Yopo, or Anadenanthera peregrina, is a tree native to South America and the Caribbean. The seeds of the tree have been used in healing rituals for thousands of years. They contain DMT, 5-MeO-DMT and bufotenin, among other compounds, one of the strongest hallucinogens on earth.
The yopo tree belongs to the genus Anadenanthera. This also includes another psychoactive tree called Cebil (Anadenanthera colubrina). In appearance these two trees are very similar and are often confused with each other. The seeds of Cebil also contain strong hallucinogenic compounds, with bufotenin in the highest concentrations.
Other names for yopo are jopo, cohoba, parica and calcium tree.
Yopo can grow to be about 20 meters tall. It has a thick, prickly bark. The tree produces small, pale yellow to white flowers.
The wood of the tree is used for making furniture, among other things.
Traditional use of yopo
Yopo is used as a medicine and as a way to get in touch with the gods. Indigenous peoples use yopo during spiritual ceremonies, usually in the form of a powder that is snorted. In this way, a very powerful psychedelic experience takes place.
For example, the indigenous peoples of the Orinocco basin in Colombia and Venezuela use yopo within their culture, as do tribes in the Amazon region of brazil. Also in the Caribbean, including Puerto Rico.
The first descriptions of the effects of Anadenanthera date back to 1496. This was during the period when Europeans "discovered" the Americas and came into contact with the customs of the indigenous people. The following description is made about the Taino Indians of Hispaniola.
Christopher Columbus had learned that the "kings" of these Indians were taking a mysterious snuff powder, which they were becoming infatuated with. It took at least 400 years before it became clear which plant was involved. The American ethnobotanist W. E. Safford identified it as Piptadenia peregrina, now correctly known as Anadenanthera peregrina.
Friar Ramon Pane described the effects of yopo in his report:
"This "kohobba" powder is an intoxicating herb that is so strong that users lose touch with reality. Users first stiffen for a time, then their limbs loosen and their heads drop. They insert the powder into their nose through a long bone, with one end sticking into the nostril and the other into the powder. The effects come on very quickly, immediately they feel that the room is inverted and that they are in contact with spirits".
Archaeological findings show that yopo has been used by humans for thousands of years. One of the oldest pieces of evidence for the use of yopo as a spiritual medicine are small snuff pipes made from the bone of a puma (Felis concolor). Remnants of DMT, one of the components of yopo, have been found in these pipes. This archaeological evidence was found in the Jujuy province in Argentina.
Through research, it appears that it dates back to 2130 years BC. This means that the use of yopo through blow pipes is over 4000 years old.
Also, near the coast of Peru, evidence of snuff pipes has been found that were used about 1200 years before Christ.
Usage of yopo
Traditionally, yopo is processed into powder and blown into the nostrils. Usually this is done by the shaman. Blowing yopo is more effective than when it is snorted. Also, blowing causes less irritation to the nose, than when yopo is snorted.
As with the use of rapé, blowing itself is very important according to tradition, because one transmits a certain energy via the breath.
Traditionally, bamboo sticks are used for blowing. Sometimes users snort yopo themselves by using a snuff tube made from bird bones.
A less potent mixture, made from the ground beans of the yopo tree, which is then snorted or smoked, has also been reported. In this process, the psychedelic effects are weaker, but the physical side effects are stronger.
How is yopo snuff powder made?
Traditionally, the beans of the yopo bean are roasted until they make a "popping" sound. Then the beans are ground into powder and mixed with ash or chalky shells.
Addition of MAOI
Sometimes an MAOI is added, to enhance the hallucinogenic effects. An MAOI is regularly added to psychedelics, but should be approached with great caution.
An example of a psychedelic in combination with an MAOI is ayahuasca: this combines DMT with Banisteriopsis caapi. This vine has the MAO-inhibiting property. Without this addition, ayahuasca would not work. When DMT is taken through a drink, i.e. orally, the body is unable to absorb it. The MAO-inhibitor makes the DMT orally active and provides a strong psychedelic experience.
In addition to Banisteriopsis caapi, other MAOIs include Syrian rue and to a lesser extent passionflower.
When an MAO inhibitor is added to the use of yopo, it creates a more intense experience that lasts longer.
Oral use of yopo
Yopo is very rarely used orally. There are some cases where South American tribes combine small amounts of yopo with a special beer made from corn (chichas). In low doses, this produces an unpleasant effect, with much nausea. Originally the beans were also used as the main ingredient in a purge called bilca tauri. This was used in certain ceremonies. Certain tribes took it every month to vomit and get rid of negative energy. Large amounts of yopo are never taken orally, as it is believed to be dangerous.
Research shows that yopo contains several active ingredients. For spiritual purposes, it is mainly the beans that are used. They give users a powerful psychedelic experience.
Active constituents of yopo:
- Leaves: orientine, saponarentine, viterine
- Bark: N-methyltryptamine, DMT, 5-Methoxy-N-methyltryptamine, 5-MeO-DMT
- Beans: 5-MeO-DMT, bufotenin, bufotenin oxide, DMT
What is bufotenin?
Bufotenin is a tryptamine found in various plants, mushrooms and also in the Bufo alvarius toad, hence the name. Bufotenine is very similar in chemical structure to the neurotransmitter serotonin. This substance plays a very important role in the body that has to do with all kinds of vital functions, such as mood, sex drive and sleep pattern.
Bufotenin is very similar to psilocybin, DMT and 5-MeO-DMT. There have been several clinical studies on the effects of bufotenin over the past few decades. There is still controversy about its psychedelic properties. Today, bufotenin is believed to produce similar effects to 5-MeO-DMT, albeit less intense.
Experiments with pure bufotenine have produced varied results, with individuals sometimes experiencing visual effects ranging from moving lines to colored spots. Andrew Weil, the renowned physician and researcher on psychedelics, has done several interesting experiments with bufotenine, to better identify its diverse effects.
Bufotenine is an alkaloid and named after the toad genus Bufo. The colorado toad (Bufo alvarius) and the giant toad (Bufo marinus) both secrete a toxin containing bufotenine. Within traditional Chinese medicine, this excretion has been used as medicine for centuries, in the form of an extraction called ch'an su.
Bufotenin is also found in mushrooms of the Amanita genus, including Amanita muscaria.
This substance is considered one of the strongest hallucinogens known on earth. It is responsible for the highly psychedelic experience that occurs after taking yopo.
5-MeO-DMT is found in trees of the Virola genus (it is related to nutmeg) and, like bufotenin, is present in the excretion of Bufo alvarius, among others. Most often, 5-Meo-DMT occurs in conjunction with DMT. Both are inactive orally, as the body uses monoamine oxidase to trigger a breakdown process. 5-MeO-DMT is usually smoked, or taken along with an MAO inhibitor to make it orally active.
Did you enjoy reading this article and do you like to write yourself? We are always looking for people who share our passion for natural products, who can also translate this into great texts. And we have an interesting reward for this. View all information for writers.