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Lesser Known Psychoactive Plants

Updated on February 20, 2018
therealplanet profile image

Jaco is a research addict who loves to write about all the things he has learned.

Please note that the numbers are merely for referencing.

Humans have been using psychoactive plants for centuries and some of these plants, like cannabis, gained mainstream use while others faded. This list will cover only a fraction of some of the lesser known psychoactive plants out there.

1. Sceletium tortusoum

Sceletium tortusoum, also known as Kanna, is a succulent plant native to South Africa. The plant was used by die indigenous people of South Africa long before Jan van Riebeeck landed there, and it is still being used today by the rural people to treat many health conditions.

Kanna contains several indole alkaloids but the most important ones are mesembrine, and mesembrenol. These alkaloids mimic the effects of antidepressants. Researchers suggest that these alkaloids are not only better, but also safer than antidepressants.

Kanna is not considered a hallucinogen since it doesn't produce visual, or auditory hallucinations. The main effects of kanna is mood elevation, and relaxation( much the same as Kava, except for the drunken feeling). Kanna also relieves depression and slows racing thoughts, making it easier to fall asleep. Kanna may also have analgesic alkaloids, but unfortunately there are no research on it. Maybe that will change in the future.

2. Leonotis leonurus

Leonotis leonurus, otherwise known as lion's tail, or wild dagga. Wild dagga is part of the mint family and it is recognised for it's medicinal, and psychoactive properties. Wild dagga is native to South Africa and is very common. Wild dagga is closely linked to cannabis because the effects are very similar, except wild dagga is much more mild in comparison to cannabis.

The main psychoactive ingredient in wild dagga is leonurine. As mentioned earlier, the effects are quite similar to those of cannabis but more mild. The effects include mild euphoria, visual changes, dizziness, and sedation. There are also negative effects such as nausea, lightheadedness, and excessive sweating(so you'll probably smell a lot like sweat).

There are also some medicinal uses, much the same as cannabis. Wild dagga may help with tuberculosis, jaundice, muscle cramps, high blood pressure, diabetes, viral hepatitis, dysentery, and diarrhoea.

3. Plectranthus scutellarioides

Plectranthus scutellarioides is commonly referred to as coleus, a plant used mostly for ornamental purposes. There are many people that don't know coleus is psychoactive. Coleus is native to southeast Asia and Australia, but the plant can be found worldwide.

Coleus has not yet been fully explored for it's psychoactive properties, so unfortunately there aren't many information on it that's backed up by scientific research. It has been noted, though, that coleus has mild relaxing effects, as well as hallucinogenic properties. It is for this very reason that the Mazatec Indians of southern Mexico consumed it. Most trip reports claim that coleus, when consumed, produces slight visual distortions, and also a dreamy state but nothing special. If you happen to fall asleep after you've consumed coleus, you may also have very vivid dreams.

4. Nicotiana rustica

Nicotiana rustica, is otherwise known as tobacco. What makes this strain of tobacco different from your normal everyday cigarettes, or cigars is that this specific strain is the most potent strain of tobacco that we know of. It contains up to nine times more nicotine than your average cigarette, or cigar. It doesn't just have more nicotine, but it also has more harmine which is a monoamine oxidase inhibitor or MAOI for short, and which is psychoactive in it's own way.

It's still used to this day for ritualistic purposes by shamans from South America due to the high concentration of nicotine, and harmine. Only one "hit" of rustica is needed to get a headrush that lasts for about seven seconds, and yes, this also counts for people that's been smoking for years. If you manage to look past the nausea and smoke enough(less tobacco than what a normal cigarette holds), you get to pass out and have a very vivid dream.

5. Areca catechu

Areca catechu is the name of a palm tree and betel nut is the name given to it's seeds. The seed of the tree is where the psychoactive ingredients are. The trees grow in the tropical Pacific, Asia and Africa but no one is quite sure where it originated from. The majority of the Betel palms are grown for betel nut. Scientific research suggests that the use of betel nut dates back 7500-9000 years ago. If the dating is correct, there's a good chance it may be one of the earliest psychoactive plants used by humans.

Betel nut, as mentioned earlier, is a psychoactive seed of the Betel palm and has been used for only one reason. As a narcotic. Betel nuts are usually chewed but it can be made into a powder, and held in the mouth untill all the ingredients have been absorbed. The active psychoactive ingredients are arecaine, and arecoline. The effects of betel nut are stimulating and it can be compared to a mild amphetamine dose. Betel nuts also suppress hunger and thirst. You can actually overdose on betel nuts, and symptoms usually include convulsions, vomiting, diarrhea, and dizziness.

6. Coriaria thymifolia

Shansi fruit resembling blueberries.
Shansi fruit resembling blueberries.

Coriaria thymifolia is also known as shansi. The plant is indigenous to the northern Andes, and contain both toxic, and hallucinogenic alkaloids. Shansi is a shrub that is very poisonous to cattle. The plant is sometimes misidentified as blueberries causing unwanted hallucinogenic effects when consumed. It is believed that the plant is used by peasants in Ecuador for it's hallucinogenic properties.

There aren't many information regarding the effects of shansi, but it is reported to produce a sensation of flight. The fruits are eaten to produce the hallucinogenic effects. It is thought that the effects are caused by an unidentified glycoside, but it's not officially proven. More research is definitely needed before we can fully understand how this plant works.

That concludes my list of lesser known psychoactive plants. Maybe you may have heard about some of them before, or maybe you never knew they existed. You can answer the poll below to tick off how many of these plants you already knew about.

How many species did you know were psychoactive before reading this list?

See results


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    • profile image

      JAY KING 

      12 months ago

      tried them all. like betel, but it turns your mouth this awful red colour. dagga, mild, like smoking marijuana leaves., scetium i didnt notice, i ate a coleus. perhaps juicing and concentrating would be betyter. very, very mild. salvia divinorum on the other hand is quite strong, hits fast, somewhat deleriant. back to baseline in 1/2 hour.

    • therealplanet profile imageAUTHOR

      Jaco Louw 

      13 months ago from Paarl

      I don't think that they got high since most chemicals in plants need to be heated before they are active.

      I'm glad you liked the article.

    • sallybea profile image

      Sally Gulbrandsen 

      13 months ago from Norfolk

      I grew some of these plants when I lived in South Africa but of all of them, I love the Leonotis most of all. The sun birds would arrive in droves and feed on the nectar. It makes me wonder if the birds ever got high on the pollen:) I was oblivious at the time of their psychoactive effects. Very interesting subject matter. Thanks for sharing.

    • profile image


      14 months ago

      Interesting! Most of these plants I remember seeing on the Canary Islands.

    • therealplanet profile imageAUTHOR

      Jaco Louw 

      16 months ago from Paarl

      I'm glad you liked it.

    • Penny Sebring profile image

      Penny Sebring 

      16 months ago from Fort Collins

      I knew a bit about the nicotine and wild dagga, and had just heard a little bit about the betel nut, but the other two were brand new for me! Very interesting piece.


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