Tuesday, 6 September 2016

Chavin Herbalist: Trichocereus supplier direct from South America.

Chavin Herbalist: Trichocereus supplier direct from South America.

Chavin Herbalist is a great new Trichocereus supplier direct from South America. Unlike most suppliers from other areas around the world, with Chavin Herbalist you know their stock is wild harvested from habitat, not cross breeds from western horticulture that are all too often passed off as being 'pure' species. Personally I think it is fantastic what Chavin Herbalist is doing and I like the fact that whatever money that they make from this exciting new business will stay in South America. Chavin Herbalist has some seriously amazing stock that you just won't find anywhere else. The proprietor Huan, is a great guy to deal with and very friendly. They can be found at their Chavin Herbalist website and Chavin Herbalist facebook page.

Recently I had a chance to correspond with the Chavin Herbalist proprietor Huan, and asked him a number of questions about various topics of interest, including Shamanism, San Pedro and his exciting new business. Please read on to find out more: 

Q. Can you tell us a little about the people behind Chavin Herbalist, and what is Chavin Herbalist all about?

Chavin Herbalist is a network of production, harvest, trade and distribution of rare medicinal plants and cacti. We are researching seed germination technologies and ways to preserve the natural diversity, in order to provide the best genetics to plant lovers. My chosen name is Huan, I am a Brazilian student of biotechnology and have been cultivating medicinal plants for over nine years. Amongst all the different plants that I have worked with, the connection with San Pedro cactus or Wachuma, has been the strongest for me. 

On various travels to Peru, I came in contact with the Andean cultures and visited the mysterious ruins of Chavin de Huantar. Chavin is a Pre-Colombian culture that flowered 1500 years B.C. and is located in northern Peru. Petroglyphs from that time display a shaman figure holding a Wachuma cactus (Pictured above). This tells us how ancient the use of this medicinal plant is. 

Before I created Chavin Herbalist, I had for years been trading seeds with plant lovers from all over the world, whom I met online in the plant forums and in medicine circles. This network has been essential in the creation of Chavin Herbalist, because I knew that there existed a big community dedicated to the cultivation of plants and all of us share the same love of growing these plants.

Trichocereus santaensis
Q. What is it like living in such an amazing place?  

I live in Brazil, its a very diverse country with a rich culture of medicinal plant use, this is a very good base for me it is also easy to make trips to other South American countries.

Q. Is your stock locally sourced?

Yes, on visits to various Andean countries Chavin Herbalist teamed up with local plant cultivators from traditional communities. We work together with Mr. Aynor, a native from the village of Chavin. Aynor’s family grows corn and cacti in their fields and has been, for generations, living on their land. Aynor has become an important partner who provides the cacti fruits and seeds, which through our network are sold worldwide. In 2015 Boris and Raphi from Ecuador and Esteban from Salta in Argentina have joined our team. Another two families in the Sacred Valley, Peru are also producing seeds for us.
Trichocereus knuthianus
Q. Are your planning on sourcing your stocks from other areas in the future?

We frequently receive new genetics and update our stock, this year we will still release a new collection from Argentina and another one from Chavin. We are also in the process of coordinating a seed production of Wachuma in Colombia and have entered in contact with a botanical garden in Chile. 

Q. Are the plants in your stock list used shamanically in the local areas?

Yes, most of our material comes from places where the Wachuma cactus is an ancestral medicine, In Chavin the use of Wachuma is dated back 3500 years, the material that comes from Ecuador, and the Sacred Valley is produced by people who work shamanically, do sweat lodges and serve the medicine in healing circles.
Trichocereus peruvianus
Q. How old do you estimate are some of the plants that you harvest?

Our work is mainly dedicated to the germination, planting and propagation of the Wachuma cactus.
We are not the ones preparing or providing medicine. Our focus is to preserve the medicinal plants and make them more available. Harvesting mature plants increases the loss of the diversity. In order to preserve the plant in its natural habitat we work only with seeds from sustainable gardens.

Q. Do you feel a special connection to San Pedro from Chavin de Huantar?

Yes. It was with this one fruit from our first visit to Chavin, that the whole Chavin Herbalist project began. These plants brought back so much ancient memories, joy and abundance which has made it possible for their light to reach so far. In Chavin the Wachuma is called Tsunaq Waka and the plants from this region are truly enchanting, they have long spines, a skin of a bluish green colour, and can be found in big groups of tall cacti. The Tsunaq has a long story of medicinal and ceremonial use in Chavin and until today its influence can be felt in the whole region.

