Common names: Yopo, Jopo, Cohoba, Mopo, Nopo, Parica, Calcium Tree
Plant source: Anadenanthera peragrina (perennial tree with a thorny bark and white or yellow flowers)
Legal status in Canada:
- Anadenanthera peragrina – legal, unscheduled
- DMT – Schedule III controlled substance
After the cushy stay in a hotel and all the modern conveniences of Westernized life I had access to during my stay in Seattle, I was ready to get out of the country. It was in good spirits and with a rested mind that I set off for Brazil to seek out those who use yopo, a DMT-containing snuff of the Anandenanthera peragrina plant.
I was in for a truly unique experience: I would be spending time with the Yanomamo indigenous people, who are believed to be the most ancient intact culture, representing centuries past and a hunter-gatherer means of existence, in the world.
Radiocarbon dating of smoking pipes in Peru have placed the origins of yopo use as a hallucinogen to nearly 4000 years ago. The modern (and I use that term loosely) Yanomamo people do not smoke yopo. Instead, they grind the beans into a snuff, which is blown into the nostrils of the user by another person through a long hollow tube of bamboo or bone. It is used primarily for spiritual healing, similar to the way Ayahuasca is used, and in fact the effects of yopo are very similar to those of ayahuasca thanks to sharing the psychotropic compound DMT.
Anadenanthera peregrina is native to the Caribbean and South America.
Botanical aspects and preparation
Anandenanthera peregrina is a perennial tree with thorny bark and small, pale flowers. The beans of the tree are used to make snuff for consumption.
To create the snuff, the beans are roasted until they pop open, breaking the outer shell. The inner bean is removed and ground into a powder, which is then mixed with lime or ashes. This powder is dampened and made into a ball, and then the ball is allowed to dry out for a period of several hours to several days before being crumbled up and used.
Chemical constituents and neural action
The pharmacological activity of yopo is caused by the DMT and bufotenin it contains. Both bufotenin and DMT stimulate the serotonin-2 receptors, leading to hallucinations.
Since I had such an intense ayahuasca experience not long ago, I decided to learn from the Yanomamo without actually trying yopo, since it was described to me as having very similar effects. I honour my experience with ayahuasca and would not trade it for the world, but at that point I couldn’t say that I was emotionally ready yet to try it again.
I learned from my hosts that yopo often causes nausea and pain in the nostrils after inhaling. After the initial unpleasantness, visual hallucinations in the form of colours, shapes, and images begin to appear. Like ayahuasca, the imagery can be very dramatic and dark, leading to both negative emotions and spiritual revelations.