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Does the "mescal bean" contain mescaline?
Q: possibly an easily answered question about the mescal bean- Ive found many sources stating that peyote replaced the bean in ritual, and that the bean has psychoactive properties, but unless Ive overlooked it, nothing on what the actual psychoactive chemical is. Is it mescaline? If not what is it?

A: In his book Pharmacotheon, Jonathon Ott mentions that "some
have theorized that peyotl use supplanted the use of a red bean, the seed of Sophora secundiflora, known as the "mescal bean". However this theory is contested by some. He goes on to point out that the naming of mecaline itself, the mescal bean, and the occasional misassociation of the peyote buttons as "mescal buttons" are due to confusion by European scientists:

"Mezcalin (or mescaline, as this is now rendered) derives its
name from mezcal, owing to confusion on the part of European
scientists as to the nomenclature of peyotl. Dried peyotl
"buttons" had been erroneously known as mescal buttons in Europe.
"Mezcal" originally comes from the Nahuatl mexcalli, the Aztec name for a third plant, the Agave species, from which octli or pulque, a fermented beer, is still made. After the conquest, the Spaniards began to distill pulque, and the resulting liquor came to be known as mezcal. As for the active principle of peyotl, Mezcalin or mescaline is a misnomer."

Thus it is a mere confusion in etymology that has associated the "mescal
bean" with peyote and "mescaline". The red "bean" seed of Sophora
contains no mescaline, nor do tequilas made from the
Agave cacti.

Sophora secundiflora itself contains an alkaloid called cytisine (originally called sophorine and pharmacologically related to nicotine).
The red "Mescal beans" of this plant are reported to have been used an oracular, divinatory, and hallucinogenic medium by native americans of Southwest Texas and Mexico in their vision seeking 'red bean dance'. However, ingestion of a single seed can also cause nausea, convulsions, and potentially death from asphyxiation through its depressive action on the diaphragm. It is hypothesized that this is the reason the Mescal bean was replaced by the "less-life-threatening" peyote cacti for medicinal use.



There is controversy about how exactly the red beans were used ceremonially and shamanically in Central America, but the specific argument by Adovasio & Fry that S. secudiflora was used before peyote and its use replaced by peyote has major flaws. They selectively present only one lone example of peyote and ignore samples known from thousands of years earlier. They also fail to include the fact that peyote use has apparently been known for 7000 years in northern Mexico, based on archaelogical records, statues, and carvings.

The premise that Sophora use was replaced by peyote is based on weak circumstantial evidence and was very poorly supported even by the people making the claims.



Notes on the Present Status of Ololiuhqui and the Other Hallucinogens
of Mexico

by R. GORDON WASSON from Botanical Museum Leaflets,

Harvard Vol. 20, No. 6, Nov. 22, 1963, pp. 161-212.

Pharmacotheon, by Jonathan Ott

Natural Products Company, 1993, pp. 87

Hallucinogenic Plants, by Richard Evans Schultes

Golden Press, New York, 1976pp. 94

Asked By : hank
Answered By : psilo,fire
Published Date : 11 / 12 / 2001
Last Edited Date : 11 / 27 / 2001
Question ID : 2818

Categories: [ Chemistry ] [ Mescaline ] [ Cacti ]

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