So Just Got Back From Hospital After Ingestion of Psychoactive Plant-ID
January 19, 2017 9:08 AM   Subscribe

For the record, it was NOT on purpose, but a mistake in ID-ing the plant. Had thought it was a type of cabbage growing wild. Usually I do my homework on these things and do post photos to a certain group online to help with the ID-ing this time I just went with my gut. I

don't have a photograph but will attempt to describe it as best as I can because I want to know what it was. Hospital wasn't clear - they went from kundalini awakening to Datura. From the photos of Datura - doesn't seem likely. If only the shape of the leaves.

It looked like a fatter version of a dark green Bok Choy.
It had one long root.
Some tendrils shooting up ending in a bud - about 4 of them. Straight up.
It was curled up - not flat on the ground - like the a/m cabbage.
Place - Israel
Time January 13
Took some effort to dig up.

Way of ingestion - cooked in a cast-iron pan with oil, garlic, salt. It got burned, ate it anyway. A bit bitter. 20 minutes into it TSHTF - woozy, heart palps, called medics, hospitalization - unpleasant is an understatement. Visuals, lots of shamanic insights. But would never do a repeat if only due to losing consciousness eventually and having to be brought back 3x.

WTF was the name of this plant? Looked at mandrake - eh - maybe - the shooting tendrils are not present in the mandrake that I'm aware of and the symptoms don't match either.
posted by watercarrier to Science & Nature (15 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
What was the local environment/biome? Israel is varied, has deserts, forests, grasslands, wetlands etc, and plants that are common in one can be very rare in another.

Anyway, maybe calamus. You might say that looked a little like bok choy, and you could certainly have similar experiences after eating a whole skillet(?) of it. Also has tendrils.

I suppose you've learned your lesson, but this is why we say to only eat unidentified forage IF:
1) it is plentiful and abundant
2) you are starving, or nearly so
3) you have already tested some by chewing and spitting out
4) you have already tested some by eating a very small amount and waiting a full day.
If ALL of those are true, it MAY be worth the risk.
posted by SaltySalticid at 9:39 AM on January 19, 2017 [6 favorites]

Response by poster: Good advice. TY - wasn't calamus. Found in the Samarian hills. Just one, the rest were varied weeds.
posted by watercarrier at 9:41 AM on January 19, 2017

Ideally there would be a visual dictionary of psychoactive or toxic plants....I'm finding mostly directories where you click through on a name in a list of species to see a photo, which isn't so useful, for you.

There are images, but tiny thumbnails, next to the entries on wikipedia's List of psychoactive plants

This page at erowid makes you click through to see an image, but there aren't that many and it might give you a lucky hit. If they still have forums, someone there may know, too.
posted by thelonius at 9:41 AM on January 19, 2017 [1 favorite]

Israeli doctors offer "kundalini awakening" as a diagnosis?
posted by Quisp Lover at 10:41 AM on January 19, 2017 [20 favorites]

Response by poster: Yes indeed Quisp Lover. This was mentioned among others. :)
posted by watercarrier at 10:43 AM on January 19, 2017 [3 favorites]

Best answer: I suspect this may in fact be a type of datura, datura stramonium, but a young plant that hadn't gotten too tall yet. You're not the first person to mistake this plant for wild lettuce / cabbage. This was a big problem in the American settlement of Jamestown (hence they call d. stramonium Jimson, or Jamestown, weed). Definitely causes multi-day shamanic visions, and can be extremely unpleasant when unexpectedly ingested. I'm surprised they didn't check your blood for the presence of datura's main chemicals (atropine, apoatropine, and scopolamine) all of which should have been identifiable.

But any near-death experience from poisoning can result in visions and this revelations. Black widow venom, for example, can lead to particularly baroque hallucinations. It is one of the body's responses to clearing out toxins.

