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Heimia salicifolia FAQ
by Rev. MeO, Auxin, and Erowid
v 1.1 - Dec 2003
This FAQ is not regularly updated or maintained. It may include out-of-date information. Please check the version date to see when it was most recently revised. For current information, see Erowid's summary pages in the substance's main vault.
Table of Contents

0. Revision History
i. What is Heimia salicifolia?
ii. What does Sinicuichi look like?
iii. What chemicals are in Sinicuichi?
iv. How do I use Sinicuichi?
v. What will Sinicuichi do to me?
vi. What type of side-effects should I expect from using Sinicuichi?
vii. Is all this safe?
viii. Is all this legal?
ix. How do I get my grimy little hands on Sinicuichi?
x. How can I grow Sinicuichi?
xi. Bibliography & Links
xii. References & Abstracts


0. Revision History:
  • 1.0 June 1, 2000 : Rev. MeO : First Public Release. Originally from the now unrelated Xenopharmacophilia.com Experimentations Site
  • 1.1 Dec 23, 2003 : Auxin & Erowid : Auxin rewrote Active Constituents section, there was an error identifying cryogenine. Added abstracts section. Erowid updated links section and did edits in several sections.
Copyright Notice: permission is granted to re-publish this document in its entirety as long as a link is included back to the current central repository location (erowid.org/plants/sinicuichi/sinicuichi_faq.shtml) to allow for updates to propogate. This copyright notice must also be included. HTML and formatting may be changed. This copyright is consistent with the Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 1.0 license.


i. What is Heimia salicifolia?

This plant was called ‘Sinicuiche' [or sinicuichi] by the Aztecs and is still used by Mexican shamans as a trance-divination catalyst. (Jim DeKorne, Psychedelic Shamanism)

Lythraceae (Loosestrife). Heimia salicifolia grows to 10 feet and has small yellow flowers. (Erowid Herb Vaults)

Heimia salicifolia is still used by some Mexican shamans as a tool for divination. (Horizon Herbs)

Heimia salicifolia is native to most of the tropical regions throughout the Western Hemisphere, specifically Texas, Mexico, El Salvador, and all areas between Colombia and Argentina - most commonly found in ditches and other wet soils. (Kent University Biology Page)


ii. What does Sinicuichi look like?

[more photos can be found at Erowid]

 

Heimia salicifolia is a bush with numerous small dark green leaves, and often dozens of tiny bright yellow flowers. It can grow to well over 4 feet in height, with just as large a circumference.

Technically speaking:

Shrubs, 1-2(-4) m, stems numerous from the base, glabrous, the youngest portions 4-angular. Leaves opposite or subopposite, sessile, broadly to narrowly elliptic, 20-100 x 5-15 mm. Inflorescences leafy racemes, flowers solitary in the axils, pedicels 1-4 mm long. Flowers 6-merous, campanulate, 5-8 mm long, calyx lobes ca. 1/4 the length of the floral tube; appendages prominent, horn-shaped, ascending; petals 6, bright yellow, 6-14 mm long; stamens (10)12(-18), exserted; ovary 4-carpellate; style exserted; nectary absent. Capsules globose,included within the persistent floral tube, loculicidally dehiscent; seeds many, obpyramidal, 1 mm long. n = 8. 3 spp/1NAmer. Flowering and fruiting throughout most of the year. (Kent University Biology Page)


iii. What chemicals are in Sinicuichi?

Five quinolizidine alkaloids have been found in Heimia salicifolia. The major psychoactive alkaloid appears to be vertine (cryogenine)…(Shultes, R.E., The New World Indians and their Hallucinogenic Plants)

Active Constituents:
  • Vertine (cryogenine) is generally regarded as the primary psychoactive component and is also generally the most abundant constituent of alkaloidal extracts. Clinically demonstrated effects include anticholinergic, antiinflammatory, antispasmodic, hyperglycemic, hypotensive, sedative, tranquilizer, and vasodilator activity. There is another chemical called cryogenine which should not be confused with vertine.
  • Lythrine (the third most abundant alkaloid) has been found to have diuretic activity (it encourages urination).
  • Heimidine (a minor alkaloid) has been found to have antiinflammatory activity.
  • Sinicuichine has been found to act as a tranquilizer.
  • Other alkaloids include lyfoline (the second most abundant alkaloid) and lythridine (a minor alkaloid).
Not all the effects of these alkaloids are known, nor is it known what constituents are responsible for the reported occurrence of auditory hallucinations. Some of the listed activites come from Dr. Duke's Phytochemical Database [http://www.ars-grin.gov/duke/].

Both chemicals known as ‘cryogenine' have potential as antipyretic drugs, but keep in mind, cryogenine (hydrazine derivative) and cryogenine (vertine, the quinolizidine alkaloid) are NOT related.

