Yopo (Anadenanthera peregrina)

Kingdom: Plantae
yopo beanpod.png
Anadenanthera peregrina Seedpods

Division: Magnoliophyta
Class: Magnoliopsida
Order: Fabales
Family: Fabaceae
Genus: Anadenanthera
Species: Anadenanthera peregrina

The Fabaceae family consists of approximately 730 genera and over 19,400 different species. This family is classified as the third largest family of flowering land plants. This family is also known as the Leguminosae family. Some identifying characteristics of Fabaceae plants are that their flowers have five sepals, five petals, ten stamen, and a superior ovary. Aside from the yopo, this family consists of species such as peanuts, alfalfa, peas, soybeans, beans, and chickpeas. The name Fabaceae originates from the no longer valid genus, Faba. Faba is a Latin term that means “Bean.” Leguminosae, the other name used to identify the Fabaceae family, is a reference to legumes, which are the fruits that Fabaceae plants produce ("Fabaceae," 2013).

This leguminous tree produces numerous brown seedpods. These seedpods are simply referred to as yopo seeds, and they contain a psychoactive chemical called bufotenine. Due to the psychoactive chemicals that these seeds contain, they are often ingested by humans to induce hallucinogenic visions. Yopo seeds are roughly 10-20mm in diameter and they grow in pods of 8-16 seeds. The height of the tree itself varies 3-27 meters (9-88 feet) high while its width varies from 20-40 centimeters in diameter. Oftentimes, A. peregrina are slanted instead of fully erect when they have reached full growth. The color of the tree's bark is either gray or black, and it is very corky in structure. Research has shown that this bark grows thicker in drier climates. Separate shafts usually grow out of the trunk of this tree, and branches grow throughout the entirety of these shafts. These branches grow leaves that are approximately 12-30cm long. It is often rumored that these leaves contain trace amounts of DMT. ("Anadenanthera peregrina," 2011)

Yopo Seeds, Tracey Slotta @ USDA-NRCS PLANTS Database

Yopo trees are mainly found in various countries of South America and several Caribbean Islands. This plant favors tropical climates, and it typically grows in low-altitude, semi-deciduous forests as well as seasonal humid savannahs. Since the yopo tree has nitrogen-repairing bacteria in its roots, it is able to thrive in soil that lacks nutrients that many plants need to survive ("Anadenanthera peregrina," 2011). Puerto Rico is the only United States territory where yopo is native (USDA, 2013).

usda yopo.png
Anadenanthera peregrina Distribution map, USDA

Anadenanthera peregrina Distribution Map, Wikipedia

Human Use
For an extensive period of time, humans have used A. peregrina for several purposes. For thousands of years, indigenous peoples of South America have used the beans and leaves of this tree as hallucinogens. Evidence such as pipes filled with yopo snuff have been discovered in areas such as Argentina, Colombia, Cuba, and Venezuela. According to radiocarbon-dating, the yopo remains found in several of these discovered pipes are approximately 4,000 years old. Although many have ingested this substance to experience hallucinogenic euphoria, yopo snuff has also been ingested by indigenous South American tribes for spiritual healing. Yopo snuff is ingested through the nasal cavity, and when it is ingested it typically causes the user to feel intense pain in the nose. Once this pain subsides, the user experiences a tremendous feeling of numbness throughout the body and begins to hallucinate. Besides being used as a hallucinogenic substance, the yopo tree has been used for domestic purposes such as making home furniture. The bark of these trees is removed to make wooden furniture such as chairs and tables. Finally, this plant has been used in medicinal purposes as well. In the practice of medicine, yopo seeds are mixed with beer and then ingested to induce vomiting. This is known as oral purge treatment (Anadenanthera peregrina, 2013).

yopo snuff.jpg
Yopo Snuff, Wikipedia

Legal Controversy
What has been perhaps the most controversial issue regarding the yopo is the fact that it contains bufotenine, which is the chemical compound that stimulates hallucinations when consumed. Although humans ingest bufotenine with the mere intention of experiencing hallucinations, ingesting this chemical compound can also yield unfavorable health complications such as seizures and heart problems. Due to these complications, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has classified bufotenine as a Schedule 1 controlled substance. However, yopo seeds are not illegal despite the fact that they contain bufotenine. One other issue regarding yopo seeds is the rumor that they contain trace amounts of DMT in them, which is also listed as a Schedule 1 controlled substance. Nevertheless, there is no evidence that shows that these seeds contain trace amounts of DMT (Stewart, 2009).

