Sunday, February 23, 2014

Sacred Places of Death and Destruction

     Mankind has always recognized certain landscapes and architecture as special, sacred, spiritual or divine. On every inhabited continent, humans have built structures that honor the land around them, the sky above or allow them to climb higher to try to touch the hand of God. But, for many, these monuments were not places of worship or meditation but simply a place of death.
Chichen Itza 

     The Temple of Kukulkan in Chichen Itza (see post: Temples to Watch the Sun) is a magnificent construct that reaches towards the heavens, a tribute to the Mayan gods but an altar of execution for the human sacrifices that took place at the top of the temple.
     Burial within Egyptian pyramids in the earlier dynasties often involved not just the Pharoah but also consorts and servants.
     In the Middle East, the hilltop fortress of Masada was witness to the suicide and killing of hundreds of Zealot Jews, resisters to Roman occupation.
     In 415, a rabid Christian mob murdered Hypatia, the famous scientist-mathematician of Alexandria, by skinning her alive in the Christianized Caesareum.
     Dispersed in the fields around Stonehenge (see post: Temples to Watch the Sun), buried human remains have been found - ritual burials or sacrificial executions?
     During one of the first crusades, with rabble gangs of eager Christian soldiers on their way to liberate the Holy Land, the cathedral in the German city of Trier (once home to a large Jewish population), was the site of temporary protection for the Jewish citizenry by the bishop but the wretched fugitives were soon given over to the marauding Christian Crusaders.
Cathedral of Trier

     The Hindu temple at Somnath was destroyed by Muslim (Arab) invaders in 725, 1024 and in 1296 when 'fifty thousand infidels were dispatched to hell by the sword'. Rebuilt once again, it was destroyed again in 1375, 1451 and 1701.
     More recently, the Hindu Nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party perpetrated the destruction of the Babri Mosque in Ayodha in 1992. This resulted in fundamentalists on both Hindu and Muslim sides carrying out murders across India.
Hindu Temple at Somnath

     Throughout the Indian subcontinent, there has been a history of conflict between religious groups including Muslim-Christian, Muslim-Sikh, Muslim-Buddhist and Hindu-Sikh (Amritsar-1984, killing nearly 300 people).

      Zoroastrianism, the major religion of Iran for centuries has been marginalised since the Muslim takeover in the 7th century with many killed and most driven out of the country.

Zoroastrian Temple

     In modern times, sectarian violence has seized Iraq and many other countries in that region resulting in murder by followers of opposing Sunni and Shi'ite sects of Islam.
     *Religious holy sites: subjects of research for the novel  The Tao of the Thirteenth God - Amazon Kindle.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

The Early History of Biological Warfare

     Biological (germ) warfare  is the use of the toxins or agents of living, infectious organisms such as bacteria, viruses, and fungi as a weapon to kill or incapacitate opponents (humans or animals).
Biological Warfare Symbol

     There is an overlap between biological warfare and chemical warfare as defined by the Biological Weapons Convention and the Chemical Weapons Convention when the  (non-living) toxins produced by living organisms are used. Toxins, considered mid-spectrum agents, do not reproduce in their host (as would a bacterium or virus) and often  react more rapidly.
     The history of human 'civilization' is pock-marked with conflict and war and human beings have used nearly every option on the planet for new ways of destroying one another. Scorch and burn campaigns have leveled forests and farmland. Philosophy, religion, science and art have all been usurped by demagogues (see post: Demagogues Who Usurp Religious Belief) to fuel the quest for power and bloodshed. Nature itself has been weaponized and transformed into some of mankind's most formidable tools of war.
Scorch and Burn Warfare-Kuwait 1990

     The use of biological weapons is not a new concept and dates back to the ancient world. The Hittites of Asia Minor recognized the power of contagions as early as 1500 BCE, sending plague victims into enemy lands. Entire armies have have catapulted diseased corpses into besieged fortresses and poisoned enemy wells.
     Some historians believe that the ten biblical plagues of Egypt, called down by Moses against the Egyptians may have been a concentrated campaign of biological warfare rather than the acts of a vengeful god.
     The Assyrians used rye ergot to poison enemy wells in 600 BC, resulting in hallucinations, delusions, paranoia, seizures and cardiovascular problems leading to death in those who drank the water (see post: Drugs Used in Religion-The Old World).
The Ten Biblical Plagues of Egypt

