Humanity has a long history of People using plants to alter their states of mind from the Ayahuasca and Coca of Indigenous South American tribes, or the use of Peyote in Shaman rituals of native North American Indians famously described by Carlos Castaneda in the teachings of Don Juan
To the journeys of the Siberian Shaman with Amanita Muscaria, which led to our custom of Santa Clause in his red and white coat, coming down the chimney bearing gifts that they had crafted whilst under the influence of this powerful and highly dangerous Narcotic Mushroom. Or chewing the leaves and inhalation of the burning dried root, of Nerium Oleander, by the Oracle at the Temple of Delphi to produce her prophetic trance like state.
A highly poisonous globally widespread common garden plant, Oleander is found in gardens and road verges throughout Greece and the Mediterranean .
You can grow this beautiful plant in containers, to avoid frost, it’s flowers come in a variety of colours, red, pink, yellow or white, and are very fragrant, keep well drained and feed infrequently once a month, let it rest in the winter. Obviously the plant is highly toxic even deadly, but then so are Lilys, keep away from children and pets.
Many have forgotten that common beverages we consume today such as coffee, tea and even beer, were once considered sacred by our ancesters, and such plants as tobacco, were used in shamanic rituals to aid in the passage to the spirit world
These powerful and sometimes deadly psychotropic plants opened up nature’s vista and produced an intimate deep connection with plants and nature. The plants were even imbued with living spirits, for example the Mandrake root in the shape of a being that takes the person on a journey of discovery or trepidation, or the Ayahuasco vine and Coca plant derived from the fingers of the daughters of the Sun Father which broke off during child birth, were buried in the ground and grew into these 2 plants.
Many customs, rituals, arts and crafts have resulted from the influences of these plants on the mind illustrated are some examples
The wonders or horrors of Nature that were revealed by using these plants revealed our transient existence and the illusion of our habitual fragile reality, as many of these plants effect the ego as well as the mood. We all know how disinhibited and elated we become on drinking alcohol, and then fall into drowsiness or depression.
Now I want to go into a little more detail about some of these plants and like to categorize them into, Stimulating or energizing, Sedating or relaxing and Hallucinogens or waking dream states.
The Tea plant-Camellia Sinensis, member of the Camellia genus, which you can grow outdoors, it will tolerate temperatures down to -5 Celsius in a sheltered well drained sunny spot. It needs acid soil to grow, like all Camellias & Rhodedendrons, it likes a cool moist environment and regular ericaceous liquid fertilizer. First cultivated in China and now Cultivated as a shrub or small tree throughout the world even here in the UK. .
Only the choicest top 2-3 leaves and bud are picked steamed and dried to make green tea or left to ferment a while then dried to make black tea. The leaves contain caffeine and xanthines, the latter used in Asthma treatments. But also older and larger leaves contain much more Tannin, which imparts the bitterness, thought to cause cancer of the gut, but now known to have strong antioxidant effects that combat this, as well as antibiotic properties and lowering of blood pressure.
The Coffee Arabica plant, was thought to be derived from Ethiopia, and later the Middle East- hence Arabica, around the 10th century. It wasn’t until the 18th century that it was cultivated in Latin America which is now the world s major producer.
The seeds are dried aged and roasted then ground into coffee. The Coffea Arabica plant makes a beautiful house plant that is easy to grow, they prefer a bright situation, but out of direct sunlight, so away from the window. Keep away from drafts and above 18 degrees Celsius as possible. It needs a moist but well drained soil. Keep it on a pebble tray to keep humidity up, water less in the winter when light is reduced. Feed with liquid fertilizer every 2-3 months. It can grow up to 6 feet and so prune in spring. Flowers around 4 years and needs hand pollination with a small brush to set fruit.
Benefits of drinking coffee are, improvements in concentration, memory, and mood. It increases the metabolic rate so aids in fat burning and weight loss. Physical performance is also enhanced. It reduces the risk of developing type II Diabetis if drunk regularly. But it doesn’t stop there, it reduces the risk of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease developing. It can protect the liver against Cirrhosis and reduce some cancers like bowel and liver, it is very rich in antioxidants and therefore can reduce heart disease and stroke. Quite a panacea!
This article will be continued. It can be found permanently on the Plant Magic page.