Wild Card: Tripping On Yopo
Several individuals have written about their hallucinogenic experiences that were caused by consuming yopo seeds. Based on the stories that many people have shared on Erowid Experience Vaults, it seems that no two yopo trips are alike. One writer under the alias "Lemon Scented Dirt" has published a post on the website about an unsatisfactory experience he had with yopo. He ingested this substance by snorting it, and doing so caused his nose to undergo a feeling of unpleasant burning. Once the pain subsided, he immediately felt the urge to vomit. As he recalls his feelings while vomiting, he writes, "I do not think I have ever thrown up that violently in my life." Although he was violently ill, he does recall seeing an array of distorted colors and images while he was vomiting. Overall, he concludes that there are other hallucinogenic substances that are more worthy of consuming than yopo seeds (Lemon Scented Dirt, 2008).

Despite the fact that some consumers experience distasteful yopo-induced trips, some users say they have experienced nothing but pure euphoria. "Lynskey," another writer on the Erowid Experience Vaults website, claims that he did not experience any nausea or sickness. Although he snorted this substance, he did not feel any sharp pains in his nose whatsoever. Shortly after ingesting the yopo seed snuff, he began to have intense visions of colors. He experienced these intense visions when his eyes were both closed and opened. He also noticed that his limbs felt heavier and his heart rate increased as his hallucinations ensued. The trip finally ended after a few hours. Overall, this writer claims to not have felt nauseous throughout the duration of the trip. Instead, he only experienced feelings of extreme relaxation (Lynskey, 2009).

Although these stories depict two different overall experiences, several of the symptoms these two men experienced reflect the commons effects that hallucinogens have on the mind according to the DEA.These effects include but are not limited to: increased heart rate, perceived changes in forms and colors, and nausea. It is because of these side effects that substances like bufotenine are classified as a Schedule I controlled substance, for the effects that they have on humans demonstrate that they are at high risk for misuse (DEA).

(2011, 4). Anadenanthera peregrina. Retrieved April 26, 2013, from http: wiki.dmt-nexus.me/Anadenanthera_peregrina

(2013, 10). Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Fabaceae - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Retrieved April 26, 2013, from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fabaceae

(2013, 21). Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Anadenanthera peregrina - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Retrieved April 26, 2013, from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anadenanthera_peregrina

Drug Enforcement Administration. Welcome to the United States Department of Justice. Hallucinogens. Retrieved April 26, 2013, from http://www.justice.gov/dea/druginfo/drug_data_sheets/Hallucinogens.pdf

Stewart, A., Morrow-Cribbs, B., & Rosen, J. (2009).Wicked plants, the weed that killed lincoln's mother & other botanical atrocities. Chapel Hill: Algonquin Books.

Lemon Scented Dirt (2008, 3). Erowid Experience Vaults. Erowid Experience Vaults: Anadenanthera peregrina (Yopo) - Violent Vomiting but Interesting Results. Retrieved April 26, 2013, from http://www.erowid.org/experiences/exp.php?ID=67856

Lynskey. (2009, 4). Erowid Experience Vaults. Erowid Experience Vaults: Anadenanthera colubrina - Fanstastic - Next to No Unpleasant Effects. Retrieved April 26, 2013, from http://www.erowid.org/experiences/exp.php?ID=73499

USDA. (2013). Welcome to the PLANTS Database | USDA PLANTS. PLANTS Profile for Anadenanthera peregrina (cohoba tree) | USDA PLANTS. Retrieved April 26, 2013, from http://plants.usda.gov/java/profile?symbol=ANPE13&mapType=nativity&photoID=anpe13_001_ahp