- In parts of Ecuador, "Chacruna" is used to refer to Chaliponga, Diplopterys cabrerana, rather than P. viridis.
Psychotria viridis is a shrub from the coffee family, Rubiaceae. It has many local names, including Chacruna and Chacrona (from Quechua chaqruy, "to mix").
It is a close relative of the Ecuadorian Psychotria carthagensis, known as samiruka (amiruca), and some dispute remains as to whether or not the two are actually separate species.
Psychotria viridis is a perennial bush which grows up to 5 m tall and 2 m wide.
In the middle and lower parts of the stem, situated between the insertion points of the two opposite leaves there is a horizontal scar 0.3-1 mm wide that extends between the leaves (or leaf scars) and sometimes also connects over the tops of these scars, and along the top side of this scar there is a dense, usually furry line of fine trichomes (i.e., plant hairs) usually 0.5-1 mm long that are reddish brown when dried (Figure 4A). This combination of features is diagnostic for many species in the genus Psychotria, though not for any individual species [i.e., these features distinguish Psychotria L. Subg. Psychotria; other subgenera of Psychotria lack the well developed reddish brown trichomes inserted above the stipule scars]. On the upper stems of Psychotria viridis these features are obscured by a stipule (see below), which covers the trichomes
; the scar actually marks the point where this structure has fallen off.
These are leafy structures that cover and protect the young developing leaves, then fall off leaving scars on the stem. The stipules are produced in pairs, and their form is distinctive for Psychotria viridis: They are 5-25 x 4-12 mm, elliptic in outline, sharply angled at the apex, papery to membranaceous in texture, ciliate (i.e., fringed) along the upper margins, and longitudinally flanged or winged along the middle (Figure 4A). However, stipule shape and size is quite variable among different plants, and also depends on the stipule's developmental stage and other factors such as whether the stem that produced it is reproductive or vegetative.
These (Figure 4B) are opposite in arrangement (i.e., produced in pairs along the stems), generally 5-15 x 2-6 cm, in outline generally elliptic or often widest above the middle, usually sharply angled at base and apex, papery in texture, overall smooth or infrequently with microscopic plant hairs on the lower surface, have 5-10 pairs of secondary veins, and on the lower surface usually have foveolae (see next item). The leaves are borne on petioles
(i.e., leaf stalks) generally 1-10 mm long. When dry, the leaves of Psychotria viridis usually are gray or reddish brown. The leaves of Psychotria viridis are similar to a few other New World species of Psychotria
These are small pockets found on the lower leaf surface near the junction of the secondary (i.e., side) veins with the central vein. They function as shelter for tiny invertebrates
such as mites
that live on the plant leaf. These mites apparently often are symbiotic with the plant, taking shelter in these structures and eating fungi
invertebrates that can damage the leaf. The foveolae (also called domatia) are distinctive for Psychotria viridis and a few related species: They are generally 1.5-5 mm long and 0.5-1 mm wide at the top, conical and tapered to a closed base, open and truncate or variously ornamented at the top, and situated along the sides of the central vein with the opening usually near a secondary vein (Figure 4C). These foveolae vary in shape among different plants (Figure 4C, 4D, 4E, 4F), and in number on individual leaves, and may not even be present on some leaves. Most often each leaf bears at least one pair of foveolae, which may be close to the apex; the foveolae are often more numerous on leaves from vegetative stems than on those from reproductive stems.
USDA zone: 10 or higher.
Cultivation from cuttings is easiest. A single leaf (or even part of a leaf slightly covered with soil) can be sufficient for a cutting.
Propagation from seed is extremely difficult. The germination rate can be as low as 1%. There are approximately 50 seeds/g.
people use juice from the leaves as eye drops
to treat migraine headaches
Dried Psychotria vidris
contains about 0.10-0.66% alkaloids
. Approximately 99% of that is dimethyltryptamine
(DMT). Other alkaloids such as beta-carbolines
and MMT have been found. The alkaloid content is said to be highest in the morning.
It contains the hallucinogenic
) 0.1-0.61% dried mass. It is known primarily as a principle admixture to the ayahuasca
brew used in South
and Central America
. It is legal in Brazil where native tribes use it religiously.
Vegetalistas, healers in the Amazon regions of Peru, Ecuador and Colombia, recognize different sub-varieties of Psychotria viridis, based on the location of glands on the back of the leaves. The Brazilian ayhuasca church, Santo Daime, holds that Banisteriopsis caapi, the primary component of ayahuasca, provides "force" to the tea, whereas Psychotria viridis, or chacruna, provides "light".
This may not be far from the truth as the recognized mechanism of action is the combination of a monoamine oxidase inhibitor (MAOI) which allows ayahuasca to be effective in oral doses
(unlike smoking DMT crystals which requires no conditioning partner drug).