Peganum harmala is the scientific name for a plant from the Zygophyllaceae (Caltrop) family, more commonly known as Syrian rue, African rue, wild rue, harmal, hermel, or harmel, and esfand, aspand, or esphand.
The plant is said to be a psychedelic hallucinogen, and some regard it as one of the ingredients of the ancient entheogenic Persian drink haoma and/or the ancient Indian entheogen known in the Vedas as soma. The magical and divine Hermetic drink moly was also believed by some to be made from Syrian rue. It was possibly also used as an additive to kykeon, an initiatory drink used in the Eleusinian Mysteries, and as a secret inebriant used in the ancient Zoroastrian mystery cult Mithra. There are some who believe that Syrian rue was the Biblical burning bush experienced by Moses and a component of an ancient Jewish/Hebrew hallucinogenic ayahuasca type drink.
Wherever Syrian rue occurs may indicate that natives have used it as an hallucinogen, as well as for other religious and magical purposes. Even its name suggests that. Peganum in Ancient Greek is peganon, a name that may have been derived from that of Pegasus.
So are you ready to travel to another world on the back of a Pegasus and to experience spiritual visions, such as fireworks or kaleidoscope-like designs, flashing colors, and fantastic mandalas?
Be warned. This plant may change your life…
Before getting to any potential hallucinogenic properties of Peganum harmala, let us take a quick look at some of its non-psychoactive uses:
- In the baking of bread; the fumes being used to facilitate fermentation, help with the taste, and even to bleach wheat flour.
- An extra-strength “rue” was made from it.
- Dried capsules from this plant are strung and hung in homes, vehicles, or even as a personal amulet, to protect against “the evil eye” and it is widely used for protection against jinn and other evil spirits.
- The seeds are often burned as incense, mostly for ritualistic purposes, spiritual protection, to bring success and good luck, or as an aphrodisiac. Sometimes, an incense is made by combining Syrian rue seeds with other herbs, such as Hyoscyamus and Juniperus.
- Medicinally, Peganum harmama may be used as an anti-depressant, antioxidant, antibacterial, anti-protozoal, antimutagenic, cytotoxic, diaphoretic, emmenagogue, anthelmintic, and abortifacient agent, and is sometimes used to treat asthma, recurring fevers, pain and skin inflammations, including skin cancers, to kill body lice, to cure bites and stings from rabid dogs, scorpions, bees and wasps, and the like. It can allegedly make one immune to poison for a day. Other traditional cures made from the plant included “drying” sperm, “purifying” women after childbirth, curing earache, getting rid of spots and blemishes on the skin, and more.
Table of Contents
Is Syrian Rue Psychoactive?
Yes. While the main effect of harmala alkaloids is purgative, when higher dosages are taken, hypnagogic visions and other psychoactive effects may be experienced such visual trails, closed eye visuals, and oneirophrenia (a dreamlike state), even without combining it with other drugs.
The seeds are often used as an ayahuasca analog as they contain some of the same alkaloids as Banisteriopsis caapi, the original ayahuasca plant.
Ayahuasca is any plant which neutralizes an enzyme in our digestive tract that deactivates our internally generated DMT. DMT is the “spirit molecule,” associated with lucid dreams, out-of-body and near-death experiences, and spiritual visions.
We have small amounts of DMT in our bodies naturally, and we could (if it wasn’t illegal) ingest more orally, but it is destroyed in the body by an enzyme called MAO (monoamine oxidase). Ayahuasca plants, including the seeds of Peganum harmala, contain substances which are MAO inhibitors, meaning they block the MAO enzyme, thereby allowing internal DMT (or ingested DMT) to bring about its psychedelic effects.
The fact that we have small amounts of DMT in our bodies explain why Peganum harmala may be psychoactive on its own. However, a really strong effect would require ingesting extra DMT.
There are other monoamines as well which are replenished when a MAOI such as Syrian rue is ingested, including neurotransmitters (serotonin, dopamine) and hormones (melatonin, epinephrine, and norepinephrine). This also may contribute to the psychoactive effect of Peganum harmala, and is also why some MAOIs can be used as anti-depressants.
Combining MAOIs with other substances including hallucinogens such as mescaline, LSD, psilocybin, Ephedra, and even Cannabis and alcohol, may potentiate their effects. In Morocco, a harmel wine is available.
The potentiation provided by smoking Syrian rue may last up to 48 hours. (But more about smoking Peganum harmala later.)
What’s in Peganum harmala seeds?
Peganum harmala seeds are brown to blackish-brown in color, bitter in taste, narcotic in odor, slightly curved, triangular, and about 2 millimeters long.
Several harmala alkaloids that function as monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs) are found in the seeds as well as other substances, including:
- Harmine (especially in the coatings of the seeds) – first isolated in 1847
- Harmaline – first isolated in 1841
- Harmalol – first isolated in 1901
- Tetrahydroharmine – a serotonin reuptake inhibitor, which is typically only present in trace amounts
Beta-carboline is a class of indole alkaloids, which are widespread in plants and animals, and frequently act as benzodiazepine receptor inverse agonists. Many indole alkaloids are psychoactive. They are structurally similar to and biosynthetically derived from the amino acid tryptophan. Serotonin, melatonin, DMT, and monoamine oxidase inhibitors are all beta-carbolines.
Harmaline, harmine, and tetrahydroharmine are some of the beta-carbolines found in Peganum harmala, which are said to be responsible for the convulsive, anxiogenic, and memory enhancing effects of the plant. They are serotonin antagonists, CNS stimulants, hallucinogens, and extremely potent, short term MAO inhibitors.
