Citation: Mark. "My Life in the Bush of Sun: An Experience with Heimia salicifolia (exp14897)". Erowid.org. Apr 23, 2003. erowid.org/exp/14897
I can't remember how I first became interested in Heimia salicifolia (Sinicuichi). Perhaps it was from Gottleib's (in)famous book, perhaps in was the description in Rick Hepting's catalog of interesting plants. Either way, I decided I wanted to grow it and found an ethnobotanical supplier who carried seeds. Not knowing how utterly small the seeds were I ordered two packs and in a few weeks found myself in possession of hundreds -- if not thousands -- of tiny seeds. I started a flat and patiently awaited their arrival.
The mythical mustard of the Bible starts as a tiny seed but grows to huge and epic proportions. Biblical scholars have never really identified what was meant by 'mustard,' but if I can add my opinion, I think it is safe to say that it was *not* Sinicuichi. From these tiny seeds grow very tiny plants, and while my germination rates were high, a month later I still had a flat full of plants that could most accurately be described as 'teenie weenie' (under two millimeters). My patience began to grow thin, and as I misted and tended these precious little bastards I ordered fifty grams of mature, dried leaf from another ethnobotaical purveyor.
The modern archaic revivalist will find that very little information on Sinicuichi is available either in print or on-line, but one point that the scarce resources seem to agree on is that the plant is horribly, disgustingly vile and bitter. Not that I'm against drinking vile liquids (I loved Kool-aid as a child, for example), but I decided to forego the traditional tea and try smoking extracted material. I didn't know much about the quinolizidine alkaloids present in the leaf, so I undertook a series of experimental extraction, each of which was bioassayed for activity. My first series of extractions/experiments is now complete.
Gather 'round children, and hear what I have to say.
For my first attempt with H. salicifolia I performed an extraction similar to ones I had performed on Nelumbo nucifera. I placed a quantity of dried leaf into a round-bottom flask with 95% ethanol and gently boiled it, as if I were making tea. I had intended to boil for a while, but volume reduced quickly so that the total boiling time was about 10 minutes. I don't know much about the active quinolizidine alkaloids in salicifolia, but as I've read of extracting with boiling water I assumed that the alkaloids are not very fragile, and that boiling in ethanol would produce a powerful and fast extraction.
The first thing one notices is that H. salcifolia has a very pleasant smell. The smell was strong, so there are obviously some fairly volatile components in the leaves. Hopefully the active alkaloids themselves aren't very volatile. If they are, extraction and storage would be problematical.
After boiling, I evaporated the remaining liquid under a fan. I did this for several hours, and the next day a scraped up the sludge and heated in an oven on 'warm' for a half hour or so. This dried the dark green wax and made the material pretty dark. That night I broke the hard wax into small pieces so that they could be smoked more easily.
I decided to try the extraction, so I prepared a tobacco pipe with a screen made from metal foil. I took the extract onto the patio (I don't smoke inside) and smoked all of it. It didn't burn well so this took a while. The smoke was pretty smooth, largely because it was hard to get it to burn (let alone burn vigorously).
The results were subtle and hard to quantify. When I came inside after smoking, the lights in the house seemed bright and my visual acuity seemed heightened, but when I walked around my property in the dark things seemed a little foggy. I observed these visual effects for a while and then decided to lay down, close my eyes, and observe any internal effects closely.
Like the visual effects, the somatic effects were subtle. I could feel slight vibrations in my body, but I think I was just noticing a pre-existing physiological phenomena because of the slightly increased sensory awareness. Also, my thinking was affected slightly in that I was experiencing... well, I can't really describe it. It was as if I were feeling some 'popping' internally. It was strange, but almost unnoticeable.
It was an interesting experience, but it was not unambiguous; it *could* have been a placebo. I have read that H. salicilofia can be quite intense in extracted form, and I once exchanged messages with someone recently who wanted to find seeds to grow it after his first experience with a 10X; apparently he liked it enough that he wanted to make sure he could get an uninterrupted supply. There could have been a good deal of novelty driving that desire, but nonetheless it points to a strong experience.
