Hallucinogenic vegetation in Chinese language herbals

2023-07-24 00:30:09

For over two millennia, texts in Chinese herbology and traditional Chinese medicine have recorded medicinal vegetation which can be additionally hallucinogens and psychedelics. Some are acquainted psychoactive plants in Western herbal medicine (e.g., Chinese: 莨菪; pinyin: làngdàng, i.e. Hyoscyamus niger), however a number of Chinese language vegetation haven’t been famous as hallucinogens in fashionable works (e.g.,Chinese: 雲實; pinyin: yúnshí; lit. ‘cloud seed’, i.e. Caesalpinia decapetala). Chinese language herbals are an necessary useful resource for the history of botany, for example, Zhang Hua‘s c. 290 Bowuzhi is the earliest document of the psilocybin mushroom xiàojùn 笑菌 (lit. “laughing mushroom”, i.e. Gymnopilus junonius).


There’s a lexical gap between Chinese language names and descriptions of hallucinogenic vegetation and English pharmacological terminology for hallucinogens, that are generally divided into psychedelics, dissociatives, and deliriants.

The English lexicon has a posh semantic field for psychoactive drugs, and most phrases are neologisms.[a]

Hallucination (from Latin alucinor “to wander in thoughts”) is outlined as: “The obvious, typically robust subjective notion of an exterior object or occasion when no such stimulus or state of affairs is current; could also be visible, auditory, olfactory, gustatory, or tactile.” Hallucinogen (coined in 1952 from Latin alucinor and -gen “producing”): “A mind-altering chemical, drug, or agent, particularly a chemical probably the most distinguished pharmacologic motion of which is on the central nervous system (mescaline); in regular individuals, it elicits optic or auditory hallucinations, depersonalization, perceptual disturbances, and disturbances of thought processes.”

Pharmacology divides hallucinogens into three courses. Psychedelic (first utilized in 1956 from Greek psyche- “thoughts; soul” and delein “to manifest”): “Pertaining to a slightly imprecise class of medicine with primarily central nervous system motion, and with results mentioned to be the enlargement or heightening of consciousness, LSD, cannabis, mescaline, psilocybin.” Dissociative is a category of hallucinogen that produces emotions of dissociation (Latin dissocioatus “to disjoin, separate” from socius “companion, ally”) that means “(3) An unconscious separation of a gaggle of psychological processes from the remaining, leading to an impartial functioning of those processes and a lack of the standard associations, a separation of have an effect on from cognition.” Dissociative disorders is outlined as “a gaggle of psychological issues characterised by disturbances within the features of id, reminiscence, consciousness, or notion of the surroundings; this diagnostic group consists of dissociative (older time period, psychogenic) amnesia, dissociative fugue, dissociative id (older time period, a number of persona) dysfunction, and depersonalization dysfunction.” Deliriant is a technical time period launched to tell apart hallucinogens that primarily trigger delirium (1982, from Latin deliro “to be loopy” and delira “exit of the furrow”): “An altered state of consciousness, consisting of confusion, distractibility, disorientation, disordered pondering and reminiscence, faulty notion (illusions and hallucinations), distinguished hyperactivity, agitation, and autonomic nervous system overactivity; attributable to sickness, treatment, or poisonous, structural, and metabolic issues.”

The equal semantic area within the Chinese lexicon includes modern loanwords.[b] Huànjué (幻覺 “hallucination; delusion; phantasm”) compounds huàn ( “unreal; imaginary; illusory”) and (jué” “feeling; sensation; notion”). Zhìhuànjì (致幻劑 “psychedelic; hallucinogen”) compounds zhì ( “incur; trigger”), huàn “unreal; imaginary; illusory”, and ( “medicinal preparation; dose”). Zhìhuànyào (致幻藥 “hallucinogenic drug”) with yào ( “medication; drug”) is a much less frequent synonym.

Míhuànyàowù (迷幻藥物 “psychedelic”) combines míhuàn (迷幻 “phantasmagoric; surreal; mysterious; psychedelic”) and yàowù (藥物 “medication; pharmaceutical; medicament”). The Chinese language technical names for the final two courses of hallucinogens are uncommon: Yóulíyàopǐn (游离藥品 “dissociative”) compounds yóulí (游离 “dissociated; drifting”) and yàopǐn (藥品 ” medication; chemical reagent; drug”); and Zhìzhānwàngyào (致谵妄藥 “deliriant”) combines zhì “incur; trigger”, zhānwàng (譫妄 “(medical) delirium”), and yào “medication; drug”.