Beta-carbolines also occur naturally in humans and other animals, playing a role in moods as well as dreaming. According to one theory, when our endogenous MAOI inhibits MAO, this allows endogenous DMT to give rise to dreams (if we’re asleep) or visions (if we’re awake). Theoretically, it should be possible for a Yogi, or a man with perfect control over his body and brain, to induce a spontaneous visionary state (not unlike that which is caused by drinking ayahuasca) by excreting DMT while inhibiting the excretion of MAO or excreting an endogenous MAOI.
Let’s take a deeper look at some of the more known alkaloids in Syrian rue.
Harmaline has entheogenic as well as anti-bacterial properties. Once used to treat Parkinson’s disease, harmaline is a central nervous system stimulant and a reversible inhibitor of MAO-A (RIMA). It may also be an acetylcholinesterase inhibitor as well as promote metabolism of serotonin to melatonin. Its effects as a a histamine N-methyltransferase inhibitor may explain its wakefulness-promoting effects.
Harmaline is said to be about twice as potent as harmine.
According to TiHKAL, pure harmaline ingested orally may create a 5-8 hour intoxication. Taking 150 mg induced the following experience:
In an hour and a quarter, there was a rapid-onset intoxication and I felt a little unstable. And a little bit numb. There was an unusual shimmering, in my lateral vision when I turned my head to the side. Everything was just a little bit down. Music was pretty much normal but I was missing the higher frequencies. Even light food sat heavily, and I wasn’t too hungry (and I was remembering to watch what I eat, with this monoamineoxidase stuff). Sex was difficult — probably due to some reduced sensations. I feel that this compound is unlikely to be attractive to most people, as its major effects are an intoxication with a clouding of thoughts and some disruption of musical relationships.
After taking 175 mg orally, Shulgin writes:
After about one hour I found myself becoming relaxed and a bit sloppy. By the end of the second hour, I had peaked, and was pretty much at baseline after five hours. At the peak, three areas of disturbance were obvious. There were obvious tracers — when looking at a bright object, and moving your eyes to the side, the image of the object lags in its leaving the visual field, and it leaves in the opposite direction. As to the auditory, it seemed as if the higher frequencies of music were attenuated, and the lower frequencies amplified. And as to touch, there is a definite numbing. I had no appetite, and the little I ate didn’t taste particularly good.
A 200 mg dose prompted the following experience report:
At about the two hour point I remember three things. The first was the effort to bring into reality the visual image of a face that was playing with my eyes-closed imagery. I got the mouth and, after a bit of work, I got the eyes. So I concentrated on the nose and it came into view, finally, but it was upside down. The second and third things were more easily defined. Nausea and diarrhea. Fortunately they alternated. This is not my trip of choice.
With 300 mg, Shulgin reports:
I was in a psychotherapy environment, so there was some suggestions and leading that influenced my responses. But I have great difficulty reliving my experience, in fact I don’t remember anything. I have only disconnected images. There is a girl — me — in front of a church on a dusty road, myself at communion, receiving the Host from an invisible hand at a grandiose alter. I feel that I am going crazy. Something inside. It is not anxiety. It is not depression. It is some of each, plus irritation and disorientation. I am dead but still have to come back to life. I am facing a reality of mine that I cannot accept.
400 mg was the highest dose that generated a bearable experience:
This is Fluka material, and has a nasty taste. I felt completely immobilized and sick to my stomach. Closed eyed visuals yielded native women, ‘organic’ colors and shapes, and a black panther!
A central nervous system stimulant that is entheogenic at high doses.
The harmala alkaloid harmine, once known as telepathine and banisterine, is structurally related to harmaline. Both are reversible MAOIs (RIMAs) of the MAO-A isoform of the enzyme. (But do not inhibit MAO-B.)
Alexander Shulgin suggested that harmine may be a breakdown product of harmaline.
Harmine may have some medicinal benefits, including insecticidal properties, reducing glutamate toxicity, anti-cancer and anti-tumor properties (cytotoxicity), promoting differentiation of bone-forming cells and cells in the cartilage, inhibiting the formation of bone resorbing cells, treating type 1 and type 2 diabetes, and more. It may also be anti-bacterial, and in the past was used to treat Parkinson’s disease.
Oral or intravenous harmine doses ranging from 30–300 mg have caused agitation, bradycardia or tachycardia, blurred vision, hypotension, paresthesias, and hallucinations.
The plasma elimination half-life of harmine is on the order of 1–3 hours.
Researchers who wanted to investigate whether harmine has hallucinogenic effects conducted 11 self-experiments in which they took 25-750 mg of harmine. They characterized their experience as
a retreat from one’s surroundings and as a pleasant relaxation with a mildly reduced ability to concentrate. Short-term and elementary optic hallucinatory phenomena were observed only to the degree that they would otherwise also appear naturally during reduced contact with one’s surroundings. With dosages above 300 mg, such undesirable vegetative and neurological symptoms as dizziness, nausea, and ataxia became more apparent, precluding any increase in dosage above 750 mg.
Tetrahydroharmine (THH) is another interesting alkaloid found in Peganum harmala. While it does not seem to play a significant role in the inhibition of MAO, it may contribute to the psychoactivity of the plant indirectly by its weak action as a serotonin reuptake inhibitor.
At a dosage of 300 mg pure THH, Shulgin reports similar effects to what he experienced with 100 milligrams of harmaline. (“I have tried this on two occasions, essentially without effect.”)
