The Essential Psychedelic Guide by D. M. Turner

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Harmala Alkaloids

Link To The Ancient Spirits

INTENSITY: 1 to 2. Harmala alkaloids are usually not potent psychedelics when taken alone. Their main use is to potentiate other psychedelics.


Harmala alkaloids are MAO inhibitors. See list of items not to take with MAO inhibitors in the Safety chapter. The Harmala alkaloids are emetics and can produce intense nausea if used in large amounts.


The Harmala alkaloids: harmine, harmaline, tetrahydroharmine... are found in a variety of plants. The most notorious of these is Banisteriopsis caapi, a vine native to the Amazon region which is an active ingredient of the "Ayahuasca" or "Yage" brews of the Native South Americans. Reports from Gracie and Zarkov's Notes From the Underground and Jonathan Ott's Pharmacotheon indicate that the bark of Banisteriopsis caapi contains between .2 and 1.3% mixed Harmala alkaloids.

The most concentrated source of Harmala alkaloids is the seed of Peganum harmala, commonly known as Syrian Rue. This plant grows in many areas of the world: Africa, the Middle East, India, South America, Mexico, and Southern U.S. The seeds contain from 2 to 7 % mixed Harmala alkaloids. The majority of my experiments with Harmala have been done with Syrian Rue, this being the most potent and readily available source of Harmala.


Banisteriopsis caapi must normally be procured in the Amazon jungle. On rare occasions it is sold by specialty plant and herb dealers who specialize in this type of substance.

Peganum harmala seed can be picked wild in many of the areas listed above. It can also be procured from specialty seed and herb dealers, and occasionally as stock for making dye. Some seed dealers will not ship Syrian Rue seed to California since a "noxious weed" law prohibits this. Apparently Syrian Rue is a hardy plant and will take over other vegetation if planted in the same area.

A native gathers Banisteriopsis caapi, "Vine of the Soul".
Photograph courtesy Richard Evans Schultes
see HTML version for graphics - ed.

The Harmala experience by itself is generally quite mild, although some acquaintances of mine have obtained full psychedelic effects from Syrian Rue by consuming small amounts over the course of a day to circumvent the nausea.

I'm primarily interested in how Harmala potentiates and enhances other psychedelics. Ingesting a "potentiating" dose of Harmala produces feelings of subtle energy flowing and a slight enhancement of perception. Concentrated Harmala may be smoked for a more mind/less body oriented high, often with feelings of euphoria and relaxation. I find it a nice alternative to a cannabis high, more meditative and relaxed.


Approximately three grams of Syrian Rue seed is required for a potentiating dose. (1 1/4 teaspoons of finely ground seeds.) Gracie and Zarkov and I all found that a certain amount of Harmala acts like a switch in potentiating the effects of other psychedelics. A larger dose does not seem to increase this "potentiating effect" but only increases the physical symptoms such as nausea. Three grams of Syrian Rue seems to be a sufficient amount to potentiate other psychedelics without being too hard on the stomach.

Syrian Rue is prepared by first grinding the seeds in a coffee grinder. The resulting powder is then put into gelatin capsules. Using this method it will take about two hours for the Syrian Rue to take effect. Some users boil the powder for a few minutes to make a tea which will come on in just one hour, but the taste of the tea is rather bitter. Lately I've been spreading my consumption of Syrian Rue over an hour's time which further reduces stomach disturbances.

Syrian Rue and other sources of Harmala can also be extracted. Gracie and Zarkov used vodka as a solvent. The extract I tried has some advantages over the seed form. It can be smoked, which produces a very nice high and comes on within minutes. And the extract, smoked or ingested, seems to produce less nausea and other physical symptoms for the same intensity of high. However, smoking Harmala won't produce as long-lasting an effect as ingesting, when used alone as well as when used to enhance other psychedelics.


Harmala potentiates many psychedelics. It has a long history of use as a main ingredient in Ayahuasca or Yage where it was included to potentiate and enhance DMT. In fact, these brews would have been impotent without the addition of Harmala since DMT is not normally active when taken orally. Harmala inhibits enzymes which normally destroy DMT in the stomach before it can reach the brain. Harmala also reduces the speed at which DMT is metabolized within the brain.

Harmala adds its own signature to the experience of the other psychedelics I've tried it with. I experience this signature as a connection to: the collective unconscious, the earth spirit (Gaia), the evolutionary mythologies and archetypes of the past. It also tends to tune me into the subtle energies and feelings of the body. Most of my friends who've experimented with Harmala report similar results. These aspects of Harmala are perfect to bring an already cosmic high, like DMT, into a very expanded dimension. A regular DMT experience can feel like some posthuman identity in a distant galaxy aeons in the future. With Harmala the experience gets linked through the individual identity to earth, humanity, and the evolutionary history stored within us.

I've tried Harmala with N,N-DMT and 5-MeO-DMT, LSD, psilocybin, and Ketamine with good results.

Harmala may significantly intensify and possibly be dangerous if combined with drugs of the phenethylamine family: ecstasy, mescaline, and 2C-B.

See the LSD, Psilocybin Mushroom, DMT, and Multiple Combinations chapters.

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