Here's a list of poisonous plants of Israel, with pictures, should you wish to peruse.
posted by ananci at 10:57 AM on January 19, 2017 [17 favorites]

Possible an immature brugmansia also sometimes called Angel's Trumpet? The Wikipedia page doesn't mention Israel as a natural habitat, but it's planted ornament anywhere warm enough.
posted by Waiting for Pierce Inverarity at 11:18 AM on January 19, 2017 [1 favorite]

Brugmansia is a datura.
posted by contraption at 2:08 PM on January 19, 2017

Brugmansia and Datura are related but nonequivalent genera. Neither particularly resembles bok choy to my mind, even when young (they're upright and shrubby, with definite, visible stems and fairly long distances between leaves), and I don't think either have anything that could be described as tendrils at any stage of development either.

Looked at ananci's link and did a few searches, and am inclined to go with mandrake (especially Mandragora autumnalis, which may or may not be a separate species from M. officinarum) -- it has the tap root, it's found in the right area, the leaves are plausibly cabbagey, it's known to be psychoactive, and the poisoning symptoms include dizziness, rapid heart beat, and hallucinations, even if some of the other common symptoms didn't happen. There's no good explanation for the tendrils, and Mandragora would normally lie flat on the ground (though the habit is somewhat variable, and some specimens might be more upright than others), so it's not a perfect fit, but it's still awfully close.

The only other thing I could come up with was Lactuca virosa, wild lettuce or opium lettuce, which is variable enough in form that it might resemble cabbage sometimes, and bears flowers on narrow, tendrilly stalks. On the other hand, it doesn't typically have a single large taproot, it isn't native to Israel (though it might plausibly have spread there; it is native to southern Europe, and other Lactuca species are present in Israel), and it appears to be mainly a diuretic and sedative, nothing that would cause the sort of symptoms you describe.
posted by Spathe Cadet at 5:20 PM on January 19, 2017 [3 favorites]

I photographed a plant, (not foxglove,) up in Idaho. I had never seen it before. Turns out it was a very pretty, but poisonous plant. Houndstongue is the name of it, and it has a vaguely bok-choy look. It is very hard on the liver. Here it is.
posted by Oyéah at 6:48 PM on January 19, 2017 [1 favorite]

If it wasn't in the flowering stage, imaging it without the flower stems. If this was the plant, then keep your protein and alcohol consumption way down, for a while, and see someone.
posted by Oyéah at 7:24 PM on January 19, 2017 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thank you everyone. I'm still on the fence about the ID. Will go out to the field and see if there is not another one to photograph and upload. You guys are always amazing - so, so grateful for all the help I've received here over the years for whatever ailed or came my way. This is one for the grandkids for sure. I'm still pretty adamant it resembled the Chinese cabbage, at least where the leaf formation was concerned. Definitely upswept and clustered. I'm inclined to believe this was not mandrake because of the absence of stomach ache, a specific symptom. Anyone who wishes to continue the search with me is invited to memail me and we'll scout this out together. Again, thank you so much.
posted by watercarrier at 7:51 PM on January 19, 2017

Response by poster: PS ER could have tested me for presence of atropine and other components of the datura to make a certain ID and render proper treatment/antidote. I simply did not (yet) receive the medical records of what went down during my stay.
posted by watercarrier at 7:59 PM on January 19, 2017

Brugmansia and Datura are related but nonequivalent genera.

Argh, I am duly chastened. Brugmansia was introduced to me as "Tree Datura" and I always believed them to be strains of the same plant. Sorry about the misinformation.

posted by contraption at 3:42 PM on January 20, 2017 [1 favorite]

Might it have been a mandrake of some sort? The pictures on the Wikipedia article are not very good, but the bok choy-type leaves and large root would fit. There are several species around the Mediterranean and they are not that uncommon. Try googling for more pictures - don't look for "mandrake" though, as you will get mostly pictures of the traditional sort that have little people instead of roots. AFAIK, the psychoactive compounds in Mandragora are similar to those in Datura and/or Brugmansia, but they are both more shrubs than ground plants, although they may have died back a bit at this time of year.
posted by Fuchsoid at 7:42 PM on January 21, 2017

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