Syrian Rue Experiences
Alexander Shulgin shares his experience with Peganum harmala in his entry on Harmaline (TiHKAL, #13). He ground the seeds and placed them in capsules. 2 grams produced no effects, while with 5 grams, he reported:
At about 1:45 tinnitus was obvious. At 2:00 precise movements were problematical and nystagmus was noticeable. Mild nausea and diarrhea, but no vomiting. I was sensitive to light and sound, and retired to a dark room. Hallucinations were intense, but only with the eyes closed. They consisted, initially, of a wide variety of geometrical patterns in dark colors, getting more intense as time went on. They disappeared when the eyes were opened. Although the loose bowels and nausea were pretty constant through the first part of the trip, I was not afraid. It was as if the “fear circuits” in the brain had been turned off. The geometric shapes evolved into more concrete images, peoples faces, movies of all sorts playing at high speed, and animal presences such as snakes. It was like vivid and intense dreaming except that I remembered most of it afterwards. In another hour things became manageable and I could go out in public. My sex drive was pleasantly enhanced, and I slept very well.
Taking 7 grams made him very sick for 24 hours. This suggests that the safe dosage for dried seeds is probably 2-4 grams (when taken in conjunction with DMT) or 3-5 grams (when taken on its own).
Shulgin also experimented with an extract made from Syrian rue seeds. After ingesting 20 grams of this extract he wrote:
The is equivalent, probably, to a gram or so of the harmala alkaloids. This was ground up material extracted with hot dilute lemon juice. Within a half hour, I found myself both trippy and sleepy. Then I became quite disorientated, nauseous, and with an accelerated heart beat. I had the strong sensation of moving backwards, drifting, with faint visuals under my eyelids. Restraining the vomiting urge was an ongoing problem. I could have gone out of body quite easily, except that I was completely anchored by the nausea. After about three hours, I knew that it had peaked, and I went to sleep and experienced intense and strange dreams. The entire experience was a conflict between tripping and being sick. I want to explore this more.
Taking 28 g Peganum harmala seed extract took some time at first…
I sat up late one night drinking gulp after gulp of tea from about an oz. of seeds, periodically adding more water and simmering. This process took several hours, and though I had read up on harmaline, I didn’t know quite what to expect. Suddenly it hit me like a wall. It was starting to get light outside and as I shifted my gaze, zebra-like stripes of light and dark spiraled off the perimeter of the window silhouettes. Every time I shifted my focus my visual field would shudder and swirl before settling down. This visual effect had a physicality unlike those any other entheogen I’d experienced. Rather than patterns revealing greater order in sensation, these were waves of chaos revealing no particular order and urging the mind to retreat from the disturbing realm of sensation. Accompanying this was a pronounced auditory buzz. Lying down and closing my eyes I left the physical symptoms behind and explored the vivid spontaneous imaginations evoked by this state. Unfortunately, it is getting light, which made it harder to shut out the distracting world of sensation. I resolved to conduct future sessions in the night-time (and always in a quiet undisturbed place).
But a later, second attempt worked much quicker:
A second trial was made at the same level. This time it came on very fast. That tremendous buzz on the other side of which are the wondrous realms of the subconscious. The most memorable impressions from this trip were of weird animals. I imagined myself spinning on a merry-go-round of strange winged creatures. I started to feel very sick and negotiated my way to the bathroom to face the inevitable — voiding from both orifices simultaneously. It proved cathartic, and released me to experience the state more fully. I remember traveling to jungle-like places, full of imagery of vines, fountains, and animals. Minutes seemed like hours as I roamed in these spaces. Though the sensory effects were very disturbing when I got up, given high dose level, I could easily ignore my body when laying down and traveling in my mind.
Another interesting report from Ayahuasca Analogues (DeKorne), suggesting that Syrian rue could be a potent dream herb even on its own.
I once ingested 3 grams of crushed seeds (encapsulated). […] After one hour the P. harmala laid me out. I was unable to stand for the next four hours due to extreme dizziness. Lying down, mind racing, it took much willpower just to get comfortable. I saw very articulate visions of naked women in black and white. There were other visions too: black and white, no color at all! Very lucid dream-like, in that I could manipulate the visions at will effortlessly. Perhaps a gram or two before bed would be useful for dream work.
Compared to Banisteriopsis caapi, the original ayahuasca plant, Syrian rue is said to be “less heavy, and the entity more casual, garrulous and intimate. The caapi entity seems more formal, more experienced with human contact, especially in health and psychology, and seems to be a more powerful teacher.”
There are many experience reports to be found on Erowid and elsewhere from people who tried various combinations of Syrian rue and other psychoactive plants. I’ve chosen to include here some experiences written by people who took Syrian rue alone rather than as a potentiator of other drugs.
One person took 15 grams of Syrian rue extract. He summarized it:
The whole experience peaked/hit in about 2 hours, lasted about 5-6 hours. All in all, highly interesting, HIGHLY visual but limited to intense tracers and visual field ‘gliding’ when I moved my head around (the TV would actually follow along with my visual field after turning away from it. No profound mental insights, only weird daydreams that lead to nothing and made no sense, just entertaining. I still feel mental clouding as this experience was of last night).
The same person followed up his experience a few days later, saying that for several days he
had very unusual dreams, to the point that I can remember them quite distinctly. My REM-stage of sleep has been totally overloaded with crazy, out of this world dreams (more so then usual anyways), some pleasurable, and almost mood-lifting upon waking. Not the type of ‘cool’ dream that you wake up disappointed because it was only a dream. Mainly dreams of past memories, but distorted at the same time, and fun dreams, like floating and flying, etc.
Another person who took 3 grams seeds described his own afterglow experience with Syrian rue as “divine.”
