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Syrian Rue
by Erowid
Syrian rue or harmal (Peganum harmala) is a perennial succulent shrub with narrow, pinnately cut leaves and white solitary flowers, growing up to 1 meter but usually not more than 30 cm high, native from the Mediterranean to central and soutwest Asia. Its small angular brown seeds are traditionally used in dye making and for medicinal purposes in the Middle East. Peganum harmala is one of the plants speculated to be the Soma or Haoma of ancient Persia.

The seeds of Peganum harmala contain beta-carboline harmala alkaloids, primarily harmine and harmaline, which are both psychoactive and potent short-acting reversible inhibitors of MAO-A. The seeds also contain uterotonic alkaloids, which should be avoided by pregnant women (Ott 1996; Shulgin 1997; Mahmoudian 2002). In addition, the seeds have been shown to have both analgesic and antibacterial properties (Prashanth 1999).

In western culture Peganum harmala seeds are sometimes used as an MAOI in combination with other psychoactive substances, and less commonly as a psychoactive in their own right (Ott 1994; Shulgin, 1997). At psychoactive dosages, Peganum harmala typically produces heavy somatic effects (cf. Ott 1996, Shulgin 1997). Simple acid extractions are often used to isolate the harmala alkaloids. Due to its MAOI properties, it may be advisable to avoid certain foods in combination with Peganum harmala.
For use as an MAOI, 3-5 g of seeds (approximately 1.5 mg harmala alkaloids per kilogram body mass) appears to be sufficient to activate oral DMT; no increase in activity is noted above these doses (Ott 1994; Shulgin 1997; Gracie & Zarkov 1986). Dosages from 3 to 28 g are taken to produce psychoactive effects (Shulgin 1997; Most 1985).
Price #
In 2010, seeds are sold for approximately $2-4 USD per ounce.
Peganum harmala is unscheduled in the United States meaning it is legal to possess and sell, however it is listed as a noxious weed in several states including Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico and Oregon (USDA 2009), which means its cultivation or import might be controlled or prohibited in those states. The harmala alkaloids contained in the seeds are neither scheduled in the United States nor are they analoges of scheduled substances. However, the harmala alkaloids are scheduled in Australia, and harmaline is scheduled in Canada. Both Peganum harmala and the harmala alkaloids are listed as controlled substances in France.
Peganum harmala seeds contain the harmala alkaloids harmine and harmaline, but also harmalol, harman, and tetrahydroharmine at approximately 2-7% by mass total. The harmala alkaloids are beta-carbolines. The seeds also contain the uterotonic alkaloids vasicine, vasicinone, and deoxyvasicinone, which are quinazoline compounds.
Pharmacology #
The harmala alkaloids are potent short-acting reversible selective inhibitors of MAO-A. They have been described as both CNS-stimulants (Ott 1994 citing Beer 1939; Pendell 2006 citing The Merck Index) and CNS-depressants (Ott 1996 citing Naranjo 1967), however most commonly as CNS-depressants (Ott 1996). Tetrahydroharmine is a serotonin reuptake inhibitor, but is typically only present in trace amounts (Shulgin 2002). Harman has been shown to be a vasodilator and a hypotensive agent in animals (Shulgin 2002).

The quinazoline compounds vasicine, vasicinone, and deoxyvasicinone are uterotonics and possibly emmenagogues. (Ott 1996; Shulgin 2002; Mahmoudian 2002).
Production #
Production Summary Needed.
History #
Peganum harmala has a long history of medicinal use in North Africa and the Middle East from Persia to India. It has been used there to ward off the evil eye (Pendell 2006), and as an abortifacient and emmenagogue (Mahmoudian 2002). Its use as an MAOI and as a psychoactive in underground drug culture appears to have begun in the 1980s; one of the early records of its use to orally activate DMT was in publications by Gracie & Zarkov (Gracie & Zarkov, 1985, 1986).
Terminology / Slang #
The Substance:
Syrian Rue, Rue (although it shouldn't be confused with true rue), Harmal.
The effects of Peganum harmala are difficult to characterize (Ott 1994, 1996; Shulgin 1997; G&Z 1985). It has been described both as a stimulant and soporific, more often the latter (Ott 1994, 1996). Pendell describes the effects as "sedative, narcotic, mildly to moderately visual" (Pendell 2006). Depending upon dosage, common effects are nausea, dizziness, ataxia, oneirophrenia, tinnitus, hypertension, visual trails, and closed eye visuals (G&Z 1986; Ott 1994, 1996; Shulgin 1997).
Onset #
For usage both as MAOI and as a psychoactive, effects usually begin within 30-60 minutes.
Duration #
The MAOI effect lasts for 3-6 hours or longer. Psychoactive effects last 5-8 hours.
Visuals #
Visuals Summary Needed.
Nausea, vomiting, dizziness, sweating, body tremors, brachycardia, tachycardia, hypertension, and tinnitus are common when using Peganum harmala. Due to its MAOI properties, consumption of tyramine containing foods from 12 hours prior until 24 hours or longer after consuming Peganum harmala might precipitate a hypertensive crisis. Peganum harmala taken in conjunction with a serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRIs, which are common antidepressants) may precipitate serotonin syndrome, which may be life threatening. (DeKorne 2000; Ask Erowid #2981)

