Syrian Rue (Peganum harmala)
Syrian Rue is a perennial, herbaceous plant used as a medicine in folk medicine in the Middle East and North Africa. The seeds contain the powerful harmala alkaloids used for spiritual purposes and have a long tradition within Persian culture. Nowadays Syrian Rue is still used for spiritual purposes, mainly to enhance the power of other psychedelic plants.
The plant grows in temperate desert areas and in the Mediterranean Sea area. It likes dry, poor soil. It can be an indicator that soil has been impoverished, for example by agriculture. The plant is native to a large area comprising several countries including Morocco, Spain, Italy, Serbia, Kazakhstan, Mongolia, Yemen, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and North China. The plant is common in Afghanistan, Iran, parts of Israel, Anatolia and Morocco. From this original habitat, the plant has gradually started to grow in other areas as well. In 1928 Syrian Rue was first planted in North America by a farmer who wanted to extract a red dye from it called 'Turkish Red'. By the way, this is still a way of coloring that is used.
The plant belongs to the family called Nitrariaceae and has a long, woody underground rhizome that can go over 6 meters deep. In winter the plant dies, but in spring it grows back from this root system in the form of different stems with prickly looking leaves, which get separate, white flowers. In appearance it is reminiscent of Ruta graveolens, a plant popular as a medicinal and ornamental plant in the garden. The name 'Rue', or in Dutch 'Wijnruit', comes from this resemblance. The seeds of Syrian Rue are dark to black-brown colored and triangular shaped.
Traditional medicinal use of Syrian Rue
Within the Persian culture, Syrian Rue is a well-known hallucinogenic drug and medicine. According to some scientists, Syrian Rue is the 'mysterious' plant 'haoma' written about in very ancient Persian texts. This name 'haoma' would be related to the Vedic word 'Soma'. Soma is a magical, divine plant or beverage written about in ancient Indo-Iranian texts, but of which the real meaning has been lost. The Greek philosopher Dioscorides made a description of the plant that is seen as the first one where it is certain to be Peganum harmala.
In the 12th century the Arab agronomist lnb Al'-Awwam wrote that the seeds were used for baking bread. They were said to help with fermentation and taste.
During Persian rituals, including weddings, the seeds of the plant are burned as incense to repel doom. In Turkey and Morocco, the plant is hung dry in order to ward off 'the evil eye'.
In Europe Syrian Rue was used as a medicine, as can be read in Des Cruydboek van Rembert Dodoens, from 1554. She was used in the same way as Wijnruit, as described earlier, a plant that looks very similar to Syrian Rue. Interestingly enough, for all uses only the leaves or the juice of the plant were used (e.g. to treat insect bites, rabies, bruises) and not the seeds.
Harmala alkaloids in the seeds of Peganum harmala
However, the seeds of Syrian Rue are probably the most interesting because they contain certain potent substances called harmala alkaloids. More specifically, they are harmine and harmaline, two very strong alkaloids that can be used to make DMT orally active. The seeds of Syrian Rue are therefore used to make an ayahuasca analogue, for example. An analogue means that it's not the original ingredients, but a similar way of working. Ayahuasca is usually prepared by combining a DMT-containing plant, called Psychotria viridis, with Banisteriopsis caapi, a vine that contains the same properties as Peganum harmala, in the sense that it also makes DMT (dimethyltryptamine) orally active. DMT is one of the most potent psychedelic substances known on earth, also produced by the human body itself. The reason why the body produces DMT is still not clear to science, but the substance probably fulfils an important function within, among other things, living dreams and near-death experiences. DMT is closely related to the neurotransmitter serotonin (this substance plays an important role in the body related to mood, sleep, energy). DMT can also be found in several plants. When the DMT from these plants is absorbed by the body, there can be very strong psychedelic effects.
DMT can be smoked, but can also become active when used orally. However, it is important to add a so-called MAOI (Monoamine Oxidase Inhibitor). As with Ayahuasca, the combination of plants (and therefore substances) ensures a very powerful psychedelic experience. The active substances harmine and harmaline were isolated in the 19th century. It was later discovered that Banisteriopsis caapi also contains these alkaloids. Nowadays Syrian Rue is used as a replacement for Banisteriopsis caapi, as it is cheaper and has a similar effect. Moreover, its preparation is easier.
Combining Psilocybin, THC, or DMT with Syrian Rue
Research shows that the combination of Syrian Rue and substances such as psilocybin, THC and DMT can prolong psychedelic effects by up to 4 hours. By the way, the substances of Syrian Rue also have psychedelic effects on their own. However, these can be accompanied by a feeling of nausea. Ways to reduce these unwanted side effects are by grinding the seeds with a coffee grinder and then processing them into capsules. Note that the ingredients need time to be absorbed by the body. Experience shows that Peganum harmala seeds are best taken for about half an hour before taking the psychedelic. Furthermore, it is advised to combine herbs that combat nausea such as chamomile, mint, lemon balm, ginger... Cannabis also works well, although it is important to remember that it is a psychedelic in itself, so the effects will be enhanced.
Effect of Syrian Rue
Syrian Rue is in itself a plant with a psychedelic effect. When taken with other psychedelics such as magic mushrooms, the trip will have a different (more intense) character. Examples of effects of Syrian Rue are:
- A heavier physical feeling. The user generally prefers to sit or lie quietly and experience few external stimuli. A tip is to let the trip take place at night, or at least with little light and sound.
- A stronger 'voice' that interprets visions or images.
- More intense visual effects
There are also the physical side effects that can occur, including:
- Nausea and vomiting
- A strong buzzing sound
These side effects are usually strongest during the rise of the trip and fade with time.
Use of Syrian Rue
There are several ways to use Syrian Rue. One common way is to simply chew the seeds for about two minutes and then swallow them. This simple method allows the salivary glands to absorb the active substances when they come in contact with them. However, the taste is very bitter. Another way is to grind and mix the seeds by making tea, or to make capsules.
The amount of Syrian Rue will vary from person to person and reason for use. To strengthen other substances such as psilocybin, 3 to 4 seeds are normally sufficient. The MAO-inhibiting effect lasts about 3 to 6 hours.
When using Syrian Rue, it is very important that you avoid certain other substances. Since Syrian Rue is an MAOI (i.e. a substance that makes other substances stronger), you should avoid it when taking certain medications, such as antidepressants. You should also avoid certain nutrients that contain tyramine. Examples of foods containing tyramine include fermented foods such as beer, soy sauce and old cheese, other foods such as bananas, peanuts and chocolate. Combining an MAOI with certain nutrients (containing the substance tyramine), or certain medications or drugs, can be dangerous. An example of this is so-called 'serotonin syndrome', which can occur when an MAOI such as Peganum harmala is combined with drugs such as MDMA, or certain SSRIs. This leaves too much serotonin in the body that cannot be absorbed, resulting in high blood pressure.
When Syrian Rue is combined with other psychedelics, it is important to mention that the psychedelic effects will be enhanced and prolonged. Syrian Rue can also induce strong nausea in certain users. Especially for people without experience it is important to start with low doses. Approach entheogenic drugs with respect.
What is MAO (Monoamine Oxidase)?
Monoamine is an important enzyme in the human body. This enzyme ensures that certain active substances that enter the body, such as the substance tyramine, are harmless. Without monoamine, innocent foods containing tyramine such as dark chocolate or fermented foods could cause life-threatening reactions in the body. Monoamine also breaks down substances specific to the body, such as serotonin, norepinephrine and norepinephrine. An MAO-inhibitor, such as Peganum Harmala, temporarily prevents monoamine from doing its job and therefore from breaking down certain substances.