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Arundo donax mentioned in
Entheogen Review
by various authors
Excerpted from Entheogen Review
K. Trout, Entheogen Review co-editor, points out:
Winter Solstice 1992, p. 8: Some intriguing but undocumented speculation on a musically-oriented sufihuasca involving Arundo and Peganum, but the claim is it is something shrouded in secrecy.

Winter Solstice 1992, pp 6-7: Mentions it speculatively only and seems to have gotten their inspiration from reading the old ...Of The Jungle catalog's description and/or Rosetta's folio containing Ghosal's paper. Also quotes a little chemistry and isolation detail gleaned from Ghosal.

Summer Solstice 1993, pp 15-16: A curare comment which launched further speculation on the web. Also says a variegated one was found to have MORE alkaloid but does not really give more details. It makes a comment on an allergic reaction but it is not clear to what this refers.

Vernal Equinox 1995, p. 8: A bioassay by J. DeKorne, who ate 50 mg and had what he termed an allergic reaction lasting 3 days.

Winter 1992
According to an acquaintance who was sworn to secrecy by a Sufi musician, Peganum harmala root and the roots of Arundo donax were and are the source of a secret entheogen long used in particularly musical orders since before Islam influenced the Sufis. A. donax (giant reed or cane) is used in Persia for making the "Nay," an end-blown flute, or reed pipe. The same plant is the source for reeds for clarinet, sax, oboe, bassoon, bagpipes and so on. My informant would not give me particulars on how the "mystical potion" was made. A crock pot water extraction of A. donax root only yielded molasses (A. donax is a relative of sugar cane). I will ask an organic chemist friend about specific solvents useful for extracting DMT. I'm interested in Illinois bundleweed (Desmanthus illinoensis), but it doesn't grow here. Much Sufi literature, mostly untranslated, makes many oblique references to the reed pipe and P. harmala, which become clearer with the knowledge of their use. My "working group" here has a psychic who talks with plant spirits, so we are going to go to the source for info on their way to use these plants. -- T.A., CA

Your mention of Sufi connections with Peganum harmala and Arundo donax is fascinating! I immediately flashed on the possibility that this could be the mysterious Soma (or, in Persian, Haoma) of the Aryans. Flattery and Schwartz published a book (Haoma and Harmaline, U.C. Press, Berkeley, 1989), proposing the hypothesis that P. harmala was Soma. They argue a fairly good case for this, but I remain unconvinced because P. harmala in reasonable doses isn't particularly visionary. As we know, harmine and harmaline (the alkaloids in P. harmala and in the South American vine, Banisteriopsis caapi), are MAO inhibitors that activate orally-ingested DMT in the Amazonian ayahuasca brews. If there is indeed a secret Sufi tradition combining P. harmala with A. donax to make a "Sufi ayahuasca," then a more convincing answer to the Soma mystery could be argued. Anybody out there want to research a Ph.D. thesis on this one? -- Jim DeKorne

Winter 1992
I ingested one gram of Peganum harmala extract with 50 mg of an Arundo donax extraction. No psychoactivity was present, but I did get a mild allergic reaction. Within an hour I noticed that my vision was impaired; there was some difficulty in focusing on the print in a magazine. Later, my eyes felt watery and slightly swollen. The next day, I had a medium conjunctivitis, and occasional hives appearing on my body. It took three days for these symptoms to subside.

Later in the week I ate 125 mg of Peganum harmala extract and 50 mg of a Phalaris grass extraction. No allergic reaction this time, and there was definite psychoactivity in the potion, unfortunately accompanied by waves of nausea. The experience was what Shulgin might describe as a "plus-two;" there was definite activity, but not so much that I couldn't function in an emergency if I had to. The experience could have been much deeper (compared with two grams of mushrooms, for example), but it was definitely "psychedelic." It is difficult to describe--a novel sense of at least three energy fields radiating from my body at set "wave-lengths." An unusual sensation, and not quite like anything I've ever experienced before. There were bright hypnogogic-type visions (immediately forgotten) and an extremely tranquilized "weak" feeling--almost as if my consciousness was connected to my body by the thinnest of threads. I won't call it an out-of-body experience, but it wasn't far from that. The nausea was a definite problem, although I didn't actually vomit. Two of my fellow travellers spent the evening with the dry heaves, 'though they seemed to get more positive benefits as well. I've never had jungle ayahuasca, so I don't know how this analogue experience compares with the real thing. -- J.G., CA

