Citation: Mindbody. "Witchcraft Revisited: An Experience with Mandrake & Cannabis (exp81732)". Erowid.org. Nov 25, 2010. erowid.org/exp/81732
I have decided to summarize some of my experiences with two substances of great historical significance much disfavored by the present day psychedelic community: mandrake root and cannabis resin taken orally.
Tropane-bearing plants have been demonized greatly for the difficulty of correctly dosing them, danger of inducing uncontrollable delirium, heavy body load and possibility of death by overdose. Nevertheless, they appear to have been used widely in witchcraft and shamanic (e.g., Chumash) practices. Mandrake (Mandragora officinarum
) root became a very early acquaintance of mine at the time of my childish fascination with botany, and the pictures of this anthropomorphic plant have remained in my imagination ever since. I simply could not resist trying, and, of course, I proceeded with extreme caution (gauging my doses carefully, keeping my trials widely spaced, and staying strictly in the sub-delirium dose range).
The oral use of cannabis products has probably been the dominant mode of intake during much of the history, until being replaced by smoking relatively recently. Charles Baudelaire glorified this practice in his oft-mentioned book Les paradis artificiels
. A common advice from habitual pot-smokers in this relation seen on the net today seems to be: 'Don't waste your weed, smoke it instead!' So it's the case of pot-heads vs. Charles Baudelaire...
Tropane-THC combinations are also mentioned in various contexts: witches mixing cannabis with belladonna or mandrake in their potions, Indian sadhus smoking cannabis and datura together, various tropane admixtures in the Arabian hash candies (of the kind used by Baudelaire). My own experience of smoking 1 Brugmansia leaf with a few grains of Moroccan hash has been extremely positive (a beatiful lucid, tranquil, contemplative trance-state), which further encouraged me to explore combinations of mandrake and cannabis.
I have tried a few different recipes (yoghurt, etc), but the taste of hashish tends to be quite nauseous, even though I consider the perfume of cannabis to be gloriously exquisite when inhaled.
The recipe I settled on and found quite satisfactory originates from Adam Gottlieb's The Art & Science of Cooking With Cannabis
(and is quoted in the Erowid cannabis vault). The idea is to extract cannabis into hot oil and to add a little alcohol and sweetener. The result is somewhat akin to buttered rum hot drinks, albeit with characteristic cannabis fragrance. In the amounts that have to be consumed, it can be called pleasant (even though quite peculiar). I've typically used coconut butter and genever, but they can probably replaced by any other oil-hard liquor combination (I've done it with things as exotic as sunflower oil infused with sea-buckhorn berries, a Russian speciality). One can simply place a dry bowl into a pan with some boiling water, add a little oil inside, let it heat up a bit, dissolve a piece of hashish in there, then add alcohol and some sweetener (honey, please!). Cheers!
BE CAREFUL WITH HASHISH TAKEN ORALLY! The first time I tried it, it was almost 2g of medium strength Moroccan hash taken in yoghurt, and it was HORRIBLE! (I saw the dose range 0.5-3g quoted on the net, and was encouraged by my low sensitivity to smoked THC -- one of the stupidest things I've done in my life!) Approximately 4 hours after the ingestion, I went through an episode of severe cardiac unrest (I am generally a very healthy person, and not inexperienced with psychoactive substance use). My heart was beating like crazy, and I couldn't even count the beats, because all of my perceptions were very jittery. This condition subsided in about 2 hours more, leaving serious exhaustion behind.
I always read that fatal doses of THC are extraordinarily high. Well, the scientists should know better... but I couldn't be so sure when this whole overdose episode was going on... perhaps there was a touch of paranoia to it... Andrew Weil describes his overdose of hashish (6g) as extremely unpleasant, but does not mention any heart problems. On the Internet, I've seen at least one report on oral hashish use with an adverse reaction very similar to mine.
My preferred dose now is of order 0.3g. The effect builds up very slowly for the first 2 hours, and the peak is reached around 4 hours after the ingestion (for me, the peak is always accompanied by a sense of agitation... if it's too strong, strange things happen to my heart beat, as I've already mentioned).
I have prepared an alcohol tincture: around 25g of mandrake root were ground to grain-like consistency in a blender and covered with approximately 300ml of Belgian genever (30% alcohol) together with a twig of fresh tarragon and a generous pinch of saffron (with a view to improve flavor). The tincture was left to saturate for a few weeks (only the mandrake-infused solution was used in all my experiments, never the plant material itself).
It is said that tropane alkaloids decompose relatively slowly in the body (a few days). I always leave enough time between my experiments to avoid cummulative effects! I will NOT give any precise dose information for my own experiments.
I started with a few drops (no effect), then a few teaspoons (some sedation was noted), then with 2/3 of a small Chinese tea cup (the cup is perhaps 30ml). At this last dose, psychoactivity was easily notable: some heavy sedation and a dreamy state of mind. Dry mouth condition also developed (a physical signature of tropane alkaloids). I hence concluded that, with my mandrake, my tincture, my small Chinese tea cups and my body, I should work in the 1 cup dose range.