     In 590 BC, Solon (Athenian law-maker and statesman) used the roots of the purgative herb hellebore (skunk cabbage),  to poison the water in an aqueduct leading from the Pleistrus River during the Siege of Krissa (Cirrha-the port of Delphi). In that same era and region, the Spartans used toxic smoke generated by burning wood dipped in a mixture of tar and sulfur during one of its wars with Athens.
     Chinese writings contain hundreds of recipes for the production of poisonous or irritating smokes for use in wars, and many reports of their actual use, dating back as far as 400 BC.

     They created and used an irritating 'five-league fog' made out of slow-burning gunpowder to which a variety of ingredient were added including the excrement of wolves.
     Writings of the Mohist sect (a Chinese philosophy developed by the followers of Mo Tzu (470 BC) in China tell of the use of ox-hide bellows to pump smoke from furnaces in which balls of mustard and other toxic vegetable matter were being burnt into tunnels to discourage the besieging army from digging. The use of a toxic cacodyl (arsenic trioxide) smoke is also mentioned in early Chinese manuscripts.
     As far back as 400 BC, Scythian archers shot infected arrows at their enemy, dipping the arrow tips in decomposing bodies or in blood mixed with manure. Ancient Persian, Greek, and Roman literature from quotes examples of dead animals used to contaminate wells and streams.
     Between 300 and 100 BC, the Romans used bees and hornets as weapons by catapulting them at their enemies. Some historians blame this practice for a shortage of hives during the waning years of the Roman Empire.
Mo Tzu

     In 190 BC, Hannibal, in the Battle of Eurymedon, won a naval victory over King Eumenes II of Pergamon by firing earthen vessels full of poisonous snakes into the enemy ships.
     Between 82 and 72 BC, the  Romans used toxic smoke against the Charakitanes in Spain causing pulmonary problems and blindness, leading to their defeat in 2 days.
From the 12th to the 17th century, the spread of disease by means of germs was still not understood and often thought to be due to the foul smell of rotting bodies (bad air or mal aria).
     During the later 17th century the impact of biological weapons was already obvious to military leaders, who usually found disease would often kill more men in the course of a campaign than would enemy fire.
Scythian Archers

     During the Battle of Tortona in the 12th century AD, Frederick I Barbarossa, German  Roman Emperor used the bodies of dead and decomposing soldiers to poison enemy wells. 
     During the Hundred Years War, in 1340, siege engines were used as platforms to fling putrefying animal carcasses into the besieged castle in Thun l'Eveque, northern France.
     In 1346, at the Siege of Kaffa (a Genoese-controlled seaport now called Feodosia in Ukraine in the Crimean peninsula on the Black Sea), Khan Janibeg, the commanding officer of Tatar ordered plague-infected corpses to be hurled into the city.
     The Kaffa incident was described in 1349 by Gabriel de Mussis who noted that plague was transmitted to the citizens of Kaffa by the hurling of diseased cadavers into the besieged city and Italians fleeing from the city brought the plague into the Mediterranean seaports.

     These ships carrying plague-infected refugees (and rats) sailed to Constantinople, Genoa, Venice, and other Mediterranean seaports and are thought to have contributed to the second plague pandemic. The siege of Kaffa remains a powerful reminder of the terrible consequences when diseases are used as weapons.
     This technique of throwing the infected dead onto the enemy was used again  in 1422 when the bodies of dead soldiers were catapulted into the ranks of the enemy in the city of Karolstein, Bohemia. At the same time, 2,000 cartloads of excrement were piled up near the walls in the attempt to spread illness.
     In the year 1495, in Italy, near Naples, the Spanish provided their French enemies with wine tainted with the blood of lepers.
     During the conquest of the Incan Empire in Peru (1528), Pizarro was said to have purposefully given South American natives some clothing contaminated with smallpox. The British did the same, distributing blankets from smallpox patients to Native Americans in 1763.
Frederick I Barbarossa