"Two alkaloids from Heimia salicifolia, cryogenine [vertine] and nesodine, were respectively 2.48 and 2.24 times as potent as aspirin as inhibitors of prostaglandin synthetase prepared from bovine seminal vesicles. Reference compounds, indomethacin and phenylbutazone, were respectively 2800 and 8.75 times as potent while a synthetic analogue of cryogenine, JB-1-0, was 0.656 times the potency of aspirin. This activity may help to explain the traditional medicine use of H. salicifolia in the Americas." (Prostaglandin synthetase inhibition by alkaloids of Heimia salicifolia. Lema WJ, Blankenship JW, Malone MH)

Looking further into the chemical make-up of Sinicuichi, we come across not only the anti-inflammatory nesodine, but lyfoline and lythrine as well. As presented below, lythrine holds potential as a hydrodiuretic.

"Its four most studied alkaloids are vertine, lyfoline, lythrine and nesodine. Most of the animal studies discussed here have focused on the ataractic, antiinflammatory and antispasmodic potential of vertine and on the hydrodiuretic potential of lythrine and decine, a structurally related alkaloid found in Decodon verticillatus. The ataractic activity of vertine does not appear to be dependent on the depletion or blockade of catecholamines, while its antiinflammatory capacity seen in both exudative and immunologic systems seems to be dependent in part on an intact pituitary-adrenal system and in part on inhibition of prostaglandin synthase. The antisplasmodic activity of vertine has been demonstrated on many isolated tissues using different agonists, but appears to be largely musculotropic in nature. Only lythrine and decinine have been shown to be true hydrodiuretics and may prove to be useful in treating Addison's disease and general nephrosis. A number of synthetic 4-arylquinolizidines and related compounds appear to possess antiinflammatory potential." (Heimia salicifolia: a phytochemical and phytopharmacologic review. Malone MH, Rother A)

The following quote falsely mentions both cryogenine and vertine as components of Sinicuichi, thus giving the impression that they are two separate chemicals within the plant, when indeed, they are one and the same as far as H. salicifolia goes.

"Leaves contain the potent tranquilizer sinicuichine which relaxes muscles, relieves experimental anxiety, and stabilizes blood pressure. Several alkaloids are reported: abresoline, anelisine, cryogenine, dehydrodecadine, heimine, lyofoline, lythridine, lythrine, nesodine, sinine, and vertine."(Dr. James Duke's CRC Handbook of Medicinal Herbs)

The fact that the above reference has so blatantly (but unknowingly) confused vertine and cryogenine is a prime example of what is found in much of the literature available on this plant. This snafu needs be hollered about from roof tops, before confused psychonauts start ingesting pure 1-carbamyl-2-phenylhydrazine.


iv. How do I use Sinicuichi?

Traditionally, the leaves are removed and allowed to wilt a bit, crushed and combined with cold water, then placed in the sun for a day to make a tea. The following procedure for dried foliage is consistent, and repeated endlessly wherever one finds information about Heimia.

If fresh material is not available, dried herb may be steeped in hot water and allowed to sit in the sun for 1 day before drinking. Ten grams dried herb or equivalent of fresh leaves suggested as starting dose. (Legal Highs FAQ)

Take 10 g. of dried leaves, mix with hot water and put in the sun for one day, then drink the mixture. (Nature's Treasures)

"I decided to make up a tea from 10g. of the leaves. I poured about 3 cupfuls of boiling water over the dried leaves and let them sit for a while. Deciding this was going to be too much to drink I heated the mixture and boiled off perhaps a cup of the mixture. I left it for about an hour. I poured the mixture minus the leaves into two cups." (KenR, the old EDot forums)

"I always picked fresh leaf by pruning off the top 6" of a bunch of plants grown close together hedge like. I picked the leaves off the stem, allowed them to wilt for about 1/2 hour, then would put em in a blender with a small amount of water. Then I'd put the whole concoction in a closed mason jar and set it outside where it would catch the sun. I'd leave it out for approx. 24 hr. Then I would strain it, squeeze the last of the juice out and drink. I never weighed it, the most I ever tried was a half of a cereal bowl full of fresh leaves." (MrPotato, the old EDot forums)


v. What will Sinicuichi do to me?

Given the tested and proven euphoric, relaxant and anti-inflammatory properties of Sinicuichi, the following excerpts are reliable.

