Cebíl, Cohoba, Vilca, Yopo, Ñopo
The seeds, or more correctly, beans, of two distinct species of Anadenanthera trees are used for their psychoactive effects in Southern and Central America. The first, A. peregrina, is known under the names Yopo and Cohoba (amongst others). The second, A. colubrina, is known primarily as Cebíl or Vilca. Both species contain similar active constituents (5-OH-DMT or Bufotenine, 5-MeO-DMT, DMT).
The use of Cohoba snuffs has been documented in the archaeological record for thousands of years, and it has the longest recorded continuous use of any psychoactive plant in the world.
Although the use of the beans of Anadenanthera trees is clearly different from the use of their pure active constituents in non-traditional societies, the beans contain these compounds in quite high proportions (perhaps 10% by dry weight). For this reason they can be considered to have a level of activity at least similar to their constituents.
It appears as if no professional health studies have ever been performed on snuffs from these beans; however, a very small ammount of studies have been conducted on Bufotenine and DMT.
The first significant studies of Bufotenine were carried out in a New York institution on psychiatric patients by Turner & Merlis and also at the “Addiction Research Center Hospital” in Kentucky. These studies showed a significant level of toxicity. One patient almost died after an injection of Bufotenine, several others suffered extreme cyanosis. One patient was described as having a face “the color of egg-plant” [aubergine]. All patients suffered great anxiety during the experiments; one quoted as saying, “get away from me, you’re trying to kill me”.
There are however various reasons why the results of these experiments should be be regarded as not wholly representative of the effects of Bufotenine:
- The patients had not entered the experiments voluntarily. Some of the patients took part in the tests in exchance for heroin (they were heroin addicts).
- The experiments were not carried out in a way which isolated the effects of Bufotenine in a scientific way. Some patients were given Bufotenine after coming out of insulin coma or in combination with electroshock therapy.
Aside from the unethical nature of these experiments, the way they were performed partly invalidates the relevance of the results.
You may also have heard an argument along these lines:
There are no recoded cases of Anadenanthera snuffs causing physical or psychological harm. So it must be safe.
This statement is partially true. There are no cases in the scientific literature of individuals being harmed from using Anadenanthera snuffs. However, this statement is only provisionally true; as nobody has yet looked into whether Anadenanthera snuffs causes harm. In the future, we may find that Anadenanthera snuffs can cause psychosis or physical illness; at present nobody knows.
So what can be said about the dangers of Anadenanthera snuffs?
There are a couple points about the physical effects of Anadenanthera snuffs which can be stated with reasonable confidence.
- Anadenanthera snuffs can occasionally affect motor co-ordination and balance. This can make it difficult to walk and perform simple tasks. The risk posed to the user however is low.
- Under the influence of Anadenanthera snuffs, users’ judgement may not be as sound as it would be in a sober state. It is possible that users may perform actions which could inadvertently cause themselves harm.
- It is widely known that natural products other than tobacco can also be quite injurious to health when snuffed. Although the effects of Anadenanthera snuffs have not been studied, it can be said with a fair amount of confidence that Anadenanthera snuffs are unlikely to be good for your lungs, sinus’, throat or general health.
- In addition to the above, it should be noted that Anadenanthera snuffs are usually prepared with added lime (or other alkaline substance). If used incorrectly, this is capable of causing serious burns as slaked lime and other alkalis are very caustic.
What about psychological effects?
Before discussing the psychological effects Anadenanthera snuffs may have, there is one consideration rarely touched upon when Anadenanthera snuffs is discussed:
It is possible that users of Anadenanthera snuffs could act quite erratically and out of character while under the influence. It is entirely possible for a user to act in a way at odds with their usual behaviour. Although unlikely, it is possible for a user to become violent, or to perform actions which may potentially harm themselves. For this reason, it is also common to recommend a sitter (a sober person to watch over the user/users). Although this advice is basically sound, there is also the possibility that a user could become violent towards their sitter. Until research is conducted into the effects of Anadenanthera snuffs, the likelihood of violent behavior is an unknown quantity.
OK. So what about the other potential psychological effects of Anadenanthera snuffs?
- Anadenanthera snuffs provoke sometimes powerful experiences broadly comparable to other substances such as LSD, Psilocybin and DMT (which it may contain). Any experience with a profound effect on the psyche (whether caused by psychoactive drugs or otherwise) can have a permanent effect on an individual. Strongly negative experiences can cause psychological damage. Again, the long-term effects of Anadenanthera snuffs on the psyche have not been studied, but it can be said with a fair amount of confidence (by comparing with similar substances), that in rare cases Anadenanthera snuffs may cause psychosis in some users. These may be users with pre-existing mental illness, users with no history of mental illness but a latent predisposition to psychosis, or just ordinary users who go too far one day.It is impossible to say with confidence who may be susceptible to drug induced psychosis as the causes of this effect are not yet clearly understood even among more well known and well used drugs such as LSD and Cannabis.
Also, it is fairly well understood that the dangers posed by drugs are magnified when drugs are taken in combination. This may also be true with Anadenanthera snuffs. Little is known about the effects of Anadenanthera snuffs in combination with other drugs (other than anecdotal reports or first-hand experience reports available via websites such as Erowid.org). This means that any user trying out Anadenanthera snuffs in combination with other drugs is experimenting with their own body and mind, and the potential outcomes (both physical and psychological) are far from clear.
Although, as has been said, little is known about the short- or long-term effects of Anadenanthera snuffs on the body and psyche, it is important to remember that a lack of data about the dangers of these snuffs does not prove it is safe. Too many websites espouse the idea that Anadenanthera snuffs are safe when at present, so little is known about its effects, it is impossible to say either way. There is no scientific data on Western use patterns to base judgements on, and the practice has not been widely used in the West for long enough to form judgements based on large arrays of anecdotal data either.