Historical past[edit]

Chinese language pharmaceutical literature primarily includes texts known as bencao (Chinese: 本草; pinyin: běncǎo; Wade–Giles: pen-ts’ao), translatable as English herbal, pharmacopoeia, or materia medica. This phrase compounds ben “(plant) root/stem; foundation, origin; basis; e-book” and cao “grass; herb; straw”. Though bencao is typically misinterpreted as “roots and herbs”, the approximate that means is “[pharmaceutics whose] foundation [ben] [is] herbs [cao]”.[1][failed verification] These works take care of medication of all origins, primarily vegetable but in addition mineral, animal, and even the human body.

The Chinese language botanist, tutorial, and researcher Hui-lin Li (1911-2002) wrote seminal articles in regards to the historical past and use of hallucinogenic vegetation in China. Li cites a narrative in Li Shizhen‘s 1596 magnum opus Bencao gangmu as the primary dialogue in regards to the normal use of psychoactive vegetation. In 1561, after horrific murders in Changli, the Ming dynasty Jiajing Emperor proclaimed a nationwide edict warning in regards to the risks of hallucinogens.

Lang-tang (Hyoscyamus niger), Yün-shih (Caesalpinia Sepiaria), Fang-k’uei (Peucedanum japonica) and Pink Shanglu (Phytolacca acinosa) all may cause hallucination in peoples. Previously, this significance has not been absolutely divulged. Crops of this sort are all poisonous, which may obscure the thoughts, alter one’s consciousness, and confuse one’s notion of sight and sound. Within the T’ang occasions, An Lu-shan [a foreign warlord in the Chinese army service] as soon as enticed the Kitan [tribesmen surrendered to his command] to drink Lang-tang wine and buried them alive whereas they had been unconscious. Once more within the second month of the forty third yr of the Chia-ch’in interval (1561 A.D.), a wandering monk, Wu Ju-hsiang of Shensi province, who possessed wizardry, arrived at Ch’ang-li and stopped over on the home of a resident, Chang Shu. Upon discovering the latter’s spouse being very lovely, he requested that your complete household sit collectively on the desk with him when he was being supplied a meal. He put some reddish potion within the rice and after some time the entire household grew to become unconscious and submitted to his assault. He then blew a magic spell into the ears of Chang Shu and the latter turned loopy and violent. Chang visualized his complete household as all devils and thereby killed all of them, sixteen altogether, with none blood shed. The native authorities captured Chang Shu and saved him in jail. After ten days, he spat out practically two spittoonsful of phlegm, grew to become aware, and discovered himself that these he killed had been his dad and mom, brothers, sisters-in-law, his spouse, sons, sisters, nephews. Each Chang and Wu had been dedicated to the dying sentence. The Emperor, Shih-tsung, proclaimed all through the nation in regards to the case. The actual magic potion should be of the form of Lang-tang or related medication. When the person was underneath the spell, he noticed everybody else as a satan. It’s thus essential to search out out the treatment that counteracts such a factor.[2]

Notable vegetation[edit]

The next eight examples of confirmed and doable hallucinogens recorded in Chinese language herbals are based on the ten in Li Hui-Lin’s 1977 article. Two edible vegetation, with just one Chinese language supply and no Western ones mentioning psychoactive properties, are omitted as unlikely: fangfeng (防风; 防風; fángfēng; fang-fengSaposhnikovia divaricata; Chinese parsnip“) and longli (龙荔; 龍荔; lónglì; lung-liNephelium topengii”; a sort of lychee“).

Hyoscyamus niger fruit and seeds
Caesalpinia decapetala flowers
Peucedanum japonicum
Phytolacca acinosa flowers
Hashish sativa flowers

Langdang: Hyoscyamus niger[edit]

The làngdàng (莨菪; làngdàng; lang-tangHyoscyamus niger; black henbane”) is among the most well-known hallucinogenic medication in Chinese language herbals. The seeds, which include psychoactive tropane alkaloids, are known as làngdàngzi (莨菪子, with -zi “little one; seed”) or tiānxiānzi (天仙子 “heavenly transcendent seeds”).

