I’ve always been curious about the mysterious substances that self-proclaimed visionaries and messiahs use to alter their consciousness and commune with the divine

Disclaimer: Many of the substances on the list are illegal in some countries. So we’re not advocating breaking any laws. Use your judgment.

Photo: tlosborn

For centuries, cultures all over the world have relied upon strange substances to expand the mind, heighten the senses, and attempt to perceive a realm hidden from the day to day.

A lot has been written over the years about these mystical rituals. Here I’m going to explore the mysterious concoctions that have been used to make the magic happen, including a little bit about the cultures that use them.

My intent is to continually update this list with new substances, along with my own personal experiences with each of them… without breaking any laws of course smile.gif

7) Fly Agaric Mushrooms aka Amanita muscaria

Photo: Ben

Our first candidate is the cousin of psilocybin (see substance #1 below) and best known to 8th graders for its appearance in Super Marios Bros. I am of course speaking of our friend the toadstool.

In addition to its role giving Mario an extra life, the toadstool was traditionally used by shamans in the Northern, colder climates like Siberia.
Shamans would eat the toadstools, accompanied by the rhythmic beating of a drum, to achieve a trance like state.

This stuff was potent enough that people would drink the shaman’s urine Bear Grylls-style to get the psychoactive effect (purportedly with fewer side effects since it’s been… ahem… filtered).


Reported effects are all over the map and vary from person to person. Some report nausea, twitchiness, sweatiness. Some experience euphoria and dizziness. (Uh, sign me up?)

On the bright side, you’ll apparently have amnesia and won’t remember much afterwards.

6) Morning Glory aka Ipomoea violacea

Photo: Christine Lebrasseur

Tired of sunflower and pumpkin seeds? Well there’s a new seed in town, his name is Morning Glory. These little bad boys will not only look great in your yard, they’ll also zap your mind in to vivid technicolor.

Used by Aztecs and other Native American shamans, Morning Glory (aka tlililtzin) was one of several sacred plants employed to facilitate a connection with Mother Earth and open a channel to the Gods.
It takes a lot of seeds to reach the other side, and while not technically illegal, seed suppliers have been known to coat them with a foul-tasting, nauseating chemical (to prevent any illicit use… religious or otherwise).


The seed contains a cousin of LSD, so eating them will produce colorful patterns, heightened awareness, calmness, empathy and possibly euphoria.

Be careful not to eat treated seeds or you’re in for some hurt.

5) Salvia aka Salvia divinorum

Photo: Wikipedia

Salvia (not to be confused with saliva, the juice in your mouth that does not have any psychedelic properties) has been a shamanic staple of the Mazatec Indians of Mexico.

Used mostly for conjuring up visions during healing ceremonies, salvia is usually prepared as a tea, but can be chewed or smoked, and it has been known to cause a serious case of the giggles.
For some reason, the Mazatec believe the plant is actually the incarnation of the Virgin Mary, thought this might be related to some pre-hispanic goddess the Mazatec worshipped.


Effects don’t last for long — perhaps for a few minutes to an hour (depending on how it has been administered). As mentioned earlier, you can expect serious, serious giggles and the feeling that you’re in multiple locations at the same time. You’ll likely feel disconnected from your giggling body. For now, salvia is still legal in most of the U.S.

4) Wormwood aka Artemisia absinthium

If the artist in you wants to experience that crazy Bohemian 19th century lifestyle, then this is your plant.

Wormwood is the main ingredient in the mind-altering drink absinthe, known in Parisian drawing rooms as “la fee verte” or The Green Fairy.

Van Gogh, Toulouse-Lautrec, Oscar Wilde all loved that sweet Green Fairy. In their day, many people believed it could spark creative juices. These days, you’re likely to see Eminem, Johnny Depp and Marilyn Manson slurping it down.

Oscar Wilde once said about absinthe, “After the first glass, you see things as you wish they were. After the second, you see them as they are not. Finally, you see things as they are, which is the most horrible thing in the world.”

Wormwood has been in use for a long, long time. The Egyptians employed it as an intestinal worm cleaner, and the ancient Greeks may have guzzled it in ceremonies related to the ancient Greek goddess Artemis (hence where the plant gets its name). Wormwood has also apparently been used in Mexico during ritual worship of a Salt goddess. More recently, the substance has become popular among Wicca practitioners.

Absinthe was outlawed in the U.S. in 1912, but was recently approved for sale in the European Union, leading to a resurgence.


There’s alcohol in the drink, but it’s said to cause a more “lucid drunkenness.” In other words, you’re messed up, but not so messed up that you can’t write sweet poetry or paint post-Impressionist pieces. Much of the effect will depend on what type you buy. There are now many varieties of vastly differing quality and potency, all basing their marketing on that 19th century mystique.

3) Ayahuasca Vine aka Banisteriopsis caapi

Photo: Wikipedia

If you enjoy vomiting in a jungle, this tea is the drink for you. Imagine yourself in a hut in the deep dark Amazon, you’ve just taken a swig of a foul-tasting brew, and you brace yourself for the puking (aka “purification”) that’s about to take place.

It sounds gross, but many are willing to face the nausea for a taste of the infinite. Ayahuasca has a long history in the Amazon and is used for both spiritual practice and as a medicine.


The primary psychoactive compound is the famous DMT (dimethyltryptamine aka the Spirit Molecule), known for blasting people into another dimension where they encounter alien beings filled with love (according to Joe Rogan)

DMT also occurs naturally in the brain, and there are theories that the brain releases massive amounts of DMT during near death experiences.

2) Peyote aka Lophophora williamsii


Our little cactus friend has been around a long time too, dating back nearly 6000 years. It has been in use by Native American tribes in the southwest U.S. and Mexico, but most recently (and most notably) used for sacramental rites of the Native American Church.

Usually you find it as dried “buttons” which can either be chewed or crushed up to be used in a tea.

Interestingly enough, there are now studies claiming that long-term peyote use is just fine, and that it might actually promote psychological well being.


The peyote high can last anywhere from 8-12 hours. The tea is said to trigger more of a reflective effect than a euphoric high. Peyote also heightens colors and sounds and it is so bitter that you’re likely to feel really nauseated before anything cool happens (i.e. contacting you spirit animal or roaming the desert with Jim Morrison).

1) Magic Mushrooms aka Psilocybin


These little fungi have been around forever and there are some theories (like Terrence McKenna’s) that early primates ate the shrooms, which helped grow their brains, which led to humans evolving (also known as the Stoned Ape Theory).

The shrooms can be found in many places around the world and have been around for thousands of years.
What can I say that hasn’t already been said about magic mushrooms? For those interested in learning more about the experience of partaking, we have a little article entitled The First Timers Guide to Magic Mushrooms


Effects vary significantly based on person and dosage. You can expect anything from a giddy high to a full-blown freakout. There have been no reported magic-mushroom deaths (compared to other drugs and cigarettes). The effects last between 4-8 hours, and the psilocybin stays in your system for about a day.

Many people who try shrooms for the first time describe it as the singularly most spiritual experience they’ve ever had.

written by: Alex Andrei
Brave New Traveler