Another person reported her experience with a very large dose of 15 grams seeds. Interestingly, she suggests that the “seeds were used to dye carpets in the ‘Aladdin’ era of time; the carpet makers would get the Syrian Rue absorbed into their skin, causing them to hallucinate and feel that they were ‘flying’ on the carpets.” She described her experience, which she shared with her husband:
The duration lasted about six hours, after effects lasted until I fell asleep that night. […] The effects could be described similar to the opiate family. Almost immediately after ingesting the drink I began vomiting. The effects kicked in almost simultaneously, the bathroom spinning before me and I was in a ‘heat haze’ (as if heat were rising from the ground, this was my vision at the moment). I heard buzzing in my head even though there was nothing there. I felt faint, dizzy and weak. It became hard to focus and move. I made my way back to the couch and watched the news, with the haze still continuing. Constant vomiting, impatience and anxiety. My husband described a ‘rushing’ feeling, similar to ecstasy. […] I could not function at all. I couldn’t bring myself to plug in my charger; this task was way too complicated and absorbed too much energy from me that I didn’t even have. I felt weaker and weaker and could only curl up in a fetal position with visions running through my head. […] I recall having visions of touching death. I can’t stress the fear that I constantly had of knowing how close I was to the verge of dying.
One person took 7 grams of Syrian rue seed tea and had an out-of-body experience:
The neighbor’s lawn mower was sounding as it always did and then very quickly the sound blended with every other sound in the universe into a cosmic familiar ‘OM’. […] I spewed for what seemed like hours while my closed eye visuals quickly overwhelmed me. I couldn’t handle the input my open eyes provided me and when they were closed I was seeing an endless stream of eyeballs coming directly at me and felt them passing through my head. […] The interesting part of the experience was that I could leave my sickened body at will and experience other cartoonish realities and then snap back into my body and promptly vomit again. My visions were set in the jungle and the dessert. I would feel sand between my toes then I was back in my bed and I would immediately throw up on my bedroom carpet. […] Years later I tried the substance again but heeded the warnings about dangerous combinations of food, alcohol etc. This time it wasn’t sickening like before but also there weren’t the hallucinations, OBEs or near death experience.
Here’s another interesting experience with a tea made from 1.5 tablespoons of Syrian rue, exemplifying the hypnotic properties of this plant:
Within 30 minutes I started to feel somewhat sleepy/somewhat trippy. […] At 1 hour […] I lay down on my bed. Felt strong ‘presence’. Steady noises sounded phased or warbled. Heart-rate was worrying. Began to feel strong sensations of moving backwards, drifting, faint visuals under my eyelids. […] I was very sedated and somewhat disoriented. I was having dream-visions (like intense day-dreams), these visions would go for a while then begin to get really intense/confused […] Fairly dissociative, I often lost track of my body (except when it was time to vomit). I also several times had very clear still images of being outside looking up a the stars. I had the impression that, where I not constantly being drawn back into nausea, I could have gone out-of-body fairly easily. […] After an 3 hours, (and it peaked towards the end of this period) I finally felt like I was not going to be sick anymore, and went to sleep, to very intense and strange dreams.
One person had an out-of-body experience after taking an alcohol extracted Syrian rue concentrate in capsules. Characterizing the general experience with the plant as “waking dreaming” and “a sense of flight to distant places” he writes:
I was floating in a disembodied realm of turquoise passageways and fog. […] It was neither heaven nor hell, but a sort of purgatory of lost souls. I imagined I might meet up with someone who had arrived there by a similar route. I listened to beings who inhabited this realm explain things to me with absolute authority. I felt there was much I understood on one level, but I couldn’t retain it on a conscious level. Nevertheless the sense of something gained, something deeply therapeutic, stayed with me. Periodically events in the room triggered vivid images.
Ayahuasca Analogs (Anahuasca) – Recipes, Experiences, etc.
As we have seen, Peganum harmala contains MAO-inhibiting beta-carbolines, and thus may be useful as an ayahuasca analog.
Before presenting some experience reports, here is the basic recipe:
Ayahuasca Recipe with Syrian Rue (Syrian Ruyahuasca)
- Crush 3-4 g Peganum harmala seeds to a pot. According to Shulgin, 1 teaspoon rue seeds weighs 3 grams and contains 60-180 mg alkaloids. So if you don’t have a scale, use about 1 teaspoon.
- Add the DMT-containing plant (see below; actually don’t, since it’s illegal in most if not all countries).
- Add lime or lemon juice (optional), as well as enough water and boil all the ingredients for several hours, adding more water as needed.
- Let cool, and drink.
- Chewing sliced ginger may help counteract the taste and nausea it may cause.
DMT-Containing Plants Used for Making Anahuasca
- Classic Ayahuasca analog – with Chacruna (Psychotria viridis), Psychotria carthaginensis, or Psychotria poeppigiana.
- Jerumahuasca or Mimosahuasca – with Mimosa tenuiflora or Mimosa scabrella. Other than classic ayahuasca, this preparation is said to be the most psychoactive and easy to tolerate.
- Prairie Ayahuasca – with Desmanthus illinoensis root cortex (prairie mimosa, Illinois bundleweed, Illinois bundleflower). Especially popular in North America, pleasant experiences have been reported by those who tried this blend. In LSA/Desmanthus ayahuasca, a Argyreia nervosa seed is added for its LSA content, which makes this blend potentially dangerous.
- Acaciahuasca – with Acacia phlebophylla, Acacia maindenii, or Acacia simlicifolia. Especially popular in Australia, this blend has been used with good success.