General relaxation, acoustic hallucinations, improvement of memory performance. (Nature's Treasures)

[The] tea is inebriant, euphoriant, hallucinogenic. (How to Stay High and Healthy; by Edward Everett-Ronning)

Sounds seem to come distorted from a great distance. The natives hold sinicuichi to be sacred, endowed with supernatural powers; that it helps them recall vividly events of many years earlier, that it permits them even to remember pre-natal events. (Shultes, R.E., The New World Indians and Their Hallucinogenic Plants)

…pleasant drowsiness, skeletal muscle relaxation, slowing of heartbeat, dilation of coronary vessels, inhibition of acetylcholine, enhancement of epinephrine, slight reduction of blood pressure, cooling of body, mild intoxication and giddiness, darkening of vision, auditory hallucinations (sounds seem distant), and increased memory function. (Legal Highs FAQ)

I have been unable to confirm within the scientific literature the above suggestions that the actives of Sinicuichi inhibit acetylcholine and enhance epinephrine. The blocking of acetylcholine has been found with the ingestion of scopolamine and atropine, where the actions of these alkaloids (scopolamine and atropine) cause a heating of the body, an inability to sweat or spit, and dilation of blood vessels within the skin. These side-effects have not been noted with Sinicuichi. As well, enhancement of epinephrine does not cause relaxation or slowing of the heartbeat. (The Second Brain; by Michael D. Gershon, M.D.) Additionally, the increased availability of acetylcholine has been found to enhance memory funtion. So, once again, it seems that the Legal Highs FAQ is only partially correct.

"Within 20 minutes, definite effects were being felt, the body initially becoming chilled even in the direct sun. The chill intensified, but not to an unpleasant degree. There was also dryness to the mucous membranes (eyes, nose and mouth). At thirty minutes the body was awash in a pleasant, calm euphoria. Walking around the room was not interesting, and there was a desire to just sit and see what comes. Visual acuity was affected, and at 40 minutes, the "darkening of surroundings" was very noticeable. Closed eyes had no visual interest." (MCsquared, the old EDot forums)

"Personally, I find it to be like a good kava emulsion only more euphoric with special sound effects. It wasn't bitter, but wasn't pleasant tasting. It smelled like the water in a vase of cut flowers." (MrPotato, the old EDot forums)

"As one might expect the brew tasted revolting and was extraordinarily bitter. I proceeded to drink it however, and had finished both cups within say half an hour. Some effects started to manifest within 15 minutes. Notably, a heaviness in the head, sedation and perhaps some pain relieving effect. There was a slight tingling in the extremities at times. I found it difficult to do anything terribly productive, particularly at close range. I don't think my thoughts were particularly affected. There might have been some mild improved sense of well-being. There was little in the way of nausea beyond what was caused by simply drinking the bitter tea. The effects faded within 2 hrs." (KenR, the old EDot forums)


vi. What type of side-effects should I expect from using Sinicuichi?

Sinicuichi does not seem to take too much out of you as far as energy levels go, and does not have the lingering apathetic tint that Cannabis sometimes can. The only side-effect I have found (that being something which can last many hours after the experience) is that of yellow or light green-tinted vision. But even this is not definite.

"After a dose consisting of a quart-sized jar full of fresh leaves: Slept for four hours, and upon waking there was a remarkable yellow glow or aura permeating everything, which is in accordance with most of the literature, and the name sun-opener. I spent the rest of the day in this glow, which left residuals even the following day, although less intense." (MCsquared, the old EDot forums)

As to long-term heavy use of Sinicuichi, memory problems may persist, however, the number of people who have a history of ‘heavy long-term use' with Sinicuichi is extremely limited, and this problem will likely never affect 98% of those who try the herb.


vii. Is all this safe?

Little is know about the safety of ingesting Heimia salicifolia, especially if taken regularly at doses high enough to cause psychoactive effects. A now defunct online health library (Thrive Online Health Library) rated it as "slightly dangerous", but had so little information as to suggest this was arbitrarily assigned to the plant.

There are some reports that continued high-dose use may result in worsening short term memory. (Erowid Herb Vaults) The original author of this FAQ (RevMeO) does not think this is a concern for the casual user.

"Classed as a narcotic hallucinogen; long-term use may impair the memory." (Dr. James Duke's CRC Handbook of Medicinal Herbs)


viii. Is all this legal?

Heimia salicifolia is 100% legal in the United States, and as far as I can tell, throughout the entire world. (Erowid Herb Vaults) Thus, feel free to grow, harvest, extract, consume, etc…

Further, since Sinicuichi is all-natural and does not contain any controlled substances, it should be legal to market as an herbal remedy.


ix. How do I get my grimy little hands on Sinicuichi?

This list is far from complete, and exists merely to show how easily available Heimia salicifolia plants, seeds and foliage are. As prices are likely to change more often than this FAQ will need updating, no prices are given. Only companies that have a good track record are listed.

Shaman Australis (Australia)

Theatrum Botanicum offers great quality, inexpensive plants.

Allies P.O. Box 2422, Sebastopol, CA 95473, USA - Catalog: $2 - sells seeds and live plants.

Nestlebrae Exotics (New Zealand)


x. How can I grow Sinicuichi?