'Why was this so subtle?' I wondered. I came up with a few possible explanations. First, there could be a 'reverse tolerance' effect like the one that many people note with Salvia divinorum or MJ. Repeated smoking may be needed to break down one's tolerance. Secondly, there are *no published data on ethanol as a solvent for salicifolia extractions.* I was on virgin territory. Undoubtedly people have tried it, but I had not seen anything published on it; all the extractions I had seen were water-based. It is possible that the active alkaloids aren't very soluble in ethanol. Lastly, the tarry material was hard to smoke. I thought I was getting good vaporization: when I held my micro-torch to it it boiled and I got smoke into my lungs. However, when I later removed the foil 'screen' I saw that a large portion of the material in fact had melted and run down into the bowl of the pipe, forming a hard deposit on the side. In essence I have no idea how much of the material was actually burnt/vaporized, but I'm guessing it was only a little. Maybe a freebase pipe would work (note that I've never seen one of these but in description they seem right).
With the results of the first experiment under my belt, I prepared a more traditional extract (in which the extracted material is deposited back on untreated material to provide a base for burning). I made a pretty small batch because I was still using ethanol and I didn't really know if it would work.
In this second test I took some material, crumbled it well, and covered it in ethanol by about three times its volume. I placed this in a jar in the sun, and let it seep all day long. That night I filtered out the solvent, added some raw material, and started evaporating.
By the morning it had become a green sludge, so I allowed to to continue drying all day. I then warmed it in the oven to dry the material as much as possible. I ended up with a sticky, green, gooky mess, but I was determined to try it anyway. I smoked the material in my prepared tobacco pipe. This time the smoke was harsh and hard to swallow. I didn't smoke very much.
Subjectively the experience was similar: A relaxation and 'flowing thoughts.' It was interesting, but again it could have been a placebo effect.
My first two extractions were ethanol-based, and the selectivity of the solvent was poor: I ended up with frothy green foams that eventually dried, but I feel as if I probably smoked more chlorophyl than anything else. Traditionally Sinicuichi is drunk as a tea, so I decided to try a water-based extraction.
I took between five and ten grams of the H. salicifolia and boiled it in water. After about 10 or 20 minutes the water was cloudy-tea brown. This is what I expected (based on what I had read), and it was very much different than the ethanol-based extraction. With the alcohol, the solution was dark green from the chlorophyll. With the water, very little chlorophyll was extracted. I was happy because the water seemed more selective.
I removed the leaf from the water (about 200 ml) and boiled it down to 50 ml. The water was a fairly dark brown at this point, and I transferred it to a ceramic evaporation dish for the rest of the boiling. I turned the heat down a bit and placed the dish back on the burner.
So far, everything was going exactly as I had planned. As I continued to boil the solution, a yellow ring formed as the level dropped. Unfortunately the heat carbonized this sticky deposit, burning it. I boiled until there was just a little brown goop in the bottom, but I didn't dare to boil all of the liquid lest I burn the active components.
After cooling, the residue was the color of caramelized sugar (as reported), and it has the consistency of a thick honey or caramel. It was very sticky and still somewhat liquid. I scraped it up, tore it into pieces, and allowed it to dry for a day. Even after drying the pieces still weren't hard: they had a consistency somewhat like Bit 'o Honey would if you left it on your dashboard on a hot, sunny day.
I was happy with this extraction, but my yield was very low owing to the burnt material and the difficulty scraping it up. Care should be taken when reducing these extracts. On my next extract (described below) I didn't use the shallow-sided evaporation dish. I used a beaker with vertical sides and didn't have problems with burning.
Smoking this extract was similar to the previous ones, but the effect was a little more pronounced. It still wasn't unambiguously non-placebo, but it *was* stronger. Relaxation, 'fuzziness,' lackadaisical thoughts. A pleasant experience, but I still wasn't getting as far as I wanted. I decided to perform a fourth extraction, one that would be water-based and include leaf material to enhance the burning characteristics.
THE FOURTH EXTRACTION
The technique that I used for the fourth extraction was similar to the third. I took a quantity of H. salicifolia and crumbled it pretty finely (on previous experiments I did not crumble). I placed the material in about 150 ml of water, and boiled for about 20 minutes until the water became dark.
I then filtered the water though a paper towel, and the solution lost its green color and became the color of cloudy, dark tea. I took this filtered solution and carefully boiled it to reduce its volume.
