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Flowering San Pedro, an entheogenic cactus that has been used for over 3,000 years[1]

Entheogens (from the Ancient Greek ἔνθεος entheos ["god", "divine"] and γενέσθαι genesthai ["generate" - "generating the divine within"]) are a family of psychoactive substances, typically of plant origin, that are used in religious, ritual, or spiritual contexts. Jonathan Ott is credited with coining the term in 1979.[2]

Entheogens have been used in a ritualized context for thousands of years and their religious significance is well established with anthropological and academic literature. Examples of traditional entheogens include psychedelics like peyote, psilocybin mushrooms, ayahuasca, and iboga; atypical hallucinogens like salvia and Amanita muscaria; quasi-psychedelics like cannabis; and deliriants like datura.

With the advent of organic chemistry, there now exist many synthetic drugs with similar psychoactive properties, many of which are derived from these plants. Many pure active compounds with psychoactive properties have been isolated from these respective organisms and synthesized chemically. These include the naturally occurring mescaline, psilocybin, DMT, salvinorin A, ibogaine, ergine, and muscimol, the semi-synthetic LSD, and synthetic substances (e.g., DPT used by the Temple of the True Inner Light and 2C-B used by the Sangoma).[3]

More broadly, the term entheogen is used to refer to any psychoactive substance used for its religious or spiritual effects, whether or not in a formal religious or traditional structure. This terminology is often chosen to contrast with the recreational use of the same substances. Studies such as the Marsh Chapel Experiment have documented reports of spiritual experiences from participants who were administered psychoactive substances in controlled trials.[4] Ongoing research is limited due to widespread drug prohibition; however, some countries have legislation that allows for traditional entheogen use.


The term "entheogen" comes from the Greek en, meaning “in” or “within”; theo, meaning “god” or “divine”; and gen, meaning “creates” or “generates.” It translates as “generating or creating the divine within".[citation needed]

List of entheogens


Common name Specie Specie, phytochemical(s) Substance effect class Regions/Cultures of use
Bufotoxins Bufo alvarius (and other Bufo spp.) Secretion: 5-MeO-DMT, bufotenin (et al) Psychedelic Bufo alvarious secretion has gained popularity in spiritual retreats.[5] Controversial interpretation of Mesoamerican art.
Bullet ant venom Paraponera clavata Secretion: Poneratoxin Deliriant The Satere-Mawe people use bullet ants to get extremely painful stings in their initiation rites twenty times.[6]


Common name Specie Specie, phytochemical(s) Substance effect class Regions/Cultures of use
Dictyonema huaorani Dictyonema huaorani 5-MeO-DMT, DMT, psilocybin Psychedelic Confirmed used by shamans.[7] Decoction of this lichen has been used by people in Iceland.[8]
Fly agaric Amanita muscaria Muscimol, ibotenic acid Depressant, and dissociative Siberian shamans.[9] Scandinavia. The Soma drink of India.
Panther cap Amanita pantherina Muscimol, ibotenic acid Depressant, and dissociative
Psilocybin mushroom Psilocybe spp. (etc) Psilocybin and psilocin;
baeocystin and norbaeocystin (some species)
Psychedelic Mazatec[10]