Q. Have you had a ceremony in the Chavin ruins?

In Chavin I attended a Wachuma ceremony and it was a deeply spiritual experience for me where I received insight into the origins of my connection with this place. It was so special because in this case came together a sacred plant in a place of power. I understand the ruins as a channel to higher dimensions of consciousness, and the Tsunaq is the key to enter profoundly.

Q. In your opinion what is it that makes San Pedro so special?

The one word that describes San Pedro for me is "energy". The plant has an energy that makes it possible, to heal yourself and transform your patterns, it helps to connect you with the creativity of your spirit, and it opens up your heart. The Tsunaq medicine brings you back into harmony with Pachamama, the mother earth and the great mystery of life.

Q. What sort of people do you think need San Pedro the most?

Nowadays exist so many diseases on so many levels, that almost everybody could use the help of the San Pedro medicine; Of course people who are physically sick need help, and entheogenic plants have all shown interesting results in the treatment in even such severe diseases as cancer. Then there are the people with emotional traumas and pains, whose heart is closed, the San Pedro cactus is a very good heart medicine. More and more people are mentally and spiritually ill. We all get brainwashed and confused into not doing what our spirit wishes to but what society expects. This existential confusion results into depression and similar spiritual diseases. The cactus medicine awakens you to your spirit and shows the illusion of the materialistic and capitalistic world, giving space for the nowadays so needed changes in our lives for a better future.

So many people are using prescription drugs and antidepressants. These substances are chemical, toxic to the body and the environment and create dependencies and an array of unwanted side effects. Phytotherapies are the ancestral and future healing modalities to much better serve the human needs of true healing. 
Trichocereus pachanoi
Q. Can you describe the most profound experience that you have had with San Pedro?

On the solstice of the 21 st December 2014, I participated in a meeting in Chavin de Huantar of local elders, shamans, anthropologists and artists. A very strong Wachuma medicine was served. The cactus helped me to feel the force of the ruins and the site became alive, the rocks started to be covered in patterns and my teeth grew to the size of a jaguar’s. I could understand why this ancient civilisation was related to the felines, I travelled down into the subterranean galleries of the ruins and so many memories came back. From that moment on I was even more enchanted with the mystery of this culture.

Q. What is your personal favorite Trichocereus and why?

In my personal view the Wachuma cacti of Chavin are the most beautiful and special ones in our collection, and my favourite one of all is the AD002. It is our first genetic, the plants that started it all. Cultivating this variety has brought us in contact with so many new friends, partners and cactus lovers from all over the world.

Q. If there is one Trichocereus that you don’t have, but would love to have which would it be?

This is a really hard question to answer. The variety of Trichocereus is huge!
A shaman told me about a 13 ribbed San Pedro from the north of Piura which is very ancient and special. I’d love to get some seeds from this variety!

Q. What advice would you give to someone just starting out with San Pedro?

If you want to get to know Wachuma, the best idea is to plant it, by starting with plants, seeds, clones or cuttings, whatever works best for you. When you plant cactus from seeds you can have many plants in a short time. It is amazing to watch the cactus grow. Cacti are special plants and not only reproduce through seeds, by taking a cutting from a plant you can make various exemplars from a single plant. This is how you make clones. From the place of cutting the cactus will sprout new pups. 
To get more information participate in the various facebook groups on the topic ( Such as Trichocereus Cacti Appreciation Group, the largest and best Trichocerus group on fb), in the cactus forums and blogs, where you can learn a lot about cactus cultivation and share your own experience.

By Brett Lothian ©. All photos used in this article are the property of Chavin Herbalist © (except for the second photo which is common use) and must not be reproduced without permission. 

If you would like Tricho Serious Ethnobotany to write an article about your Trichocereus, Cacti or Entheogen business, please feel free to contact Brett at bretloth@gmail.com. 

Monday, 29 August 2016

Book Review: Trance Journeys of the Hunter Gatherers; Ecstatic Practices to Reconnect with the Great Mother and Heal the Earth. By Nicholas E. Brink, Ph.D.

This book review first appeared in issue no. 157 of New Dawn Magazine, July - August 2016.  © Brett Lothian
 Book Review: Trance Journeys Of The Hunter Gatherers. Ecstatic Practices to Reconnect with the Great Mother and Heal the Earth.
By Nicholas E. Brink, Ph.D.

