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 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
and herbivorous 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 , 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
The Machiguenga people of Peru 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 NMT have been found. The
alkaloid content is said to be highest in the morning.
 Entheogenic & religious
It contains the hallucinogenic—or entheogenic—indole alkaloid DMT
(dimethyltryptamine) 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
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).