Woody perennial, half-hardy. Very small seed must be sprinkled on surface of flat, misted or bottom watered. Despite the small size of the seed, germination is usually quite easy. This is an upright bush, bright green with numberous yellow flowers. Ethnopharmaceutical sources describe smoking of this plant to promote a sense of well-being, vision tinted with yellow, hence the common name, "sun opener." Nice landscaping plant, good for topiary. (Horizon Herbs)

"Planted in the ground in well draining slightly acidic soil. Watered on a daily basis in the spring and summer and fed with miracle grow every 10 days or so, receiving about 4 hours of direct sunlight daily, heavy to partial shade the rest of the time. The plant is now about 4' in height, and almost the same width with a bushy habit and sending out new shoots from the base." (MCsquared, the old EDot forums)

Indeed, it has been my experience that Heimia salicifolia is an extremely hardy and simple to grow plant! When in partial shade with sufficient water, there's no stopping it! As well, the plant lets a countless amount of seed, which often you will find have fallen off and sprouted. One sad time, a winter storm hit without any warning…the Heimia outside was covered in ice…I dug it up in an extremely sloppy manner, severing some roots…and the next spring…the plant grew back as strong as ever!

It…needs lots of root space and becomes pot-bound very quickly. (Jim DeKorne, Psychedelic Shamanism)


xi. Where did YOU get all this information?

The old Entheogen Dot Com Discussion Boards (defunct)

Shaman Australis

Auxin's Alkaloids of Genus Heimia Page

Erowid Herb Vaults

Horizon Herbs (now defunct)

Kent University Graham's Page

Legal Highs by Adam Gottlieb

Thrive Online Health Library (now defunct)

DeKorne, Jim; Psychedelic Shamanism, Loompanics Unlimited, 1994.

Duke, James & Maryl Fulton (Eds.); CRC Handbook of Medicinal Herbs, CRC Press, 1987.

Everett-Ronning, Edward; How to Stay High and Healthy.

Gershon, Michael D., M.D. The Second Brain, Harper-Collins, 1998.

Lema, WJ, Blankenship JW, Malone MH. Prostaglandin synthetase inhibition by alkaloids of Heimia salicifolia. J Ethnopharmacol. 1986 Feb; 15(2): 161-7.

Malone MH, Rother A. Heimia salicifolia: a phytochemical and phytopharmacologic review. J Ethnopharmacol. 1994 May; 42(3): 135-59.



Abstracts:

Malone MH, Rother A. Heimia salicifolia: a phytochemical and phytopharmacologic review. J Ethnopharmacol. 1994 May; 42(3): 135-59.
Heimia salicifolia grows wild from Mexico to Argentina. The aerial parts have a wide folk reputation for antisyphilitic, sudorific, antipyretic, laxative and diuretic activity, and are reported to be useful in preparing post partum baths and to enhance wound healing. Its four most studied alkaloids are vertine, lyfoline, lythrine and nesodine. Structural relationships of the Heimia alkaloids and certain synthetic 4-arylquinolizidines are reviewed here. Preliminary clinical evaluation indicates that vertine and lythrine given orally appear to lack the psychodysleptic activity that has been touted for native brews said to incorporate H. salicifolia. Most of the animal studies discussed here have focused on the ataractic, antiinflammatory and antispasmodic potential of vertine and on the hydrodiuretic potential of lythrine and decine, a structurally related alkaloid found in Decodon verticillatus. The ataractic activity of vertine does not appear to be dependent on the depletion or blockade of catecholamines, while its antiinflammatory capacity seen in both exudative and immunologic systems seems to be dependent in part on an intact pituitary-adrenal system and in part on inhibition of prostaglandin synthase. The antisplasmodic activity of vertine has been demonstrated on many isolated tissues using different agonists, but appears to be largely musculotropic in nature. Only lythrine and decinine have been shown to be true hydrodiuretics and may prove to be useful in treating Addison's disease and general nephrosis. A number of synthetic 4-arylquinolizidines and related compounds appear to possess antiinflammatory potential.

Rother A. The phenyl- and biphenyl-quinolizidines of in-vitro-grown Heimia salicifolia. J Nat Prod. 1985 Jan-Feb;48(1):33-41.
Under the conditions delineated in this paper, alkaloid synthesis was not detectable in heterotrophic callus and suspension cultures of Heimia salicifolia. However, in vitro-grown shoots are active in alkaloid biosynthesis, yielding the biphenylquinolizidine lactones vertine (1), lytrine (5), and lyfoline (7), the ester alkaloids demethoxyabresoline (14) and epidemethoxylabresoline (11), the phenylquinolizidinols demethyllasubine-I (10) and demethyllasubine-II (12), and several minor alkaloids that had not been previously shown to occur in H. salicifolia.