At about 50 ml I transferred it to a smaller beaker with the material for deposit. I used Sinicuichi for deposit at a 12 to one ratio: in other words, I took the 'actives' from 12 units of the herb and deposited in on one unit. This would usually be called a '13X,' but I like to think of it as (approximately) 10X, as I'm sure there were some inefficiencies in my process.
I continued to boil slowly, stirring often to avoid the burning that I'd experienced before. It was a lot of work, but I managed to reduce the volume and avoid burning. When the majority of the water had been boiled off I removed it from the heat, placed in an evaporation dish and heated it in a warm oven for an hour.
I was left with a tacky, sticky product. 'What the hell,' I thought. 'I'm going to try it anyway.'
It turned out to be pretty easy to smoke, even if it was somewhat harsh. I smoked it in the way that one would smoke Salvia; I held a flame to it while I inhaled to make sure that it burned. I think I smoked two small bowls, but each bowl much have taken ten inhalations to burn completely. This was the strongest experience so far, but even so it was pretty subtle. Again I felt the heavy relaxation and the 'flowing thoughts.' It was a fine experience, but I wasn't sure if it was worth all the trouble!
I was still experiencing subtle effects, but I wasn't ready to give up. So I did two things: First, I purchased a small water pipe of the type used to smoke certain other herbs, and secondly I walked away from it for a few days. The extract was left in a warm greenhouse to dry. The extract did dry out, so each day I crumbled it finer and finer. At the end I was left with a finely crumbled and hard material, but one that felt dry and non-sticky to the touch.
I smoked about six small bowls of the extract.
Yes! Now I was getting somewhere.
It was not psychedelic as reported, but it had definitely moved beyond the placebo. I felt relaxed and mildly euphoric. The somatic effects were more pronounced and included a slight 'buzzing' feeling. I found that if I sat down at my computer and concentrated the effects diminished somewhat, but if I closed my eyes, relaxed, and lost focus they became stronger. My thoughts again seemed lackadaisical, and I felt I was without motivation. After a while I laid down on the couch and just enjoyed the feeling.
Even though it was definite it was still subtle. For example, I'm not sure if it would have been safe to drive a car or not, but I definitely wouldn't have wanted to 'find out.' I continued in this relaxed, flowing state for the next hour, at which time I went to sleep.
On the positive side there really were no drawbacks. There were no unpleasant feelings (nausea, headache, yellow vision), no hangover the next day (vis a vis alcohol). There was a subtle but definite euphoria, and euphoria is *always* a good thing! On the negative side it was a subtle experience, and between the preparation of the extract and the relatively large number of 'hits' I took (two of three from each bowl) I ended up working pretty hard for this relaxing euphoria. It seems like every herbal smoke is compared to a 'mild cannabis-like high.' I won't do that because I haven't smoked cannabis since I was a kid so I have no idea if that is a apt description, but if I remember correctly this was much milder.
A night or two later I met with Sinicuichi again and smoked the rest of the extract. It produced similar effects (primarily relaxation and a feeling of 'being out of it,' but it was interesting in that I received an unexpected phone call as I was smoking it. I was able to hold on a conversation, but doing so wasn't very pleasant. This seems to be an ally that prefers to meet with one
Placebo or panacea? Or somewhere in between?
While these experiments have only been cursory, I have found Sinicuichi to be active. The effects are nice. The somatic relaxation and vibration were pleasant (and even mildly euphoric once), as were the alterations of thought, provided that I was in a situation where I could relax and 'be with it.' On the one occasion that I tried interacting with someone the Sinicuichi made me feel decidedly anti-social. This is definitely no Ecstasy substitute!
I experienced none of the traditionally reported effects. I suffered no darkening or yellowing of vision; no auditory hallucinations; no remembrance of things past. Also I did not experience any psychedelia as reported by at least one modern explorer. Perhaps it is all a question of dose, and once my plants decide to turn into the full bushes that they are destined to be, perhaps I will start my second series of experiments.
One final note: I mention this for the sake of completeness, even though I am fairly sure it is coincidental. I have reported that there were no adverse side effects (and I belive this to be true), but on both occasions where I felt the effects strongly, the next day I was bothered by 'phantom itches' on my skin. There is no dermatitis or visible allergic reaction, and I *do* think this itching was unrelated to the Sinicuichi, but I would be remiss if I did not mention it.
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