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Common Names: Abre-o-sol (Sun Opener), Heimia, Herva de Vida (Herb of Life), Hierba de San Francisco (Herb of Saint Francis), Huanchinal, Jarilla, Shicuichi, Sinicuiche, Sinicuichi, Xonochilli, Yerba de Animas (Herb of the Spirits).
Heimia Salicifolia is a perennial herbaceous shrub; it has very few distinguishing characteristics and resembles many other shrubs native to Mexico and Central America. In the wild it can grow over 10 feet tall (3 meters), and can spread out to cover 20 feet (6 meters) around. It produces many thin straight branches all emanating from a single base and varying in color from light to dark brown and grey. The small bright yellow flowers are made-up of 6 petals and are less than an inch (2.5 cm) in diameter; each branch will only produce a few flowers but many leaves. The small oval shaped leaves grow directly out of the thin branches and are approximately 3 inches long (7.5 cm) by 1 inch wide (2.5 cm), they vary in color from light green to dark forest green.
Sinicuichi grows indigenously throughout central and northern Mexico, preferring hot, sunny and tropical areas. The plant has been successfully cultivated as far north as Baja California and as far south as South America, Argentina. It has also been reported to grow wildly in the southwestern United States, as well as throughout Mexico, Central and South America.
There is no real evidence of Sinicuichi being used in prehistoric Mexico. Although Gordon Wasson has posited a connection between its ritual use and the worship of the Aztec God of spring, Xochipilli, Wasson’s hypothesis has never been substantiated and is tenuous at best. Modern accounts can be traced back to the 1800s when the indigenous Indians throughout Mexico used a decoction of the flowers, leaves, branches, and roots to treat the symptoms of syphilis. J.B. Calderon first reported its hallucinogenic effects in 1896 while investigating the medicinal folk remedies of Mexico.
Recently conducted analysis has shown that Heimia Salicifolia contains 16 different active alkaloids. These compounds include dihydrodecodine, cryogenine/vertine, lythrine, heimine, sinicuichine, lythridine, lyfoline, heimidine, anelisine, abresoline, demethyllasubine I, demethyllasubine II, epidemethoxyabresoline, sinine, vesolidine and nesodine. There are also studies showing that the alkaloidal precursor to cryogenine, the main active compound in Sinicuichi, is phenylalanine; phenylalanine is structurally very similar to dopamine and adrenaline, which may account for some of the reported effects.
TRADITIONAL USE: Although there is virtually no evidence of Sinicuichi being used before the 1800s, there is ample evidence of its widespread medicinal use throughout Mexico during the 1800s. Many different decoctions were made from its flowers, leaves, branches, and roots to make fermented teas, healing salves, cleansing waters, and even medicinal steam. Native Indians used this plant to treat many common problems, using the leaves as an effective insect repellent and to cure Poison Ivy rashes as well as making decoctions to soothe aching muscles, treat scabies, increase fertility and to heal postpartum diseases.
TRADITIONAL PREPARATION: Many different indigenous tribes have used Heimia Salicifolia for myriad medicinal and spiritual purposes; however, there are three main categories which most of the preparations fall into: fermented teas, healing salves, and direct extractions.
The most common and most widely reported preparation is a Sinicuichi fermented tea. The indigenous tribes collected fresh leaves and allowed them to wilt, they were then crushed and soaked in a cup of cool water, the cup was then placed outside under the sun for one day to allow the concoction time to ferment. Honey was sometimes added to improve the taste, although it was not necessary. When fresh leaves were unavailable, the dried leaves and branches were used with equal success, following the same procedure, except the dried material is steeped in hot water instead of cold water. After 24 hours, the infused water is strained and the juices are squeezed from the leaves to make a hallucinogenic tea. A third of an ounce (10 grams) of dried plant material was used as a starting point to initiate shaman in the spirit world, but reports that as much as 14 grams (1/2 ounce of dried leaves) is needed for pronounced effects.
There is also mounting ancedotal evidence that Sinicuichi can be rolled into a cigarette and smoked, especially when combined with a potentiator such as Wild Dagga Flowers, for a very pleasing experience. The only complaint is that it takes a lot of dried leaf to feel the pronunced effects, but Sinicuichi is often overlooked and is legal everywhere in the world. There are even some comments on this article via the link below that talk about the effeciveness of smoking Sinicuichi as well.
