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Harmala Glows Under Black Light
by Erowid, June 11, 2001

One interesting thing about syrian rue seeds is that the powder from the seeds glows dimly under blacklight and extracts made from it glow brightly under common UV. This quality can be used to identify the presence of harmala in extracts and has some obvious fun / craft uses. Simply boiling the seeds and removing the plant matter results in a yellow liquid that will glow under a blacklight or mineral light.

Alexander Shulgin writes:

Extraction techniques with harmala can be evaluated for effectiveness using UV light. Both of Peganum harmala's major carbolines, harmaline and harmine, are rather intensely fluorescent compounds. If a small droplet of your extract is placed on some non-fluorescent surface (hard but unglossy paper like a blank business card, maybe, or a ground- silica covered glass plate), then the use of a long-wave UV light (such as a mineral light from the local hobby shop) will give a strong light emission in a darkened room. A series of spots from a set of serial dilutions will give a good comparitive measure of the alkaloid content. And once this assay system works, you can easily see if two or ten extractions are needed to get your alkaloids satisfactorily out of the seeds, and which solvent works best for the job. You can titrate your methods as you go, and explore all sorts of variations. (Mar 1996)

I use a mineral light in my lab as a detector of these materials (or their relatives) in thin layer chromatographic separations. The extracts of P. harmala will certainly glow in the dark, in trace amounts, when put on some surface. There is a subtle sideline to this, in that the ergots that have a similar chromophore (including LSD and some of its impurities) are just as strong emitters of light when similarly activated, and the use of a mineral light source has been used occasionally by law enforcement to support the argument that acid had been made in some location!

Do remember that the response is extremely sensitive, and the actual amounts of materials involved might truly be traces. Also remember that the short-wave range on a two-button mineral light is potentially damaging to the eyes, so do not look at the source directly. (Oct 13, 1998)

Dave G writes: (January 1996)

Yeah it glows, and not just a little bit, either. We noticed it because one of the shamanic chefs came in from the kitchen and his face had little glowing spots on it. Then I checked my hands and they were glowing, too. We ran through some speculations as to why this was happening, and eventually hauled the P. harmala solution into the living room and it was bright yellow in the black light. We dipped stuff into it and painted our bodies and the walls and it worked wonderfully. I think I remember hearing that P. harmala seeds are used in dyes, so I'm wondering if a psychoactive black-light tie-dye is in the works...