Common name Specie Specie, phytochemical(s) Substance effect class Regions/Cultures of use
African dream herb Entada rheedii Seed Oneirogen The species is employed in African traditional medicine to induce vivid dreams, enabling communication with the spirit world. The inner meat of the seed would be either consumed directly, or the meat would be chopped, dried, mixed with other herbs like tobacco and smoked just before sleep to induce the desired dreams.[11]
African dream root Silene undulata Root: Possibly triterpenoid saponins Oneirogen Xhosa people of South Africa.[12]
Angel's trumpet Brugmansia spp. Seed, flower, leaf: Tropane alkaloids Deliriant South America,[13] sometimes used as part of ayahuasca.
Ayahuasca Banisteriopsis caapi Bark: Harmine 0.31-0.84%,[14] tetrahydroharmine, telepathine, dihydroshihunine,[15] 5-MeO-DMT[16] Psychedelic South America; people of the Amazon Rainforest. UDV of Brazil and United States.
Bitter-grass Calea ternifolia Leaf: Caleicines and caleochromenes Oneirogen The Chontal people of Oaxaca reportedly use the plant, known locally as thle-pela-kano, during divination.
Bolivian torch cactus Echinopsis lageniformis Stem: Mescaline Psychedelic South America
Cannabis (marijuana, hashish, kief) Cannabis spp. Flower: Cannabinoids (THC, and CBD) Cannabinoid Hindu religion in India, Rastafari movements, Cannabis-based religions like First Church of Cannabis or International Church of Cannabis and other various groups.
Chacruna Psychotria viridis Leaf: DMT Psychedelic UDV of Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, and the Brazilian church. Santo Daime have used it as part of ayahuasca.
Chaliponga Diplopterys cabrerana Leaf: 5-MeO-DMT, bufotenin, DMT Psychedelic Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, and Peru as part of ayahuasca.
Christmas vine Turbina corymbosa Seed: LSA, lysergol, and turbicoryn; up to 0.03% lysergic acid alkaloids[17] Psychedelic Mazatec[18]
Harmal (espand) Peganum harmala Seed: Harmaline and other harmala alkaloids Psychedelic Iran and the Middle East.
Hawaiian baby woodrose Argyreia nervosa Seed: 0.325% ergoline derivatives of dry weight.[19] Psychedelic Huna shamans used them according to various oral histories.[20]
Henbane Hyoscyamus niger Seed, flower, leaf: Tropane alkaloids Deliriant Ancient Greece and witches of the Middle Ages.
Iboga Tabernanthe iboga Root bark: Ibogaine[21] Psychedelic Bwiti] religion of West Central Africa. Used by Western nations to treat opioid addiction.
Jimson weed Datura stramonium Seed, flower, leaf: Tropane alkaloids[22] Deliriant Algonquin, Navajo, Cherokee, Luiseño and the indigenous peoples of Marie-Galante used this plant in sacred ceremonies for its hallucinogenic properties.[23][24][25] It has also been used by Sadhus of India, and the Táltos of the Magyar (Hungary).
Jurema Mimosa tenuiflora syn. Mimosa hostilis Root bark: 1-1.7% DMT[26] and yuremamine Psychedelic Used by the Jurema Cult (O Culto da Jurema) in the Northeastern Brazil.[27]
Labrador tea Rhododendron spp. Leaf: Ledol, some grayanotoxins Deliriant Caucasian peasants used Rhododendron plants for these effects in shamanistic rituals.[28]
Mad honey Rhododendron ponticum Nectar: Grayanotoxins Deliriant In Nepal, this type of honey is used by the Gurung people both for its supposed medicinal and hallucinogenic properties.[29][30]
Mexican morning glory Ipomoea tricolor Seed: Ergoline derivatives[31] (LSA disputed) Psychedelic Zapotecs[32]
Beach moonflower Ipomoea violacea Seed: Ergoline derivatives[33] (LSA disputed) Psychedelic Mazatec[18]
Myristica sebifera Virola sebifera Bark: DMT, and 5-MeO-DMT Psychedelic The smoke of the inner bark of the tree is used by shamans of the indigenous people of Venezuela in cases of fever conditions, or cooked for driving out evil ghosts.[26]
Nyakwána Virola elongata Bark, roots, leaves and flowers: DMT, and 5-MeO-DMT Psychedelic The Yanomami people use the powdered resin as an entheogen known as nyakwána which is inhaled or "snuffed" into the nasal cavity, it contains a high concentration of 5-MeO-DMT and DMT.[34]
Peruvian torch cactus Echinopsis peruviana Stem: Mescaline Psychedelic Pre-Incan Chavín rituals in Peru.
Peyote Lophophora williamsii Stem: Mescaline Psychedelic Native American Church is known as peyotism.[35][36] Alsu used in the Oshara Tradition.
Salvia Salvia divinorum Leaf: Salvinorin A and other salvinorins Psychedelic Mazatec[37]
San Pedro cactus Echinopsis pachanoi Stem: Mescaline Psychedelic South America
Vilca Anadenanthera colubrina Beans: 5-MeO-DMT. Up to 12.4% bufotenin.[38] DMT Psychedelic There have been reports of active use of vilca by Wichi shamans, under the name hatáj.[39]
Yopo Anadenanthera peregrina Beans: 5-MeO-DMT. Up to 7.4% bufotenin.[40] DMT Psychedelic Archaeological evidence of insufflation use within the period 500-1000 AD, in northern Chile, has been reported.[41]


Many modern chemicals with little human history have been recognized to be able to catalyze intense spiritual experiences, and many synthetic entheogens are simply slight modifications of their naturally occurring counterparts. Some synthetic substances like 4-AcO-DMT are prodrugs that metabolize into psychoactive substances that have been used as entheogens.

While synthetic DMT and mescaline are reported to have identical entheogenic qualities as extracted or plant-based sources, the experience may wildly vary due to the lack of numerous psychoactive alkaloids that constitute the material. This is similar to how isolated THC produces very different effects than an extract that retains the many cannabinoids of the plant such as cannabidiol and cannabinol.