Ecstatic trance has been an intrinsic part of human culture throughout the world for aeons. Unfortunately in our modern industrialised world it has been largely replaced by abstract concepts and technologies that further our disconnection from the natural world, a disconnect that will all too soon become our downfall. Author Nicholas Brink Ph.D. utilising the Cuyamungue Method of inducing ecstatic trance, brings us a message and technique of personal discovery, hope and healing for a time that sorely needs it. Drawing from the knowledge of our Hunter Gatherer ancestors and their techniques of ecstatic trance, the author shows us a way to reconnect with our Great Mother the Earth and to help heal the damage we have wrought upon her in our rampant insecurity, ignorance and arrogance.
Having an affinity for ancient history, anthropology and the like, as well as being experienced in altered states of consciousness and various methods of ecstatic trance, I was intrigued to try the Cuyamungue Method for myself, to see how it compared to the methods of ecstatic trance that I already use. I must say that in the limited amount of time that I have been utilising the Cuyamungue Method, I have found it very interesting to say the least, and am working to incorporate it into my ever evolving ordinary practice. The method as described by the author is very simple and practical for almost anyone to use, powerful and unlike many other methods of ecstatic trance is perfectly safe.

No doubt the vast majority of New Dawn readers would have read extensively about the visions of shaman, prophets and mystics. The amazing tales that have been passed down through the ages of their visions and prophecies have always held a special place in the human imagination. In this book the author brings us the personal ecstatic trance journeys and visions of himself and his fellow practitioners in the different Cuyamungue Method postures,taking us through visionary journeys of shape shifting, encountering totems and spirit guides to journeys of personal growth and healing as well as visions of prophecy and a warning for the future.

Looking back upon previous visions after the passage of time the author and his fellow practitioners show how their ecstatic trance journeys and visions have improved their understanding and allowed them to live better, happier and more fulfilled lives. I found this part of the book to be very interesting as it is an often neglected aspect of the “trip reports” that litter the Internet. All too often people report fantastic visions and trance journeys but do not report back after a period of time to show how they integrated their experience into making their lives better, which is the whole point after all.

Following the Cuyamungue Method as described by the author, you will learn how to experience first hand what the author, ancient shaman, prophets and mystics alike could only allude to in their stories and tales, ecstatic trance and the visions they produce. Anyone that has experienced an ecstatic trance and the visionary experience will be able to tell you that the ecstatic visionary experience can never be fully captured or encapsulated by description, it is to a certain point ineffable and must be personally experienced to be fully appreciated. Through ecstatic trance and the visionary experience we can directly encounter and communicate with what is beyond our ordinary perception of reality, from the spirits of the ancestors, spirit guides, totem animals and spirits of the Earth to the mighty powers above and below.

For far too long human civilisation has been cut off from the personal experience of what has been referred to as either non ordinary reality, the other, the divine or the spirit worlds etc etc, as a means of controlling the population. When you control access to and the information received from the “other side”, when you control the religion, you control the people and how they think. Now is the time for us to no longer place our personal and spiritual destinies in the hands of others, it is time for us to take personal responsibility for our own growth and not rely on the guides who have for so long led us astray. With this book you can begin along that path yourself, to become your own shaman, prophet and priest. You will be able to make your own mind up, as you have experienced it yourself.

By Brett Lothian.

Thursday, 30 June 2016

Flavonoids: The over looked ingredients in potency

This article was first published in Dragibus Curiosa magazine, Volume 1 issue 4, Spring 2013. © Brett Lothian.

Flavonoids: The over looked ingredients in potency

We all know about the alkaloids in psychoactive brews such as Ayahuasca and Cimora. However, is there an overlooked ingredient in some of the plants utilized, which have been previously thought to not be psychoactive or the psycho-activity being attributed solely to the alkaloids? The answer is a resounding yes and that ingredient is flavonoids.

I was led onto this line of research by the San Pedro and Mescaline presentation by Keeper Trout at the 2011 Entheogenesis Australis. Trout states that in regard to Trichocereus bridgesii, bioassay accounts often report more potency than is suggested by the published literature and that anecdotal claims exist suggesting interaction with some additional active component; possibly a MAOI. He further states that this is not supported by the published literature, but it also does not appear to have been examined yet. This is no surprise as the ridiculous ‘War on Drugs’ has drastically curtailed proper scientific research into these plants and substances, to the great detriment of us all.

Trichocereus bridgesii
With this in mind, I started researching what else could be contained in Trichocereus bridgesii that explains the reported increase in potency, outside of the well-known alkaloids. I came across  numerous reports that Trichocereus bridgesii contained the flavonoids quercetin and kaempferol, which act as a monoamine oxidase inhibitor or MAOI for short. Further research confirmed that both quercetin and kaempferol do in fact act as short term reversible Monoamine oxidase inhibitors, as well as having numerous other benefits such as anti-allergy, anti-cancer, anti-bacterial, anti-arthritis and anti-viral activity. Furthermore, it is also useful in treating neurodegenerative disorders, coronary heart diseases, diabetic complications, eye disorders, gout, osteoporosis, prostatitis and peptic ulcers.


Monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs) are chemicals which inhibit the activity of the monoamine oxidase enzyme family. They have a long history of use as medications prescribed for the treatment of depression. Because of potentially lethal dietary and drug interactions, monoamine oxidase inhibitors have historically been reserved as a last line of treatment, used only when other classes of antidepressant drugs have failed. New research into MAOIs indicate that much of the concern over their dangerous dietary side effects stems from misconceptions and misinformation. In addition, despite proven effectiveness of this class of drugs, it is underutilized and misunderstood in the medical profession. New research also questions the validity of the perceived severity of dietary reactions, which has historically been based on outdated research. Personally, I have never had a negative interaction from using MAOIs despite eating reportedly dangerous foods in interaction. It may be that my system is less prone to negative interactions and care should be taken none the less.

MAOIs act by inhibiting the activity of monoamine oxidase; thus, preventing the breakdown of monoamine neurotransmitters and thereby increasing their availability. There are two isoforms of monoamine oxidase, MAO-A and MAO-B. MAOA preferentially deaminates serotonin, melatonin, epinephrine, and norepinephrine. MAO-B preferentially deaminates phenylethylamine and trace amines. Dopamine is equally deaminated by both types. The early pharmaceutical MAOIs inhibited monoamine oxidase irreversibly. When they react with monoamine oxidase, they permanently deactivate it, and the enzyme cannot function until it has been replaced by the body, which can take about two weeks.

Flavonoids that act as MAOIs are reversible, meaning that they are able to detach from the enzyme to facilitate usual catabolism of the substrate. The level of inhibition in this way is governed by the concentrations of the substrate and the MAOI. In addition to reversibility, MAOIs differ by their selectivity of the MAO receptor. Some MAOIs inhibit both MAO-A and MAO-B equally. Other MAOIs have been developed and found to target one over the other.

Quercetin and kaempferol have been shown to have the ability to selectively inhibit MAO-A. Harmaline found in Peganum harmala, as well as the Ayahuasca vine, Banisteriopsis caapi, and Passiflora incarnataare also reversible inhibitors of MAO-A. MAO-A inhibition reduces the breakdown of primarily serotonin, norepinephrine, and dopamine; selective inhibition of MAO-A allows for tyramine to be metabolized via MAO-B. Agents that act on serotonin, if taken with another serotonin enhancing agent, may result in a potentially fatal interaction, called serotonin syndrome. Also irreversible and unselective inhibitors (such as older pharmaceutical MAOIs) of MAO can create a hypertensive crisis as a result of tyramine food interactions and is particularly problematic with older pharmaceutical MAOIs.

Trichocereus bridgesii
Tyramine is broken down by MAO-A and MAO-B, therefore inhibiting this action may result in excessive build-up of it and so diet must be monitored for tyramine intake. MAO-B inhibition reduces the breakdown mainly of dopamine and phenethylamine so there are no dietary restrictions associated with this. MAO-B would also metabolize tyramine, as the only differences between dopamine, phenethylamine, and tyramine are two phenylhydroxyl groups on carbons 3 and 4. Two MAO-B drugs, selegiline and rasagiline have been approved by the FDA without dietary restrictions, except in high-dosage treatment, wherein they lose their selectivity.

Several flavonoids have been identified as inhibitors of MAO-A and MAO-B. The flavonols kaempferol and quercetin and the flavones apigenin and chrysin were isolated from a standardized Gingko biloba extract. All four flavonoids were identified as MAO-A inhibitors with IC50 values of: kaempferol (0.7 μM), apigenin (1 μM), chrysin (2μM) and Quercetin (5 μM). Phenelzine, a non-selective and irreversible inhibitor of MAO was used as a reference compound (IC50 value 0.04 μM). Quercetin was isolated from heather (Calluna vulgaris) and identified as a MAO-A inhibitor with an IC50 value of 18 μM. In the same assay clorgylin, a selective MAO-A inhibitor, had an IC50 value of 0.2 μM.

