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ARCHIVE:  October 17, 2002

Morning Glory Seeds

Dear Dr. Shulgin:

I'm a college student and I need to find out the history of morning glory seeds. It is easy to discover their psychedelic effects, but I need their history. Can you help me?

-- Christie

Dear Christie:

If I understand your question, you would like to learn the historic background of morning glory seeds. Let me try to describe their early origins, and their cultural introduction to us here in the United States. I will leave the analysis of just what is in them and what their wet pharmacology is, to another time.

Let me go back to the earliest records, and focus on the three historical starting points. There is a plant called (in Nahuatl) "coaxihuitl" (the snake plant) which is, botanically, Rivea corymbosa (or Turbina corymbosa or Ipomeia sidaefolia). The seeds are small and spherical, brown colored, and have the common name "ololuiqui" or the Zapotec name "badoh."

A second plant of this morning glory series, is a large five-petaled beauty called Ipomoea violacea (or Violacea tricolor). In the seeds are black, and rice shaped, and are called (in Aztec) "tlitliltzen" and (in Zapotec) "badoh negro."

A third plant that has leapt into notoriety is the Hawaiian Baby Woodrose. This is a four-to-the-seed capsule morning glory known as Argyreia nervosa. It was unknown to the rain forest cultures, but it contains ergot alkaloids and must be brought into this compilation. The better known Hawaiian Wood Rose is of no interest at all.

The records from the time of the Spanish conquest describe the medical and divinatory use of small seeds that were called ololiuqui and reported their role in the dulling of pain and the production of visions. For quite a while it was uncertain just which plant groups were the sources of these seeds, and in the early 20th century literature, the general opinion leaned towards this all being some Datura species. Finally, in the late 1930s, Richard Evans Schultes and his ally Reko, collected the active seeds in Oaxaca, Mexico, where it was still being used by the Mazatec Indians. He identified them as being from the Morning Glory world. And Albert Hofmann, of LSD fame, was the chemist who discovered that these seeds contained ergot alkaloids.

My earliest exposures to Morning Glory seeds followed a Herb Caen column in 1963. There was at that time an advertising slogan LS/MFT ("Lucky Strikes Means Fine Tobacco"), which got shifted over to LS/MGS with the MGS being Morning Glory Seeds. The seeds were available in 25-pound sacks, and were selling like fury. This brought it into our western world, in spades.

For more exacting details of the history of MGS, I know of no better source than the book by Schultes and Hofmann, entitled, "The Botany and Chemistry of Hallucinogens."

-- Dr. Shulgin

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