To be used in medication, the seeds are supposedly handled by soaking in vinegar and milk to cut back their toxicity. The Shennong Bencaojing says, “[The seeds] when taken [when properly prepared] for a chronic interval allow one to stroll for lengthy distances, benefiting to the thoughts and including to the energy … and to speak with spirits and seeing devils. When taken in extra, it causes one to stagger madly.”[5] Lei Xiao’s 470 Leigong paozhilun (雷公炮炙論 “Grasp Lei’s Treatise on the Decoction and Preparation of Medication”) states that the seed “is extraordinarily toxic, and when by accident taken, it causes delirium and seeing sparks and flashes”, and Zhen Chuan’s c. 620 Bencao yaoxing (本草藥性 “Nature of Medication in Materia Medica”) says the seeds “shouldn’t be taken uncooked because it hurts individuals, inflicting them to see devils, performing madly like selecting needles”.[6]

Yunshi: Caesalpinia decapetala[edit]

The yunshi (云实; 雲實; yúnshí; yun-shihCaesalpinia decapetala; cat’s claw”) was a flexible drug plant within the Chinese language pharmacopeia, and the basis, flowers, and seeds had been all utilized in medication.

The Shennong Bencao says, “[The flowers] may allow one to see spirits, and when taken in extra, trigger one to stagger madly. If taken over a chronic interval, they produce somatic levitation and impact communication with spirits.” Tao Hongjing, who edited the official Shangqing Daoist canon, additionally compiled the c. 510 Mingyi bielu (名醫別錄 “Supplementary Information of Well-known Physicians”) that claims “[The flowers] will drive away evil spirits. When put in water and burned, spirits may be summoned” and “The seeds are like langdang (Hyoscyamus niger), if burned, spirits may be summoned; however this [sorcery] methodology has not been noticed.”[7]

Li Hui-Lin notes this plant “has not been famous as a hallucinogenic plant in fashionable works. The truth is, so far as I’m conscious, it has not been investigated medicinally or chemically”.

Fangkui: Peucedanum japonicum[edit]

The fangkui (防葵; fángkuí; fang-k’uiPeucedanum japonicum“) root is utilized in Chinese language medication, and just like the earlier cat’s claw, has not been famous as a hallucinogenic in fashionable works. The c. 510 Tao Hongjing mingyi bielu states, “Feverish individuals shouldn’t take it, as a result of it causes one to be delirious and see spirits”; and Chen Yanzhi’s (陳延之) c. 454-473 Xiaoping fang (小品方 “Minor Prescriptions”) says that fangkui, “if taken in extra, makes one develop into delirious and act considerably like mad”.[9]

P. japonicum can be used fairly extensively in Korean delicacies – not solely as a culinary herb, but in addition as a leaf vegetable, elevating the query as to what constitutes consumption ‘to extra’. It might be the case that the pressure of plant grown in Korea is much less poisonous / medicinal than that present in China, or that very substantial portions of the plant should be eaten earlier than any psychoactive results are manifested. Alternatively, the psychoactive elements of the plant could also be deactivated by the cooking processes employed within the preparation of the plant in Korea.[10][11]

Shanglu: Phytolacca acinosa[edit]

The shanglu (商陆; 商陸; shānglù; shang-luPhytolacca acinosa; India pokeweed”) has edible leaves and toxic roots. China’s oldest extant dictionary, the c. Third-century BCE Erya (13: 110) provides two names for pokeweed: chùtāng (蓫薚) and mǎwěi (馬尾 “horsetail”).

