992, 105*).

The Pilagá Indians of Argentina call this shrub konyel’kaik. They use its fresh leaves as a plaster for treating headaches (Filipov 1994, 190*).

The Serí Indians of northern Mexico call the plant noj-oopis caacöl, “hummingbird that sucks out the large justicia” (Felger and Moser 1991, 369*; cf. Justicia pectoralis).

The plant’s main alkaloid is anabasine (Leete 1982). Nornicotine is also present (Argueta V. et al. 1994, 1306*). Although it has sometimes been asserted that the plant contains nicotine, this is doubtful (Roth et al. 1994, 515*). The pharmacological effects of anabasine, however, are very similar to those of nicotine (Blohm 1962, 94*).

 

Nicotiana langsdorffii Weinm.

This wild tobacco species occurs in southern Brazil and Chile (Hartwich 1911, 29*). The shamans of the Mapuche (machi) and other peoples formerly smoked it during their healing rituals (cf. Latua pubiflora).

 

Nicotiana palmeri A. Gray

The Navajo call this wild tobacco species tipénát’ooh, “sleeping tobacco,” and use it in numerous ceremonies and healing rituals. They also place this tobacco in their prayer sticks (see Phragmites australis).

 

Nicotiana plumbaginifolia Torr.

California Indians collected and smoked this wild tobacco (Barrows 1967, 74*). The plant also occurs in South America, where it was also smoked (Hartwich 1911, 29*).

 

This ornamental tobacco plant develops flowers of different colors.

 

 

Nicotiana alata is an important starting plant for breeding ornamental tobaccos.

 

 

Red ornamental tobacco (Nicotiana x) is sometimes used as a tobacco substitute.

 

 

A wild tobacco species (Nicotiana sp.), photographed in the ruined city of Yagul (Oaxaca, Mexico).

 

 

The wild tobacco (Nicotiana sp.) of Altiplano, Peru, is both smoked and used as a ritual incense. (Photographed at Lake Titicaca)

 

Nicotiana quadrivalvis Pursh var. multivalvis Gray [syn. Nicotiana multivalvis Lindl.]

This variety of a wild tobacco species was cultivated by the Indians on the Columbia River (Pacific Northwest) and was smoked for hedonistic or ritual purposes (Barrows 1967, 74*). The flowers were smoked as well as the leaves (Hartwich 1911, 31*).

 

Nicotiana sylvestris Spegazz. et Comes—wild tobacco

This persistent tobacco species blooms throughout the entire year and even tolerates light frost. It is originally from the Bolivian highlands and may have been a precursor of Nicotiana tabacum. The sticky leaves can be dried and smoked.

 

Nicotiana trigonophylla Dunal—desert tobacco

Desert tobacco is used by the Indians of the Southwest (Barrows 1967, 74*). The Tarahumara call it bawaráka or wipake and use it as an analgesic (Díaz 1979, 85*). It is also known as tabaco del coyote, “tobacco of the coyote.” The Serí Indians of northern Mexico call this wild tobacco species hapis casa, “that which is smoked, rots,” and believe that the plant has magical powers. The small, narrow leaves were apparently ritually collected and then slowly dried. The effects are said to be very strong (Felger and Moser 1991, 369*).

 

 

Anabasine

 

Nicotiana undulata Ruíz et Pav. [syn. Nicotiana tabacum var. undulata Sendtner]—Yaqui tobacco The Quechua know this Central and South American tobacco species as kamasayri. Applied externally, it is used to treat stomachaches (Franquemont et al. 1990, 100*). It is thought that the Maya used a preparation of the leaves as a medicinal or ritual psychoactive enema. The hybridization of this species with Nicotiana paniculata may have given rise to Nicotiana rustica (Emboden 1979, 42*).

 

 

The rare wild tobacco species Nicotiana cordifolia develops very large leaves that are well suited for rolling cigars.

 

 

An unidentified Nicotiana species.

 

 

A healing ceremony on Hispaniola, showing a shaman smoking some type of tobacco and falling into a trance. (From Benzoni, La Historia del Mondo Nuevo, 1568)

 

Nicotiana x—ornamental tobacco

There have been few chemical studies of the cultivated ornamental tobaccos, which produce a variety of flower colors. Some psychonauts are now investigating and testing these plants for possible psychoactive effects.

 

 

Nicotiana spp.—various species (wild tobacco)

There is evidence suggesting that many species of wild tobacco were and still are used in South America for ethnomedical, hedonistic, or ritual purposes. The Indians regard such wild tobaccos, most of which have not yet been identified, as more potent than the cultivated species (Nicotiana rusticaNicotiana tabacum). The following species have been smoked (Hartwich 1911, 29ff.*):

Nicotiana alata Link et Otto (Brazil, Uruguay, Paraguay)

Nicotiana alata var. persica Comes (Brazil)

Nicotiana angustifolia Ruíz et Pav. (Chile, Brazil)

Nicotiana glutinosa L. (Peru, Chile)

Nicotiana mexicana Schlecht. (Mexico, Guatemala, Bolivia; syn. or var. of Nicotiana tabacum)

Nicotiana paniculata L. (Peru)

Nicotiana pusilla L. (Mexico, Cuba)

Nicotiana repanda Willd. (Mexico)

 

Nicotiana species have been identified in archaeological excavations, including in a grave of the Tiahuanaco culture (in association with Ilex guayusa) (Bruhn et al. 1976). Their use appears to be very ancient.