Winter 1992
Your discussion of potential DMT sources caught my interest. I have seen Of The Jungle's comments on Desmanthus and Arundo donax. The percentage of DMT in these plants remains in question--no one seems to have specific data. If the DMT amounts are small and one has to obtain large amounts of biomass to extract usable amounts, I think the giant reed, A. donax, would be a good candidate. Here in Southern California there are huge stands of the stuff growing wild in numerous locations. In some areas it grows densely in relatively dry stream beds and in some areas is actually cut down as a fire hazard in the dry season. What I'm getting at is that, should A. donax (called "carrizo" by the Hispanic people) prove to be a good DMT source, there are tons available: While driving down the street today I noticed a clump of wild A. donax growing in a gully. I dug up some rhizomes and planted them in my yard. They look much like bamboo roots and I think they will be fast growers with proper care. -- V.C., CA

I agree that if usable amounts of DMT can be easily extracted from Arundo donax, the fact that it grows wild in large stands in many parts of the country makes it a great potential source of alkaloids. I saw a single stand in Texas that must have covered half an acre. The roots are humongous globular things, chunks of which can weigh several pounds apiece. They transplant easily and grow fast--every segment I chopped out of the Texas earth and transplanted in New Mexico was pushing up sprouts within a couple of weeks.

Here's the original source claiming tryptamine content in Arundo donax:
    Arundo donax L. (graminae), a tall, stout, perennial shrub, often woody below, is widely distributed in India… (Alkaloids were obtained from) the alcoholic extract of the rhizomes of this plant… As the rhizomes contained very little fat the alkaloids were extracted directly with alcohol without prior defatting with petroleum ether…Dried and milled rhizomes (700 g) were extracted (95% EtOH), in a percolator, at room temperature for 4 weeks. The EtOH extract was concentrated under reduced pressure to give a brown viscous consistency (112 g) (Ghosal et al. 1969).
The first part of the extraction formula appears pretty straightforward--after that it rapidly exceeds my ability to translate. Essentially, approximately two pounds of dried root-powder is percolated in 95% ethyl alcohol. (Available in liquor stores under brand names such as Everclear and Clear Springs in many states, or make a run to Tijuana for the much cheaper Mexican version of the same stuff.) The time period of four weeks seems a bit extreme--anyone know how to do this faster? Also, the rest of the formula was probably designed to separate out each alkaloid for identification. Maybe that isn't necessary to make an ayahuasca analogue--in the Amazon, raw plant material is just boiled in a pot over an open fire. -- Jim DeKorne

Unfortunately, DMT (unlike many other compounds) seems to be only rarely present in Arundo donax--at least in those specimens that I have encountered. Johnny Appleseed ran TLC on numerous collections and plant parts that I made using material from Central Texas. Many, often dark, bands were found. None were identified. DMT was completely absent from every single sample except for one of young skinny white roots. -- K. Trout

Summer 1993
I'm not thrilled with Arundo donax. According to the article mentioned (Ghosal et al. 1969), it contains significant amounts of bufotenidine--a chemical the article details as demonstrating a "curare-like" toxicity. If one followed the extraction procedure in the article, one could conceivably separate out the DMT, losing the 5-MeO-DMT with the bufotenine and bufotenidine. It might be worthwhile, given sufficient biomass, 'though it sounds like much more work than even Desmanthus species. (Digging and pulverizing heaps of woody root-stock would be no picnic.) -- B.D., CA

The only report I've received to data on Arundo donax resulted in a moderate allergic reaction in the user, with no apparent psychoactivity. The chromatographs I've seen on specimens collected in Texas and New Mexico have shown very little, if any, DMT content. There is a variegated variety of A. donax native to the Middle-East, which possibly contains a higher percentage of alkaloids. The problem with both Desmanthus species and A. donax is that you have to sacrifice a mature perennial plant just to extract the root. For this reason, Phalaris grasses seem like a better bet, since one is only extracting the grass clippings. -- Jim DeKorne

