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What is "Soma": an ancient plant, muscle relaxant, fictional drug?
Q: My question is regarding a potion called Soma. I had heard soma mentioned before as a muscle relaxer, as a drug from Brave New World, and briefly on your site in conjuntion with muscaria. I came across a book one day on potent plants that named a brew drank in rituals I believe in or around India, by the name of Soma. It was described as a euphoriant and entactogen, with effects more spiritual than MDMA. I don't know of the accuracy of this information but I was deeply intrigued. My question is if you have any information on this?

A: "Soma" is a somewhat confusing term because of exactly the problem that you ran up against. It is a term used to refer to a variety of things, though modern uses of the term are all based on the original Vedic meaning.

In approximately 2000 B.C., the peoples living in both India and Iran described their religious use of a plant called "Soma" (or "Haoma" in Iran). Oral lore of this use was eventually recorded in their collection of religious hymns called the Rg-Veda or Rig Veda (in India). In the hymns, the plant is not identified, though there are many references to it and descriptions of its effects. Because of the age of this document, and the tentitiveness of translations, the identity of this plant will likely never be proven, though there are several well-documented attempts at its identification.

Amongst those who believe that Soma was a psychoactive plant (there are other theories by those less inclined towards this explanation), perhaps the most widely accepted proposed identification is that Soma was Amanita muscaria. There are alternate proposals which include Peganum harmala, Psilocybin mushrooms, Cannabis, Ephedra, Blue Lotus, etc.

The defining work for the Amanita muscaria theory is a book titled "Soma: Divine Mushroom of Immortality", by R. Gordon Wasson (~1969). The identification of Soma as Peganum harmala is supported by a book titled "Haoma and Harmaline", by David S. Flattery & Martin Schwartz (1989). The theory of Soma as Blue Lotus can be found in the book "Soma: The Divine Hallucinogen", by David Spess.

Fueled in part by this long-lasting mystery, Aldous Huxley included a fictional drug named Soma in his book "A Brave New World" (1932). Placed in a futuristic setting, this Soma is a synthetic pleasurable cross between valium, alcohol, and ecstasy.

Finally, in 1959, Wallace pharmaceuticals cashed in on the renown of the mysterious Soma by releasing a pharmaceutical muscle relaxant Carisoprodol under the brand name "Soma".

Asked By : Chris
Answered By : fire
Published Date : 2 / 25 / 2002
Last Edited Date : 3 / 16 / 2005
Question ID : 2941

Categories: [ Pharmaceuticals ] [ Amanitas ] [ Plant ID ]

Ask Erowid v1.7 - Jul, 2005

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