Anadenanthera colubrina, or Cebil for short, is a tree native to South America. It belongs to the leguminosae, or bean family. Several parts of this tree, including the bark, fruits and seeds contain powerful psychoactive substances, including bufotenin, 5-MeO-DMT and DMT. For indigenous peoples, this tree is sacred and magical properties are attributed to it.
Anadenanthera colubrina has several common names, including Cebil, vilca and huilco. It is found in various parts of South America, including Argentina, Bolivia, Peru, Brazil, Ecuador and Paraguay. The tree can grow about 5 to 20 meters high and can be described as a fast growing plant. Two years after germination it can already produce fruit. The Cebil tree likes to grow in well-drained soil, for example in rocky areas. She is closely related to another tree of the same family, Anadenanthera peregrina. This species has a history of traditional use and also contains psychoactive substances. The snuff called Yopo is also made from this species.
When Columbus travelled to America for the second time between 1493 and 1496, he described a mysterious powder that the Indians used. The 'kings' of the Taìno Indians, coming from the island of Hispaniola (Antilles), used this powder to loosen (or perhaps to expand) their consciousness. Columbus commissioned Friar Ramòn Pané to study the Indians and to document what exactly happened. Pané described the shaman or buhuitiu. 'He uses a mixture he calls cohoba and sniffs it up. After this he is under the influence and doesn't know what he's doing anymore...'.
Cebil would also be used by the Incas as an enema, i.e. agent injected through the anus. It is not clear whether this was done as a purgative, or to get under the influence.
There is a report known from Peru, around 1571, that Inca shamans took Cebil in order to get in contact with the devil and predict the future. It is known from Argentina that the first Spaniards discovered that the Comechin Indians took Cebil as a snuff to get 'intoxicated'. The leaves were also chewed to improve stamina. Since these cultures have disappeared, the amount of surviving knowledge of historical use is limited.
For the traditional population, for example the Quechua Indians, the Cebil tree was of great, magical value. From the seeds (the 'beans') an entheogenic snuff was made, which is also called Cebil. The beans are first roasted, then pulverized and mixed with ash or shells to make the contents active. This snuff mixture was known to Indians from the Orinoco basin in Colombia and Venezuela. Cebil is blown together in the nostril using a bamboo stick or pipe and provides a strong visual spiritual experience. Sometimes Banisteriopsis caapi is added. This plant is added to Ayahuasca. She possesses the quality to make DMT orally active. By adding her to the snuff, she activates the ingredients, making the effect more powerful. This thanks to the substances harmine and harmaline, plant substances that have an MAO-inhibiting effect. Because of this, certain substances, such as DMT, are not immediately broken down by the body (which prevents them from exerting their effect), but the enzyme responsible for this is temporarily switched off. It should be mentioned that crushed B. caapi is very unpleasant to snort. Anyway, sniffing Cebil is a painful experience and several experience stories show that it is not something for people with a 'weak nose'. Nowadays Cebil is still used by the people who live in the Orinoco basin in Colombia.
How is A. colubrina traditionally used?
There are several ways in which indigenous people used A. colubrina. As mentioned earlier, different parts of the tree are used for certain applications. The seed hulls, when opened, show three to ten seeds or 'beans'. When these are ripe, they are collected during a ceremony, usually around January or February. Often very large quantities of the seeds are collected. First the seeds are lightly moistened and compressed, then this mixture is slowly roasted over a fire. The cured whole can be stored for later use. There are also other ways, in which the seeds are roasted whole and then crushed into powder using a specially made hardwood instrument.
Chemical composition of A. Colubrina
Anadenanthera colubrina contains various substances, including some very strong psychoactive substances. The bark of the tree contains 5-MeO-DMT, DMT and methyltryptamine. The seeds, or beans of the tree contain the highest concentration of bufotenin and smaller amounts of bufotenin oxide and DMT. The leaves contain concentrations of flavonoid orientin and viterin.
What is bufotenin?
Bufotenin (5-HO-DMT) is a tryptamine that is chemically closely related to psychedelic substances such as DMT, mescaline and psilocybin. This psychoactive substance is named after the toad family Bufo. Several toads from this genus excrete a poison containing bufotenine. An example is the Colorado toad (Bufo alvarius), a toad that excretes a certain poison through glands in its skin. This poison contains several tryptamines, including bufotenin and 5-MeO-DMT.
Bufotenin is also found in mushrooms of the genus Amanita, including the fly agaric (Amanita muscaria) and the yellow tuber manite (Amanita citrina). There is still some uncertainty about bufotenin in terms of psychoactive effects. Several studies indicate that the substance causes a noticeable psychoactive effect, in other cases these effects have not been found. Because of this there is no clarity about active doses. According to researcher Jonathan Ott speaks with 8 to 15 mg bufotenine of a standard dosage (when snorted).
Combination Syrian Rue and Cebil
To enhance the psychedelic contents of A. Colubrina, they are combined with a so-called MAO-inhibitor. The effect of an MAO-inhibitor is that it slows down the breakdown of certain enzymes. As a result, certain substances, such as DMT, remain in the body longer and can thus exert their effects. Examples of plants that have an MAO-inhibiting effect are Syrian Rue (Peganum harmala) and to a lesser extent Passionflower (Passiflora incarnata). A warning is in order here: thanks to the strengthening effect of these plants, a psychedelic experience can be intensified to a great extent. But combinations with certain substances can even be very dangerous. Therefore, always read our detailed explanation before experimenting with MAO-inhibitors, and be sure to check this list of substances you should not use for at least 24 hours before and 24 hours after using MAOIs.
In The Entheogen Review, a journal dedicated to research on 'visionary plants and drugs', published an article in which A. Peregrina (the related sister of A. Colubrina) was combined with Banisteriopsis caapi, the vine that serves as an important ingredient in the preparation of Ayahuasca. She also possesses the MAO-inhibiting effect, thanks to the harmala alkaloids. Both plants were powdered and snorted that way.
Another variant that was tried was smoking the seeds of A. Colubrina. In this experiment one seed or bean was smoked using a pipe. The bean was fresh (as opposed to the traditional method in which the seed is first dried, then briefly heated in a pan and then crumbled into powder) and caused a brief visual experience. The visuals were very strong and quickly changed their pattern. Five hours later this was repeated but now in combination with the seed of Syrian Rue (about 150 mg). Smoking these two substances again caused strong visual patterns, which this time were given a certain 3D structure and radically changed their 'theme' several times. Interesting to mention that the visual effects were only visible with the eyes closed. These closed-eyed visuals were intense and colorful. With eyes open, the surroundings looked almost normal.
For comparison, smoking only the seed of A. Colubrina took about seven minutes. In combination with Syrian Rue the experience prolonged considerably: the effects came on within 5 minutes, peaked for 15 minutes and continued for about 25 minutes.
Effects of Anadenanthera colubrina
As mentioned before, the powerful psychedelic compounds found in the seeds of A. Colubrina produce strong visual effects. These differ depending on the chemical composition of the seed and the personal data of the user (tolerance to substances, history of use, etc.) Writer and psychedelic researcher C. Rätch described his experience with A. Colubrina as beautifully visual, with images of pre-Columbian art from Mexico and Peru.
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