     There was even an early 'Geneva Convention' against the use of bioweapons in 1645 when German and French forces agree to not use 'poisonous bullets'.
     During his siege of the city of Groningen (1672), the Bishop of Munster, Christoph Bernhard van Galen acquired the nickname 'Bombing Berend' ( 'Bommen Berend') because of his use of artillery. Among the explosive and incendiary devices he used were some filled with belladonna, intended to produce toxic fumes.
     In 1650, Polish artillery General Siemenowics fired spheres filled with the saliva of rabid dogs at his enemies.
     During this century, more was understood in medical science about disease processes. In Europe, experiments began into ways to prevent diseases.
     In the early 1700s, it became clear that biological weapons could kill indiscriminately and military strategists began to explore the possibilities of using preventive measures to protect their own troops.

     In the eighteenth century, the use of biological weapons was still crude and rudimentary. The same strategy as had been used at the Siege of Kaffa in 1346, using infected bodies as vehicles of disease, was carried by the Russians in 1710 when they catapulted plague-infested corpses, as laid siege against Swedish forces at Reval in Estonia.
     In 1785, Tunisian Moslem forces catapulted plague-infested clothing into the city during the siege of the city of La Calle, held by Christian forces.
     In 1797, Napoleon attempted to infect the inhabitants of Mantua, Italy with swamp fever (malaria), flooding he plains which surrounded the city.

     Little good can be said about the use of biological weapons but the threat of injury or death can often inspire new ideas and techniques (usually designed to save your own skin).
     In 1714, an article appeared in the (English) Royal Society's Philosophical Transactions which contained a description of a technique used by a physician in Smyrna (today's Izmir, Turkey), to confer some degree of protection from smallpox. The technique was called variolation and involved taking some of the liquid from a person with a mild case of smallpox and rubbing it into a small scratch made on the person to be protected.
Christoph Bernhard van Galen (Bombing Berend')

     This often resulted in a mild case of the disease but would then transfer immunity to further infection on recovery. The risk of death from variolation was estimated at 2 to 3%. This 'discovery' led to the Royal Experiment in which six condemned prisoners were variolated and promised full pardons if they survived. When the prisoners did, indeed, survive (and received their pardons), further experiments were done on charity children.

     The safety of the procedure thus being deemed adequately established (these 'controlled trials' would likely not be acceptable today). In 1801, Edward Jenner published Origin of the Vaccine Inoculation, describing the same effectiveness as variolation but without the higher risks using cowpox vaccination.
     Military strategists seized upon this idea, realizing that the commander of an army made up of individuals already exposed to smallpox, either naturally occurring or through variolation, would stand to gain if smallpox could be introduced to an opposing army which was not similarly protected.
Edward Jenner

     In addition, having access to persons afflicted with smallpox, the commander could thus acquire materials that could be used to expose an immunologically naive enemy to the ravages of the disease.
     In 1763, during the French and Indian War (1754-1763), British forces at Fort Pitt, Pennsylvania under the direction of Sir Jeffrey Amherst gave two blankets and a handkerchief that had been used by smallpox victims to the Native Americans threatening the settlement in a plan to spread the disease. This is one of the first and the best-documented incident of biological warfare in the New World in the 18th century.

     In April, 1775, during the American Revolution, the British in Boston found themselves facing both the Continental Army and a smallpox epidemic. The British began to variolate their troops. However, they also began to variolate colonial civilians who were fleeing the city.
The French and Indian War

     General George Washington, commander-in-chief of the Continental Army, realized the infectious nature of the people leaving the city and delayed his attack on Boston until he felt the danger was past. In 1776, Washington saw his attack on Quebec fail, in large part because many of his own soldiers were affected by an outbreak of smallpox.

     Records show the use of biological warfare by confederate troops between 1860 and 1863. General W.T. Sherman's memoirs describe Confederates' poisoning of ponds by tossing carcasses of dead animals in them.  In 1863, confederate soldiers under General Johnson, retreating in Mississippi, placed animal carcasses in Union wells.
     In that same year, Dr. Luke Blackburn arranged for the sale of smallpox-contaminated clothing to unsuspecting Union officers. Although records indicate that there were numerous deaths from smallpox among Union troops during the Civil War.
General W.T. Sherman

     Dr. Blackburn also attempted to use the contaminated clothing scheme to spread yellow fever to Union troops (until 1900, no one knew that yellow fever could be transmitted only through mosquito bites).
     In 1863, the Union side officially banned this early use of biological weapons.