As I said, for oral hashish, the only unpleasant side effect was cardiac agitation, and it was only alarming for large doses.
For mandrake extract, in the dose range I've tried, only some dryness of the mucous membranes was noted... perhaps, a little nausea. No fuzzy vision and other dangerous side effects of tropanes. With larger doses, I felt a little weak the next day, but nothing dramatic.
Amusingly, combinations with oral hashish seemed to produce less dryness in the mouth than pure mandrake tincture, though I have not performed too many trials to corroborate this claim.
PSYCHOLOGICAL EFFECTS (HASHISH)
Perhaps the most distinctive effect of oral THC for me is a kind of 'clinginess of attention' that develops: for example, the direction of my gaze can get locked to a particular object, and a conscious decision is needed to move it elsewhere. This is the opposite of the usual frustrated wandering of the perceptual focus, and, as a matter of fact, quite reminiscent of some yogic concentration exercises.
Visual enhancement also occurs, though not always. In particular, flowing curvy shapes (of the kind popular in Far-Eastern art) become very attractive and, in general, images tend to come to life and exhibit much more detail than ordinarily. This is probably related to the deeper attention focus I've mentioned above.
Appetite enhancement due to THC is well known. For me it occurs as a sort of stimulating itchiness in my gastric tract.
At the peak of my hashish experience (4 hours after ingestion) a characteristic 'thought rush' typically develops. For me, it usually concentrates on the various forms of struggle, synchronization and communion within consciousness (human, universal and what-not), but that, I guess, is strictly personal.
PSYCHOLOGICAL EFFECTS (MANDRAKE)
I have only tried pure mandrake extract in small doses (the larger doses were combined with hashish). The most notable effect is a kind of inert clear-headed sedation. It is reminiscent of alcohol, in a way (though in doses far greater than those contained in my tincture), but considerably more lucid, lacking the detestable baseness of alcohol intoxication.
Interestingly, with the larger of the doses consumed (2/3 of my small Chinese tea cups) my sleep on the subsequent night was quite restless, with awakenings followed by very brief (a few seconds) hallucinatory episodes. It seems to corroborate the reputation of low doses of tropanes as oneirogenic drugs (with lucid dream-inducing effects, etc).
PSYCHOLOGICAL EFFECTS (HASHISH + MANDRAKE)
After gauging my mandrake tincture doses and noticing psychoactivity clearly at 2/3 of my small tea cup, I proceeded with a little larger doses (1 and 4/3 of the small tea cup) combined with a few grain-sized pieces of hashish (0.3g, perhaps) each (mandrake tincture was simply substituted for hard liquor in the hashish recipe I've described). With these preparations, I have achieved rather interesting trance states.
I was lying down, relaxed. In 2 hours or so, sedation became quite strong and my interest in the ordinary perceptual input greatly diminished (it was slightly different on the two different trial, but with clear common traits). What followed was a combination of remarkable inner 'views' of the body and lucid dream-like states.
Tactile and kinesthetic sensations were greatly enhanced, and it seemed I was much more aware of the position of every muscle in my body than ordinarily (this sense became quite pictorial). The breath was quite shallow, but there was no difficulty in breathing, it rather seemed that the breathing process has become more conscious.
At times, this enhanced body awareness would drift off altogether, the body would appear very distant and a 'different space' populated with visions would be created in my mind-field. This was the closest to wake-initiated lucid dreaming I've ever experienced. I would still know 'where' my body was (very 'far' from 'myself') and how to activate it. I also knew that coming back to my ordinary body awareness would destroy the 'visionary space' (as in waking up).
These remarkable trance phenomena would proceed till the time of the THC-induced 'thought rush' (4 hours after ingestion). Coming down would be less pleasant, with brief tactile hallucinations, buzzing sounds in my head, a speedy feel, jittery visual field, some coordination loss (in different combinations on different occasions). I would typically cook a light meal at this point, because THC makes people unusually voracious.
I wonder if one could say that tropanes erase the borderline between dream and reality: indeed, the ease of lucid dream-type trance in sub-delirium doses, and (reportedly) hallucinating dream-like creatures in delirium doses (which I have not tried) seems to go well with this view.
I have had very interesting experiences with these two substances. They do not come anywhere close to the feast-of-the-soul induced by the classical psychedelics, but they open very different doors of perception, and have given me some surprising personal insights into how my dreaming and my body work.
I am not willing to proceed further with tropane experimentation at this point (neither towards larger doses, nor towards repeating my trials). This is because the long-term effects of tropanes are not known to me.
More reliable research is needed: both in biochemistry of tropanes (from the perspective of responsible psychedelic use) and in their traditional utilization in shamanism (I have seen at least one published account of datura shamanism among the Chumash). Perhaps this research does exist, but simply needs to be brought to the attention of the psychedelic community. Then, I hope, we shall no longer have any need to demonize tropane-bearing plants, but will be able to use them safely for what they can give us.
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