A case report (Mahmoudian 2002) has demonstrated that a 150 g oral dose of Peganum harmala seeds can result in severe gastrointestinal distress including vomiting of blood, convulsions, and gastric ulcers. Vasicine and vasicinone are known uterotonics. Harman interacts directly with DNA and may be mutagenic (Shulgin 2002).
Contraindications #
  • Do not operate heavy machinery. Do not drive.
  • Individuals currently in the midst of emotional or psychological upheaval in their everyday lives should be careful about choosing to use psychoactives as they could possibly trigger even more difficulty.
  • Individuals with a family history of schizophrenia or early onset mental illness should be extremely careful because strong psychoactives have been known to trigger latent psychological and mental problems.
  • Syrian rue contains uterotonics and is probably better avoided by women who are pregnant.
Addiction Potential #
Peganum harmala is not known to be either physically addicting nor likely to cause psychological dependance.
Long Term Health Problems #
Long Term Health Summary Needed.
Risk of Death #
Risk of Death Summary Needed.
Erowid Basics pages are summaries of data gathered from site visitors, government documents, books, websites, and other resources. We do our best to keep this information correct and up-to-date, but the field is complex and constantly changing. Information should always be verified through multiple sources.

References #
  1. Ask Dr. Shulgin Online. Ayahuasca and MAO Inhibitors. Center for Cognitive Liberty & Ethics. 2002.
  2. Ask Erowid. Ask Erowid: What is "serotonin syndrome"?. 2002.
  3. DeKorne J, Aardvark D, Trout K. Ayahuasca Analogues and Plant-Based Tryptamines". The Entheogen Review. 2000.
  4. Farouk L, Laroubi A, Aboufatima R, Benharref A, Chait A. "Evaluation of the analgesic effect of alkaloid extract of Peganum harmala L.: Possible mechanisms involved". J Ethnopharmacol. 2008;115(3):449-54.
  5. Gracie & Zarkov. "Three Beta-Carboline Containing Plants as Potentiators of Synthetic DMT and other Indole Psychedelics". Notes from Underground, No. 7. Gracie and Zarkov Productions. 1985.
  6. Gracie & Zarkov. "An Indo-European Plant Teacher". Notes from Underground, No. 10. Gracie and Zarkov Productions. 1986.
  7. Massoud M, Jalilpour H, Salehian P. "Toxicity of Peganum harmala: Review and a Case Report". I. 2002;1:1-4.
  8. Most A. Peganum Harmala: The Hallucinogenic Herb of the American Southwest. Venom Press. 1985.
  9. Ott J. Ayahuasca Analogues: Pangaean Entheogens. Natural Products Co. 1994.
  10. Ott J. Pharmacotheon. Natural Products Co. 1996.
  11. Pendell D. Pharmaco/Gnosis. Mercury House. 2006.
  12. Prashanth D, John S. "Antibacterial activity of Peganum harmala". Fitoterapia. 1999;70(4):438-9.
  13. Shulgin A, Shulgin A. TIHKAL: The Continuation. Harmaline entry and Chapter 16: Hoasca vs. Ayahuasca. Transform Press. 1997.
  14. United States Department of Agriculture. , Plants Profile: Peganum harmala L. N.D. Accessed Feb 2 2010.
Revision History #
  • v1.0 - Feb 3, 2010 - Zhah - Published on Erowid.