     Smoke, snakes and disease-ridden corpses - biological warfare has gradually grown more 'sophisticated' and precise since human beings decided that they needed to kill one another.
     In more modern times, the intention of creating pain, suffering and death on the enemy has not changed but the techniques to achieve these goals have proliferated and become more easily available.

     * The History of Biological Warfare: subject of research for the novel Vaccine -Amazon Kindle 

Friday, February 14, 2014

A History of Herbal Drugs

     The use of plants to treat symptoms of illness is found not only in mankind but also in many species that inhabit the planet. Chimpanzees have been observed to seek out specific plants to treat bowels problems. Even jaguars have been known to consume certain herbs after grooming to treat problems associated with hairballs.
Self-Medicating Chimpanzee?

     Plants have been used as a source of nourishment but some plants are poisonous or cause secondary effects such as diarrhea, increased perspiration, pain relief, even hallucinations (see post: Drugs Used in Religion-The New World; Drugs Used in Religion-The Old World). 
     In many societies, oral tradition has passed down the knowledge of these naturally occurring medicines and every culture in the world has developed a body of herbal knowledge as part of its tradition.
     Archaeological evidence (carbon dating) from ancient Babylon shows that plants were already being cultivated as medicines by human beings over 60,000 years ago.In India, China and Egypt, written records of medicinal herbs date back over 5000 years and at least 2,500 years in Greece and Asia Minor. Sumerian prescriptions for healing using herbal sources, such as caraway seeds, thyme, myrrh and opium have been found on clay tablets. 
Ebers Papyrus
     The Ancient Egyptians wrote the Ebers Papyrus which contains information on over 850 plant medicines such as garlic, mandrake, castor bean, aloe and even cannabis.
     Some of the earliest records from 1500 BC describe how Ancient Egyptians used garlic (Allium sativum), juniper (Juniperus communis) and myrrh (Commiphora molmol) for medicinal purposes.
     By 1000 AD, on the British Isles, ‘The Leech Book of Bald’ listed herbs used to protect people from infections.
     By the twelfth century the Welsh Physicians of Myddfai took the more modern approach of basing their philosophy on good diet, a moderate lifestyle, and simple herbal remedies.
Leech Book of Bald
     Hippocrates (460-377 BC) the Greek physician known as the 'father of modern medicine', used only food and herbs as treatment for his patients. He is best known for the sayings: 'Let your food be your medicine and let medicine be your food'. 
     The earliest known Greek herbal lists were compiled by Diocles of Carystus, written during the 3rd century B.C, and another by Krateuas from the 1st century B.C. 
     Between 50 and 68 AD The Greek physician Pedanius Dioscorides wrote a compendium of more than 600 plants, 35 animal products, and ninety minerals, known as De Materia Medica which remained the authoritative reference of herbalism into the 17th century. Another compendium of herbal sources was written by Theophrastus and called the Historia Plantarum, in the 4th century BC.
De Materia Medica
     It was not long before the knowledge and the use of plants as medicines came to be seen as being the property of certain exclusive groups. The early church played a major role in the use of medicinal herbs through its policy that healing could only be accomplished by God or his ministers, perhaps a first step to institute the idea of the priest as the healer (see post: The Physician, the Priest and the Politician). In the beginning, only monks were allowed to grow or use herbs for healing and also translated Arabic records on herbalism. Other herbalists were often accused as being witches and burned at the stake.
     In China, the emperor Chi'en Nung compiled a book of medicinal plants called Pen Tsao which included 300 herbs including ephedra (ma huang), a drug which is still used today. The mythological Chinese emperor Shennong is said to have written the first Chinese pharmacopoeia, the 'Shennong Ben Cao Jing'. The 'Shennong Ben Cao Jing' lists 365 medicinal plants and their uses - including ephedra, hemp, and chaulmoogra (one of the first treatments for leprosy). 