Spring 1995
Among entheogen seekers, giant reed (Arundo donax) has been known for some time as a DMT-containing plant. These findings were established from specimens growing in India in a 1969 scientific article reproduced and disseminated by Rosetta. The article begins:
    Five indole-3-alkylamine bases, viz. N,N-dimethyl-tryptamine, 5-methoxy-N-methyltryptamine, bufotenine, dehydro-bufotenine, and bufotenidine were isolated from the rhizomes of Arundo donax L. (Ghosal et. al. 1969).
Arundo donax thrives in many parts of the United States and is sometimes regarded as an ornamental (it looks a lot like bamboo), sometimes as a noxious weed. Once established, it is extremely tenacious and in California, its spread has become a serious ecological problem:
    "They multiplied at an alarming rate and grew more than two inches per day until they were 30 feet tall!… They sucked up enormous quantities of water, causing the water table to drop… (This) green alien invader is giant reed (Arundo donax), the world's largest grass..."
Giant reed has established itself as one of the primary threats to native riparian (riverside) habitats in the western United States: it grows enormously fast, it comes back quickly after fire, it lacks natural predators and competitors in North America, and it appears unsuitable as food or habitat for native wildlife.

Giant reed (or cane, as many refer to it) is native to the Mediterranean region of Europe. It was introduced to Los Angeles in the 1820s to control erosion in drainage canals and was used as roof thatching for sheds, barns, and other buildings. But giant reed has spread uncontrollably and is now found in virtually every stream system along the coast from Sacramento into Baja… The greatest limitation to a healthy natural riparian forest on the river isn't the availability of young willow or cottonwood trees germinating on the river bank, but the inability of those young trees to compete with the "plant from hell" (Bell 1994).

My experience with a 50 mg extraction from the roots of this plant was a moderately severe allergic reaction that lasted three days. No psychoactivity was noted. Since then I've lost interest in this species, but now wonder (considering its widespread availability) if it isn't worth another look.

Does anyone out there have any experiences to relate concerning this plant? There's a possibility that the variety found in India may be more potent than our naturalized types. A recent chromatograph of rhizomes from a variegated (striped) variety of Arundo donax showed an almost identical band in the DMT position as Psychotria viridis, the reference plant. An anecdotal report suggests a secret Sufi tradition linking A. donax and Peganum harmala with mystical initiations. If accurate, this would constitute evidence for the use of a bonifide ayahuasca analogue in the ancient Near East--the celebrated Soma of the Aryans? -- Jim DeKorne

Spring 1995
I had a patch of Arundo donax growing in my front yard for 11 years at the house I used to own in L.A. and I never knew what it was. I couldn't kill it by not watering it. Every spring after the rains, the sucker would undergo prolific growth and I had to get into it with a machete and clear it all out if I wanted to see out my front window. -- B. Green

Spring 1995
I feel that Arundo donax is a red herring for some. Almost all written material discussing the use of it with Peganum harmala indicate an "allergic reaction." The Dictionary of Sacred and Magical Plants, by Christian Rätsch says the roots of A. donax contain approximately 3% DMT and a percentage of bufotenine. This might be the source of the nausea. Perhaps the roots could be juiced and dried and smoked. The ancient Vedic scholars knew the difference between hives and enlightenment. I've never used A. donax, and after reading the various reports, I will not. I already have allergies and have had a couple of serious breathing problems and don't see the need to hallucinate and have trouble breathing. An unruly patch of A. donax can be killed off by using dry ice and ammonia. My own patch was killed in 1994 after ice storms and twenty-below-zero temperatures. -- R.S., DE

Concerning repeat experiments with substances that cause allergic reactions--it may not be a good idea! A sensitizing process occurs--even a one-time antigen-antibody stimulation can set you up for a full-blown anaphylactic reaction the next time you take the substance. This can result in cardio-pulmonary arrest; i.e., you can wind up dead! Remember the axiom, "No old, bold shaman." -- S.M., AZ