For medicinal preparations, Sinicuichi was blended into a thick salve that was then used to cover open wounds to stop bleeding and promote accelerated healing. These salves were made in a similar way as the tea, expect that large amounts of the leaves, stems, branches and roots were used and the resulting tea was then allowed to evaporate until there was nothing left but a dark thick paste. The resulting paste was then used to treat many different skin ailments.
Direct extractions were the easiest of the three preparations. The natives used the fresh leaves to prepare a Sinicuichi extraction. They collected the leaves, then crushed and squeezed all of the juices out of the leaves; the resulting juices were then rubbed all over the body to repel mosquitoes and other insects.
MEDICINAL USE: Heimia Salicifolia was well known by many different indigenous indian tribes in Mexico, it was so well known and so widely used that it was given over 50 different folk names; every region and every tribe knew of the plant’s medicinal properties and gave it their own unique name. The natives used the plant to treat high fevers, parasitic worms, and to cover open wounds to prevent bleeding and promote healing. It was also widely used to treat the symptoms of syphilis, to expel ailments by increasing sweat production and it was used as a laxative to soothe stomach problems. Current research into four of the active compounds has shown promising new applications: cryogenine works as an anti-inflammatory, antispasmodic and sedative; nesodine possesses anti-inflammatory properties as well; lythrine has been shown to be a very effective diuretic; and sinicuichine is known to act as a muscle relaxant and tranquilizer.
TRADITIONAL EFFECTS: J.B. Calderon first reported on Sinicuichi’s hallucinogenic effects in 1896, he claimed that Sinicuichi possessed a “curious and unique physiological action… the plant [produces] a pleasant drunkenness… all objects appear yellow and the sounds of bells, human voices […] reach the ears as if coming from a long distance.” In 1926 Victor Reko further elaborated on the effects of Sinicuichi, citing increased “strength, energy, and joy, awakens the spirit. Objects are very clearly seen in great detail. […] Individuals feel as if walking on a soft carpet. They see a door opened but don’t hear the sound. There is nothing unpleasant, except that objects have a yellow-blue or purple sheen. Users say it is the remedy to secure happiness.” These descriptions closely mirror modern personal reports on the effects Heimia.
Modern accounts describe the effects felt from drinking the fermented tea as a please euphoria, relaxing and soothing muscles, slightly increased sweating, producing mild auditory hallucinations, sounds produced nearby are heard as if from a great distance. The most noticeable effects are the visual hallucinations, the field of vision takes on a yellowish aura, and objects appear to have purplish, bluish, greenish hues. The yellowing of the field of vision is one reason that the plant has taken the name ‘Sun Opener’, the visual hallucinations resemble the yellow and orange hues that sun creates in the sky at dawn.
One of the most remarkable effects that have been reported is a greater clarity of thought and the ability to clearly remember events from early childhood. While under the influence of the Sun Opener, people have been able to described events from their childhood so clearly and precisely that they claim it feels as if they experienced them yesterday. Others have reported recollections of events that transpired before they were born, while they were in their mother’s womb. There are also reports that native tribesmen are able to commune with their direct ancestors, and remember events that took place in their great grandparents’ lives.
Gottlieb, Adam. 1973. Legal Highs: A Concise Encyclopedia of Legal Herbs and Chemicals with Psychoactive Properties. 20th Century Alchemist. 47.
Graham, Shirley. 1997. Type Species: Heimia salicifolia. Kent University. Retrieved 12 June 2009. http://web.archive.org/web/19970624061507/http://simon.kent.edu/Biology/Research/Shirley_Graham/Genera/heimia.html
Malone, M. H. and A. Rother. 1994. Heimia salicifolia: A phytochemical and phytopharmacologic review. J. of Ethnopharmacology 42: 135-159. PDF
Rev. MeO. 2003. Heimia Salicifolia FAQ. Erowid Vaults. Retrieved 12 June 2009. http://www.erowid.org/plants/sinicuichi/sinicuichi_faq.shtml
Shaman Australis. 2003. Auxins Alkaloids of Genus Heimia Page. Retrieved 12 June 2009. http://www.shaman-australis.com/~auxin/heimia.html
Theatrum Botanicum. 2004. A Catalog of Rare and Strange Plants. Retrieved 12 June 2009. http://www.greenstranger.com/catalog2004.html
UK Cropnet: EnthobotDB. 2009. Taxon: Heimia salicifolia. Retrieved 12 June 2009. http://ukcrop.net/perl/ace/enh_tree/EthnobotDB?name=Heimia%20salicifolia&class=Taxon&expand=Use#Use
Sinicuichi (or Sinicuiche), also known by its Latin name of Heimia salicifolia, has historically been linked to the Aztec god of spring and desire, Xochipilli. Naturalistic flower elements that appear on the legendary Aztec statue of Xochipilli have always been assumed to be the flora of sinicuiche. Although no documented proof is available regarding its ritual use, anecdotal evidence does show that it has been used in fertility ceremonies, as well as spiritual cleansing rituals said to rid one of evil and ward away evil spirits.