     Ayurvedic medicine, still practiced today in India dates back to the 2nd century BC. Even as early as 800 BC, an Indian writer listed 500 medicinal plants, indiginous to the Indian subcontinent. Turmeric was noted as a medicinal herb as earIy as 1900 BC. The Sushruta Samhita from the 6th century BC describes 700 medicinal plants, 64 preparations from mineral sources, and 57 preparations based on animal sources.
     The use of herbs as medicines has been (and still is today) a sought-after cure for illness. From the Peruvian rainforest, came the drug Cat's Claw Herb (unicara tomentosa) used by some today to stimulate the immune system; from Africa, the herb pygeum (prunus africana), shown to be beneficial for prostate disease; from Australia: tea tree oil (malaleuca tree) used as an antiseptic by soldiers during the Second World War; from the South Pacific, noni (morinda citrifolia) also thought to be a stimulant of the immune system.
     Herbal medicine ('herbalism') is not only the study and use of medicinal properties of plants but sometimes includes fungal and bee products, as well as minerals, shells and various animal parts.
     Plants have the ability to synthesize a wide variety of chemical compounds, used to perform biological functions, as well as to defend against attack from predators such as insects, fungi and herbivorous mammals. More than 12,000 such compounds have been isolated so far; a number estimated to be less than 10% of the total.

Ayurvedic medicine
     This use of plants as medicines predates written human history and ethnobotany (the study of traditional human uses of plants) is recognized as an effective way to discover future medicines. Researchers have identified more than 120 compounds used in modern medicine which were derived from plant sources. Examples include quinine, opium, aspirin and the heart medication, digitalis.          
     Many of the herbs and spices used by humans to season food also yield useful medicinal compounds. It is likely that the use of herbs and spices in cuisine developed in part as a response to the threat of food-borne pathogens. Studies show that in tropical climates where pathogens are the most abundant, recipes are the most highly spiced and the spices with the most potent antimicrobial activity tend to be selected.     
     In all cultures vegetables are spiced less than meat, presumably because they are more resistant to spoilage. Even many of the common weeds that tend to grow around human settlements, such as nettle, dandelion and chickweed also contain medicinal properties.
     In many non-industrialized societies the use of herbs to treat illness is often more affordable than purchasing expensive modern pharmaceuticals. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that 80 percent of the population of some Asian and African countries presently use herbal medicine for some aspect of primary health care.
     During the Middle Ages in Europe, Benedictine monasteries were the primary source of medical knowledge. Many Greek and Roman writings on medicine, as on other subjects, were preserved by hand copying of manuscripts in monasteries and monasteries tended to become local centers of medical knowledge with their herb gardens providing the raw materials for simple treatment of common disorders.
     Folk medicine in the smaller centers supported wandering herbalists, the 'wise-women' and 'wise men', who prescribed herbal remedies usually accompanied by spells, enchantments, divination and advice.
     In the later Middle Ages, women and men who were knowledgeable in herb lore became the targets of the witch hysteria. In the beginning, medicine in Europe was primarily a women’s art. with the classic image of witches boiling herbs in a cauldron originating from this period. In about the 13th century, graduates of male-only medical schools and members of barber-surgeon guilds began to displace the traditional female village herbalists. 
Early Herbalists?
     One of the most well-known female herbalists of this time period was Hildegard of Bingen, 12th-century Benedictine nun who wrote a medical text called Causae et Curae.
     Other notable women who helped establish the worth of herbal medicine included Trotula, chairwoman of the Salerno medical school; Maud Grieve, who promoted herbal health during the first world war and Hilda Leyel, who founded the Herb Society in 1927, even treating patients while on her death bed.
     During the Middle Ages in Britain, many people subscribed to the 'Doctrine of Signatures', a theory which suggested that herbs had been ‘signed’ by God and that their appearance and characteristics revealed clues to their medicinal uses. Milk thistle (Carduus marianus) was believed to help promote milk flow for nursing mothers because of the milky looking white stains on its leaves. The yellow flowers of the dandelion (Taraxacum officinale) were believed to be good for jaundice because of their yellow colour – thought to echo the colour of bile.
Hildegard of Bingen
     With the advent of the printing press, herbalists could spread the word about effective herbal medicines and in the sixteen hundreds Nicholas Culpeper suffered the wrath of mainstream physicians and apothecaries because he encouraged ordinary people to use simple local herbs rather than buy exotic imported remedies to cure their ills. Culpeper also translated several of the main medical textbooks of the time, which were herbal remedies and treatments, from Latin into English, making medical treatments available to the ordinary people and reducing income for those physicians and apothecaries.
Doctrine of Signatures

