Last week, a Boston teenager was hospitalized after getting too high off plant seeds from a local Home Depot, prompting the store to pull the product from their shelves. One could argue that the kid deserves at least a little credit for his botanical acumen: Morning Glory, Hawaiian Baby Woodrose, and Sleepy Grass seeds contain a hallucinogenic compound that’s been getting humans lit for thousands of years. The desperate masshole was simply following in the footsteps of chemists past, including LSD discoverer Albert Hofmann, a seed-eater himself.
But even budding chemists have to be careful. While it’s true the drug can induce acid-like hallucinations, it can also trigger serious nausea, stomach pains, and vomiting. It’s especially dangerous, researchers at Ohio University note, if you’re on MAOI-containing antidepressants, which — teenagers being teenagers — makes it very dangerous indeed.
When Hofmann analyzed a packet of Mexican morning glory seeds given to him by a colleague in 1959, he noted that they contained a compound known as LSA (D-lysergic acid amide), a precursor chemical to the better-known hallucinogen LSD — hence, the seeds’ psychoactive effects. Hoffman’s colleague had sent him the seeds after seeing them used by in a shamanistic ceremony, a practice that has persisted in certain native Central American cultures for generations.
As police officials in the Boston incident pointed out, “this is not a new phenomenon.” The Drug Enforcement Administration formally recognizes ergine — another name for LSA — as a Schedule III drug, having “moderate to low potential for physical and psychological dependence.” This classification puts LSA in the same class as codeine, ketamine, and anabolic steroids. For unknown reasons, it’s just much easier acquire.
This is especially odd, considering how potent the compound’s effects can be. The drug gurus at Erowid note that although LSA is legally considered a depressant, it’s notably also “a very active hallucinogen/psychedelic.” It’s thought to be somewhere between one-tenth and one-twentieth as powerful as LSD, but because the dose of the compound present in plant seeds varies, it’s easy to overdo it. Erowid notes that a “starting dose” is typically 4-5 Hawaiian baby woodrose seeds or 20-25 morning glory seeds (seasoned recreational users take anywhere from 100-400 of the latter). Some users distill LSA out of the seeds using solvents such as methanol, ether, and dicholoromethane — potentially dangerous chemicals that can compound the drug’s effects.
On BlueLight, a web forum dedicated to discussing controlled drugs, one user recounted eating eight Hawaiian baby woodrose seeds with alcohol, an experience that landed him in the hospital. Other users, praising the compound’s “dreamy” and “euphoric” psychedelic effects, note that it’s often not worth it to take because the LSA hangover is so terrible. While LSD is known to put users in a psychedelic headspace and induce a visual trip, LSA, it seems, triggers the same mental state but tends to make users nauseous.
But when did the prospect of vomiting ever stop teenagers from trying to get fucked up? Morning glory seeds can be purchased from Home Depot for a dollar a packet and widespread media coverage is only popularizing the phenomenon. In response to the Boston incident, nurseries in Virginia are pulling the seeds from their shelves. Still, it’s unlikely American gardeners are going to give up the freedom to adorn their yards in resplendent baby blue, just because a bunch of high-seekers can’t buy acid tabs in back alleys like normal kids. LSA, for better or worse, is probably here to stay.