Cultivation of the sinicuichi (sinicuiche) plant occurs through propagation of plant cuttings, as well as through planting its tiny seeds. The seeds need to be sown in garden beds set aside especially for their germination, or in pots filled with soil. The soil must be of a fine texture and pressed down gently with a flat garden spade or some other type of object. The seeds should be only slightly moistened with water by using a fine mist sprayer, and most definitely not watered by pouring water directly on them. The soil should be kept slightly moist until the seeds have germinated. The seedlings should not be exposed to direct sunlight, but kept in indirect sun to semi-shade. Only when the seedlings have developed full leaves should they be placed in the sun and watered thoroughly. The plant thrives in loosely packed soil that dries quickly, in areas that are warm and arid.
Its popular name, Sinicuiche, is used for both the plant and the drink that is made from the plant. The plant also goes by folk names including anchinol, chapuzina, escoba del rio, flor de San Francisco, granadillo, hanchinoli, hierba de San Francisco, jara, quiebra yugo, and xonoxhilli, among many others. In reference to the drink, the name sinicuiche refers to the Mexican “magical drink which causes oblivion,” that was immortalized by German supernatural fiction author Hanns Heinz Ewers in his tome The Blue Indians (translated to English from its native title, Die blauen Indianer).
Sinicuiche the drink is made from compressed, wilted Heimia salicifolia leaves, ground into a pulp, then added to cold water. This concoction is left in the warm sun for several days, allowing the brew to ferment. This cold water extraction method is used to produce a sticky extract that is added to and mixed with clear, clean water, and then imbibed. A tea may also be made from its fresh or dried leaves, using the plant in this manner both by itself as well as combined with other herbs. A tincture can also be made by creating an extract using fresh sinicuiche leaves added to a 60% to 80% ethanol base, then distilling the mixture.
Heimia salicifolia has a long history of use in Mexican folk medicine. They use it to this day as a narcotic, a diuretic, a fever reducer and as a general inebriant. It has also been used as a medicinal bath additive. Mexican folk medicine practitioners brew a tea from sinicuiche leaves that is drunk to promote digestion, as well as create a tonic that is used to treat rabies as well as counteract the “evil eye.”
The plant’s primary use in Mexican folk medicine when not being used ritualistically by Shamans to enter the Spirit World, however, is for the purposes of fertility. Infertile women are said to be helped by soaking in a bath prepared with sinicuichi leaves among other herbs and essential oils. To promote conception, a tea is made from a combination of Heimia salicifolia twigs with other plant herbage and root extracts, then imbibed by women wanting to conceive. To treat sexual dysfunction, such as frigidity, and other sexual problems like sexual weakness, ovarian inflammations and cysts, and various uterine ailments, a woman’s vagina is exposed to the steam of a tea made with sinicuiche and rosemary. After giving birth, as well to treat the symptoms of a potential miscarriage, a concoction made from sinicuiche, cinnamon, agave (pulque), and piloncillo should be drunk by the woman afflicted.
The Maká Indians of of Chaco in Paraguay use fresh use fresh Haeimia salicifolia leaves to create an extract that they then make into a plant paste for treating would puncture and scrape wounds made by thorns that have remained in the wound. The leaves are believed to the extraction of the thorn easier, and also they reportedly speed up the healing of the wound. The Pilagá of Argentinean Chaco place sinicuiche leaves directly on sores. They also make a drink from the plant’s root that is imbibed to treat stomachaches.