Peganum Harmala pamphlet Peganum Harmala: The Hallucinogenic Herb of the American Southwest by Albert Most Venom Press Copyight 1985 Albert Most All rights Reserved A Brief History In the early spring of 1935 a now forgotten farmer planted a small handful of tiny brown seeds several miles east of Deming, New Mexico. The seed, obtained from Europe in pursuit of an ardent interest in unusual plants was from peganum harmala, a perennial herb native to the deserts of northern Africa, western Asia, and southeastern Europe, Nurtured by the arid climate, P. harmala grew well in the sandy sail of southern New Mexico. The plants fluorished, produced viable seed, and quickly escaped. cultivation. Now, almost fifty years since its introduction into the American Southwest, P. harmala occurs naturally in arid region of Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and Nevada. Botany Growing from a perennial woody rootstock, Peganum harmala is a bright-green, densely foliaged, herbaceous succulent. Although Its smooth many-branched stems may have a spread of four feet or more, the plant is rarely over two feet tall and generally appears round and bushy in habit. Its leaves are two inches long, born singly and finely divided into long narrow segments. Each year between June and August, P. harmala produces many single white conspicuous flowers. Measuring one to one and one-half inches across, these relatively large and showy blooms have five oblong-epliptic petals as well as five narrow sepals of slightly longer length. Each flower has the potential to develop into a fruit--a leathery, three-- valved seed capsule that stands erect on its stalk. Each capsule measures about three-eighths inch in diameter and contains more than fifty dark-brown, angular seeds. Chemistry The seeds, as well as the roots, of P. harmala contain a mixture of the harmala alkaloids, harmine and harmaline. These unusual alkaloids are psychoactive derivatives of B-carboline, When administered to man, the harmala alkaloids are serotonin antagonists, CNS stimulants, hallucinogens and extremely potent, short term MAO inhibitors. Interestingly enough, neither harmine, harmaline nor P. harmala is included in the Federal Controlled Substance Act. Present at 3% by dry weight, the harmala alkaloids may be extracted from the seeds and roots of . harmala- and purified as crystalline bases. Hasenfratz described this process in 1927. ISOLATION OF HARMINE AND HARMALINE The crushed seeds are covered with three times their weight of water containing 30 g. of acetic acid per liter of water, The seeds swell as they absorb the liquid and form a thick dough which is pressed after 2 or 3 days. The pressed seeds are once more treated as above with twice their weight of dilute acetic acid and, after maceration, the liquid is again pressed out. To the combined liquors, sodium chloride (100 g., liter of liquid) is added to transform the acetates of harmine and harmaline into the hydrochlorides which are insoluble in cold sodium chloride solutions and are precipitated during cooling. The supernatant liquid is siphoned off, the crystaline residue filtered with suction and redissolved in hot water. Addition of sodium chloride to the filtered solution results in the precipitation of the hydrochlorides as a crystalline mush and this process is repeated until the hydrochlorides have acquired a yellow color. The separation of harmaline from harmine is based on the fact that when a warm aqueous solution of the hydrochlorides is alkalinized with ammonia, harmaline is liberated only after the decomposition of harmine hydrochloride is complete. The appearance of harmaline is readly detected under the microscope since it consists of plates while harmine forms long needles. The addition of ammonia, therefore, is stopped as soon as crystals of harmaline are detected, the harmine is filtered off and the harmaline recovered from the filtrate by the addition of ammonia, The bases are then further purified by recrystallization of their hydrochlorides. Ann. chim (10) 7,15l (1927). When administered to man-- in seed form or as crystalline bases--the harmala alkaloids are serotonin antagonists, CNS stimulants, hallucinogens and extremely potent, short-term MAO inhibitors. MAO Monoamine oxidase (MAO) is an important enzyme in the human body. Located in the outer membrane of mitochondria, MAO breaks down Physiologically active amines and renders them harmless and ineffective in a process called oxidative deamination. MAO inactivates biogenic amines like epinephrine, norepinephrine, dopamine and serotonin. As the amine binds to the enzymes active sight, MAO "attacks" the carbon-hydrogen bond adjacent to the nitrogen. In an extremely rapid, enzyme- catalysed reaction, the amine is converted into a physiologically inactive metabolite. Any drug which interferes with the function of this catabolic enzyme is by definition an MAO inhibitor. MAO Inhibitors The harmala alkaloids are especially potent short-term MAO inhibitors. They temporarily prevent biogenic amines from binding to the active site of the MAO molecule and undergoing deamination. Amine synthesis continues but inactivation is blocked. The result is an accumulation of physiologically active amines -- dopamine epinephrine, norepinephrine, and serotonin -- within the tissues and at the synapses. MAO inhibitors increase the action of these neurntransmitters at their receptors, which may account for some of the hallucinogenic effects characteristic of the harmala alkaloids. For 3 to 6 hours, the harmala alkaloids interfere with the protective enzyme MAO, before their action is reversed and MAO activity restored. WARNING There is a very real danger in interfering with the protective function of MAO. The harmala alkaloids like other inhibitors, are non-specific. They prevent the metabolic inactivation of many other drugs and biogenic amines in addition to the neurotranamitters, For example, MAO normally detoxifies barbiturates, alcohol and narcotic analgesics. MAO