In another study it was reported that quercetin is a selective MAO-A inhibitor with an IC50 value of 0.01 μM for MAO-A and 20 μM for MAO-B. Quercetrin, isoquercetrin, rutin and quercetin isolated from Melastoma candidum (Melastomataceae) were shown to inhibit MAO-B with IC50 values of 19, 12, 4, 11 μM, respectively, in an assay where deprenyl (a selective MAO-B inhibitor) had an IC50 value of 19 μM. The flavan-3-ols catechin and epicatechin were isolated from Uncaria rhynchophylla (Rubiaceae) and found to inhibit MAO-B with IC50 values of 89 and 59 μM, respectively, while deprenyl had an IC50 value of 0.3 μM. Two flavonoids isolated from Sophora flavescens (Fabaceae) exhibited monoamine oxidase inhibitory activity: formononetin an isoflavone with IC50 values of 21 μM (MAO-A) and 11 μM for MAO-B and the flavanone kushenol with IC50 values of 104 μM (MAO-A) and 63 μM for MAO-B.

Naringenin was isolated from Mentha aquatica (Lamiaceae) in a bioassay-guided fractionation process. The IC50 value for MAO-A inhibition was 955 μM and 288 μM for MAO-B in an assay where the IC50 value of clorgylin was 0.0003 μM and 0.1 μM for deprenyl. In a recent study the inhibitory effects of pure anthocyanidins on MAO-A and MAO-B activity was investsigated. The following IC50 values were obtained for MAO-A and MAO-B inhibitory activity, respectively: malvidin (22 μM and 19 μM), pelargonidin (27 μM and 43 μM), cyanidin (30 μM and 32 μM), peonidin (31 μM and 22 μM), petunidin (32 μM and 43 μM), delphinidin (35 μM and 31 μM). In the same study different glycosides and diglycosides of the above mentioned anthocyanidins were also studied with IC50 values in the range of 29-117 μM for MAO-A inhibition and 31-242 μM for MAO-B inhibition.

Gingko biloba
All of the active flavonoids identified in the above possess inhibitory activity on MAO-A, MAO-B or both. Furthermore, this inhibitory activity is not confined to a single flavonoid class as all the classes are represented. This got me thinking that perhaps flavonoids could be employed to boost the effectiveness of psychoactive cacti other than Trichocereus bridgesii and psychoactive brews in general. Bioassay has shown this to be the case, with green tea, gingko biloba and onion leaves being utilized to great success.

It was then that I realised, perhaps the native people who traditionally utilized these plant brews could well have already discovered this action long ago. Maybe the traditional admixture plants that have been previously thought to be inactive were in fact active; just not in the way we had expected. As it turns out, this is very much the case. The list of traditional admixture plants to psychoactive brews is almost endless and contains far too many to mention here. Many of them have not been studied in any meaningful way, but from the plants that have been studied and plants in the same families, flavonoids are very common. In fact, flavonoids are present in almost all terrestrial plants. 

Fruits and vegetables particularly citrus fruits, apples, onions, parsley, tea, red wine, etc. are the primary dietary sources of Quercetin. Olive oil, grapes, dark cherries, and dark berries such as blueberries and bilberries are also high in flavonoids including Quercetin. Studies were conducted on the flavonoids (Myricetin, Quercetin, Kaempferol, Luteolin and Apegenin) contents of 62 edible tropical plants. The highest total flavonoids contents were found in onion leaves (1497 mg/Kg Quercetin, 391 mg/kg Luteolin and 832 mg/kg Kaempferol) followed by semambu leaves, bird chillies, black tea, papaya shoots and guava. Major flavonoids content in these plant extract is Quercetin, followed by Myricetin, and Kaempferol. In vegetables, Quercetin glycosides predominate but glycosides of Kaempferol, Luteolin and Apegenin are also present. Fruits contain almost exclusively Quercetin glycosides, whereas Kaempferol and Myricetin glycosides are found only in trace quantities. 
Trichocereus bridgesii monstrose 'Penis plant'
Quercetin also seems to work better when it is used in conjunction with Bromelain, a digestive enzyme found in pineapple. This also likely plays a role in many of the mostly plant based
‘Dieta’ undertaken, sometimes for a week or more before psychoactive brews are taken ceremonially in traditional cultures. It stands to reason that loading the body beforehand with high amounts of flavonoid containing plants would only help the MAOI process, effectively boosting the potency of the psychoactive brew once it was administered.

About the author: Brett Lothian is an Australian author, professional arborist, market gardener and ethnobotanist. He is the author of the Tricho Serious Ethnobotany blog, the creator of the Trichocereus cacti appreciation group, the Peyote appreciation group and ethnobotany appreciation society on facebook.

San Pedro and Mescaline - Keeper Trout

The Encyclopaedia of Psychoactive Plants - Christian Ratsch 

Flavonoids and the CNS - Anna K. Jäger and Lasse Saaby

Quercetin, a versatile flavonoid - Dr. Parul Lakhanpal, MD and Dr. Deepak Kumar Rai, MD