Saturday, January 29, 2005

Dr. Shulgin Featured in New York Times Magazine

Dr. Alexander Shulgin was profiled in an article in Sunday's (Jan. 30), New York Times Magazine.

Ask Dr. Shulgin is a public education service provided by Dr. Alexander Shulgin and the nonprofit Center for Cognitive Liberty & Ethics. If you are hearing about the CCLE for the first time, we invite you to learn more about cognitive liberty, and to become a member of the unique and growing community of CCLE supporters who believe in the fundamental importance of Freedom of Thought.

Thursday, January 06, 2005

Juul's Giant Cactus (aka Jewel's Giant)

Dear Dr. Shulgin:

I received a jewel's giant cactus a while ago and it is about 2 years old. Can you tell me more about it? -- Brad

Dear Brad:

You have a sample of one of the most understudied and controversial cacti that I am aware of. What is the origin of its name, its botanical classification, the alkaloidal composition and its possible psychopharmacological activity? Let me put together what I can from Trout's notes from his Sacred Cacti book, and a small amount of unpublished analytical lab work that I did a few years ago.

The correct spelling of the name is Juul's Giant, or Tom Juul's Giant. He was a butcher in San Francisco, originally from Denmark, who was a serious collector of rare cacti. One frequently sees the name in cactus collections written as Jewel's Giant or Jules' Giant, but once in a while the spelling of his name comes across as Jull's or Juels'. It is thought by some botanists to be a variety or hybrid of either Trichocereus pachanoi (San Pedro) or T. peruvianus, but there are a few who firmly believe that this plant should be named as a separate species. The fruit is very different from that of the San Pedro, in that it lacks the usual wooly covering of hair.

I am aware of three reported bioassays, with psychedelic effects stated to be inactive, weak, or twice as potent as San Pedro. I have personally not tasted this cactus. However, I have run gas chromatography mass spectroscopy (GCMS) analyses on extracts from five samples of dried specimens from three different sources. All five showed the presence of mescaline (one as a trace component only) but all five samples displayed totally different composition portraits. Two samples had obvious indicators of tetrahydroisoquinolines being present but I did not have reference synthetic samples of anything that had exactly the same fragmentation pattern. This major compound had three oxygens and four methyl groups, but I have no idea how they were arranged.

This is the frustrating aspect of plant analysis. One has to be reasonably competent in chemistry, in botany and in pharmacology, all at the same time. If you hope to identify new alkaloids in a plant, you have to take a decade or two, to synthesize reference samples of a few hundred tetrahydroisoquinolines with one through four oxygens on the aromatic ring, with any or all of them having methyl ethers or methylenedioxy ethers attached. And then each of these should be modified from the di-H material to the N-methyl, the 1-methyl or the N, 1-dimethyl homologues. And let's make all the N-oxides. Then the preparation of the dihydro and the aromatic analogues will triple the number of spectra posted up there on the wall. Now, one can take a cactus cutting into the lab, make an extract, and shoot it into the monster GCMS and make a good guess as to the structures of the strange compounds that are present. But, how do you do the same plant twice? You have a second documented sample of the same name, and the contents are totally different. Are they really the same plant? How do I know that two plants are the same plant? DNA? Morphology? Retainer samples alive there in the greenhouse? The professional opinions of experts? One should take a decade or two to develop some confidence in the area of botany.

And of course, the bottom line is the area of pharmacology. Is the plant active? You are not sure just what is in the plant. And you are not sure just what the plant is. And, if the plant is not a psychoactive thing, do you really want to spend time and effort on the analysis of pharmacologically inactive things that are in it? So you have to grow it, name it, synthesize its possible components, and eat it, to begin to understand why this sacred plant of an almost unknown tribe of Indians, in the upper deserts of Bolivia, worshipped it. That is a lot of dedication and a lot of decades.

There is no easy answer.

-- Dr. Shulgin

Welcome: A New Look for 2005!

Welcome to Ask Dr. Shulgin Online!

This is a public education service provided by Dr. Alexander Shulgin and the Center for Cognitive Liberty & Ethics.