Chinese language herbals distinguish two sorts of shanglu, white with white flowers and white root, and crimson with crimson flowers and purple root. The white root is edible when cooked however the crimson root is extraordinarily toxic. The Tao Hongjing mingyi bielu information how Daoists used the crimson selection, “By boiling or brewing after which taken, it may be used for belly parasitic worms and for seeing spirits”; Su Song‘s 1061 Bencao tujing (本草圖經 “Illustrated Pharmacopeia”) says, “It was a lot utilized by sorcerers in historical occasions”.[12] Su Gong’s 659 Tang bencao (唐本草 “Tang dynasty pharmacopeia”) says “The crimson type can be utilized to summon spirits; it is extremely toxic. It may be solely used as exterior utility for irritation. When ingested, this can be very dangerous, inflicting unceasing bloody stool. It might be deadly. It causes one to see spirits.”[13]

The 1406 Jiuhuang Bencao “Famine Aid Natural” lists pokeweed as a famine food. It provides directions for eradicating the toxic phytolaccatoxin from the white roots and mentions Daoist xian utilizing the flowers: “Minimize them up into slices, scald, then soak and wash repeatedly (throwing away the extract) till the fabric is clear; then simply eat it with garlic. … Crops with white flowers can (it’s mentioned) confer longevity; the immortals collected them to make savouries to take with their wine.”[14]

Dama: Hashish sativa[edit]

Dama (大麻; dàmá; ta-maCannabis sativa; hemp; marijuana”) has been grown in China since Neolithic occasions. At a really early interval the Chinese language acknowledged the Hashish plant as dioecious, the male vegetation produce higher fibers and the feminine vegetation produce extra cannabinoids. In fashionable utilization, the names are ( “male hashish”) and ( “feminine hashish”).[15]

Reflecting the significance of hashish in historical China, the ca. Third century BCE Erya dictionary (13) has 4 definitions: fén (; ) and xǐshí (枲實) imply “hashish flower”; () and () imply “hashish” usually and never “male hashish”; (, lit. “reed membrane”) and mámǔ (麻母, “hashish mom”) imply “feminine hashish”; and () and shānmá (山麻 “mountain hashish”) imply “wild hashish”, probably C. ruderalis.

The Shennong bencao calls “hashish flowers/buds” mafen (麻蕡) or mabo (麻勃) and says: “To take a lot makes individuals see demons and throw themselves about like maniacs [多食令人見鬼狂走]. But when one takes it over a protracted time period one can talk with the spirits, and one’s physique turns into mild [久服通神明輕身]”.[16] The Mingyi bielu information that within the sixth century, mabo had been, “little or no utilized in medication, however the magician-technicians [shujia 術家] say that if one consumes them with ginseng it is going to give one preternatural data of occasions sooner or later.”[17] Meng Shen’s c. 670 Shiliao bencao (食療本草 “Dietary Remedy Pharmacopeia”) says individuals will mix equal components of uncooked hashish flowers, Japanese sweet flag, and wild mandrake, “pound them into capsules of the dimensions of marbles and take one dealing with the solar on daily basis. After 100 days, one can see spirits.”[18] Tang Shengwei’s 1108 Zhenglei bencao (證類本草 “Reorganized Pharmacopeia”) provides a extra full account on the pharmaceutical makes use of of hashish: “Ma-fen has a spicy style; it’s poisonous; it’s used for waste ailments and accidents; it clears blood and cools temperature; it relieves fluxes; it undoes rheumatism; it discharges pus. If taken in extra, it produces hallucinations and a staggering gait. If taken over a long run, it causes one to speak with spirits and lightens one’s physique.”[19]

Based on the sinologists and historians Joseph Needham and Lu Gwei-djen, some early Daoists tailored censers for the religious and spiritual use of cannabis. The c. 570 Daoist encyclopedia Wushang Biyao (無上秘要 “Supreme Secret Necessities”) recorded including hashish into ritual censers, they usually counsel Yang Xi (330-c. 386), who wrote the Shangqing scriptures throughout alleged visitations by Daoist xian, was “aided nearly definitely by hashish”.

See Also

Mantuolou: Datura stramonium[edit]

Datura stramonium fruit and seeds

The mantuoluo (曼陀罗; 曼陀羅; màntuóluó; man-t’o-loDatura stramonium; jimsonweed” or “(Buddhism) mandala“) accommodates extremely toxic Tropane alkaloids. A number of Datura species had been launched into China from India, and Li Shizhen’s 1596 Bencao gangmu was the primary natural to document the medicinal use of flowers and seeds. The drug is utilized in mixture with Hashish sativa and brought with wine as an anesthetic for small operations and cauterizations. Li Shizhen personally experimented with jimsonweed and recorded his expertise as follows: “Based on traditions, it’s alleged that when the flowers are picked to be used with wine whereas one is laughing, the wine will trigger one to provide laughing actions; and when the flowers are picked whereas one is dancing, the wine will trigger one to provide dancing actions. [I have found out] that such actions shall be produced when one turns into half-drunk with the wine and another person laughs or dances to induce these actions.”[21]