Substance IUPAC name Substance effect class Notes
2C-B 4-Bromo-2,5-dimethoxyphenylethanamine Psychedelic 2C-B is used as entheogen by the Sangoma, Nyanga, and Amagqirha people over their traditional plants. It is referred to as Ubulawu Nomathotholo, which roughly translates to "Medicine of the Singing Ancestors".[42][43][44]
5-MeO-DMT 2-(5-Methoxy-1H-indol-3-yl)-N,N-dimethylethan-2-amine Psychedelic See species
Bufotenin 3-[2-(Dimethylamino)ethyl]-1H-indol-5-ol Psychedelic See species
DMT 2-(1H-Indol-3-yl)-N,N-dimethylethanamine Psychedelic See species
DPT N-[2-(1H-indol-3-yl)]ethyl-N-propylpropan-1-amine Psychedelic DPT is used as a religious sacrament by the Temple of the True Inner Light who believes that DPT and other entheogens are physical manifestations of God.[45]
Harmaline 7-methoxy-1-methyl-4,9-dihydro-3H-pyrido[3,4-b]indole Psychedelic See Peganum harmala
Ibogaine 12-Methoxyibogamine Psychedelic See Tabernanthe iboga
LSA (8β)-9,10-didehydro-6-methyl-ergoline-8-carboxamide Psychedelic See species
LSD (6aR,9R)-N,N-diethyl-7-methyl-4,6,6a,7,8,9-hexahydroindolo[4,3-fg]quinoline-9-carboxamide Psychedelic Used by League for Spiritual Discovery (LSD), and the Neo-American Church.
MDMA (RS)-1-(1,3-benzodioxol-5-yl)-N-methylpropan-2-amine Entactogen Small doses of MDMA are used as an entheogen to enhance prayer or meditation by some religious practitioners.[46]
Muscimol 5-(Aminomethyl)-isoxazol-3-ol Deliriant See Amanita spp.
Psilocybin [3-(2-Dimethylaminoethyl)-1H-indol-4-yl] dihydrogen phosphate Psychedelic (See also Psilocybe spp) Prodrug for Psilocin. The Mazatec curandera María Sabina was celebrating a mushroom velada with pills of synthetic psilocybin named Indocybin synthesized by Albert Hofmann.[47]
Salvinorin A methyl (2S,4aR,6aR,7R,9S,10aS,10bR)-9-(acetyloxy)-2-(furan-3-yl)-6a,10b-dimethyl-4,10-dioxo-dodecahydro-1H-naphtho[2,1-c]pyran-7-carboxylate Psychedelic See Salvia divinorum

Entheogens in literature

Consumption of the imaginary mushroom anochi as the entheogen underlying the creation of Christianity is the premise of Philip K. Dick's last novel, "The Transmigration of Timothy Archer".

Aldous Huxley's final novel, Island (1962), depicted a fictional entheogenic mushroom — termed "moksha medicine" — used by the people of Pala in rites of passage, such as the transition to adulthood and at the end of life.

In his book "The Sacred Mushroom and the Cross: A Study of the Nature and Origins of Christianity within the Fertility Cults of the Ancient Near East", John M. Allegro argues etymologically that Christianity developed out of the use of a psychedelic mushroom, the true body of Christ, which was later forgotten by its adherents.

See also

External links


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  3. http://evolver.civicactions.net/user/chen_cho_dorge/blog/2cb_chosen_over_traditional_entheogens_south_african_healers
  4. http://www.springerlink.com/content/v2175688r1w4862x/fulltext.pdf
  5. "BUFO ALVARIUS, SONORAN DESERT TOAD (5MeoDMT): The experience of cosmic unity, which gives an enlightening vision of oneself and of existence". Alberto José Varela. 
  6. Backshall, Steve (6 January 2008). "Bitten by the Amazon". London: The Sunday Times. Retrieved 13 July 2013. 
  7. "Dictyonema huaorani (Agaricales: Hygrophoraceae), a new lichenized basidiomycete from Amazonian Ecuador with presumed hallucinogenic properties" (PDF). 
  8. "Psychedelic Lichen - Psychedelic Press UK". Psychedelic Press UK. 3 December 2012. 
  9. Nyberg, H. (1992). "Religious use of hallucinogenic fungi: A comparison between Siberian and Mesoamerican Cultures". Karstenia. 32 (71–80). 
  10. Wasson RG. (1980). The Wondrous Mushroom: Mycolatry in Mesoamerica. New York, New York: McGraw-Hill. ISBN 978-0-07-068443-0. 
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  13. Harner, Michael (1980). The Way of the Shaman. New York: Harper & Row. 
  14. Callaway, JC; Brito, GS; Neves, ES (2005). "Phytochemical analyses of Banisteriopsis caapi and Psychotria viridis". Journal of Psychoactive Drugs. 37 (2): 145–150. doi:10.1080/02791072.2005.10399795. PMID 16149327. 
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  43. The Nexus Factor - An Introduction to 2C-B Erowid
  44. Ubulawu Nomathotholo Pack Photo by Erowid. © 2002 Erowid.org
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