     In the medieval Islamic world, medical schools known as Bimaristan appeared in the 9th century. The Arabs recognized Greco-Roman culture and learning, and translated tens of thousands of texts into Arabic for further study. The Arab trading culture had access to plant material from distant places such as China and India and herbals, medical texts and translations of the classics of antiquity were brought in from both the east and the west. Muslim botanists physicians contributed greatly to earlier knowledge. 
     Al-Dinawari described more than 637 plant drugs in the 9th century and Ibn al-Baitar described more than 1,400 different plants, foods and drugs, over 300 of which were his own original discoveries, in the 13th century.
     The experimental scientific method was introduced in the 13th century by the Andalusian-Arab botanist Abu al-Abbas al-Nabati, the teacher of Ibn al-Baitar. Al-Nabati introduced empirical techniques in the testing, description and identification of numerous materia medica, and he separated unverified reports from those supported by actual tests and observations, allowing the study of materia medica to evolve into the science of pharmacology.
Ibn al-Baitar
     Baghdad became an important center for Arab herbalism, as was Al-Andalus (Muslim Spain) between 800 and 1400. Abulcasis (936-1013) of Cordoba authored 'The Book of Simples', an important source for later European herbals, while Ibn al-Baitar (1197–1248) of Malaga authored the 'Corpus of Simples', the most complete Arab herbal which introduced 200 new healing herbs, including tamarind, Aconitum, and nux vomica.
     'The Canon of Medicine' (1025), written by Avicenna lists 800 tested drugs, plants and minerals, outlining the healing properties of nutmeg, senna, sandalwood, rhubarb, myrrh, cinamon and rosewater. This Canon of Medicine remained a medical authority, used at many European and Arab medical schools, until the early 19th century.
Other pharmacopoeia books include that written by Abu-Rayhan Biruni in the 11th century and Ibn Zuhr (Avenzoar) in the 12th century, Peter of Spain's 'Commentary on Isaac', and John of St Amand's 'Commentary on the Antedotary of Nicholas'. 

     In the 19th century, when chemistry had advanced far enough to allow extraction of active ingredients from herbs, the old French word for herb, 'drogue', became the name for chemical 'drugs'. These chemical extracts eventually displaced herbs as the standard of care. There were several forces leading to the predominance of chemicals over herbs, but one of the most important remains a major issue today: the problem of reproducibility.

     There is little doubt that herbs can be effective treatments, if for no other reason than even through the 1970s, most drugs used in medicine came from herbs. Many of today’s medicinal herbs have been studied in meaningful double-blind, placebo-controlled trials that provide a rational basis for believing them effective. Some of the best substantiated include ginkgo for Alzheimer’s disease, St. John’s wort for mild to moderate depression, and saw palmetto for benign prostatic hypertrophy.

     * Herbal Medicine: subject of research for the novel The Judas Kiss - Amazon Kindle.

Mother Nature's Psychedelic Roadside Drug Store

     Hallucinogens are drugs, some naturally occurring , others synthetically created in the laboratory, products that can be classified into three categories: psychedelics, dissociatives, deliriants. These are all psychoactive compounds, able to cause subjective changes in perception, emotion, consciousness and thought.
Morning Glory Flower

     Many drugs contain similar components which are the main active ingredient, provoking the altered state (see post: Altered States of Consciousness). Dimethyltryptamine (DMT), for instance, is the principle 'psychedelic' contained in ayahuascamescaline is the main ingredient in Peyote and San Pedro Cactus (see post: Drugs Used in Religion-The New World). But even outside of 'exotic' regions of the world, there are plants which can be used for 'mind-altering' effects, plants that, literally, grow at the side of the road.
Morning Glory Seeds

