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Solanaceae, Brugmansia suaveolens, Toé, Angel’s Trumpet

October 11, 2009

Angel’s Trumpet is a cultivated herbaceous plant, reaching 3-4 m in height. The large, spectacular pendent flowers are funnel-form and white at the base, turning pink towards the apex. The flowers produce a pleasant smell in the evening to attract pollinators. Buds will sometimes appear yellowish and the color transformation to salmon pink occurs as the bloom opens.

At low doses the alkaloids in B. suaveolens have a depressant and sedative effect, they are used to treat various aches and pains. An infusion of the leaves is used as a calmant and to relieve tension and anxiety.

Higher doses can lead to violent intoxications with hallucinations, euphoria, confusion, insomnia, and even death from respiratory arrest. Mydriatic effects can last up to six days. Gardners who have worked with Brugmansias may attest to the nature of such effects, having once accidentally wiped their eye after getting sap from plant material on their hands. While taking cuttings of Brugmansia X candida, along a riverbank in Panama, I once snipped into the palm of my hand, which was covered with sap.

In areas of South America the leaves are mixed with seeds of the same plant and used as a narcotic by indigenous groups of the upper Amazon. The leaves are used as an admixture in the hallucinogenic drink ayahuasca (yaje), as well as in the formulation of the arrow-poison curare.

Similar to Old World experiences with tropane plants, American Indians also experience the feeling of being able to fly after using Brugmansia ointments.

Leaves, flowers and especially seeds are considered extremely poisonous. Cases of severe poisoning are becoming more common the western world, as young people grow increasingly desperate to escape mundane modern reality. This is not the plant to consume for a recreational psychoactive experience. Although, I’ve heard that placing a fresh flower or two in your pillow case can induce semi-hallucinatory, lucid dreams.

The active ingredients in Brugmansia spp. are troppane alkaloids, such as scopolamine, hyoscyamine, norhyoscine, and tigloylesters of tropine. The alkaloid content of leaves is 0.3 – 0.6% of dry weight.

Here is a very interesting investigative documentary about Brugmansia alba “Borrachero”, in two parts:

Part I

Part II

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