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Peganum Harmala pamphlet
Peganum Harmala:
The Hallucinogenic Herb of
the American Southwest
by
Albert Most
Venom Press
Copyight 1985
Albert Most
All rights Reserved


A Brief History

In the early spring of 1935 a now forgotten farmer planted a small handful
of tiny brown seeds several miles east of Deming, New Mexico.  The seed,
obtained from Europe in pursuit of an ardent interest in unusual plants was
from peganum harmala, a perennial herb native to the deserts of northern
Africa, western Asia, and southeastern Europe, Nurtured by the arid climate,
P. harmala grew well in the sandy sail of southern New Mexico.  The plants
fluorished, produced viable seed, and quickly escaped. cultivation.  Now,
almost fifty years since its introduction into the American Southwest,
P. harmala occurs naturally in arid region of Texas, New Mexico, Arizona
and Nevada.

Botany

Growing from a perennial woody rootstock, Peganum harmala is a bright-green,
densely foliaged, herbaceous succulent.  Although Its smooth many-branched
stems may have a spread of four feet or more, the plant is rarely over two
feet tall and generally appears round and bushy in habit.  Its leaves are
two inches long, born singly and finely divided into long narrow segments.

Each year between June and August, P. harmala produces many single white
conspicuous flowers.  Measuring one to one and one-half inches across, these
relatively large and showy blooms have five oblong-epliptic petals as well
as five narrow sepals of slightly longer length.  Each flower has the
potential to develop into a fruit--a leathery, three-- valved seed capsule
that stands erect on its stalk.  Each capsule measures about three-eighths
inch in diameter and contains more than fifty dark-brown, angular seeds.


Chemistry

The seeds, as well as the roots, of P. harmala contain a mixture of the
harmala alkaloids, harmine and harmaline.  These unusual alkaloids are
psychoactive derivatives of B-carboline, When administered to man, the
harmala alkaloids are serotonin antagonists, CNS stimulants, hallucinogens
and extremely potent, short term MAO inhibitors.  Interestingly enough,
neither harmine, harmaline nor P. harmala is included in the Federal
Controlled Substance Act.



Present at 3% by dry weight, the harmala alkaloids may be extracted from the
seeds and roots of . harmala- and purified as crystalline bases.  Hasenfratz
described this process in 1927.


ISOLATION OF HARMINE AND HARMALINE
The crushed seeds are covered with three times their weight of water
containing 30 g. of acetic acid per liter of water, The seeds swell as they
absorb the liquid and form a thick dough which is pressed after 2 or 3 days.
The pressed seeds are once more treated as above with twice their weight
of dilute acetic acid and, after maceration, the liquid is again pressed
out.  To the combined liquors, sodium chloride (100 g., liter of liquid)
is added to transform the acetates of harmine and harmaline into the
hydrochlorides which are insoluble in cold sodium chloride solutions and
are precipitated during cooling.  The supernatant liquid is siphoned off,
the crystaline residue filtered with suction and redissolved in hot water.
Addition of sodium chloride to the filtered solution  results in the
precipitation of the hydrochlorides as a crystalline mush and this process
is repeated until the hydrochlorides have acquired a yellow color.  The
separation of harmaline from harmine is based on the fact that when a warm
aqueous solution of the hydrochlorides is alkalinized with ammonia, harmaline
is liberated only after the decomposition of harmine hydrochloride is
complete.  The appearance of harmaline is readly detected under the
microscope since it consists of plates while harmine forms long needles.
The addition of ammonia, therefore, is stopped as soon as crystals of
harmaline are detected, the harmine is filtered off and the harmaline
recovered from the filtrate by the addition of ammonia, The bases are then
further purified by recrystallization of their hydrochlorides.

Ann. chim (10) 7,15l (1927).



When administered to man-- in seed form or as crystalline bases--the harmala
alkaloids are serotonin antagonists, CNS stimulants, hallucinogens and
extremely potent, short-term MAO inhibitors.


MAO

Monoamine oxidase (MAO) is an important enzyme in the human body.  Located
in the outer membrane of mitochondria, MAO breaks down Physiologically
active amines and renders them harmless and ineffective in a process called
oxidative deamination. MAO inactivates biogenic amines like epinephrine,
norepinephrine, dopamine and serotonin. As the amine binds to the enzymes
active sight, MAO "attacks" the carbon-hydrogen bond adjacent to the
nitrogen.  In an extremely rapid, enzyme- catalysed reaction, the amine is
converted into a physiologically inactive metabolite.  Any drug which
interferes with the function of this catabolic enzyme is by definition an
MAO inhibitor.



MAO Inhibitors

The harmala alkaloids are especially potent short-term MAO inhibitors.  They
temporarily prevent biogenic amines from binding to the active site of the
MAO molecule and undergoing deamination.  Amine synthesis continues but
inactivation is blocked.  The result is an accumulation of physiologically
active amines -- dopamine epinephrine, norepinephrine, and serotonin --
within the tissues and at the synapses.      MAO inhibitors increase the
action of these neurntransmitters at their receptors, which may account for
some of the hallucinogenic effects characteristic of the harmala alkaloids.
For 3 to 6 hours, the harmala alkaloids interfere with the protective enzyme
MAO, before their action is reversed and MAO activity restored.