- Reedhuasca or Phalahuasca – with Phragmites (Common Reed), Phalaris (Reed Grass), and Arundo donax (Giant Reed). These preparations can be dangerous.
- Additional plants – Anadenathera peregrina, Desmodium, Lespedeza capitata, Mucuna pruriens, Diplopterys cabrerana, Virola, Dictyoloma incanescens, Limonia acidissima, Meliocope leptococca, Pilocarpus organensis, Vepris ampody, and Zanthoxylum arborescens.
- Dangerous combinations – Peganum harmala is sometimes combined with San Pedro cactus, Peyote cactus (Peyohuasca), and Psilocybe mushrooms (Psilohuasca, also known as somahuasca).
Shulgin tried DMT together with an extract of Peganum harmala seeds.
3 grams extract with 40 mg DMT induced a mild experience, in which the “DMT was noticeably effective just over an hour following ingestion, and it built up to a peak rather quickly. It stayed there for an hour, then dropped off.”
After taking 5 grams of the extract with 20 mg of DMT he wrote: “There was a feeling of aliveness and excitement, above and beyond the effects of this amount of harmel seeds alone.”
Here are some interesting Syrian Ruyahuasca [sic] experiences from Erowid:
One person used Acacia confusa as the DMT source. He writes:
The feminine overmind was undaunted by my resistance, and would cycle me through new states (out of body experiences, feelings of isolation and despair from the world I knew), […] Having failed to purge up to this point, the experience then changed to one of out-of-body isolation, periodically I would return to a pseudo-reality existing in my earthbound bathroom, […] Each time I felt reconnection to the world in this way, I was plunged deeper into a dissociative experience on the other side. […] The purge having been completed, the negativity that had been cyclically present in my being up to that point in the experience/life faded completely, and I entered a space I can only refer to as a heaven of sorts. Here I was greeted warmly by the feminine overmind and waves of warm colors washed over my soul. It was similar in coloration to the initial entry phase (red, purple, orange, gold), but the background was of a vast cloudscape in white, impressionistic in detail. Angelic beings were there and made their presence known by telepathic means. I was completely convinced of my dwelling there for the rest of eternity, and time lost all meaning. All that mattered was experiencing the warm feelings washing over my soul and the shifting colors on the palette. The feeling of universal love was ever-present.
Another person used Diplopterys cabrerana as the DMT-containing plant. He reports:
I spent most of my time ‘passed out’ either on the floor or on the bed. The state was like a lucid dream or an out of body experience. I had no control over anything. I hummed uncontrollably, the hum resembled something a Shaman would hum in ceremonies. I’d like to emphasize that I had zero control over the compulsions of my body. My hands were constantly twirling my hair, my hair got into my mouth, and my fingers got into my mouth. I teared up a lot of the time, most of the time without even knowing I was releasing any tears, tears of the awe I was experiencing. It was as if some spiritual guide was taking over my body. This programmed world didn’t interest me much, but the times that I would tune back shortly to this world, I was barely able to walk. My body waved in a very fluid motion. My mind was very much disassociated from my body. I felt like I was another being looking down at the body of another human. Again, I had zero control. Even when back in this world of ours, I felt like I had completely been taken over.
People often use Mimosa tenuiflora as a DMT source for Syrian Ruyahuasca, like this person, who writes:
Translucent holograms of individual’s faces began to drift towards me. In quick succession individuals I had encountered throughout my life drifted transparent and beautiful in front of my face. Each hologram pressed through my head providing me with startling psychic sensations in which I experienced visions from the lives of the individuals. Each face bushed through me providing the sensation of me being pushed through a sort of gelatinous electric membrane. […] After this I began to receive strange visions of elaborate carnival festival settings. But not just visions, I was THERE. Giant carnival tents, jeweled and towering, vibrating with sound and energy appeared before me and I entered into them. In these bizarre constructs a multitude of interdimensional beings, along with humans, and aliens and all sorts of other archetypal beings were celebrating SOMETHING. Typical ‘Greys’ (so called aliens, though psychic messages conveyed that these were actually the time travelling hyper evolved future of humankind) floated inches above the ground, though they only had rounded nubs for hands/feet and scrolling glowing alien text on their bodies. I encountered more entities which were time travelers, future versions of humanity, now totally alien in appearance. Energetic Beings glowed, their neural structures externally apparent and vibrantly pulsating with light. Networks of light and energy swung between and through all the entities. Elves, demons, goblins, faeries joined in the celebration.
Preparatory Diet for Ayahuasca and MAOIs
Those who take synthetic MAOIs such as phenelzine have to go on a special diet, which requires avoiding cheese and other tyramine-containing foods, to prevent what’s known as the “cheese syndrome,” a hypertensive crisis caused by high intake of tyramine along with monoamine oxidase inhibitions.
Still, even though the harmala alkaloids in Peganum harmala and Banisteriopsis caapi are reversible and selective, there is a chance of experiencing serotonin syndrome, which results from serotonin levels in the brain becoming too high.
Maybe that is the reason some Amazonian shamans recommend going on an Ayahuasca Diet for at least 12 hours (but ideally 2-4 weeks) before ingesting ayahuasca and another 24 hours (or ideally 2 weeks) afterwards as well. (While some claim that this is a myth and that shamans in South American engage in this diet for just 6 hours before consumption of ayahuasca, keep in mind that the shamans’ day-to-day diets may be quite different than the standard American diet…)
During the ayahuasca/MAOI diet (which I recommend observing prior to consuming Syrian rue), you should avoid eating meat, shellfish, cheese, fermented foods (such as yeast products, yogurt, sour cream, soy sauce, tofu, and sauerkraut), alcohol including wine and beer, protein powders, aspartame, chocolate, beans, and peanuts. It is also recommended by some to avoid salt (including canned and processed foods), refined sugar (such as sweets and junk food), spicy food, oils, and caffeine.
