Medicinal Plants – Hawaiian Baby Woodrose Part II

posted by on November 12th 2013

Part II—Pharmacology & Effects

In Part I of this article, we described the characteristics, cultivation and use of the Hawaiian Baby Woodrose plant (Argyreia nervosa). In Part II, we will take a closer look at the ergoline alkaloid compounds that cause its psychedelic effect, as well as describing methods to prepare the seeds and extract the active compounds.

Effects & Pharmacology of Hawaiian Baby Woodrose

Medicinal Plants— Hawaiian Baby Woodrose Part II - 1. The distinctive seed-pods, resembling small wooden roses, for which the plant is named (Naveen Roy)

The distinctive seed-pods, resembling small wooden roses, for which the plant is named (Naveen Roy)

Baby woodrose is known for producing a dream-like ‘trip’ that can last up to eight hours, with a further twelve hours of relaxed, tranquil sensations. Hallucinations are less intense—and less common—than with LSD, and side-effects may include nausea and other stomach complaints. These side-effects are more common with whole seed than with extracts.

The seeds of the Hawaiian baby woodrose contain the ergoline alkaloids ergonovine and ergine, the latter of which is also referred to as LSA (lysergic acid amide), and is of particularly close chemical similarity to lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD). Ergonovine (also known as ergometrine) and LSA are both precursors to LSD, and are controlled substances in several countries.

Ergoline alkaloids are thus named as they are also found in ergot fungi—parasitic species of fungi that infect rye and similar grains, and have been implicated in outbreaks of mass hallucination or hysteria at various points throughout the history of settled agriculture.

LSA & Ergonovine

Ergonovine has several medicinal uses, which are thought to arise from its capacity to cause vasoconstriction (narrowing of the blood vessels). When used as an adjunct with oxytocin, it reduces the risk of post-partum haemorrhage; it can also be used to induce spasm of the coronary arteries in sufferers of Prinzmetal’s angina, and is a useful tool for diagnosis.

When administered in doses significantly larger than those used medicinally (2-10mg compared to 0.2-1mg), it is believed that ergonovine may have psychedelic properties.

LSA or LSA is the most well-known compound found in baby woodrose seeds; each seed contains around 10μg, around 0.13% of overall dry weight. When eaten whole, hundreds of seeds may be required to experience any psychoactive effects; however, this can vary, and in some cases fewer than ten seeds are required. Caution should be exercised when consuming whole seeds, as ascertaining precise dosages is impossible.

LSA has similar effects to LSD, but is far less psychedelic, and can be sedating in larger doses. Users report experiencing a dream-like state, in which consciousness is fully maintained; hallucinations are rare, but may occur at lower doses. LSA and ergonovine are both weak agonists of the dopamine type-2 receptor, as is common among plant-derived alkaloids.

How Hawaiian Baby Woodrose is Prepared

Medicinal Plants— Hawaiian Baby Woodrose Part II - 2. Healthy seeds should be dark brown, irregular in shape and around 2.5-5mm across (Cavale Doom)

Healthy seeds should be dark brown, irregular in shape and around 2.5-5mm across (Cavale Doom)

Often, users of baby woodrose will consume the seeds whole, without any form of processing—although it is recommended that the user scrape or gently burn off the furry seed-coating before consumption. This step may also remove chemical treatments present on the seed; however, it is highly advisable to source seeds which are entirely untreated.

Those wishing to maximise efficiency and speed of delivery—or to minimise the risk of nausea and stomach cramps—may follow one of several techniques.

To increase the absorption rate of the active compounds contained within the seeds, a common technique involves first removing the husks, before crushing the seeds with scissors or a coffee grinder and steeping them in hot (but not boiling) distilled water. By the time the water reaches room temperature, the alkaloids contained within the seeds dissolve and can be drunk along with the water and seeds.

With this technique, there are additional tweaks that can be performed to decrease the nausea-inducing side-effects. For example, garlic can be added to the solution, stirred well, and left for thirty minutes; the sulphur contained within the garlic reacts with compounds in the baby woodrose and negates its nauseating effects. Various flavourings may also be added to disguise the bitter taste of the solution.

LSA Solvent Extraction

If full extraction of the LSA is desired, without retention of the seeds’ vegetative material, this method can be utilised. The procedure requires both a non-polar solvent (petroleum ether is known to be safe) and a polar solvent (pure ethanol, NOT denatured, is the best choice). Freshly ground seeds are steeped in the non-polar solution for several days; after this period, the solution (the liquid) is discarded and the residual seed material is retained.

The residue is dried fully to evaporate traces of the non-polar solvent. Then, the dry residue is steeped in the non-polar solvent for a day or two, and then filtered several times through coffee filters. This time, the solution is retained and the residual material discarded. The polar solution is then left for several days, so that the solvent can evaporate; a brownish, gummy paste will remain, which can be scraped up with a spoon or credit card and consumed as is.

Legality of Hawaiian Baby Woodrose

Medicinal Plants— Hawaiian Baby Woodrose Part II - 3. The compounds contained within are of great interest to researchers (InAweofGod'sCreation)

The compounds contained within Hawaiian Baby Woodrose and other Morning Glories such as this are of great interest to researchers (InAweofGod’sCreation)

LSA and plant materials that contain it are subject to legislation in various countries, as it is a well-known precursor to LSD (although the process to convert LSA to LSD is complex and beyond the scope of most recreational users). In the USA, LSA is recognised as a precursor to LSD and as such is categorised as a Schedule III drug. In Australia, seeds are treated with chemicals to discourage recreational use.

Beyond LSA and ergonovine, there are other compounds present in various parts of the Hawaiian baby woodrose plant that are being researched for their medical potential. As well as this, hundreds of other plant species within the family may have as yet undiscovered potential.

For this reason, organisations like the Cannabis College in Amsterdam are crucial, as they exist primarily to provide information on the medicinal herbs and plants that are so crucial to humanity yet are systematically subject to propaganda and prohibitionary campaigns. In doing so, more credible and useable information is put into the public domain where it can be accessed and used as part of awareness and legalisation campaigns.

Seshata is a freelance cannabis writer currently based in Amsterdam, Netherlands
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