Wild Tobacco in Australia

 

Some twenty species of the genus Nicotiana occur in Australia (Bahadur and Farooqui 1986; Burbidge 1960; Haegi 1979). All of the Australian Nicotiana species—usually referred to as wild tobacco267—are small annuals that seldom grow taller than 1 meter in height. All of the species are regarded as poisonous, especially for grazing cattle and sheep (Dowling and McKenzie 1993, 91*). Among the most poisonous species are Nicotiana megalosiphon and Nicotiana velutina, both of which are used as chewing tobacco.

All of the Australian Nicotiana species contain pyridine alkaloids, primarily nicotine and nornicotine (Dowling and McKenzie 1993, 92*). The Aborigines used and still use at least six of the indigenous species for psychoactive purposes, usually as chewing tobacco or pituri (cf. Duboisia hopwoodii). Goodenia spp., Trichodesma zeylanicum, and other species are used as substitutes (see Nicotiana tabacum) (O’Connell et al. 1983, 97 f.*).

Nicotiana gossei is regarded as the most potently effective wild tobacco species, followed by Nicotiana ingulba and Nicotiana benthamiana. The species Nicotiana velutina and Nicotiana megalosiphon are considered only weakly effective and are consumed only in extreme emergencies (O’Connell et al. 1983, 98*). The wild tobacco leaves are dried and made into rolls. For use, they are first moistened with saliva, then dipped in plant ashes (from Acacia spp., Eucalyptus micro-thecaEucalyptus sp., Ventilago viminalis, and others), and then chewed (cf. pituri).

Until recently, the Alyawara, who live in central Australia, also used wild species of tobacco to produce hunting poisons. The leaves were macerated in water and the resulting extract was poured into the watering sites of emus. When emus drank this toxic water, they became sedated and were easy prey for hunters (O’Connell et al. 1983, 98*).

Wild tobacco was also used in the rituals of the rainmakers.268 It was said that when mixed with saliva, the chewed leaves of Nicotiana species smelled like rain. Chewing made it possible for the “life essence” to leave the leaves. To make rain, the rainmaker and his assistants spat the chewed masses into the sky. The rainmaker could also spit the chewed mass onto a smooth stone. He would then take a pearl oyster (Pinctada margaritifera L.), which he would wear on a string around his neck at other ceremonies and which had great magical significance and great value to him, and rub it over the mass of leaves and saliva for a while, singing various magical songs as he did so. The pearl oyster was then smeared with blood, placed in mulga leaves, and covered with grass, after which it was hung from a mulga tree (Acacia aneura F. Muell. ex Benth.; cf. Acacia spp.). The oyster would then attract the rain (Mathews 1994, 26).

Nicotiana Species Used as Chewing Tobacco and Pituri Quids (Australia)

 

Species Alyawara Name (from O’Connell et al. 1983, 108*)

Nicotiana benthamiana Domin. ngkulpa putura

Nicotiana gossei Domin. ngkulpa inpiynpa

Nicotiana ingulba J.M. Black ngkulpa nguninga

Nicotiana megalosiphon Heurck et J. Muell. ngkulpa ntarrilpa

Nicotiana stimulans Burbidge

Nicotiana velutina Wheeler ngkulpa ntarrilpa

Literature

 

See also the entries for Duboisia hopwoodiiNicotiana rusticaNicotiana tabacumpituri, and nicotine.

 

Bahadur, Bir, and S. M. Farooqui. 1986. Seed and seed coat characters in Australian nicotiana. In Solanaceae: Biology and systematics, ed. William G. D’Arcy, 114–37. New York: Columbia University Press.

 

Bruhn, Jan G., Bo Holmstedt, Jan-Erik Lindgren, and S. Henry Wassén. 1976. The tobacco from Niño Korin: Identification of nicotine in a Bolivian archaeological collection. Göteborgs Etnografiska Museum Årstryck 1976:45–48.

 

Burbidge, N. T. 1960. The Australian species of Nicotiana L. (Solanaceae). Australian Journal of Botany 8:342–80.

 

Dixon, Roland B. 1921. Words for tobacco in American Indian languages. American Anthropologist, n.s., 23:19–49.

 

French, David H. 1965. Ethnobotany of the Pacific Northwest Indians. Economic Botany 19:378–82.

 

Goodspeed, Thomas H. 1954. The genus Nicotiana. Waltham, Mass.: Chronica Botanica Company.

 

Haegi, L. 1979. Australian genera of the Solanaceae. In The biology and taxonomy of the Solanaceae, ed. J. G. Hawkes et al., 121–24. London: Academic Press.

 

Heizer, Robert F. 1940. The botanical identification of northwest coast tobacco. American Anthropologist 42:704–6.

 

Jones, V. H., and E. A. Morris. 1960. A seventh-century record of tobacco utilization in Arizona. El Palacio 67 (4): 115–17.

 

Leete, E. 1982. Tobacco alkaloids and related compounds. 46: Biosynthesis of anabasine from DL-(4,5-13C,2,6-14C)-lysine in Nicotiana glauca examined by 13C-NMR. Journal of Natural Products 45:197–205.

 

Mathews, Janet. 1994. Opal that turned into fire. Broome, Wash.: Magabala Books.

 

Setchell, William Albert. 1921. Aboriginal tobaccos. American Anthropologist, n.s., 23 (4): 397–414.

 

Tso, T. C. 1972. Physiology and biochemistry of tobacco plants. Stroudsburg, Pa.: Dowden, Hutchinson & Ross.

 

“One plant person I know likes tree tobacco [Nicotiana glauca] and smokes it, but I’ve always found it rather harsh. Eaten, of course, it can kill just as quickly as does nicotine, and has. Of the wild tobaccos of western North America, Nicotiana attenuata, coyote tobacco, is said to be particularly fine. But Nicotiana acuminata should also be tried. . . .”

 

DALE PENDELL

 

PHARMAKO/POEIA (1995, 33*)