Taking drugs, such as cocaine, amphetamines, opiates, marijuana, and amphetamines (such as MDA and MDMA), and even psychedelics such as LSD and psilocybin, is not recommended during the ayahuasca preparatory diet. Even some prescription medications should be avoided (after consulting with your physician, obviously), especially narcotics, antidepressants (SSRIs, MAOIs), tranquilizers and sleep medications such as sertraline, barbiturates, antihistamines, and alpha- and beta- blockers.
Finally, it is recommended to avoid sexual activity including masturbation, while preparing to the experience by practicing meditation.
Syrian Rue Dosage, Usage, Side Effects
For psychoactive purposes, 1-6 grams crushed seeds (1 teaspoon) should suffice if combining it with DMT or other indole alkaloids.
Based on my own experience, I found that the effective dose depends on how you prepare the seeds. For example, if you’re eating the crushed seeds (such as blending them into a smoothie), then 1-2 grams should be enough. If you’re making a tea from the seed powder, then go with 3-4 grams. If you’re making a tea from whole seeds, then you will probably need to use 5-6 grams.
If taken on its own, a dose of up to 28 grams may be taken as an extract, though ingesting more than 8 grams of this powerful plant is considered a heavy dose, may be dangerous and toxic, and should not be attempted without medical supervision.
According to Jim Dekorne, “high doses of harmaline are psychoactive, but […] unpleasant side-effects (nausea, vomiting) dominate the trip. […] To me, the most interesting properties of harmine and harmaline are their seeming ability to potentiate visionary tryptamines in general, and in particular their ability to make DMT orally active.”
A light dose is considered up to 3 grams seeds (1 teaspoon; containing 60-180 mg alkaloids). Up to 4 grams can create a moderate psychoactive effect, while up to 8 grams is a strong dose. 1 tablespoon (9 grams; containing 200-600 mg alkaloids), again, may be too much.
The intensity of the visual effects as well as the length of the effects seem most dependent upon the dosage of DMT so if you’re taking Syrian rue as a potentiator, you should experiment to find the minimum amount of Syrian rue that will make the DMT active, and stick with that amount.
If taking Syrian rue alone, take up to 1 teaspoon as a nootropic for a mild CNS stimulating effect, along with an increase in mental activity and a pleasant dreamy state. If you’re looking for an hallucinogenic effect, then you will probably need to take more than a teaspoon.
The active ingredients are said to be soluble in water, meaning that a hot water extract of the seeds can be made (like making a tea). This is the easiest way of preparing this plant for oral ingestion. It doesn’t even require grinding the seeds. When the liquid turns reddish brown, filter out the seeds, and drink.
Effects usually begin within 30-60 minutes of oral ingestion. The MAOI effect lasts for at least 3-6 hours, while the psychoactive effects may last 5-8 hours.
Side effects may include nausea, dizziness, ataxia, tinnitus, hypertension, vomiting, sweating, body tremors, increased heart rate, and anxiety.
To minimize side effects and negative experiences, make sure to keep hydrated, stick to a low dose, and remain in a safe, cool environment with people you trust, ideally with a trip sitter. Make sure that you will not be disturbed for at least 6-8 hours.
The effects of Syrian rue when taken on its own can be divided into 3 distinct stages:
- In the initial stage, you may experience mild auditory, tactile, and visual hallucinations, such as flickers of light, a sensation of flight, and closed-eye abstract visuals.
- In stage two, less abstract, dream-like visual sequences appear, which may have a personal character. Huge birds of prey, large jaguars, and snakes are said to be common hallucinations with harmala alkaloids.
- In the final stage, the vivid fantasy may fade gradually into the slow movement of shapes and colors. If you’re in a group, you may experience collective hallucinations, explaining the former name of harmine, telepathine.
Besides ingesting Syrian rue seeds orally (in a tea, as they are, or powdered in capsules) and smoking them, they can also used as a snuff to produce a clear mind.
Even as an incense, Peganum harmala can supposedly produce a clairvoyant trance and allow one to make contact with non-physical entities.
There are several ways that the active ingredients in Syrian rue may be extracted. The easiest way would be to just make a tea, but there are other ways that may allow for a more efficient extraction.
It is estimated that the total ß-carbolines are 2–7% by weight in the seeds of Peganum harmala.
One simple extraction technique involves a two-stage extraction using a slow cooker or an oven.
- Finely grind the seeds in a coffee grinder, spice mill, or food processor.
- Cover in water and a small amount of alcohol (e.g., vodka) or lemon juice (or acetic acid/vinegar) and simmer 30 minutes-12 hours with the lid on at about 100° Celsius or 200-215° Fahrenheit.
- Strain through a paper coffee filter and compress. Save the liquid.
- Simmer the marc in boiling distilled water (or again in lemon juice or acetic acid/vinegar) as you did in step 2 above.
- The result should be a yellow liquid with a fluorescent green tinge, possibly indicating the presence of harmine in the solution.
- Strain and compress. Discard the marc.
- Combine the liquids from the two extractions and evaporate on low heat (again, using a slow cooker works well, though this time the lid should be off.) Make sure it doesn’t burn!
- Scrape off the resulting reddish-brown dry crystalline residue.
- You can place the extract in gelatin capsules, use it as a snuff, smoke, or vape it.
