The Poisonous Path: Datura

The Poisonous Path: Datura

Pake Nielson

At times, it is easy to become caught in a routine; to let life pass you by. Whether you feel like you know everything, or like you are doing the same repetitive things over and over again, it's all too easy to become a part of a mundane cycle. It's even comforting at times. Routines offer us feelings of safety and security. However, this was never the intention of our bodies' biological form. We have evolved to experience, adventure, and learn from an uncertain and ever-changing environment. 

And yet, it's our uncertainty that we seem to struggle with the most in today's world. It's almost as if in the age of information, we no longer want to experience things for how they are, just as long as we know them for what we think they are. As if preconceived ideas and labels could make up for the physical sensations experienced by those who dared to leave their certainties behind. Instead, our hesitation holds us in place, and risks are rarely taken no matter how insignificant. The possibility is all too uncertain and besides, it seems we would much rather believe in a concrete and unchanging reality. 

For the development of one's own consciousness, it is most important to remain curious. To explore and experience new things. To learn from new perspectives and new situations altogether. At the very least, gaining a new perspective on a recurring situation can be rejuvenating and transformative. What we already know only gets in our way in the end. In learning to let go, we are able to wake up to new offerings held out in front of us. No longer clinging to the known, we start to experience the unknown again, certainty is replaced with wonder, and the routines that only severe to comfort us are replaced with experiences ever inspiring.

Datura Stramonium | Tolguacha | Jimson Weed | Devil's Breath 

If you have kept up with The Poisonous Path, you are now familiar with the term Entheogens, a classification of plants recognized for their hallucinogenic, psychoactive, and or mind-altering qualities. Fittingly enough, the Greek origins of the word means to realize the divine within, and while this is somewhat of a new classification of plants - a term coined in 1979 - it has become an ever-expanding field of research for every botanist, psychologist, philosopher, and free-spirited hippie out there. Before their classification, these plants were known to indigenous medicine elders as sacred plants. Their mystery is treated with a spirit of great importance and honored through ceremony. Less so by biomedicine and modern American culture. 

Datura stramonium is one of these sacred organisms that is known to evoke visions and spiritual awakenings within people by means of powerful hallucinations and mind-altering states. This is due to Datura's tropane alkaloids: atropine, hyoscyamine, and scopolamine, all of which are highly active and medicinal constituents. When consumed together, these alkaloids can make a dangerous, euphoric cocktail. Datura is a part of the Stramonium plant family, deadly nightshade being the most infamous of the group, and as such, should be approached with great caution and awareness. In fact, if you were to take a deep breath of Datura's white trumpet-shaped flowers, its sweet fragrance alone can cause psychoactive symptoms. 

This plant is known as Tolguacha, a Nahuatl word meaning to bow one's head, among the Zuni tribes of New Mexico (pronounced A:Shiwi). Tolguacha carries a great ceremonial purpose within the tribe's people, and while the cultural significance and tribal medicinal practices of Tolguacha are only passed down through oral tradition, it is rumored that this plant is used to speak with the dead and reveals portals to the realm of the ancestors wherever it grows.

The Zuni of New Mexico 

According to Zuni legend, Tolguacha was brought to our world crowning the heads of two siblings. A brother and a sister who came from the underworld bringing with them a great deal of knowledge shared freely with humans. These two walked the earth for many years until one day when they met the Devine Ones, kin to the Sun father

The brother and sister were pleased to meet the Devine Ones and opened up to them about their earthly travels and all of the knowledge they had taught the humans. These teachings included how to see spirits, how to find forgotten or lost items, and most interesting, the siblings taught humanity how to sleep. The Devine Ones grew alarmed by all that they had heard and deemed the siblings too dangerous to continue living in this earthly realm. They knew too much, and so they were banished from the earthly realm and back down into the underworld they descended, leaving behind their crowns made of those white trumpeting flowers, Tolguacha. 

Datura as Medicine

While the exact origins of Datura are unknown, most of the knowledge held by herbal medicinal practitioners can first be accredited to the Bokor of Voodoo practices. The Bokor experimented with Datura (Jimson Weed, as it is known) for its ability to take away a person's will and life energy, completely zombifying them. After the Bokor, the Root Doctors of the 18th century began to experiment with it as a topical medicine for pain management and asthma relief. You can still find it in use today among skilled herbalists, naturopathic practitioners, and indigenous shamanic practitioners. 

Herbalists know Datura stramonium for its medicinal actions as an antispasmodic, anodyne, entheogenic, and narcotic herb. Taking Datura internally is only ever used in extreme cases of asthmatic coughs and is highly regulated. Aside from mind-altering hallucinations and spiritual journeys, this herb can kill you. The potency of which can kill an adult human at less than 1/10 of a gram. This means we do not handle this one lightly. However, avoiding Datura is not always easy, especially if you are in drier regions of North, South, and Central America. As if Datura is trying to tempt us, it grows most commonly among the paths, trails, and roads of both humans and animals. 

Over the centuries Datura has taken on many names, some more fitting than others. Names such as Devil's Weed, Devil's Trumpet, Devil's Breath, Jimson Weed, Tolgoucha, and The Green Dragon. But no matter what you call it, Datura should not be taken unsupervised or recreationally. Anyone foolish enough to take on its visions is in for an extremely unpleasant trip through the underworld. It is because of herbs such as Datura, Lily of the Valley, and Belladonna that, as a general rule of thumb when walking the poisonous path, we steer clear of the innocent, sweet-smelling white flowers. 

Datura’s ever-inviting offer could dangerously change your perspective forever. Here at The Herb Shoppe, we recommend something less deadly, like meditation or Blue Lotus tea. Thank you for joining us here on our walk down The Poisonous Path and we look forward to your continued audience for next month.
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