Maogen: Ranunculus japonicus[edit]

Ranunculus japonicus

The maogen (毛茛; máogèn; mao-kenRanunculus japonicus; buttercup”) is a toxic plant with vibrant yellow flowers. The Daoist alchemist Ge Hong‘s c. 340 Zhouhou jiuzu fang (肘後救卒方 “Cures for Emergencies”,[22] says, “Among the many herbs there’s the Shui Lang (water Lang, a form of Mao-ken) a plant with rounded leaves which grows alongside water programs and is eaten by crabs. It’s toxic to man and when eaten by mistake, it produces a maniacal delirium, showing like a stroke and generally with blood-spitting. The treatment is to make use of licorice.” Later herbals, which don’t point out maogen as a deliriant, say the entire plant is taken into account toxic and is ought to solely be externally used as a medication for irritation and irritation.

Xiaojun: Gymnopilus junonius(?)[edit]

Gymnopilus junonius
Panaeolus papilionaceus

The xiaojun (笑菌; xiàojùn; hsiao-ch’un “laughing mushroom”) was recognized to Chinese language herbalists for hundreds of years earlier than fashionable botanists recognized it as a sort of psilocybin mushroom, more than likely both Gymnopilus junonius or Laughing Health club or Panaeolus papilionaceus or Petticoat Mottlegill.

The earliest document of a mushroom that causes uncontrollable laughter seems in Zhang Hua‘s c. 290 Bowuzhi compendium of pure wonders, in a context describing two uncommon sorts of jùn ( “mushroom; fungus”) that develop on tree bark.

In all of the mountain commanderies to the South of the Yangzi, there’s a fungus which grows [生菌] all through the spring and summer season on the massive bushes which have fallen down; it is named the Zhen [ “chopping block (for execution)”]. If one eats it, it’s tasty, however immediately the poison takes impact and kills the eater. … If one eats Candy gum tree growths [生者], they may induce uncontrollable laughter. If one drinks “earth sauce” [tǔjiāng 土漿] one will get well.

The Bencao gangmu information Tao Hongjing’s recipe for making ready “earth sauce”: “Dig out a pit three chi deep in a spot the place there’s yellow earth. Take freshly-drawn water and pour it into the pit, stirring the water in order to make it turbid. After a short time, draw off the clear water and use this. It’s known as both ‘soil sauce’ or ‘earth sauce’.” Hui-lin Li quotes a Chinese language-language research of “laughing mushrooms” that this “soil infusion” is the clear liquid after soil is blended with water and allowed to settle, and an efficient antidote for poisons.

Subsequent Chinese language authors give many related information. Chen Renyu’s (陳仁玉) I245 Jùnpǔ (菌譜 “Mushroom Guidebook”) says this fungus is known as tǔxùn (土蕈 “earth mushroom”) or dùxùn (杜蕈 “pear mushroom”) and “grows within the floor. Individuals imagine it to be shaped by the air from toxic vermin, and kills individuals if taken…. These poisoned by it is going to snigger. As an antidote, use robust tea, blended with alum and contemporary clear water. Upon swallowing this, it is going to treatment instantly”.

The c. 304 Nanfang Caomu Zhuang mentions sweetgum tree growths in a fairly completely different context, the shamans within the southern state of Yue use a magical fēngrén (楓人 “sweetgum individual”) that could be a form of liúyǐng (瘤癭gall“) discovered rising on sweetgum bushes. “When aged they develop tumors. Typically in a violent thunder storm, the tree tumors develop immediately three to 5 toes in a single evening, and these are known as Feng-jen. The witches of Yueh acquire these for witchcraft, saying that they’ve proof of their supernatural high quality.”[26] Later sources gave two explanations of the sweetgum tree growths, both as galls that resemble people and have magical powers or as parasitic vegetation with rain-giving powers.

