Psychotria viridis

Herbs gallery - Chacruna

Common names

  • Amiruca Panga
  • Cahua
  • Chacruna
  • Kawa
  • O-pri-to
  • Rami Appane
  • Sami Ruca
  • Suija
  • Tupamaqui
  • Yage

Psychotria viridis, commonly known as chacruna, is a small tree species that possesses several therapeutic properties. In fact, people residing in the native habitats of this species also call the plant "the vision tree". Native tribes of the Amazon basin use the leaves of this herb for curing as well as reversing a number of ailments.

Chacruna possesses several features and attributes. This is a small tree or shrub that grows up to a maximum height of 4.5 meters. The plant is almost glabrous having large stipules, which the color of its leaves becomes dark when dried. The leaves are slender, small, obovate-attenuate towards their base. These trees produce numerous flowers in open inflorescences. The fruits of chacruna have a red color and they measure 4 mm to 5 mm in length. This plant can be propagated without much difficulty. Propagation is generally done from the leaf as well as stem cuttings. Psychotria viridis is also known by several other common names that different people can relate with very easily.

Often, many people mistake Psychotria viridis for Psychotria carthagenensis and Psychotria alba. All these plants have a somewhat similar appearance and they all are common among people using ayahuasca, as they offer the desired results. Hence, it would be wise to be very cautious while looking for Psychotria viridis and minutely examines the characteristics that distinguish this shrub from the other two plants. For this, one needs to be informed about the different traits and features of chacruna.

Going back into the history of Psychotria viridis, this herb is a member of the Rubiaceae family and also belongs to the coffee family. This plant is well known for its synergistic use in customary ayahuasca brews prepared by native inhabitants in Central and South America. For several centuries the medicine men and women as well as shamans of South America have employed the leaves of chacruna to turn around various ailments. As a result, extracts of the herb have a repute of being an effective herbal remedy for specific illnesses and is also used in present day medicine. For example, the entheogenic indole alkaloid called dimethyltryptamine (DMT) is the main component of Psychotria viridis. This chemical is found in different concentrations in the plant dependent on several harvesting factors.

Chacruna possesses several compounds that have therapeutic uses, this is a legitimate as well as important herbal remedy for a number of common ailments. As the medications are obtained from nature, their traits remain unchanged and equally potent as those of the plant.

Parts used



Chacruna (Psychotria viridis) is native to Central as well as South America and often the local people use this herb for therapeutic purposes. While this herb is said to cure migraines headaches as well as rinse out the intestines, normally people use it for the plant's hallucinogenic effects. A chemical compound present in the leaves of chacruna is a controlled substance as per the prevailing laws in the United States and several European nations. As a result, it may often be illegal to employ this plant in some regions across the globe, provided its use has not been prescribed by a physician.

People in Central and South American nations like Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador and Peru have been traditionally using Psychotria viridis for several centuries. Often, they use the leaves of chacruna in their religious ceremonies. This apart, the leaves are also used to prepare a concoction which it taken orally. It is believed that drinking this concoction helps people to anticipate the future, perform miracles and even thwart witchcraft. Moreover, it is believed that this herb also helps to cure migraine headaches and cleanse the stomach, by this means rinse out the intestines.

Several people also use Psychotria viridis for its hallucinogenic effects. The local tribes in Central and South America claim that consuming a brew prepared from the herb enables them to clearly see the animals in the dense Amazon forests, where their normal vision otherwise fails to detect anything. On the other hand, some people in North America as well as in Europe try to employ this herb in the form of a recreational drug. They generally mix Psychotria viridis with other plants to prepare a combination that has a far more spectacular effect.

Chemical analysis of Psychotria viridis or chacruna plant has revealed that the plant encloses a chemical compound known as dimethyltryptamine (DMT). Compared to other plants that have hallucinogenic effects, chacruna has a much higher concentration of this chemical. Hence, Psychotria viridis is considered to be a controlled substance in several regions of the world. Consequently, this plant is not sold at greenhouses or plant nurseries either in the United States or in several European nations. It is worth noting that any person found possessing Psychotria viridis leaves is likely to face criminal proceedings in a number of jurisdictions. This is mainly because the high concentration of DMT and use of the plant as a recreational drug.

Apart from being illegal in several countries, use of Psychotria viridis also caused a number of side effects, even when it is used for therapeutic purposes. As this plant is generally combined with monoamine oxidase inhibitor (MAOI), drinking the concoction may result in hazardously high levels of blood pressure. Moreover, this herb also has the potential to interfere with a number of pharmaceutical drugs. In a number of instances, the use of Psychotria viridis may result in depression as well as convulsions. In addition, use of this herb may also result in vomiting or cause diarrhea in some people for prolonged periods because it also serves as a potent purgative.

The Machiguenga, an indigenous people inhabiting the Amazon forests, employ the juice obtained from a species locally known as "sampakatishi" in the form of an eye drop with a view to improve their vision during hunting. According to reports, the use of this "eye drop" initially causes a burning sensation, which subsequently subsides heightening the senses. These people also use the same leaf juice for treating migraines. In the same way, members of the Andoke tribe mash the leaves of Psychotria viridis and permeate them in water to prepare eye drops that are supposed to make their vision clear and also enable to see things with understanding.

Habitat and cultivation

Chacruna (Psychotria viridis) has its origin in the entire region extending from the forests in the Amazon basin to Central America and Cuba in the north.

It is very difficult to propagate Psychotria viridis from its seeds, because the seeds need a minimum of 60 days to germinate. Moreover, on various occasions only a single seed from a hundred will germinate successfully. Generally, cultivation of the trees from their cuttings is more successful. You may just plant a small branch of the tree and water it regularly and it may grow into a new chacruna plant. It has often been seen that small pieces of branches with just two leaves also successfully develop and grow into individual plants.


Chemical analysis of dried Psychotria viridis has revealed that it contains roughly 0.10% to 0.66% alkaloids. About 99% of these alkaloids comprise dimethyltryptamine (DMT) - a controlled substance in many regions. In addition, it also contains other alkaloids like N-methyltryptamine (NMT) and beta-carbolines. It is said that the plants have the maximum alkaloid content during the morning.