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Overview of Harmala Extraction from Syrian Rue Seeds
by Zam & Erowid
June 2001

Syrian Rue (Peganum harmala) seeds contain somewhere between 2% and 7% harmala alkaloids (harmine, harmaline, tetrahydroharmine) with many extractions yielding around 4% of the dry weight of the whole seeds. The harmala alkaloids are highly soluble in acidic water and therefore crude water extractions can work quite well. The seeds themselves are cheap and most extractions aren't concerned with efficient yields.

Lemon Juice Method
The most common method for extracting harmala from Syrian Rue seeds is a simple boiling extraction. The hard seeds are preferably crushed either using a coffee grinder or smashing them in a plastic bag with a hammer and then boiled in a small amount of water with a little lemon juice added to acidify the water. After boiling for 30 minutes, the seed material is strained off and then filtered and the resulting yellowish liquid is the end product. A second and/or third extraction is usually performed on the same seed material in order to get more of the active compounds. The second extraction is often as darkly colored as the first and the third will still have the characteristic yellowish color. The liquid is often further boiled down to a smaller volume or evaporated off to form a powder.

Acetic Acid Method
The second most common method is using acetic acid (white vinegar). This method requires more work, but when done properly results in a purer material. The acetic acid methods involve grinding the seeds and either covering with about 3 times their volume of water + some vinegar and letting it sit for several days or boiling it, straining, and boiling again. The seeds are discarded and the liquid strained several times to remove as much silt as possible. The liquids are combined and then heated and salt is added and dissolved. The liquid is then cooled (cold refrigerator or monitored in a freezer) and the harmala precipitates out as flakes, which are then filtered out. One pitfall with this method is that if too much salt is added, it can also precipitate out as the water cools and extractors end up with a mix of harmala and NaCl.

When using either of these methods and not doing a complete purification, the best way to judge dosage is to measure & record the amount of seeds used in the extraction and then assume the resulting material or liquid is a concentrated version of the same. So if an extraction is done with 20 grams of Rue (about 2.5 tablespoons) and the target for a single dose is 2 grams, then 1/10 of the resulting material should be used. One pitfall is that when working with liquid, if its frozen, the ice will contain very little harmala and any leftover liquid will have a disproportionately large amount of the active compounds.

Obviously there are a lot of methods of extracting from Syrian Rue and there are any number of suitable acids. A standard acid-base extraction works fine, but it is probably unnecessary to use solvents to get high quality extracts from Syrian Rue. For any liquid preparation that will be ingested, most extractors recommend citric juices because other acids are much harsher on the stomach & digestion.

Other Techniques:
Extraction Using Methanol

Rules of Thumb
  • 4% of dry weight of seeds is alkaloid
  • 1 teaspoon = 2.7 gram , 1 tablespoon = 8.1 grams weighed using a Deering plastic scale, by Zam
  • 1 teaspoon = 3 grams = 60-180 mg alkaloids from TiHKAL
  • 1 tablespoon = 9 grams = 200-600 g alkaloids from TiHKAL
  • 1 large (OO) gelatin capsule with ground rue seeds = 0.7 gram seeds = 15-45 mg alkaloids from TiHKAL