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Trout's Notes
Tryptamine Content of Arundo donax
by K. Trout
v1.0 - Mar 22, 2004
Adapted and expanded from Trout's Notes on "Some Simple Tryptamines" by K. Trout; § Mydriatic Productions 2002
DMT was reported by Ghosal and coworkers using material sourced in India. The first account of DMT appeared in Dutta & Ghosal 1967 which reported recovering 20 mg of DMT from 200 grams of the dry whole plant. It was accompanied by 520 mg of gramine, 128 mg of bufotenine and traces of 5-MeO-DMT, as well as unidentified indoles.

This was investigated further and published in Ghosal et al. 1969, which detailed the chemistry of the leaf and rhizome. Researchers recovered 40 mg of DMT from 700 grams of rhizome (dried and with culm removed) It was accompanied by 180 mg of bufotenine and 16 mg of 5-MeO-MMT. Leaf chemistry was similar to the above but in much lower amounts. Interestingly, 440 mg of dehydrobufotenine was also recovered from the rhizome (the same 700 gm). This alkaloid is only known to occur elsewhere as a toad venom component. It seems to be perceptibly active -- albeit amidst what is a tryptamine soup -- but is not particularly pleasant or intense. This is conjectural based on bioassay results of Justin Case in 1992 or 1993, but I suspect that it plays a role in the effects experienced if a person is nuts enough to ingest 500 or so grams of the fresh tender parts of the rhizome as an ayahuasca admixture. It is not likely to be mistaken for DMT even by a novice.

Seasonal or regional variations in alkaloid content and composition are more likely than not, as this seems to be the norm for the entire Gramineae family. There are anecdotal accounts of negative reactions or perceived poisonings after use of this plant. At least one claimed an allergic reaction. The brew is aromatic and perfumed and almost nice in a galangal-like flavor/aroma sense. It is used for a variety of purposes in India.

Ghosal et al. 1971 also reported DMT's detectable presence in 2-week-old flowers; accompanied by bufotenine and 5-MeO-MMT. Ghosal 1972a mentions the presence of DMT, but this is a largely referenceless general summary of Ghosal's work. It also mentions the presence of 5-MeO-DMT in the leaf and flowers.

Despite Ghosal isolating DMT from the rhizome of this species (in India), Appleseed found it to be lacking from almost all samples examined (all US material). These came from multiple sources in several different states and included seasonal samplings. Despite numerous TLC assays of this plant we (Appleseed & Trout) observed DMT only once. This was with young, skinny, white, feathery roots (> 2 mm dia.) that were growing under the container on a root-bound specimen growing in a shallow tray of soil during late winter in Austin, Texas. Said container was growing on top of a piece of plywood and the roots were in between the plywood and the plastic container. DMT was accompanied by multiple Ehrlich reactive bands.

We repeatedly observed numerous indolic alkaloids (in rhizome & growing shoots) but, with this one exception, no DMT. As was also the case with variegated Phalaris, variegated Arundo donax showed no detectable alkaloid when looked at by Appleseed using TLC. To him, there seemed to be no point or sense in bioassaying it or a concentrate of it.

An article in the Summer Solstice 1993 issue of Entheogen Review, pp 15-16, suggested Arundo donax has "curarimimetic" activity, speculating that dehydrobufotenine is curare-like and that Arundo donax is terribly toxic. This is not founded and comes from a misunderstanding/extrapolation of what Ghosal said in one paper (Ghosal et al. 1972) as well as not understanding that a crude fraction of mixed alkaloid was being used, NOT pure dehydrobufotenine.