WARNING

There is a very real danger in interfering with the protective function of
MAO.  The harmala alkaloids like other inhibitors, are non-specific.  They
prevent the metabolic inactivation of many other drugs and biogenic amines
in addition to the neurotranamitters,
For example, MAO normally detoxifies barbiturates, alcohol and narcotic
analgesics.  MAO inhibitors prevent their inactivation and can prolong and
intensify their central depressant effect to a potentially lethal,
life-threatening level.
MAO inhibitors also potentiate the action of many amphetamine-like
compounds.  They are synergistic with most amphetamines, ephedrine,
norepinephrine, epinephrine, methyldopa and phenylpropanolamine,
sometimes precipitating a hypertensive crisis.  Often associated with
sweating, pallor, nausea, vomitting and fright, a hypertensive crisis in a
high blood pressure headache which can lead to cranial hemmorrhage.
A hypertensive crisis can also result from the ingestion of foodstuffs that
contain amino acids normally metabolized by MAO. The well-known tyramine
cheese reaction  illustrates this danger. Tyramine is formed as a
fermentation by-product In many foods. It is a naturally occuring amine
normally metabolized by MAO.  In the presence of an MAO inhibitor,   the
resulting high levels of tyramine can produce dangerous increases in  blood
pressure.
Anyone experimenting with MAO Inhibitors should be aware of the potential
for hypertensive crisis.  Avoid all foods or liquids with high amine content.
Do not mix MAO inhibitors (i.e. the harmala alkaloids) with any of the
following: cheese, especially aged cheese, beer, mine, pickled herrings,
snails, chicken livers, yeast products, figs, raisans, pickles, sauerkraut,
coffee, chocolate soy sauce, cream or yogurt.

The Harmala Alkaloids

The harmala alkaloids are psychoactive in man at oral doses of 25 to
750 milligrams.  A small dose (25.50 milligrams) is a CNS stimulant.
it increases mental activity and produces a pleasant dreamy state for
several hours.  The larger doses-- 200 milligrams up to 750 milligrams--
yield the hallucinogenic effects.  The experience usually begins within one
hour and often lasts six hours or more,
The initial effects include nausea, vomitting, increased blood pressure and
heart rate, profuse sweating, dizziness and body tremors. During this
initial period you may hear humming or buzzing noises and you may notice a
wave-like movement of the environment.  You may feel alternations of hot and
cold, You may even experience the feeling of sinking together with the
sensation of flight.
These initial effects can be discomforting.  They tend to produce anxiety
and encourage a withdrawal from the external world.  You will probably
perceive environmental sights and sounds, especially other persons, as
disturbing objects and wish to avoid them.  Seek a dark, quiet place where
you can enjoy the hallucinatory trance which follows.
The hallucinatory trance consists of three successive stages of
hallucinations.  You will know stage one when your sense of darkness is
interrupted by bright flickers of light.  These phosphene-based sensations
first appear as colored dots, specks, stars or simple flowers.  They give
way to undulating lines, circles, grids, simple forms, abstract designs and
multi-shaped geometrical patterns.  Relax and enjoy a closed-eye
contemplation of the floating, ever-changing pattern of these little images.


      In stage two the abstract designs of stage one give way to slowly
moving masses of shapes and colors.  Larger shapes take form in a slowly
developing pattern of hallucinatory images.  These images acquire a personal
character as your unconscious mind projects your fears and desires upon the
shapes and colors of your visions.  Do not be alarmed if the horizon seems
to collapse in a bright flash of light or if your hallucinations turn into
frightening animals.  Huge birds of prey, large jaguars and snakes are
common    hallucinations with harmala alkaloids.  Observe and enjoy the
bright colored imagery as it changes continually in a flowing transformation
of dream-like sequences.

     Hours later, in stage three, this panorama of vivid fantasy fades into
the slow movement of shapes and colors.  These images disappear, in
turn, as the last stage of the hallucinatory trance wears off. If your
harmala experiment is part of a group experience, you may be surprised by
the unusual similarity in the content of each other's hallucinations.  The
harmala alkaloids tend to produce collective hallucinations--especially
archetypal imagery--among group members.  This access to "collective
unconscious" is such an extraordinary effect that the harmala alkaloids have
earned the name "telepathines".  These unusual alkaloids are present
naturally in harmala, the Hallucinogenic Herb of the American Southwest.

Important Considerations

Every psychedelic experience is chiefly a function of set and setting, of
preparation and environment.  The better prepared YOU are, the better the
experience will be for you.  Consider the following instructions:

* Do not drink any alcohol or take any drugs or medication when experimenting
with MAO inhibitors (Ie, the harmala alkaloids).

REMEMBER: MAO inhibitors interfere with the bodys ability to detoxify
certain drugs and fermented foodstuffs. Narcotics, barbiturates,
tranquilizers, antihistamines, amphetamines, all forms of alcohol and
foodstuffs containing tyramine are potentially LETHAL when used In
combination with MAO Inhibitors.

* Provide a comfortable setting which is as free as possible from unforeseen
distractions and intrusions.  Make sure you will not be disturbed for six
to eight hours.

     * Enjoy your trip!

Albert Most
Pecos, Texas
Summer 1993

Cultivation

     harmala can be propagated either from seed or root.  Gather the seed as
the capsules ripen and dry thoroughly in the sun.  Store in a cool
place until spring.  Then sow the seed in flats of half-sand, half-sail
and water sparingly.  Be careful not to overwater the seedlings.  Or. you
can harvest the roots in autumn after the tops die from frost.They will keep
through the winter if you pack them in damp sawdust and stare in a cool
place.  In the early spring plant the roots in the ground or in pots before
any new growth starts.  Although harmala grows well in dry, sandy. sail and
can stand considerable drought, you will find that richer sail and occasional
watering will benefit your plants.