For 2005, we've changed the look and feel of Ask Dr. Shulgin Online to make it easier for everyone -- the good doctor included -- to participate in the information flow.

You can now get updates via Atom, RSS feed, or via e-mail. See the sidebar.

Subscribing to updates will get you a notification whenever a new answer has been posted. These notifcation systems are low-volume. At most, you'll receive one or two notifications per month (and often less).

Your e-mail address will be considered confidential.

This service does not operate on a fixed timeline. Dr. Shulgin is extremely busy and receives many questions and other demands on his time.

As an experiment, we have added a new feature that allows you to comment on the questions and answers. If the comments section is abused whether by spammers, or by people seeking or offering illegal drugs, we will have no choice but to eliminate this feature.

Please be kind.

If you find this service of value, please consider making a donation of any amount to help us keep this and other projects going. The CCLE is a nonprofit public education organization, so donations by US citizens are tax deductible. You can donate online or by sending a check.

Thanks for visiting.

Wednesday, January 05, 2005

Archive Index

Q59 - Ice, Crank, Speed or Methamphetamine
Q58 – Drug Testing Hair for MDMA (Ecstasy)
Q57 – Juul’s Giant Cactus (aka Jewel’s Giant)
Q56 - Drug Testing for Mushrooms
Q55 - Repeal the Criminal Drug Laws
Q54 - Illegal Research
Q53 - Nomenclature
Q52 - Cathinone
Q51 - Yaba (Methamphetamine)
Q50 - LSD and Pregnancy
Q49 - Oxycontin, Oxycodone, Heroin
Q48 - Mushrooms and Aeruginascin
Q47 - On the Question of Marijuana Safety
Q46 - DXM (Dextromethorphan)
Q45 - Salvia Divinorum, Law, and Medicine
Q44 - MDMA and its Methylenedioxy Ring
Q43 - MDMA Variations & Freedom of Inquiry
Q42 - MMDA
Q41 - TMA, PMA, PMMA, and MDMA Effects
Q40 - The Secret Chief and MAPS
Q39 - Psilocybe Mushroom Extractions
Q38 - 2,5-dimethoxy-4-bromophenethylamine (2C-B)
Q37 - Taking MDMA (Ecstasy) and Other Drugs When Pregnant
Q36 - Datura, Thornapple, Atropine & Scopolamine
Q35 - 5-Me-DMT or 5,N,N-TMT
Q34 - Morning Glory Seeds
Q33 - DMT and Tryptophan
Q32 - Ecstasy Pill Testing
Q31 - Poppers
Q30 - Salvinorin A and the Analogue Act
Q29 - Future Psychedelics
Q28 - Salvinorin A
Q27 - MDMA (Ecstasy), Safrol
Q26 - MDMA (Ecstasy) Tolerance
Q25 - Trimethoxylated Amphetamine Derivatives
Q24 - 5-Me0-MIPT, 5-MeO-DIPT, 5-MeO-EIPT
Q23 - Ayahuasca and MAO Inhibitors
Q22 - Salvinorin A Receptor Sites
Q21 - Salvia Divinorum Cuttings
Q20 - Psychedelics and Anaesthetics
Q19 - Peyote and MAO Inhibitors
Q18 - MDMA (Ecstasy) and Brain Damage
Q17 - MDMA (Ecstasy) Testing and Marquis Reagent
Q16 - Acacias and Natural Amphetamine
Q15 - Roadblocks to Entheogen Research
Q14 - MDMA (Ecstasy) Isomers
Q13 - Favorite Music
Q12 - Salvia Divinorum Seeds and Growing
Q11 - Entheogens, Future Significance
Q10 - 2C-T-7
Q9 - Entheogens and Education
Q8 - Psychoactives in Phalaris and Cacti
Q7 - Thought Policing MDMA Users (AB 1416)
Q6 - THC and Lichens
Q5 - Making MDA, MDEA, MDMA
Q4 - Parahexl
Q3 - LSD Flashbacks
Q2 - PMA
Q1 - MDMA (Ecstasy) v. Methamphetamine

Saturday, January 01, 2005


Books by Dr. Shulgin and Friends (and a few dvds and cds).