As the global demand for entheogenic medicines grows, we are seeing a simultaneous rise in unsustainable harvesting, poaching, and related ecological damage. The question we, as responsible explorers of expanded consciousness, should be asking is, “What are the hidden costs associated with my personal path of healing through medicine work?” From the cultural and environmental impact of the ever-growing ayahuasca tourism industry in the Amazon, to the ripping up of mature mimosa trees for their root bark in Brazil, to the stripping of protected acacia trees in Australia, to the poaching of iboga to near extinction in Africa, to the destruction of what remains of the ever shrinking North American peyote habitat. It’s time for a radical shift in the way we relate to these sacred plant teachers.
You will often hear people endlessly expounding on the idea that you should never drink ayahuasca without a shaman or that the only way to have an authentic experience is to jet-set halfway around the world and attend a ceremony in Peru or Gabon. There is certainly something to be said for working with a master healer and engaging a medicine in its native habitat, but we often forget the environmental and social impact of these actions. Can we really call such an experience healing if it comes with a giant industrial footprint and hastens the degradation of traditional indigenous practices?
Instead of chasing the authentic experience of other cultures, I would like to propose we take the advice of Terence McKenna and begin to create our own culture. One of the main things you might say that indigenous cultures have in common is that they remain deeply rooted in their landscape. They know the medicine of the plants and the ways of the animals. They continue to sing the songs and tell the stories that animate the world around them and give life to spiritual dimensions. This is a way of being that has largely been lost in the industrialized world, and is rapidly becoming endangered as capitalism encroaches upon what remains of the surviving indigenous traditions. Through a reinfusion of myth back into the landscapes we inhabit and a reconnection to the medicine of our own places, we can begin to forge new traditions and create folk technologies relevant to our current paradigm.
Many of the plants we list as “invasive” contain tryptamine and beta-carboline alkaloids. We need look no further than the nearest water way to find a plethora of potential entheogens, no matter where on the planet we live. There is an endless list of understudied plants to explore; it’s almost as if nature is trying to tell us something with these potentially psychoactive species endlessly proliferating across the landscapes that humans have disturbed. Who knows what wisdom is waiting to be discovered through a simple reconnection with the natural world around us? That is a topic for another article however; the message here is that our own backyards can sustain our personal entheogenic explorations.
No matter what our living situation is, we can take steps toward self-sufficiency in our medicine work. The purpose of this article is to provide a very basic introduction to the sustainable cultivation of the more commonly available and widely used entheogens. Emphasis will be placed on the medicines that can be grown with reasonable ease and particularly those that can be propagated in hardiness zones 8 and below.
Topping the list are psilocybin mushrooms. In addition to growing prolifically in the wild on nearly every continent, these little fun guys are incredibly easy to grow at home. While some may argue this point, they really are a first class entheogen, with the potential to be every bit as profound and healing as ayahausca or DMT. Even if you are not able to openly sustain a fruiting chamber, sclerotia (philosopher’s stones, magic truffles) can be grown in any dark place—such as a drawer, cardboard box, or even a backpack—with zero maintenance. Various methods and teks for the cultivation of mushrooms abound, from the simplest pre-fab grow kits and the pf tek to professional grade bulk teks and the creation of outdoor mushroom patches. If you have never known the pleasure of eating your own home-grown psilocybin, you owe it to yourself to give this a try.
Next on our list is that beautiful and inconspicuous common weed, the morning glory. With dozens of ergoline-containing varieties to choose from, in a rainbow of different petal shades, this may be the world’s most readily available entheogen. Stop by the garden center of any big box retailer in the springtime and you are essentially guaranteed to find seeds for these lovely flowers. They are so commonplace that no one will even give them a second glance. Just sew some seeds along any unused fence line and they’ll take care of themselves. If it’s not too terribly cold (zone 4 or below), they will reseed themselves and return year after year. It just doesn’t get any easier than that.
This brings us to another beautiful blossom, the passion flower. Here is another very common, readily available garden plant that is only slightly more likely to catch the attention of the passerby with its stunning blooms and tasty fruit. While most know of passiflora as a common medicinal herb and tea, many are not aware that in larger doses this harmala-alkaloid-containing botanical is a functional MAO inhibitor. This vine requires slightly more care than morning glories do, but it has the bonus of being a perennial plant in warmer zones (above zone 6). Of course, seeds and/or clones can easily be collected and planted the following spring in colder climes.
