'Mad Honey' and 4 Other Naturally Occurring Psychedelics
Natural doesn't always mean better, though.
Nature is full of drugs. For various reasons, evolutionary forces have led certain plants, fungi, and even animals to develop molecules that interact with the human brain. And while it’s not too hard to get your hands on synthetic psychedelic drugs like LSD or MDMA, many people prefer natural alternatives. Of course, just because something is natural doesn’t mean that it’s safer or more effective. After all, the natural world is home to incredibly toxic chemicals, so don’t think a drug is safer or better just because something comes from the Earth.
That being said, there are some natural psychedelic drugs that are relatively easy to obtain — though they might not all be particularly pleasant or safe to consume. And just to be clear, Inverse is providing this information so you can do further research on these drugs and decide whether they are right for you.
Without further ado, here’s Inverse’s list of top five natural, legal psychedelics, in order from most unpleasant to least unpleasant.
5. Mad Honey
Bees in parts of Nepal and Turkey produce a reddish honey called “mad honey” or “deli bal,” which derives its unique properties from the flowers that the bees feed on. Rhododendron flowers contain a handful of neurotoxins called grayanotoxins, and these substances pass through the bees into the honey they produce. It’s totally legal and pretty easy to buy online, though it’s often pricey. Effects of mad honey can vary from a mild inebriation to full-on paralysis and potentially death. While low doses — about one tablespoon — are considered safe, the members of the Erowid community, a group well-known for experimentation, recommend avoiding rhododendron components altogether. This is the only item on the list we’d advise against.
For a natural psychedelic experience, look no further than d-lysergic acid amide (LSA), found in morning glory seeds and Hawaiian baby woodrose seeds. Chemically similar to LSD, LSA is sort of like LSD’s drunk cousin: It’s not as potent, and users report that the experience is usually not as lucid. While LSA can induce profound visual hallucinations, the experience can also come with a lot of physical discomfort like nausea, cramping, and vomiting, making it undesirable for many people. The seeds are legal in the U.S., but if you’re going to ingest them, make sure to get them from a retailer that intends them for human consumption, as garden stores often sell seeds treated with pesticides that can make you sick. And as with any new substance, start with a low dose, and never do it alone.
3. Amanita Muscaria Mushrooms
When you think of “magic” mushrooms, you probably think of the psilocybin-containing ones, but Amanita muscaria mushrooms, commonly known as fly agaric mushrooms, have a long history of human use in Europe, Asia, and North America. Often classified as poisonous, fly agaric mushrooms are safe in low doses, especially if they’re dried thoroughly. Like other psychedelics, effects include visual hallucinations and altered perception, as well as a huge range of mental effects that depend on the user. Negative side effects can include nausea, cramps, and delirium at high doses. They’re legal in most places, and they even grow in the U.S., but if you plan on foraging them in the wild, make sure you consult a field guide and bring someone who knows what they’re doing.
2. Incilius Alvarius Toad
You might be surprised to see an amphibian on this list, but the Incilius alvarius toad — common name Sonoran Desert toad or Colorado River toad — secretes a potent hallucinogenic compound from glands on either side of its head. While this secretion can make potential predators confused or ill if they try to eat the toad, humans who dry and smoke the compound get a short-lived but intense psychedelic experience thanks to the potent chemicals 5-MeO-DMT and bufotenin. While 5-MeO-DMT is classified as a Schedule I drug, the strictest category of illegality, the toad itself is not controlled. So if you live in Mexico or the southwestern U.S., you can milk toad glands to get high. Just don’t get caught with the gland secretions.
1. Mescaline Cacti
Last but definitely not least is the class of cacti that contain mescaline, a psychedelic with thousands of years of human use. Mescaline (which is illegal) is most famously found in peyote, a cactus that is illegal for most people in the U.S. to possess, purchase, or consume — the small exception is members of the Native American Church. It tops the list because a decent number of mescaline-containing cacti are legal in the U.S., including Peruvian torch (Echinopsis peruvianus), San Pedro (Echinopsis pachanoi), and Bolivian torch (Echinopsis lageniformis). These cacti are easy to grow, meaning you can plant your own and cut pieces off every now and then. They’re also easy to cut up and blend into a psychedelic smoothie — once you remove the spines and core, of course. Mescaline induces a mental state that many users find pleasant and manageable, though as with any psychedelic, those results can vary greatly depending on your physical setting and psychological state. As with many of the drugs on this list, side effects include nausea and potential vomiting.