Testing the Resulting Extract for Beta-carbolines
To identify the presence of harmala in Syrian rue seed powder, look for a dim glowing under blacklight. Extracts made from it should glow brightly under common UV.
Even just boiling the seeds should result in a yellow liquid that will glow under a blacklight or mineral light.
Alexander Shulgin writes:
Extraction techniques with harmala can be evaluated for effectiveness using UV light. Both of Peganum harmala’s major carbolines, harmaline and harmine, are rather intensely fluorescent compounds. If a small droplet of your extract is placed on some non-fluorescent surface (hard but unglossy paper like a blank business card, maybe, or a ground- silica covered glass plate), then the use of a long-wave UV light (such as a mineral light from the local hobby shop) will give a strong light emission in a darkened room. A series of spots from a set of serial dilutions will give a good comparative measure of the alkaloid content. And once this assay system works, you can easily see if two or ten extractions are needed to get your alkaloids satisfactorily out of the seeds, and which solvent works best for the job.
Smoking Syrian Rue
The original ayahuasca plant, Banisteriopsis caapi, is sometimes smoked as a hallucinogen in Amazonia. This suggests that Syrian rue could also be smoked since both plants contain harmala alkaloids, including harmine and harmaline. (Although the leaves of the Banisteriopsis may contain some DMT.)
Indeed, I was able to find a source that claims to have smoked a Syrian rue seed extract. For the first extraction, they boiled the ground seeds in vodka and water, and for the second extraction they used boiled distilled water. Each extraction was done for several hours. The second extract came out bright cloudy yellow.
After each extraction, the plant material was strained and compressed, and the liquids from both extractions were combined and dried on low heat. Retrospectively, they wrote that they “cannot see any clear advantages of extraction over that of smoking the original plant material due to the relatively minor concentration of the amount needed to smoke. A plain water infusion would also seem to be just as effective in removing the harmine and would result in less of the other plant components being extracted.”
The Syrian rue extract had long, thin, yellowish crystals in a brownish, red, hard, clear matrix. They smoked it until they had reached a subjective feeling of being “high.” Smoking more than this amount would serve only to intensify the physical side effects. The most effective “high” was produced when the material was boiled, rather than burned. They wrote that the “rue extract lends itself nicely to smoking in a ‘hash oil’ pipe with the flame heating the bowl on the outside.”
Effects of smoking the extract were not particularly psychedelic or hallucinogenic. Effects started about 5-10 minutes after smoking.
One feels calm. This calming effect is particularly noted by an observer as a significant change in facial expression and tone of voice. The limbs become heavy and lethargic and visibly tremble. Hypersalivation occurs, particularly at the back of the mouth, making for a particularly smooth smoke. A slight irritation of urethra and anus is sometimes noted. At higher dosages, dizziness and nausea set in with very little increase in the high. Closed eye imagery is at best hypnagogic. That is to say, faint, moving outlines can be discerned with closed eyes. If one has a particularly vivid imagination, ghostly outlines of figures can be discerned. The more literal minded just see dim shifting blobs of light and dark. No one who has experienced DMT or high dose mushrooms would ever call them visions.
As for dosage, the authors note that while “various field researchers estimate beta-carboline dosage in native brews to range between 300 to 500 mg, in our dosage we only needed dosages in the 50 mg range. […] We do not rule out the possibility of a second ‘switch’ at the 300 – 500 mg range that we might have missed.”
The authors of this paper also wondered how the effects of DMT would be affected by prior smoking of Peganum harmala. To find out, they smoked 15 mg of DMT 10 minutes after smoking the Syrian rue extract. They report the following consistent effects:
The overall impact of the trip was heightened far above the normally only threshold effects of a 15 mg dose of DMT. Subjectively, the dose felt more like 34-45 mg or roughly tripled in intensity.
The overall length of the DMT “flash” and subsequent patterns was lengthened. The “flash” of visions which is normally 2 to 3 minutes at a 40 mg dosage, was about 6 minutes with the beta-carboline predosing ….at 15 mg of DMT. The total period of intense closed eye imagery, normally less than 5 to 7 minutes (including the flash) was extended uniformly to about 9 minutes with an additional 10 minute slowly decreasing tail of closed eye patterns.
The auditory effects were so pronounced as to be almost overwhelming on several occasions. In fact, the auditory effects were stronger than even extremely high dose trips where we had smoked 50 to 70 mg of DMT all at once. The initial sounds, the so-called “carrier wave” or opening buzz that has been described as “tearing plastic” was greatly amplified. The DMT “music” which we describe as a xylophone-type sound which accompanies the visions was extremely loud and seemed to keep coming on to the point where it became disturbing on several trips.
The basic “jeweled dome” or “chrysanthemum” pattern, seen after the “vision flash” was fractured or separated. Instead of a uniform circular pattern, there seemed to be distinctive left and right halves of the pattern with a new, hard to describe pattern in the middle. The overall effect of the patterns seemed to us more mushroom-like, although we would be hard pressed to give a detailed explanation of why we felt this way.
Similarly, the visions seemed to unfold in a more leisurely fashion. Again, we were reminded of the mushroom. While the DMT effect still hits fast and hard, the rushed “million things at once” feeling of DMT smoked alone is quite muted.
The colors of the pattern are also shifted as compared to DMT alone. Again, since we can’t accurately describe colors in the first place, it is hard to pin down, but it could be characterized as less primary or jewel-like, with fewer or less saturated colors than DMT alone.
Finally, when one comes out of the vision state, the “woozey” feeling is quite pronounced for an additional 10 minutes or so. This feeling was very reminiscent of the mushroom “knock-down.”