inhibitors prevent their inactivation and can prolong and intensify their central depressant effect to a potentially lethal, life-threatening level. MAO inhibitors also potentiate the action of many amphetamine-like compounds. They are synergistic with most amphetamines, ephedrine, norepinephrine, epinephrine, methyldopa and phenylpropanolamine, sometimes precipitating a hypertensive crisis. Often associated with sweating, pallor, nausea, vomitting and fright, a hypertensive crisis in a high blood pressure headache which can lead to cranial hemmorrhage. A hypertensive crisis can also result from the ingestion of foodstuffs that contain amino acids normally metabolized by MAO. The well-known tyramine cheese reaction illustrates this danger. Tyramine is formed as a fermentation by-product In many foods. It is a naturally occuring amine normally metabolized by MAO. In the presence of an MAO inhibitor, the resulting high levels of tyramine can produce dangerous increases in blood pressure. Anyone experimenting with MAO Inhibitors should be aware of the potential for hypertensive crisis. Avoid all foods or liquids with high amine content. Do not mix MAO inhibitors (i.e. the harmala alkaloids) with any of the following: cheese, especially aged cheese, beer, mine, pickled herrings, snails, chicken livers, yeast products, figs, raisans, pickles, sauerkraut, coffee, chocolate soy sauce, cream or yogurt. The Harmala Alkaloids The harmala alkaloids are psychoactive in man at oral doses of 25 to 750 milligrams. A small dose (25.50 milligrams) is a CNS stimulant. it increases mental activity and produces a pleasant dreamy state for several hours. The larger doses-- 200 milligrams up to 750 milligrams-- yield the hallucinogenic effects. The experience usually begins within one hour and often lasts six hours or more, The initial effects include nausea, vomitting, increased blood pressure and heart rate, profuse sweating, dizziness and body tremors. During this initial period you may hear humming or buzzing noises and you may notice a wave-like movement of the environment. You may feel alternations of hot and cold, You may even experience the feeling of sinking together with the sensation of flight. These initial effects can be discomforting. They tend to produce anxiety and encourage a withdrawal from the external world. You will probably perceive environmental sights and sounds, especially other persons, as disturbing objects and wish to avoid them. Seek a dark, quiet place where you can enjoy the hallucinatory trance which follows. The hallucinatory trance consists of three successive stages of hallucinations. You will know stage one when your sense of darkness is interrupted by bright flickers of light. These phosphene-based sensations first appear as colored dots, specks, stars or simple flowers. They give way to undulating lines, circles, grids, simple forms, abstract designs and multi-shaped geometrical patterns. Relax and enjoy a closed-eye contemplation of the floating, ever-changing pattern of these little images. In stage two the abstract designs of stage one give way to slowly moving masses of shapes and colors. Larger shapes take form in a slowly developing pattern of hallucinatory images. These images acquire a personal character as your unconscious mind projects your fears and desires upon the shapes and colors of your visions. Do not be alarmed if the horizon seems to collapse in a bright flash of light or if your hallucinations turn into frightening animals. Huge birds of prey, large jaguars and snakes are common hallucinations with harmala alkaloids. Observe and enjoy the bright colored imagery as it changes continually in a flowing transformation of dream-like sequences. Hours later, in stage three, this panorama of vivid fantasy fades into the slow movement of shapes and colors. These images disappear, in turn, as the last stage of the hallucinatory trance wears off. If your harmala experiment is part of a group experience, you may be surprised by the unusual similarity in the content of each other's hallucinations. The harmala alkaloids tend to produce collective hallucinations--especially archetypal imagery--among group members. This access to "collective unconscious" is such an extraordinary effect that the harmala alkaloids have earned the name "telepathines". These unusual alkaloids are present naturally in harmala, the Hallucinogenic Herb of the American Southwest. Important Considerations Every psychedelic experience is chiefly a function of set and setting, of preparation and environment. The better prepared YOU are, the better the experience will be for you. Consider the following instructions: * Do not drink any alcohol or take any drugs or medication when experimenting with MAO inhibitors (Ie, the harmala alkaloids). REMEMBER: MAO inhibitors interfere with the bodys ability to detoxify certain drugs and fermented foodstuffs. Narcotics, barbiturates, tranquilizers, antihistamines, amphetamines, all forms of alcohol and foodstuffs containing tyramine are potentially LETHAL when used In combination with MAO Inhibitors. * Provide a comfortable setting which is as free as possible from unforeseen distractions and intrusions. Make sure you will not be disturbed for six to eight hours. * Enjoy your trip! Albert Most Pecos, Texas Summer 1993 Cultivation harmala can be propagated either from seed or root. Gather the seed as the capsules ripen and dry thoroughly in the sun. Store in a cool place until spring. Then sow the seed in flats of half-sand, half-sail and water sparingly. Be careful not to overwater the seedlings. Or. you can harvest the roots in autumn after the tops die from frost.They will keep through the winter if you pack them in damp sawdust and stare in a cool place. In the early spring plant the roots in the ground or in pots before any new growth starts. Although harmala grows well in dry, sandy. sail and can stand considerable drought, you will find that richer sail and occasional watering will benefit your plants.