My interest in the mind-bending end of self-experimentation started after reading about DMT, the active ingredient of the now-infamous ayahuasca brew*, in The Spirit Molecule. Sadly, DMT turned out to be a no-go. I wouldn’t know where to get it, and I don’t have the attention span to watch a stove for hours while rendering the plant material, or a decent exhaust fan to keep alarming chemical smells from wafting down the halls of my apartment building.
Luckily, there do exist legal, if less exciting, substances to dabble in. My first two choices, blue lotus and African dream root, were purchased from an online botanical supply store considered reputable and reliable by various commenters on erowid and reddit.
The ancient Egyptians loved this stuff and memorialized it on papyrus and limestone for thousands of years, but it ain’t much to write home about. Either the Egyptians were seriously hard up for thrills, or the blue lotus recipe lost something in translation, because most current accounts describe nothing more than a gentle mellow.
I ordered a 20x dried extract, which turned out to be rich brown silt. I put the recommended dose in two muslin tea bags in a mug and steeped it in very hot water for 40 minutes. The tea bags didn’t contain the powder well, and the concoction tasted and felt like the bottom of a creek. Drinking it all in one go was impossible. It took me 30 minutes to finish it, after which I felt pretty much how you’d expect to feel after drinking a mug of mud.
The next night I doubled the dose and … nothing. It could be that I had too weak an extract or that blue lotus is best used as an adjunct to other psychoactives. Other users soak the dried flowers in wine for several days or weeks and drink that.
African dream root
This one is used as a launching pad for lucid dreaming, in which you remain aware and in control of your dreams. If you’re a sci-fi fan, you might recognize the root as the method by which two TV characters communicated with the dead. Or was it coma patients. Anyway, it made me laugh to discover it was a real thing. Most users say it took them a week of daily use before they saw results, but for me the African dream root worked right off the bat.
To prepare it, I cobbled together techniques from several different users. It didn’t foam the way it’s supposed to, so I just pulverized it and poured boiling water over it in a mug. I forgot to drink it in the morning, when it is less likely to cause insomnia, so I put it in the fridge, and then forgot about it again. When I eventually drank it a few mornings later, I found it very mild-tasting and faintly redolent of lipsticks from the sixties and seventies — whale oil, maybe.
When I dozed off that night, the advertised effects happened. The best way I can describe it: you become aware that you’re somewhere else, like you do when you wake up from minor surgery. One minute you’re looking at the doctor’s face and the next you’re looking at the ceiling of the recovery room. In my case, I found myself in a dark closet. I remained aware of my plans to attempt to lucidly dream and was a wee bit freaked out. A youngish woman in 1950s makeup and hairstyle was in there with me, but when I turned to face her to ask her why in heck we’re in a closet, she disappeared. At that point I woke up. The whole thing might have lasted two minutes, tops, but has the memory of a live experience, rather than a dream.
The rumor is that if you take African dream root every day for three months, its effects become permanent. I take that to mean that you will have lucid dreams unbidden whenever you sleep.
* Not to be confused with the ayahuasca vine, which does not contain DMT, and is legal to own.
Illustration by MRhea.