     The Morning Glory is a beautiful and common plant found in many gardens throughout North America. The seed of many species of this plant contain ergot alkyoids, a chemical whose structural skeleton is similar to that of the synthetic psychedelic drug lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD). Derivatives of ergot alkyloids are used medically in the treatment of migraine headaches as well as Parkinson's Disease (see post: The Genetics of Drug Addiction).
Fly Agaric Mushrooms

     Mushrooms have been a popular source of psychedelic drugs for thousands of years. Psilocybin mushrooms have been used both in the 'New' and in the 'Old' worlds. Muscimol, found in the mushroom amanita muscara or 'Fly Muscaric' (see post: The 'High' Priest) has been in use in Northern Europe and Asia for centuries.
     The same ergot alkyloids which are found in Morning Glory seeds are also found in several different types of fungi (mushrooms) that commonly infect grains such as rye. 'Ergotism' caused by the ingestion of these ergot alkyoids can produce psychedelic 'trips' (hallucinations), nausea, unconsciousness, seizures, peripheral blood supply compromise and gangrene as well as provoke abortions.
St. Anthony`s Cross (Hospital Brothers of Saint Anthony)

     'Saint Anthony's Fire' was the name given to these symptoms of ergotism, a tribute to the Viennese monks, The Hospital Brothers of St. Anthony (founded 1095), who specialised in the treatment of this problem. This same ergot compound may have been the psychoactive ingredient used by participants in the Eleusinian Mysteries (see post: Drugs Used in Religion-The Old World).
     'Datura Stramonium' is a weed that belongs to the 'nightshade' family and is more commonly known as 'Jimson weed', 'stink weed' and 'devil's trumpet'. The active compounds in datura are 'tropane alkyloids' such as atropine, scopolamine and hyoscymine. This weed has been used in religious rituals in Asia as well as Native North America since ancient times. The effects of the plant include confusion, inability to discern between reality and fantasy, rapid heart rate, increased body temperature, light sensitivity and amnesia. Tropane alkyloids are also the active ingredients in Mandrake roothenbane and deadly nightshade.
Datura Stramonium (Nightshade)

   'Salvia Divinorum' (Diviner's Sage, Seer's Sage) is a psychoactive plant which can induce dissociative effects (much like the anesthetic ketamine) and is a potent producer of "visions" and other hallucinatory experiences. Salvinorin A is the active compound in this herb. Smoked, chewed or swallowed, this 'diterpene' hallucinogen can result in 'overlapping' realities, visions of 'membranes' wrapping the surroundings, re-experiencing of past memories, uncontrollable laughter, sensations of motion or 'merging' into surrounding objects.
Salvia Divinorum (Diviner`s Sage)

     'Nutmeg', the same 'spice commonly used in our foods and pastries, is a product of sub-tropical regions such as India. In low doses, the seed of the nutmeg (essential oil of nutmeg) produces no noticeable physiological or neurological response, but in large doses, raw nutmeg can cause convulsions, palpitations, dehydration, generalised body pain and delirium.
     Nutmeg contains myristicin (a phenylpropene) a compound which is also found in lesser quantities in parsley and dill). Myristicin is a mono-amine oxidase inhibitor, a substance that is a principle component of many older types  of anti-depressant medication.

     Then there is the 'Colorado River Toad' (also known as the Sonoran Desert Toad), native to Northern Mexico and the U.S. Southwest. This amphibian is most often found in streams, canals and drainage ditches (literally, at the roadside). The venom and skin secretions of these toads contain a variant of the tryptamine DMT (the same active compound as in ayahuasca) as well as bufotenine, a drug similar to the neurotransmitter, serotonin.

     Ingestion of the saliva or skin secretions can produce hallucinations and the 'way-out' trips that the shaman of the Amazon experience when they ingest ayahuasca (see post: Drugs Used in Religion-The New World).

     There are many more naturally occurring products in Mother Nature's Psychedelic Roadside Drug Store and, when on a road trip to any unfamiliar territory,  it is always wise to check what 'new and delightful' leaf (or toad) might have found its way into your salad.
Colorado River Toad

     *Natural source medicines: subject of research for the novel The Judas Kiss- Amazon Kindle