Next up is everybody’s favorite invasive genus, Phalaris. It goes without saying no one will even bat an eye at this ubiquitous grass, wherever it may be growing. Due to the hard work and dedication of many pioneering researchers, we are fortunate enough to have several clones that have been specifically selected and propagated for the presence of DMT and 5-MeO-DMT. The DMT-containing P. arundinacea varieties “Big Medicine” and “Yugo Red” and the 5-MeO-DMT-containing variety “Turkey Red” will thrive anywhere outside the arctic. These tough perennial grasses can survive even the deepest of freezes and will come back bigger and hardier every year. While not frost tolerant, the P. aquatica variety “AQ1” deserves special mention as the highest-yielding perennial DMT grass we are aware of and this variety overwinters just fine as a houseplant in a sunny windowsill. Also worth mentioning is the annual P. brachystachys, which—depending on variety—is the highest yielding DMT or 5-MeO-DMT-containing phalaris variety known.
Last in our exploration of the “plant it and forget it” options is the Illinois bundle flower, Desmanthus illinoensis. This common Midwestern perennial is hardy to zone 4 and is a great nitrogen fixer for your garden. The DMT content in the roots of this legume is reported to be highly variable, though there have been some efforts to select for higher yielding varieties and make these seeds available for trade within the community. Its less winter hardy cousin, the prairie bundle flower, D. leptolobus, has been reported to possess a more reliable and stable DMT content, for those living in warmer climates.
As a bonus for those living in drier desert locales, Syrian rue is hardy down to zone 7. Seedlings can be highly finicky and hard to keep alive, but if you can keep them going for a single summer they can be put in the earth come autumn and you can secure a stable supply of the preeminent harmala source.
Of course, no medicine garden would be complete without a few mescaline containing cacti. For those living in zone 8 and below, you will need to keep your cacti in pots and bring them in for the winter, either putting them under high output grow lamps or allowing them to go dormant till the following spring. A healthy adult trichocereus cactus can easily give you a foot or more of growth per season, even in the far north, making this a very viable source of medicine. A word about selecting cacti: the majority of the San Pedro on the market are the “Predominant Cultivar” (PC) variety and not desirable as medicine sources (see the article titled “First Steps in Cacti Cultivation” in The Nexian #2 for further information). Likewise, much of the Peruvian Torch on the market is in fact Trichocereus cuzcoensis which again is not really desirable as a medicine source. Due to this watering down of the marketplace with inferior genetics, it is highly recommended that you purchase a Bolivian Torch when you first get into the hobby of cactus cultivation, since it is a very reliable high mescaline-producing variety. It’s also worth looking into the “Penis Plant,” a mutated variety of bridgesii with an even higher mescaline content. There are dozens of other active trichocereus species worth looking into, but that is beyond the scope of this article.
Last, but certainly not least, is perhaps the most powerful and misunderstood of all the plant teachers, Ska Maria Pastora (Salvia divinorum), the sage of diviners. This plant is not cold tolerant at all, with a hardiness zone rating of 11+. However, this simple to grow, inconspicuous looking botanical makes a lovely houseplant that’s easy to care for. Cultivating a relationship with this spirited teacher is immensely rewarding and you’ll have more of this medicine than you’ll know what to do with in no time at all.
This has been a very limited overview of some of the most well-known and commonly used medicine plants that can be cultivated in most any environment. There are hundreds of other plant teachers worth cultivating a relationship with, including species of Calea, Nicotiana, Datura, Brugmansia, Heimia, and Coleus…just to name a few.
For those who live in the warmer deserts where frost is not an issue, acacia trees and trichocereus cacti can be planted directly in the ground and will absolutely thrive in such an environment.
For those who live in tropical environments or who can artificially create such an environment indoors, your possibilities are truly limitless. Please take advantage of your good fortune and propagate as many of the master teacher plants as possible. Consider Banisteriopsis caapi, Psychotria viridis, Mimosa hostilis, Acacia confusa, Rivea corymbosa, Argyreia nervosa, and Erythroxylum coca amongst the thousands of other species available to you.
Finally, it is the responsibility of every self-respecting explorer with the ability to do so, to propagate and protect Lophophora williamsii and Tabernanthe iboga for future generations. Please honor and defend these divine gifts.
How to Grow Morning Glory
How to Grow Passion Flower
Desmanthus Propagation Protocol
Peganum harmala Plant Care Guide