In Japan, each medieval and fashionable sources document laughing mushrooms. An Eleventh-century story within the Konjaku Monogatarishū describes a gaggle of Buddhist nuns who ate maitake (舞茸 “dancing mushrooms”) and commenced to snigger and dance uncontrollably. Additionally it is often called the waraitake (笑茸 “laughing mushroom”), which students have recognized because the Panaeolus papilionaceus or Petticoat Mottlegill; the associated Panaeolus cinctulus or Banded Mottlegill; and the psilocybin mushroom Gymnopilus junonius or Laughing Cap additionally known as ōwaraitake (大笑茸 “Massive Laughing Mushroom”).[28]

In a research on early Daoist practitioners looking for the elixir of Immortality, Needham and Lu point out the doable use of hallucinogenic vegetation, corresponding to Amanita muscaria “fly agaric” and xiaojun “laughing mushrooms”. Primarily based on Tang dynasty and Song dynasty references, they tentatively determine it as a Panaeolus or Pholiota and counsel that the properties of not less than some psychoactive mushrooms had been extensively recognized. They predict the additional exploration of hallucinogenic fungi and different vegetation in Daoism and in Chinese language tradition normally “shall be an thrilling process”.

See additionally[edit]

  1. ^ The next definitions are from Lathrop, Thomas, ed. (2008), Stedman’s Medical Dictionary, twenty eighth version, Hubsta.
  2. ^ Translation equivalents are primarily from Wenlin v. 4.3, 2016).



  1. ^ Unschuld, Paul U. (2010). Drugs in China: A Historical past of Concepts. University of California Press. p. 14. ISBN 9780520266131.
  2. ^ Tr. Li 1977, p. 162.
  3. ^ Tr. Li 1977, p. 166.
  4. ^ Tr. Li 1977, p. 167.
  5. ^ Tr. Li 1977, p. 167.
  6. ^ Tr. Li 1977, p. 168.
  7. ^ , 수연 (20 April 2016). 잡·학·다·식 (雜學多食)(31)·끝 방풍 [More interdisciplinary foods (31) The end: bangpung]. The Farmers Newspaper (in Korean). Retrieved 15 December 2016.
  8. ^ 프레시웨이, CJ (12 April 2016). 추천 힐링 레시피 – 방풍나물 버섯잡채 & 방풍나물 라자냐 [Recommendation: Healing recipe – bangpungnamul mushroom japchae & bangpungnamul lasagna]. Munhwa Ilbo (in Korean). Retrieved 15 December 2016.
  9. ^ Tr. Li 1977, p. 169.
  10. ^ Tr. Li 1977, p. 170.
  11. ^ Tr. Needham, Joseph; et al. (1986). Science and Civilisation in China, Quantity 6 Biology and Organic Know-how, Half 1: Botany. Cambridge University Press. pp. 340–1. ISBN 9780521087315.
  12. ^ Li, Hui-Lin (1973). “The Origin and Use of Hashish in Japanese Asia: Linguistic-cultural Implications”. Financial Botany. 28 (3): 293–301. doi:10.1007/BF02861426. S2CID 31817755. p. 294.
  13. ^ Tr. Needham & Lu 1974, p. 150.
  14. ^ Tr. Needham & Lu 1974, p. 151, see cannabis and time perception.
  15. ^ Tr. Li 1977, p. 171.
  16. ^ Tr. Li 1977, p. 170.
  17. ^ Tr. Li 1977, p. 172.
  18. ^ Tr. Li 1977, p. 172.
  19. ^ Tr. Li 1979, p. 77.
  20. ^ Sanford, James H. (1972), “Japan’s ‘Laughing Mushrooms'”, Financial Botany 26:174-181. Springer.

Additional studying[edit]

  • Coladonato, Milo (1992), “Species Information: Liquidambar styraciflua“, Hearth Results Info System, U.S. Division of Agriculture, Forest Service.
  • Li Hui-Lin (1974), “An Archaeological and Historic Account of Hashish in China”, Financial Botany 28: 437-448.
  • Roi, Jacques and Ou Yun Joei (1941), “Le Taoïsme et les plantes d’immortalité”, Bulletin de l”Universite l’Aurore 3, 2.4: 535-546.
  • Wong Ming (1968), “Les champignons dans la médecine traditionnelle chinoise”, Journal d’agriculture tropicale et de botanique appliquée 15.Sep 11: 499-503.

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