The content of the visions was also altered. There were fewer “alien, self-transforming, elf-machines” and more visions of recognizable things. Strange animals and hooded figures marched in a bas relief procession. Griffin-like monsters rhythmically changed into beautiful naked women and back. The feeling-tone was serious, unlike the playfulness or cheerful (even though quite terrifying) hilarity of the “self-transforming elf machines” experienced on DMT alone. The intensity was altered. We hesitate to say increase, since DMT is intense by itself, but the change in feeling tone, the more serious, almost personally directed information of the trance, subjectively made the trip more intense. On one trip, one of us made contact with a highly serious, palpable entity whose message could be quite simply summarized as “Are you sure you want to get into this? This is far more extreme than what you have done before. It is the path to destruction of gnosis!”
Apparently, Peganum harmala can be used as a sort of “smokable ayahuasca,” when combined with DMT. This may be preferable to people who want to experience ayahuasca, but prefer the experience to be as short as possible without compromising on intensity. While the effects of Syrian rue may last up to 48 hours, the effects of smoking DMT seem to be limited to 9-10 minutes at the most. (Effects of oral ayahuasca ingestion may last several hours.)
As mentioned above, Syrian rue can potentiate other substances as well, such as LSD. Indeed, the authors write about the experience brought about by taking LSD after smoking Peganum harmala:
Subjectively, the dose feels three to four times more potent than it actually is. The closed eye imagery is greatly enhanced with circular highly detailed bright imagery visible on only 25 – 25 [sic] micrograms. On higher doses (150 – 200 micrograms) there was a feeling of an ancestral presence (we have never felt an outside presence on LSD alone in over several hundred acid trips but we have found it quite common when LSD is combined with another psychedelic) […] The closed-eye patterns were “almost visions”. That is to say they were clearer than hypnagogic imagery but not as overwhelming or clear as DMT visions. The visuals were more like clear dream imagery. The mood elevation was quite astounding. At one point one of us shouted “You couldn’t possibly have a bad trip on this stuff.” There were no mood swings and the buoyant elation slowly receded to baseline over the course of the trip.
Another source said that smoking “harmala extract works very well. It seems to provide more of a cerebral effect and less of a body high when taken this way. I find that 50-75 mg of extract (acid/base method) is quite sufficient to synergize mushrooms or LSD. Wait till your coming on and then give it a whirl!”
Syrian rue are sometimes ingredients of smoking blends, mixed with tobacco and/or cannabis. The beta-carbolines may pass into the smoke, thereby potentiating the effects of THC or other substances.
Mixed with cannabis, one person reported: “I would say a very good mix, about 50/50 mix. Makes the high somewhat more visual, distortion like affects. Major body high, a strong buzz feeling.”
Vaping Syrian Rue Seeds
Is it possible to use a vaporizer with Syrian rue? One would think that the answer is negative because the boiling temperature of harmala alkaloids is much higher than the temperature most vaporizers can reach. However, vaping Syrian rue may be mildly effective due to sublimation of the harmala alkaloids (specifically harmaline, according to TiHKAL), which may begin at around 189 degrees Celsius.
I found one experience report (in DeKorne’s AA) that suggests vaping Syrian rue may indeed be effective:
You will love vaporizing Peganum harmala extract! Not only is there no puking involved, but the effects are much clearer and more cerebral. I find that vaporizing 50–75 mg of the extract usually does the trick; more than that doesn’t increase the potentiating effects but does seem to increase the body load.
To summarize, if you are looking for the mildest effects possible, try using a vaporizer.
The best option in order to maximize the effects though would be to either ingest the seeds orally (as in a tea) for the full experience or to smoke them for a shorter experience.
Is Syrian Rue Legal?
In Australia, harmala alkaloids may be prohibited by law except when required for medical or scientific research, or for analytical, teaching or training purposes, with the exception of herbs, or preparations, for therapeutic use, containing limited amounts of alkaloids.
In the United States, Peganum harmala is considered an invasive, noxious weed in some states, in which land owners may be required to exterminate infestations on their land or be fined. Moreover, it may be illegal to cultivate, possess, or sell plants of this species in some states.
According to the Encyclopedia of Psychoactive Plants, the seeds cannot be sold or imported in California. Although I was personally able to purchase seeds both in a physical shop (in Palo Alto if I recall correctly), as well as by ordering it online (to a California address).
The plant and/or its alkaloids may also be illegal or controlled in other countries, such as France, Finland, and Canada.
Procuring Syrian Rue
Where Banisteriopsis caapi is difficult to procure, Peganum harmala, or Canaanite Ayahuasca as I’ve come to call it because it grows in the land of Canaan (modern-day Israel, Palestine, Lebanon, Syria, and Jordan), seems to be a great alternative. While the original ayahuasca comes from the jungle, Canaanite ayahuasca is native to desert areas.
If you are able to travel to places such as the Negev desert or Yemen, then you will be able to collect the seeds during the summer and autumn months, though the winter seeds are said to contain more alkaloids; green, unripe, immature seeds may be preferable both due to higher levels of harmine and harmaline and lower levels of unwanted alkaloids.
Important: Please consult with your doctor before using this powerful plant, especially if you’re suffering from disorders including hypertension and mental illness, or if you’re taking any medications and drugs. Do not use if pregnant or breastfeeding. Do not drive or operate heavy machinery under the influence of this plant.
Whether you ingest it orally or smoke it, on its own or together with other substances, Syrian rue is a must-have plant in the herb cabinet of any serious psychonaut and interdimensional traveler.